If you’re thinking of setting up an HTPC with possibly boxee or XBMC, think MAG.
The NVIDIA ION Platform has done a great thing for the Atom CPU. While most Atom platforms that are based on the Intel 945G chipset allow you to surf the web or create documents, NVIDIA brings decent multi-media performance to the table. Although on a small 10″ screen of a netbook, this might not sound as attractive, it has certainly opened up a new door for the very small form factor PCs and we’re looking at one today- the Zotac MAG.
Packaged neatly is a notebook sized box, the Zotac MAG comes bundled with a power adapter, a VESA mount, a vertical stand, a drivers CD and a quick-start/specs guide. The VESA mount can be used to stick the MAG on the back of an LCD/Plasma screen hiding it completely, however, we would suggest showing this very good looking unit off with its vertical stand.
Measuring just 7.32″ x 7.44″ x 1.5″, the MAG is a sleek looking PC with colored in black and gray with a large orange O lighting up in the center (the Zotac Logo). If you have seen the Acer Revo then think of the Mag as a better looking sibling that was separated at birth.
On the front, you have audio input and output, a memory card reader, a USB port as well as the power button along with LEDs for power and HDD. There is an additional USB port on the top of the device while the back features four more USB ports, an eSATA connector, HDMI and DSUB outputs, Gigabit network socket, optical audio output and the power socket. Internally, this MAG came equipped with a Dual Core Atom 330 CPU (Single core version also available but not recommended), 2GB RAM and a 160GB Hard drive (both of which are upgradeable.) Wi-Fi is also built in, however iR is sadly missing which could come in quite handy if you’re planning on using the MAG as an HTPC (Home Theater PC) which is exactly what we did.
Using the HDMI and TOSLink connectors, I connected MAG to my Onkyo receiver. The small size of the MAG allowed me to position it right next to the TV without it looking odd. I installed XBMC 9.11 as well as the latest Boxee beta to check out the performance on the MAG. While Boxee worked great pushing out 1080p videos without a hitch, XMBC has yet to utilize GPU off-loading of videos in a stable build. A nightly build is available but I didn’t play around with that. The interface for Boxee ran pretty fluidly even with Skype and uTorrent with its web interface running in the background.
The following are results from PassMark compared to the ASRock ION 330 SFF PC. The ASRock has a faster and higher capacity hard drive which should be easy replace. 3D performance should be identical on these machines if identical drivers and Operating System is used.
|Zotac MAG Mini
|ASRock ION 330
Overall, MAG is an excellent option if you plan on using it as an HTPC. It can be used for your everyday office PC as well but I’d rather connect this to my TV. I do wish an optical drive was built on it and yes, while that would probably increase its thickness, it would also increase its functionality. Lack of built-in iR is not that big of a deal as you can easily get USB based receivers that work quite well. Very well priced at AED 1,100 (US$300), Mag should definitely be the direction you should be looking at if an HTPC is on your mind.