Sunday, July 26, 2015

Zotac ZBOX PI320

Zotac ZBOX PI320

A Windows PC That Will Fit Into Your Pocket

The Zotac Zbox Pico PI320 is really, really tiny. It’s one of the many socalled mini PCs, like Apple’s Mac mini and Intel’s pocketable Computer Stick, that are redefining how small a small-form-factor (SFF) desktop can be. This category has grown rapidly in the last year as PC manufacturers have leveraged the energy-efficient components found in tablets and inexpensive laptops to make PCs increasingly compact, but the Zbox Pico proves there are still some significant limitations to overcome.


The Zbox Pico PI320 measures just 0.75 by 2.6 by 4.55 inches (HWD), roughly the same size as a deck of cards. With glossy black plastic on the top and bottom, and a band of aluminum around the edges, it’s an unassuming little box. As mini PCs go, it’s tinier than the Mac mini or the HP Pavilion Mini, but not quite as small as the Compute Stick. It can, however, still slip into a shirt pocket.

On the front of the system is a simple Power button. On the left side is an Ethernet jack, two USB 2.0 ports, and a headset jack. On the back are another USB 2.0 port, an HDMI-out port, and a Power connector. On the right is a lone microSD card slot. Compared with the port selection on the Intel Compute Stick, this is a wealth of connectivity options. But other mini PCs, such as the Pavilion Mini or Zotac’s Zbox CI320 nano Plus, pack more features: a full-size SD card slot, for example, or any HDMI alternatives (say, DisplayPort).

You’ll also feel the difference in storage capacity, as the Zbox Pico PI320 is equipped with just 32GB of eMMC storage. That’s the same amount found in the Compute Stick, but that doesn’t necessarily make it competitive. The Zbox CI320 nano Plus offers a solidstate drive (SSD) with twice the capacity for only $50 more. The Maingear Spark is almost as small as the Pico PI320, but boasts 128GB of solid-state storage. Everything else—the Mac mini, the HP Pavilion Mini, the Zotac Zbox Sphere OI520 Plus—is in the 500GB-to- 1TB range.

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Included in the box is a power adapter—an external wall-wart plug with swappable, international connectors—and a tiny, mountable clip for attaching the Pico PI320 to the back of a TV or monitor. Finally, there’s a recovery disc for the operating system. The compact Zbox Pico PI320 comes with Windows 8.1 With Bing, a free version of 32-bit Windows that Microsoft offers to manufacturers of inexpensive systems. It comes preset to use Microsoft services like Bing search and OneDrive cloud storage, and isn’t allowed to ship with another browser or storage service installed (that’s the condition for manufacturers to get the free license and keep retail prices low). But there’s nothing keeping you from installing whatever programs and apps you want once you have the system. Zotac also covers the computer with a one year warranty.


The Zbox Pico PI320 is outfitted with a 32-bit 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735F processor and 2GB of memory, the same setup used in the Intel Compute Stick. The low-powered processor is cooled passively, which keeps the PC small and silent but means you’ll sacrifice some of the capability you’d get with even an inexpensive Celeron chip.

We couldn’t run all of our usual tests (CineBench is 64-bit, and Photoshop and PCMark 8 Work Conventional conked out too early to give us usable results), and one we could run, HandBrake, ran incredibly slowly. The system’s time on that test, 8 minutes, 14 seconds, was well behind what we saw from both the HP Pavilion Mini (7:19) and the Mac mini (3 minutes, 13 seconds), though it was a bit better than the Compute Stick’s 8:20. In other words, the Pico PI320 may be adequate for Web browsing and streaming media, but it won’t replace a regular desktop for more demanding tasks.


   Like the Intel Compute Stick, the Zotac Zbox Pico PI320 is more about stretching the boundaries of what can be considered a PC, and less about providing performance. These extra-small mini PCs are perfect for streaming media or putting simple Web-browsing capabilities on an otherwise unused monitor. For the most low-price flexibility, the Editors’ Choice Compute Stick manages to be both smaller and less expensive that the Zbox, and its innovative stick design means you can plug into and power the system directly from the HDMI port of a TV or monitor. Still, I could see this sort of computer being ideal for either the living room or a customer service kiosk. The biggest benefit of the Pico PI320 isn’t even its small size, but its similarly small price. When $200 can get you a basic Windows PC, you can afford to be creative with it—so why not try it?

By Brian Westover

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