Can this tiny PC play in the big leagues?
The overall result from the benchmarks proved that the Zbox Nano XS is designed purely for media consumption or some non-taxing PC tasks. Games will run on it, but only at lower resolutions and textures – cranking any games up to medium gave an impressive 17fps at times.
I benchmarked the Zotac Zbox Nano XS AD11 to the AD10 Plus, and the results were just marginally better as illustrated below.
As you can see, the Xbox Nano XS AD11 just about pulls ahead of its previous model, thanks in part to the use of an SSD. I then moved on to the media tests to see just how well this unit would be able to perform when streaming media from my network.
While streaming high-def videos across the network was no problem when the Zbox was connected via an Ethernet cable, things started to get a bit dicey when I used the supplied wireless dongle. With a distance of just a couple of meters away from my wireless router, playback of a 1048p copy of “The Day After Tomorrow” was choppy at various times, no matter how I adjusted the direction of the antenna. So I suggest that you either keep this unit very close to your router or connect it via an Ethernet cable.
The box also includes a media remote and an additional IR receiver – in the event that the front panel is obscured or the device is mounted at the back of your display, you can connect the extra IR receiver to one of the USB ports . The remote itself can mainly be used to navigate around Windows Media Centre and other media software, though if you install a non-Windows OS then you might be stuck with an unusable remote control. Speaking of the OS, the Zbox Nano XS doesn’t come with any installed OS, and with no optical drive you’ll need to spend some time setting up the OS and installing drivers from the include CDs. It would have made more sense to include the drivers on a USB stick than on CDS, so hopefully this is something that Zotac take into account on their future models.
For the most part the Zbox Nano XS does a good job of keeping itself cool despite just having one internal fan. Only when I ran the benchmarks in rapid succession did the system fan kick in a little louder than usual. Thanks to the SSD you won’t hear any noises from the hard drive, so overall the system can be installed almost anywhere and forgotten about.
The Zbox Nano XS AD11 Plus is a nice little HTPC that can handle most file formats and streaming needs, as long as it’s placed close to your router or connected via an Ethernet cable. While the upgrade options and graphics might be a bit limited, the inclusion of an SSD in this revision is certainly a welcome addition. If you’re looking for a compact HTPC to setup in your living room and are cut for space, then this is the unit for you.