A challenger to Mac Mini in the HTPC market arrives.
Looks wise, the Zbox is evenly matched with the Mac Mini. Its flatter but wider and looks equally good. On the front you have the memory card slot as well as a USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0 port next to 3.5mm audio jacks. The Blu-Ray drive is of slot-in type giving a really neat look.
The back has an HDMI port as well as a DVI port with a TOSLink audio output, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an additional USB 3.0 port as well as a combo USB 2.0/eSATA port.
What I like about the Zotac Zbox is that, unlike the Mac Mini, it is extremely easy to upgrade. Just unscrew the back and you have access to the RAM sockets, the hard drive bay as well as a mini PCI slot allowing you to increase the memory, switch to an SSD or add a mini-PCI expansion card. About the only area where the ZBox disappoints is with wireless options. Zotac ads Wi-Fi but neither bluetooth nor iR is present on board meaning you have to look for USB dongles if you want your HTPC to work with universal remotes or want to send media files from your mobile phone to the HTPC.
Priced at AED 2,050 (US$560), the Zotac Zbox Blu-Ray is about 30% or a AED 1,000 cheaper than the Mac Mini. Even adding the cost of Windows (since the unit comes OS-free) to it, the Zbox Blu-Ray is a much better value than the Mac Mini. Yes, it has a slower CPU than the Mac Mini but that does not come in the way of watching full-HD movies- it’s more than capable of handling any media you throw at it. About the only thing I wish it had was built-in Infra Red so you could use operate it with a universal remote out of the box, but a Blu-Ray drive, USB 3.0 and eSATA more than make up for it.