Zotac’s Zbox CI329 nano goes fanless with Gemini Lake inside

I live in an environment so noisy that it's certainly a significant contributor to my long-term hearing loss. Some of you surely select machines based on how quiet they run, though. It's hard to get a lot quieter than completely silent, as is the case with passively-cooled PCs like Zotac's Zbox C series. The latest model in the line-up is the Zbox CI329 nano powered by a quad-core Gemini Lake CPU.

The specific chip in question is the Celeron N4100. That's a four-core, four-thread chip that runs at 1.1 GHz but will briefly burst up to 2.4 GHz when necessary. Even including its built-in UHD Graphics 600, it only has a 6-W TDP. Taking that power draw into account, it seems unlikely that the machine's large heatsink will even get warm as long as there's any air flowing past it at all.

The CI329 Nano has two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots and one 2.5″ SATA drive bay—and that's it for external expansion. You can leave 8-GB SO-DIMMs in the shop, too—Intel says the machine will only accept 8 GB of memory in total. Said IGP can power three displays simultaneously using the CI329's HDMI 2.0a, DisplayPort 1.2, and VGA connectors.

That amount of connectivity is pretty good for a machine barely 2.3″ tall (5.8 cm) with a footprint that's just 5″ square (12.7 cm). Other external connections on the CI329 Nano include four USB 3.0 ports (one of them Type-C), a USB 2.0 port, 3.5-mm headphone and microphone jacks, and dual Gigabit Ethernet connections. Thanks to that last listing, I'm already eyeing one of these little boxes as a replacement pfSense machine. If you're interested too, keep an eye out. Zotac says the machine is out, so it should hit store shelves soon.

Comments closed
    • Misel
    • 2 years ago

    VGA?

      • Chrispy_
      • 2 years ago

      Yes. Fanless low-power things have a way of ending up connected to a lot of legacy hardware, and that includes rackmount KVMs.

    • helix
    • 2 years ago

    Might be the router I have been looking for.

    • sleeprae
    • 2 years ago

    I haven’t seen who makes the Ethernet ICs–based on prior experience with a ZBOX mini PC, if they’re Realtek, I wouldn’t use it for pfSense unless you have a fairly pedestrian internet connection.

      • moose17145
      • 1 year ago

      Would it be possible to have you elaborate a bit further on that (being completely honest, btw)? I have also been considering one of these cheaper little ZBox’s as a little pfSense machine to play around with. What about the realtek NICs makes these undesirable for a psSense box?

      And what would you consider a “Pedestrian” internet connection? The one I have at home typically tests out around 110mbps (give or take a couple mbps). Since each NIC is gigabit, it would seem they should be able to pass that quite easily (even if they were both tied into an old regular PCI bus for some reason).

        • sleeprae
        • 1 year ago

        I built a pfSense box based on the CI323 for my GF. I have 1gbps fiber at my house, and during my testing, traffic would frequently hang when doing bandwidth tests or anything that pushed the NICs hard. I eventually resolved the issue by forcing the speed, duplex, flow-control, and master settings–but while that addressed the stability problem, my recollection is that the box was still unable to push more than about 600mbps. I remember testing >940mbps through an old single-core Netburst-era Celeron on pfSense 1.2, so I was certainly disappointed. In this particular case, though, it was fine, as her connection was only 50 or 100mbps at the time.

        Certainly much has changed since then–pfSense has moved to a newer FreeBSD, this is not the CI323, etc., etc., but I think caution is still warranted.

        (edits: found my notes from the build)

          • moose17145
          • 1 year ago

          Ah okay. Thank you for the reply!

          I do not believe I will be seeing gigabit internet in my area anytime soon, so I would imagine this little guy could probably be fine with my 110ish mbps connection. Crazy to think that to some people 100mbps is now considered “pedestrian”. When you said pedestrian I was seriously thinking you meant like 10ish mbps HAHA! Charter JUST brought 100 meg to my area and man was I tickled pink when I saw that! I can only imagine what it must be like to be running on a gigabit internet connection.

          I planned on installing pfSense on my old i7-920 system (which has Dual NICs on the mobo), and messing around with it in there first to learn how to use it. But I did not really want to use that as a “always on” thing for pfSense… one, because it seems a bit like overkill, two, it also seems somewhat power inefficient for such a task compared to a lower powered solution like this, and three, I would permanently lose my HTPC if I did that.

          BUT… looking at some of what pfSense can all do… I am sure I could make it use up a good chunk of that old i7-920’s processing power if I really went nuts and started using a good chunk of the features it all has…

          • gla
          • 1 year ago

          I couldn’t agree more.
          I’ve been running pfSense on a Zotac CI323 box for over a year and can attest that it would freeze and require turning it off and then on manually under intense network load, before I forced the LAN Realtek NICs to 100 Mbit/sec.
          If I had known in advance that FreeBSD has broken support for Realtek NICs and that they lack hardware offloading capabilities, I would have bought different hardware.

    • caconym
    • 2 years ago

    Wow, it’s nice to see so many USB Type Bee ports!

    • Takeshi7
    • 2 years ago

    Dang. I’m still waiting for the new Zotac PI series.

    • DPete27
    • 2 years ago

    Can we get a TR [url=https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157808<]Gemini Lake[/url<] review!?!?!

      • Chrispy_
      • 2 years ago

      Seconded.

      I’m familiar with Bay-Trail and Braswell, but have limited experience with Goldmont (just a single J3455-powered NUC6CAYH) and I’ve been told that ‘Goldmont Plus’ is a significant improvement.

      It’s hard to know how significant the improvement is without reviews 😉

        • DavidC1
        • 2 years ago

        Few reviews are out there. The J5005 is a 30-40% improvement over J4205.

        I’m definitely sure its in the range of Penryn in terms of perf/clock in terms of uarch. Penryn is likely still superior in some aspects like the memory latency and SIMD unit.

      • DragonDaddyBear
      • 2 years ago

      It’d be cool if that has a pfsense benchmark thrown in, too.

        • DPete27
        • 2 years ago

        I linked that specific board BC it’s got the top end J5005 in it. But I’d like to see TR grind the stopper off the back of the PCIex1 slot and do a dGPU benchmark on it!!!!

        I’d be willing to give the decrepit board a loving home after the abuse it endures 😉

      • usernam3
      • 2 years ago

      Also include review of 2 x 8GB setup. While Intel and Zotac claim lack of support, my N3450 equipped nano has no problems with this configuration. Also, lift the mobo to see if extra storage ports were hiding on the other side of PCB (another surprise in my Zotac nano).

      • RAGEPRO
      • 2 years ago

      I can’t promise anything, but I really do intend to get a machine like this Zotac (or maybe the board you linked). If I do, I surely could run some benchmarks on it. Even if I don’t get to post it up as a TR article, I’ll drop some data in the forums.

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