A closer look
Viewed from the outside, this Zbox doesn't stray too far from Zotac's classic formula. In fact, it looks pretty similar to systems the company released over two years ago. Zotac has only made minor tweaks to the design, like trading the old mechanical power button for a touch-sensitive one that sits flush with the front surface.
The power button is accompanied by a couple of activity lights and an infrared receiver. Zotac also supplies an external infrared receiver, which can be used if you want to tuck the Zbox away out of sight.
The external receiver ought to look fairly inconspicuous in a home-theater setting. It does occupy one of the Zbox's four USB ports, but since Bluetooth connectivity is built in, a Zbox-based HTPC would most likely supplement the remote with wireless peripherals. That would leave the other three USB ports free for other devices.
If laying the Zbox ID42 (or ID42 Plus) flat isn't for you, Zotac includes a small plastic bracket that enables the system to stand upright. In that configuration, the Zbox's underbelly is exposed, which reveals a cooling vent and a pink warranty sticker. The sticker peels off easily.
Also in the box: a VESA bracket. The bracket latches on to the Zbox with spring-loaded clips, allowing the system to be bolted onto the back of a monitor or TV, sort of like a ghetto iMac. I imagine that arrangement would make tracking down ports and connectors a little uncomfortable, though. You'd have to crane your neck and reach all the way around to the back of the display, which might be poorly lit and covered with dust. Ew.
Of course, the bracket can be used for other purposes, like if you simply want to bolt the Zbox onto a wall, under a desk, or on the side of an entertainment unit.
In addition to the gaggle of inputs and outputs at the front and back, Zotac supplies a USB 3.0 port on the right side of the machine (or at the top, depending on how it's sitting). The removable rubber cover should keep the port from gathering dust if you have the Zbox sitting upright.
Since the Zbox lacks a built-in power supply, AC to DC conversion duties are handled by an external power brick. The brick is easy enough to tuck away out of sight, but it does have a green LED that stays on constantly, even when the system is off. If that's a problem, you can always turn the brick face-down to hide the LED.
All right, time to pop off the lid and expose the Zbox's innards. Read on! Photos of circuit boards and heatsinks await.