Zotac’s Zbox is a pretty well-respected name around here. The Zbox family has a reputation for cramming powerful components into tiny enclosures without compromising too much on fan noise. Now Zotac has announced two new members of the Zbox family: the Zbox PI221 and Zbox PI220 stick PCs.
These machines have a shared set of specs. Both hang off of an HDMI port for video and for mounting, like the Intel Compute Stick, and draw power from a single USB port. They both have a 10/100 Ethernet port, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 built in, with a detachable antenna included for the Wi-Fi. They're both driven by an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 CPU, with 2GB of DDR3L RAM, and 32GB of eMMC flash storage. Both ship with Windows 10 Home pre-installed.
But just like with any twins, we can spot minor differences on a closer look. The first difference is that the Zbox PI221 is a bit taller than its sibling, at 17mm tall versus the PI220’s 15.8-mm height. The bigger twin is also quieter than the smaller—silent, in fact. The PI221 is entirely passively cooled, where the PI220 uses a tiny fan.
Since these PCs' specs are the same, we're guessing that Zotac made some compromises to make the PI221 fanless. It's possible that the PI221 is resorting to thermal throttling when the going gets tough, resulting in reduced performance in exchange for silence. It's also possible that the extra 1.2mm of chassis has enough cooling capacity to keep the larger twin's Atom processor chilly enough to avoid throttling. Most likely, it's a combination of both. Either way, we might see some performance degradation from the PI221 under heavy load. Zotac hasn’t set a release date or a price for either of the Zboxes.