Zotac adds two stick PCs to its Zbox lineup

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.

The Zbox PI221

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.

The Zbox PI220

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.

Comments closed
    • Wirko
    • 3 years ago

    Because we love tiny fans.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    Just curious – does anyone actually hang these things off their TV’s HDMI port?

    I’d be too scared; Having repaired a couple of TV’s I know that the only thing usually holding an HDMI port onto the board these days is some brittle-as-hell lead-free solder.

    These compute stick form factors aren’t exactly heavy, but they [i<]are[/i<] long and as Archimedes once said, [i<]with a long enough lever you can move the whole world[/i<].

      • The Egg
      • 3 years ago

      Not only is there the issue of weight/torque on the port, but it would also:
      [list<][*<]Stick out past the display bezel if the HDMI ports are anywhere near the edge[/*<][*<]Require the HDMI port to have substantial open space in all 4 directions for clearance[/*<][*<]Likely block other HDMI ports, unless they're spaced exceptionally wide from each other[/*<][*<]Likely have additional wires hanging down, exacerbating the above[/*<][/list<] It's really not an issue since it's easily corrected with a cable, but yeah.....kinda pointless to put a male-HDMI connection on these. I'd rather see them come in a square form factor with stick-on rubber feet and/or a VESA mounting bracket included.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 3 years ago

      One word: Velcro.

      • One Sick Puppy
      • 3 years ago

      I hang my Lenovo off my TV using the USB extension that came with it. No problem with the HDMI port.

      I think it would be better as a small Apple-TV sized device, tho. Or maybe using the wallmount holes on the tv.

      These two Zotac devices don’t seem much better than the original compute sticks. I wouldn’t buy one again. The crappy wifi required me to buy a USB-to-ethernet adapter and the single USB port requires a USB hub. With reasonable use, this “stick” pc turns into alot more than a stick.

      I’m glad I only use it to watch Youtube, play music and download videos and casual web-browsing. It works acceptably well for those purposes. Anything mroe would be frustrating.

    • NTMBK
    • 3 years ago

    That size, and they couldn’t fit in an optical drive? Bah!

    😉

      • Chrispy_
      • 3 years ago

      No space for a 280mm radiator either 🙁

    • digitalnut
    • 3 years ago

    I wish they ship these kinds of devices (plus low-end Windows tablets) with 64GB of storage instead of 32GB. I have a Dell 8″ Venue Windows tablet and 32GB is just barely usable, I have to keep 5-7GB around for windows update (for large updates like the Nov update), otherwise they fail.

    Edit: fix grammar

      • dragmor
      • 3 years ago

      Lots of the 8″ windows tablets came with 64GB. Your dell venue 8 had a 64GB model, Lenovo sells a 64GB model and the ASUS Vivonote 8 I’m typing this on is 64GB. When I bought this in March 2014 32GB was $400 AUD and 64GB was $440.

    • sweatshopking
    • 3 years ago

    i want one of these for the livingroom, but i doubt it’ll stream all that well.

      • Kurotetsu
      • 3 years ago

      I doubt it as well. If I were going that route, and wanted the best user experience, I’d either go for something purpose built like an Apple TV, Fire TV, or Roku; or splurge and get a NUC if I wanted it to do other stuff.

        • EndlessWaves
        • 3 years ago

        Why shouldn’t it? I’d expect it to be significantly more powerful and up to date than the hardware in the likes of a FireTV or Roku.

          • Airmantharp
          • 3 years ago

          Those purpose-built boxes do not run Windows…

        • cygnus1
        • 3 years ago

        If the budget is willing, I’d also look at the nVidia Shield TV box. That’s what I run at home and it handles everything I throw at it, including 4K content, including from Netflix, Youtube, and local content.

      • The Egg
      • 3 years ago

      If you’re looking for the livingroom, you’d probably do better with a Raspberry Pi on a wired connection. I can confirm that the Pi will do hardware decoding of H.264 (free), and also VC1 and MPEG2 (if your purchase the decoding keys for about $2.50ea). I’m not sure what the capabilities are of the Atom’s GPU, but even if it’s full-featured, you’re still limited to a Wi-Fi only connection.

      These are basically netbooks without a screen. They could have their niche, but I’m not sure it’s as an HTPC.

        • Deanjo
        • 3 years ago

        [quote<] you're still limited to a Wi-Fi only connection.[/quote<] [quote<][u<]10/100 Ethernet port[/u<], 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 built in[/quote<]

          • The Egg
          • 3 years ago

          Aye….didn’t see that for some reason. That changes things a bit….though I’m still not sure of that particular Atom’s hardware decode capabilities (you’d want to do some research if that’s the intended use).

        • cygnus1
        • 3 years ago

        edit: Deanjo beat me too it

        [quote<] They both have a 10/100 Ethernet port [/quote<] [quote<] I'm not sure what the capabilities are of the Atom's GPU, but even if it's full-featured, you're still limited to a Wi-Fi only connection. [/quote<] say what??

      • Deanjo
      • 3 years ago

      If my Meego Pad T1 and intel compute stick stream fine there is no reason why this wouldn’t.

    • The Egg
    • 3 years ago

    I’ve got a netbook with nearly identical hardware. If the price is right, this could make a perfectly good upgrade for granny to use with an existing monitor/keyboard/mouse.

      • Milo Burke
      • 3 years ago

      I’m in the same boat. If the price is right, I’m a potential customer. And 70% of the people that ask me for advice on how to fulfill their “just enough” computing.

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