An HTPC enthusiast’s dream come true.
We have had many a Zotac Zbox mini-PCs for review in the past, which were average PCs designed for basic office use or as HTPCs. With the Zbox Nano, however, Zotac plans to invade the micro-PC market with a product that’s small, well made and pleasing on the eye without being expensive. Something that can be customized by anyone to their own like so that they can have a satisfying HTPC experience.
Today I’ll be looking at Zotac’s Zbox Nano AD10 Plus. The Plus in the AD10 denotes that this version of the Zbox Nano comes with a 320GB HDD and 2GB of RAM. The regular AD10 version will actually come without a HDD and RAM so that users themselves can put in whatever they want. I should mention here that neither version of the Zbox Nano comes with an OS; which leaves users to install anything they like which is compatible with the hardware. This means you can install any version of Windows 7 which has Windows Media Center (or Win 7 Starter with XBMC) or Ubuntu variants such as XBMC Live, Mythbuntu or BOXEE.
Given the need to benchmark the system and make comparisons with previously reviewed hardware that was similar in nature, I installed Windows 7 Starter Edition on the Zbox Nano AD10 Plus I got for review. Without installing any Antivirus software, Win 7 Starter was idling at 480mb of RAM in use out of the total 2GB available. A quick install of CCCP meant I could watch literally any video file on the net. Sorry, I like WMP Classic more than VLC!
Given the ease with which I can replace the HDD and RAM, I decided to open up the box and see what’s inside. Opening up the rear panel of the Zbox Nano is an extremely simple process where you don’t even need a screwdriver. Replacing the HDD and RAM module is a simple matter of pulling the old one out (in the AD10 Plus model) and plugging in the new hardware. This is as plug & play as it gets. So seeing as there was a 320GB Samsung HDD running at 5,400rpm with 8MB of cache, I decided to replace it with the closest 2.5″ HDD I had lying around.
The real pain during installation was that the USB 3.0 ports wouldn’t work as there were no drivers that could have been installed, so I had to use one USB 2.0 port for installing Win 7 (on a USB stick) and switch between the keyboard and mouse as and when prompted during installation. Apart from that I would suggest you get all the drivers directly from Zotac as they will have the latest versions available. 30 minutes later, once Win 7 Starter was up and all the drivers and benchmark software were installed, I was good to go.