Passively-cooled Zotac mini-PC packs Core M processor

Zotac has revealed a stack of new mini-PCs ahead of next week's Computex show. The most interesting of the bunch is easily the Zbox Nano CI521, which combines a Broadwell-based Core M processor with passive cooling.

Source: Zotac

The chassis has compact 5" x 5" x 1.8" dimensions and extensive venting throughout. Inside lurks a Core M 5Y10c with dual cores and quad threads clocked up to 2GHz. That chip also supplies the HD Graphics 5300 GPU, which lacks the horsepower for serious gaming but should still be sufficient for some casual, indie, and older titles.

The official product brochure lists 8GB of "on board" memory that's probably soldered to the PCB—hopefully in a dual-channel configuration. Storage is split between an M.2 slot and a 2.5" SATA bay. The Nano can only accept M.2 gumsticks up to 60 mm long, and I suspect its SATA bay is limited drives that are 9.5 mm or shorter.

Despite its size, the Nano offers a smorgasboard of external connectivity. The front panel houses a memory card slot, dual USB 3.0 ports, and both digital and analog audio jacks. There are two more USB ports around back, plus full-sized HDMI and DisplayPort outs. Networking options include dual GigE controllers, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0.

The Core M was designed for fanless mobile systems, so it's only fitting to see the chip make its way into a similarly silent mini-PC. Let's hope the price is right.

Comments closed
    • Kurotetsu
    • 8 years ago

    You could technically attach a 4-bay enclosure using the USB 3.0 ports. I imagine it wouldn’t perform that great though.

    • DPete27
    • 8 years ago

    Woah! No need to attack “my” NUC. I’m just providing an observation based on first-hand experience with a product. Perhaps my results are different because I have the i3 version (2.1GHz max) and Cyril had the i5 with turbo boost which can ramp up to 2.7GHz.
    [quote<]Just because you can't hear it doesn't mean that it's unnecessarily loud[/quote<] I'm not deaf...if that's what you're insinuating.

    • chmcwill
    • 8 years ago

    Nope, the CI321 comes with dual Gigabit Realtek network interfaces.

    • chmcwill
    • 8 years ago

    The CI321 Nano is supposedly priced around $140, I did a direct import with international shipping which came to $200 … the Nano is shipped without memory or drives. I don’t have pricing on the Nano Plus which ships with 4 Gb memory and 60 Gb SSD. This is a nice solution, not as powerful as the J1900 which I was using but still much better than the Atom units I had before Intel stopped manufacturing motherboards.

    • HERETIC
    • 8 years ago

    Guess this will sit between Atom and ULV processors..
    Possibly the quad Atoms might be close…
    My concern is that Intel’s “RACE TO SLEEP” puts this more as a Tablet/consumption device.

    A low end ulv processor in a metal enclosure used as a heatsink-could provide more
    consistent performance-With negligible extra power usage…………………………………………..

    • curtisb
    • 8 years ago

    Amazon lists the CI520 for $350 with 4GB RAM and a 64GB SSD. The tray price on the included Core i3 4020Y for that model is also $281.

    I think $350 is within reason for the CI521 with 8GB and no SSD.

    • curtisb
    • 8 years ago

    Yep…drives me nuts. If I end up with one of those systems (not through my own purchase) the first thing I do is order a PCIe Intel NIC and disable the LOM.

    • southrncomfortjm
    • 8 years ago

    Is there really that much of a noticeable performance gain from dual channel memory for web browsing and video watching?

    • Antias
    • 8 years ago

    If they’d marry one of these with a 4 Bay NAS then i’d be happy – the perfect HTPC working as a server too…

    • ace24
    • 8 years ago

    This site (http://www.ldlc.com/fiche/PB00188489.html) is listing it at 415€. Not sure if that includes VAT, but either way $300 US sounds very unlikely. For $300 or less, I might buy one. Looks like a nice, versatile piece of hardware.

    However, if that page is correct, the memory is single-channel, which is a bummer.

