Zotac Zbox PI225 and Zbox MI553 fit every nook and cranny

Zotac has made a name for itself over the years by packing copious amounts of computing power into ever-shrinking form factors. We were impressed with the Zbox Magnus EN1070 and have an even-faster Zbox Magnus EN1080K in the TR labs right now. The company is back at it again with two new machines. The Zbox PI225 has enough performance for everyday tasks, and it's stuffed into a fanless package roughly the size of a SATA SSD. Meanwhile, the Zbox MI553 brings an Intel Core i5-7300HQ quad-core processor and next-generation display and peripheral connectivity to the party.

The Zbox PI225 is built around Intel's Apollo Lake Celeron N3350 dual-core SoC. The 1.1 GHz CPU base clock isn't going to knock socks off, but the little chip can Turbo up to 2.4GHz when called upon. The PI225 can go without a fan thanks to the processor's power rating of just 4 W. The CPU is partnered with 4 GB of LPDDR3 memory. A 32 GB eMMC chip provides primary storage and a microSD slot allows expandability. The 64-bit version of Windows 10 comes pre-installed.

The outside of the box sports a pair of USB 3.0 Type-C ports and a microUSB power jack. One of the USB Type-C connectors must be used for display output using the included Type-C-to-HDMI adapter. The maximum display resolution is 4096×2160 at 30 Hz. The tiny machine has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 support for connecting to wireless networks and peripherals. The box measures a mere 3.8" long, 2.5" wide, and just 0.3" thick (9.5 cm x 6.3 cm x 0.8 cm). Those  measurements are just a bit larger than a standard Raspberry Pi's 3.4" x 2.2" (8.6 cm x 5.6 cm) footprint, and that's not counting the Pi's enclosure.

Folks willing to tote around a larger package in exchange for more horsepower might want to look at the Zbox MI553. The mobile Core i5-7300HQ processor can boost up to 3.5 GHz and sports Intel's HD 630 graphics with full H.265 decoding support and the ability to stream Netflix at 4K resolution. Zotac offers a turnkey version of this machine with 4 GB of DDR4 memory and a 120 GB M.2 SATA SSD preinstalled. Pickier gerbils might prefer the barebones version with two empty DDR4 SODIMM slots, an M.2 2242 SATA slot, an M.2 2280 PCIe slot, and a spot for a 2.5" SATA drive.

The Zbox MI553 connects to monitors using DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.0 outputs. Those jacks on the back of the box are joined by a Thunderbolt 3 port, four USB 3.0 connectors, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, and a connector for an external Wi-Fi antenna. The front panel has a USB 3.1 Type-C port, audio jacks, and a card reader. Like its smaller brother, this machine has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 support. External dimensions measure 7.3" on each side and 2.8" tall (18.5 cm x 18.5 cm x 7.2 cm).

Zotac didn't provide pricing or availability details for the Zbox PI225 or the Zbox MI553, though we figure they'll land at e-tail stores sometime soon.

Comments closed
    • w76
    • 2 years ago

    That Zboz MI553 looks kind of interesting, nice connectivity options… I assume the Thunderbolt 3 is just a full-spec USB3.1? Bonus points if it could somehow power itself with that instead of a power brick.

    Depending on the price of the barebones, that plus an SSD and 16gb DDR4 makes for a quiet desktop or over-powered HTPC.

      • Lord.Blue
      • 2 years ago

      Actually Thunderbolt 3 offers a lot more speed and power than USB 3.1 Gen2. That tops out at 10Gb/sec, where the Thunderbolt 3 has a speed of 40Gb/sec. Thunderbolt 3 can also be used to attach an external graphics card because of the speed it offers. You could also connect 2 4k monitors to just one Thunderbolt 3 port. To handle this, you would need to make sure that you are getting a Thunderbolt 3 cable, and not just a USB 3.1 type C cable(there is a difference, and as one might expect, a Thunderbolt 3 cable is more expensive).

    • backwoods357
    • 2 years ago

    Who do I have to blow to get a mini PC with dual Intel NICs and a recent gen Intel CPU (not some j series crap) for under $300. That’s all I really want.

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    The PI225 is the same exercise in making things pointlessly thin that has plagued everything else.

    By the time you add the power adapter and the massive adapter dongle you’ve already doubled the size of the thing. Why not just make it big enough to work without a myriad of adapter cables in the first place?

      • Takeshi7
      • 2 years ago

      I agree. It looks small enough that they could have made it a bit bulkier to include the PSU and still keep it the same size as previous PI-series computers. Then again, if they put the PSU inside the case and it ended up taking a dump, it would be a lot more difficult to service and/or replace.

        • Chrispy_
        • 2 years ago

        My issue is that the HDMI output comes on a dongle that is at least half as big again as the whole rest of the PC. Like the Macbook, nobody likes carrying around a bag of stupid adapters. They’re ugly, they’re flimsy and they just get lost or damaged.

          • Voldenuit
          • 2 years ago

          Does a regular usb-c to displayport not work? Wayne’s article makes it sound like only Zotac’s included USB-C to HDMI adapter will work, which sounds a little strange.

            • WayneManion
            • 2 years ago

            USB-C to DP dongles will work. I highlighted the USB-C to HDMI capability because that dongle actually comes in the box with the computer.

            • Chrispy_
            • 2 years ago

            One day, things that come in the box with the computer will come in the computer.

            At least, this is what people told me “integration” and “system on a chip” meant 25 years ago.

            Now, apparently, it’s fashionable to have a chip in a box and the rest of the system is available as dongles and adapters from the GoogleSoft eTunes Store.

    • NTMBK
    • 2 years ago

    HD graphics? Pitiful! You can get Intel [i<]UHD[/i<] graphics these days, which must logically be 4X better.

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