Introduction and Setup Impressions

Over the last couple of years, mini-PCs in the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) have emerged as one of the bright spots in the troubled PC market. Zotac is no stranger to this segment. In fact, their nano xs units came to the market before the Intel NUC, even though the NUC is credited with kickstarting the UCFF trend. Intel's Bay Trail family of SoCs has proved to be an affordable and low-power candidate for UCFF PC units. We have already evaluated a couple - the actively cooled GIGABYTE BXBT-1900 and and the fanless ECS LIVA.

The low power nature of the Bay Trail SoCs makes them very amenable to passively cooled systems. Zotac introduced the C-Series passively cooled PCs last year. It also includes a Bay Trail-based unit, the ZBOX CI320 nano. We have already looked at the ZBOX CI540 nano (based on Intel Haswell-Y) and ZBOX CA320 nano (based on AMD Temash) in detail. The build and feature set of the ZBOX CI320 nano are very similar.

Even though we were sampled the barebones version, we took the RAM and SSD from our ZBOX CA320 nano PLUS to get the system up and running. The CI320 nano PLUS is also one of the popular models from Zotac to come with Windows 8.1 Plus Bing - a Microsoft initiative to cut down on licensing costs for OEMs making certain types of computing devices. Bundled with a Windows 8.1 license, the CI320 nano PLUS costs less than $260. This is much cheaper than what one would pay for a Windows 8.1 license if they were to purchase the barebones unit (around $140) and the RAM / SSD separately. The specifications of our Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano Specifications
Processor Intel Celeron N2930
(4C/4T x 1.83 GHz, 22nm, 2MB L2, 7.5W TDP, 4.5W SDP)
Memory 1x 4GB DDR3L-1600
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Disk Drive(s) FORESEE 64 GB 2.5" SSD
Networking 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x1 802.11ac/Bluetooth mPCIe
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 8.1 Pro x64
Pricing (Win 8.1 Plus Bing) $257
Full Specifications Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano PLUS with Windows 8.1 with Bing

Our Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano kit didn't come with any pre-installed OS, but it did have a CD and a read-only USB key containing the drivers. In any case, we ended up installing the latest drivers downloaded off Zotac's product support page. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 40 W (19V @ 2.1A) adapter, a US power cord, a VESA mount (along with the necessary screws), a single 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz antenna for the Wi-Fi feature, a driver CD / read-only USB key, user's manual and a quick-start guide. The gallery below takes us around the hardware in the unit.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Zotac ZBOX CI320 nano
CPU Intel Celeron N2930 Intel Celeron N2930
GPU Intel HD Graphics Intel HD Graphics
RAM Crucial CT51264BF160B (Micron 8KTF51264HZ-1G6J1)
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
1x4 GB
Crucial CT51264BF160B (Micron 8KTF51264HZ-1G6J1)
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
1x4 GB
Storage FORESEE S600S064G
(64 GB; 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s; MLC)
(64 GB; 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s; MLC)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built, no OS) $240 $240
Performance Metrics - I
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  • andychow - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    Yes is has an IR sensor, but from what I read it's not very good and doesn't seem to wake up from sleep via IR, even if the option is in the bios, it doesn't work.
  • lianthus - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    I love that you guys added XMBC to the tests, one thing though, what I have the most trouble knowing is how well these low powered chips do when playing a Hi10bit mkv file. Anime now is mostly encoded this way and my old ZBOX cannot properly play the files regardless of whether or not I'm using wireless, wired, or local playback. If you could add this one piece to your reviews it would save me a tremendous amount of trouble, as nobody ever seems to post anything about playing back these files. It is literally the most important part of my purchasing choices when it comes to media PCs like this one.
  • bobbozzo - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    Also we need to worry about h.265 performance.
  • saiga6360 - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    The latest version of XBMC or Kodi as it is now called supports HVEC or H265 encodes. As for Hi10p, not sure if there is hardware acceleration support but the latest Celerons and AMD APUs can run these MKV encodes in software just fine up to 1080p. I use the latest Kodi version 5.0 in OpenELEC and I can run these files on a Zotac AMD E-450 APU and a Chromebox 1.4 Celeron CPU.
  • hlovatt - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    Any chance of reviewing the Mac mini to seen ow it compares?
  • takeship - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    It would seem to me that a passively cooled box whose BIOS fails to implement dynamic frequency stepping properly (or apparently at all) needs more than "a little work". It's inexcusable to ship a product with an issue like that. I wonder Ganesh if you tested or ran into issues with APCI sleep/wake states as well? Those have been notable pain points of Zotac on other boxes. And given the storage perf numbers, are we sure that SATA6 is actually being used, instead of say 3? I've looked at these Zotac boxes with lust for years now, but ultimately have always avoided because of questions concerning driver/firmware. It looks like Zotac still hasn't gotten their house in order.
  • zepi - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    HTPC Credentials needs to include H265 decode tests. That is soon going to be crucial.
  • Wineohe - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    I would like to see these small form factor PC's move to a 12V supply instead of 19V. They would be more versatile for mobile use.
  • AgeOfPanic - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    I don't understand how they cannot enable HD audio bitstreaming under Windows and have it work under Linux. Is there a logic behind it?
  • saiga6360 - Thursday, January 8, 2015 - link

    Driver issues

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