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Zotac Zbox Blu-ray AD03 HTPC Review

By on January 23, 2011
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Good: Excellent form fact, better 3D performance than ION or any Intel Integrated solution
Bad: Low 2D scores, slightly noisier than Zotac's previous Zbox Blu-ray
Price: AED 1850
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Looks-wise, the Zbox Blu-Ray AD03 is identical to the Atom/ION based. It has the same sleek form-factor that I liked very much on the older model with a slot-in Blu-Ray drive, a couple of USB ports, audio ports and a card reader on the front. The back side also looks identical with an optical TOSLink port, HDMI and DVI connectors, a Gigabit port and two USB connectors one of which is a combo eSATA. Sadly, Zotac has skipped an iR port which I think is important for any machine that is meant to be used as an HTPC.

The most important thing for the Zbox Blu-Ray is to play 1080p content with no drop rates and it managed to do that without any issued. I tried a few different MKV files with bitrates of 11803kbps and 5.1 DTS audio output without any issues whatsoever. These files played just fine on the Atom/ION based Zbox as well. For those of you looking for numbers, I ran Passmark which benchmarks your CPU, 2D and 3D and here is how the AD03 compares to some of the other systems such as the Zotac HD-ID34 (Dual Core Atom 1.8GHz/ION2), ASRock Ion 330 (Dual Core Atom 1.6GHz/ION), Lenovo Edge 11 (Dual Core i3-U380 1.33GHz/GMA5700 Integrated graphics) and the HP Mini 210 netbook (Single Core Atom 1.6GHz/GMA 3150 Integrated)

CPU Memory 2D 3D Hard Drive Overall
Zotac Zbox Blu-Ray AD03 694 215 87 267 535 356
Zotac Zbox Blu-Ray HD-ID34 728 259 129 220 580 414
ASRock ION 330 639 217 141 139 439 358
Lenovo Edge 11 1417 446 130 186 487 554
HP Mini 210 363 231 113 81 573 251

Looking at the numbers posted above, the dual core AMD CPU performs a bit better than the dual core Intel Atom CPU running at the same speed found on the ASRock ION 330 system but lower than the 1.8GHz dual core Atom in the Zotac HD-ID34. Coming to the Radeon HD 6310 GPU, 2D scores are noticeably lower than everything else, however, 3D scores are faster than every other platform including the Core i3 based Lenovo Edge 11.  About the 2D score, I want to point out that all of the above results are a median of three tests and the highest we got in 2D scores on the AD03 was 104- much closer to the rest of the systems.

One important aspect of the HTPC is noise level and although I don’t have anything to scientifically test noise levels, I can tell you that the AD03 was slightly noisier than the Zotac ID43 (Atom/Ion based) system but this is when you are sitting right next to it. That being said, you wont be able to hear either system if you are sitting ten feet away from the it which is generally how far your HTPC is.

As I mentioned earlier in the review, we received the plus version of the Zbox Blu-Ray which came with the 2.5″ HDD and 2GB of RAM pre-installed. If you receive the regular verso, you can very easily add those two to the Zbox by simply removing the six screws on the back. This gives you access to the internals and what you have in front of you is a 2.5″ SATA HD bay, two memory slots that accept DDR3 SO-DIMMs and two mini-PCI slots one of which is occupied by the Wi-Fi card. Zotac makes it very easy to upgrade the system.

Overall, the Zotac Zbox AD03 is an impressive HTPC that provides with a little more performance in terms of 3D compared to almost all other integrated solutions out there. The approximate price for the Plus is AED 1,850 (US$500) which includes the 2GB RAM and 250GB Hard Drive while the barebones version should be about $100 cheaper or under AED 1,500.

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About

Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of tbreak.com and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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