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Closer Look at Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 Nettop

At this point we can’t claim that ION2 platform is very popular among nettop makers these days. Despite all advantages of the additional GT218 graphics controller, they do not seem that eager to increase the complexity of the simple design of the Pine Trail platform by adding another graphics chip. However, Nvidia’s primary partners who have already offered ION based solutions, try to also be able to offer ION2 based ones. For example, we all know Zotac Mini-ITX mainboards very well, including the ones on the first generation ION platform. So, this company also offers ION2 based products. However, we are not talking about a Mini-ITX mainboard in this case, but about a practically ready-to-go nettop – ZBOX HD-ID11 barebone system that allows you to build a multimedia center around dual-core Intel Atom D510 (Pineview) processor. This barebone consists of a system case, a mainboard (with the integrated processor and a graphics chip with the video memory) and an external power supply unit. As a result, the user only needs to take care of system memory and hard drive, which should be installed into special assigned spots.

ZBOX HD-ID11 system looks just like any other ZBOX nettops: Zotac uses unified plastic cases for all their mini-systems on Atom processors. It is a relatively compact and light-weight almost parallelepiped-shaped box measuring 188x188x44 mm with sloping glossy black panels and shaped silver sides.

Overall, the quality of the case is excellent: all parts fit perfectly, there are no obvious defects. At the same time it is important to understand that the case of ZBOX HD-ID11 system that retails for about $230 is made of pretty cheap type of plastic, so it is not free from the issues typical of cheap plastic products. For example, the large top and bottom panels seem to be too soft, and the glossy finish makes them very easily soiled and scratched. As for the narrow sides, they have noticeable plastic excrescences from the stamping process.

This nettop can be set up in three different positions: horizontally, vertically or hanging off a mount. The native position is most likely the vertical one, as in this case all names of the indicators and ports will face the right way. For additional stability the system is bundled with a special stand.

In order to use ZBOX in horizontal mode, there are soft rubber feet on the “bottom” part of the case. The funny thing is that eSATA as well as USB ports are going to be upside down in this case.

There is also a third pretty popular mode for miniature systems, when it is attached to the back of the monitor using standard VESA mount. In order to attach ZBOX this way, you have to use a special mount and a set of retention screws included among its accessories.

The front panel has a Power On button, wireless network indicator and HDD activity LED, one USB 2.0 port, multi-format (MC/SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro/xD) card-reader and two analogue audio-jacks supported by Realtek ALC888 codec.

The digital monitor connectors, HDMI and Dual-Link DVI, are at the back of the case. Note that GT218 graphics controller supports resolutions up to 2560x1600 when used with a digital interface, which is an indisputable advantage it has over the graphics core integrated into Intel Atom processors. ZBOX HD-ID11 doesn’t have any analogue video outputs. In the back next to the monitor connectors there are four USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, a Gigabit network connector, digital S/PDIF Out and a connector for the external notebook-type power supply.

The power supply unit itself included with ZBOX HD-ID11 is made by Delta, has constant output voltage of 19 V and should handle maximum 65 W of power. I have to point out that this power supply unit is considerably smaller and lighter than the power supply units bundled with Mini-ITX mainboards from Zotac based on the first-generation ION platform.

The remaining sides of the ZBOX HD-ID11 system offer one more USB 2.0 port, numerous vent holes and thumb-screws that hold the assembled system case together. The bottom panel also has vent holes in it.

Overall, Zotac ZBOX seems to be designed strictly for office use, but at the same time may easily suite living-room environment. Besides, this system is very easy to hide due to its small dimensions. In other words, the exterior of the new ZBOX system doesn’t really matter that much. Only a glowing blue circle on top of the case may make the small system look funky during work, but you can disable this glow in the BIOS, if you like.

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