    • Chrispy_
    • 8 years ago

    Just because [i<]you[/i<] can't hear it doesn't mean that it's unnecessarily loud, needlessly coming with a whiny fan 😉 [quote<][url=https://techreport.com/review/27798/intel-broadwell-powered-nuc-mini-pc-reviewed/2<]Intel apparently found the world's tiniest fan to cool the new NUC. That's probably okay, since the 15W Broadwell-U chip is hardly a power hog. Still, I would have preferred to see a slightly thicker machine with a beefier cooler. More heatsink surface area and a larger fan would go a long way toward reducing fan whine, which the new NUC unfortunately exhibits. Alas, Intel seems to have gone for miniaturization at all costs.[/url<][/quote<] This is the same size, cheaper, better looking and completely silent than your Broadwell NUC. It's probably better cooled too!

    • Chrispy_
    • 8 years ago

    Possibly to keep it cool? I dunno but these things aren’t power-user tools. making sure it never overheats and never becomes obtrusive is probably better than a small performance boost when outright performance was never a headline in the first place.

    • DPete27
    • 8 years ago

    My [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856102093<]Broadwell i3 NUC[/url<] is completely inaudible under light use and while watching movies. And that's when I'm sitting 2 feet away from it.

    • DPete27
    • 8 years ago

    Surely this thing would have room for a decent heatsink that wouldn’t induce throttling on the equally priced 5Y71. Why choose the 5Y10?

    • LoneWolf15
    • 8 years ago

    (Paris Hilton voice) “Dat’s hawt.”

    • Chrispy_
    • 8 years ago

    Now this is what the NUC should have been all along, rather that that actively-cooled, noisy little tyke that cooks its own storage.

    • cygnus1
    • 8 years ago

    Ever use this distro? [url<]https://opnsense.org/users/get-started/[/url<]

    • VincentHanna
    • 8 years ago

    I can already tell I’m going to need at least 5 of these.

    • NovusBogus
    • 8 years ago

    That’s probably intentional. NUC is Intel’s Nexus, they want to show the world what such a system can do and then let thier hardware partners build out the real product line.

    • NovusBogus
    • 8 years ago

    The N2930 sticker price is $107, I picked up the passive Zbox for $100 the other day. Tray prices are way inflated so customers feel like they’re getting the VIP discount.

    I have several of the really low-end Bay Trail systems sitting around the workshop, and have been working on a, ahm, mini-review for a while. The trouble has been finding useful things to test them with, as “can open Linux terminal” isn’t terribly informative and they don’t play nice with old versions of Windows.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 8 years ago

    Have you looked at the Filet AMD ones? I’m waiting for a review on those. I’m thinks it would be a nice Modi/Steam box for the TV.

    • Mentawl
    • 8 years ago

    Wish it had multiple antennae for the 802.11ac, then it’d probably be my next pfSense / always-on-home-server box. Meh.

    • iatacs19
    • 8 years ago

    NUC is only one implementation, now it’s up to others to take the idea and run wit it.

    • Deanjo
    • 8 years ago

    They have in other models and many other motherboard manufacturers still use Realteks even when only one NIC connection is present on the system.

    • Takeshi7
    • 8 years ago

    One of them has to be. It’s not like they would pay for two Realtek NICs instead of using the one Intel built into the chipset.

    • raddude9
    • 8 years ago

    $300 is unlikely considering the list price for the CPU alone is $281 and it comes with 8GB of soldered memory.

    I’m interested in getting my hands on a fanless mini PC as well, but I’m worried about the potential throttling, how about a review TR?

    • southrncomfortjm
    • 8 years ago

    And all this for $300? Maybe?

    I’m looking to replace my huge (compared to this anyway) HTPC for a fanless NUC-like system. Looking to all but eliminate noise and drastically cut power usage since I don’t need the big hard drives anymore since I’m no longer recording TV shows.

    I’m guessing this will stream video and browse the web just fine. Do we supply our own storage? What about the OS?

    • Kurotetsu
    • 8 years ago

    Please be Intel NICs. Please be Intel NICs. Please be Intel NICs. Please be Intel NICs. Please be Intel NICs. Please be Intel NICs. Please be Intel NICs. Please be Intel NICs. *ad nauseum*

    • apertur3
    • 8 years ago

    This looks like everything the NUC should be but is, for some reason, consistently avoiding.

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