Can this tiny PC play in the big leagues?
They say that size matters, and in the world of computing that’s always taken literally. Companies are always gunning for the fastest, thinnest, lightest laptops, or the biggest most powerful desktops. But caught in the middle are the bevy of users who just want a PC that they can use for some simple tasks like watching endless YouTube clips, tidying up their resumes, or streaming media from their network.
Zotac have for a while been making small-form PCs that seem to grow smaller with each one they put out. The latest one to head to our offices is the Zotac Zbox Nano XS AD11 Plus (whew!), a ridiculously tiny PC that Zotac bills as the perfect companion for anyone looking for a small PC to take care of their media needs in the living room.
Build quality & design
While the box that the Zbox Nano XS came in was quite large, I was absolutely floored when I actually opened the box and looked at the unit itself. When I say this thing is small, I mean it – I could just about fit it in the palm of my hand. As a size comparison, here’s the Zbox Nano XS next to a standard du SIM card box:
As you can see, the device is really tiny and would go relatively unnoticed no matter where you set it up.
Taking a quick tour of the device, on the front you have the power button and IR receiver for the media remote, a SD card slot, USB 2.0 port, and ports for headphones and microphone. On the sides of the device are two ventilation grills, one side takes in air and the other side pushes warm air out. At the back you’ve got a nice selection of ports on offer with an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, and two USB 2.0 ports, one of which can be used for the included Wi-Fi dongle. I would have preferred if Zotac had moved the audio ports to the back of the device and put another USB port on the front, as the rear ports can be used up quite quickly once you start connecting other peripherals such as your keyboard and mouse. The top of the device features a glossy black finish, which as the name suggests is an instant fingerprint magnet. There’s also a large green ring that glows when the device is on, which you can thankfully turn off in the BIOS.
Overall the device feels quite sturdy in its casing, and flipping the unit over reveals an interesting aspect about it’s underside. The four raised legs are actually screws, which you can twist open to remove the bottom plate and expose the memory slot and hard drive if you want to do a quick hardware upgrade. Other than these two components, there’s nothing else that you can tinker around with unless you void your device warranty.
Like many of its previous mini PCs, the Zbox Nano XS comes with a metal plate that can be used to mount the device to the back of any standard LCD monitor equipped with a VESA mount, so you can hide it away – the downside of this is that it might get a little difficult to switch around hardware or unplug USB devices.
Specs and Comparisons
Despite its compact size, Zotac were able to adjust the specs inside the Zbox Nano XS to deliver a respectable amount of performance. Having looked at a few of Zotac’s PCs in the past, I chose to compare this model to the Zotac Zbox Nano AD10 Plus. Here’s a quick comparison sheet between the two: