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Firing it up

As you can see in the image above, the Magnus EN1080K needs two bulky 180W power bricks to run. A first-world problem, sure, but one that buyers should be aware of. You'll always need two power plugs for the EN1080K itself. This isn't an insurmountable issue by any means, but it's an inconvenience, and I really wish Zotac would have just sprung for a larger power adapter, perhaps with a more robust connector. Barrel plugs aren't the most durable things around, after all. For the record, you can't run the EN1080K at all with just one adapter plugged in. I tried for the sake of science.

The first thing I do when setting up any new system is check for a firmware update. I had a few firmware-related follies with the EN1070, and I wanted to make sure and avoid those if at all possible. After downloading the most recent BIOS update from Zotac's site and dropping it on a flash drive, I dutifully booted to an EFI shell and attempted to flash just as Zotac's instructions bid me do. I was greeted with an EFI shell hanging off the right edge of the screen. Attempting to enter shell commands produced no results, so all I could do was reboot the system.

After fiddling with the BIOS for the better part of an hour, I figured out that the machine wouldn't display the EFI shell correctly unless the boot settings were configured to boot the graphics card in legacy VGABIOS mode instead of in UEFI GOP mode. Once I worked out that weirdness, I was able to attempt to flash the BIOS. Doing so, however, gave me a message insisting that the installed BIOS version was the same as the one I was attempting to flash. This despite the fact that the version numbers did not match: the BIOS version I was trying to flash was version 111, while the version installed was version 108.

I contacted Zotac, and eventually the download on the site was replaced with a fixed version. That update allowed the EFI flash to complete successfully. I think it's worth noting that throughout this entire process I was made all the more nervous by the machine's bizarre boot behavior. The Zbox Magnus EN1080K, or at least this particular specimen, takes upwards of 15 seconds after power-on before it actually completes POST and attempts to even display anything on the screen. Sometimes, during this process, it will power itself off and restart again, and sometimes it will do this even after displaying the boot logo.

Normally in a custom build that kind of behavior would make me suspect a failed power supply or motherboard, but during the Windows install, game testing, and around two dozen hours of non-testing gameplay, the EN1080K gave me nary an issue. While leaving it idle, though, another problem cropped up. The EN1080K refuses to resume from standby or hibernation. Before the firmware update, this extended even to display standby. If you let the EN1080K power down connected monitors, it would lock up and become unresponsive to anything but the power button. The recent firmware update seems to have resolved that issue, though the machine still refuses to wake up from system standby. That's a bit of an annoyance in a PC this expensive.

The firmware update also seems to have changed the machine's Turbo Boost behavior. While doing my initial game testing, I noted that the Core i7-7700 seemed to have some sort of "multi-core enhancement" enabled, as it was eager to run at 4.2 GHz on all four cores instead of just one. I noticed this while playing GTA Online and while running the CPU-Z benchmark, so I looked for an option in the UEFI setup to control it. There isn't one. After the BIOS update, however, the CPU will only hit 4.2 GHz on a lightly-threaded workload, as it should. Playing a multi-threaded game, or using a multi-threaded stress test, the CPU boosts to 4 GHz and stops. That's the expected behavior of a Core i7-7700, so it's not like this is a problem—just another example of the EN1080K's somewhat odd behavior.

All I can really do is chalk up the EN1080K's quirkiness to Zotac's firmware. The EN1070 that I reviewed before wasn't able to talk to NVMe drives when I first received it, and a later firmware update was required to resolve that problem. My ancient AMD Zacate-based Zbox used to be real picky about the RAM it would play with, as well. Quirky firmware is something of a Zotac hallmark at this point. If nothing else, I will give Zotac's support credit for fixing up the issue within a week.