Zotac certainly loves their Zbox nano series of mini-PCs. The PC’s small form factor make it ideal to setup in a living room or in any location where space is limited, offering a basic PC and media experience without the need for bulky tower PCs. Having recently reviewed the Zotac Zbox Nano XS AD11 Plus, I got the opportunity this week to try out Zotac’s Zbox nano AD12 Plus, the newest addition to the Zbox nano series.
Build quality & design
Once again Zotac sticks with their tried and tested PC design to form another tiny PC. The palm-sized Zbox nano AD12 Plus would fit easily behind a computer monitor (thanks to the included mount) or just sitting innocently on the side of your desk.
Zotac have added a few more ports to the Zbox nano AD12 Plus, thus making it quite a bit more desirable this time around. New to this model is the inclusion of DisplayPort alongside the standard HDMI, so you can run dual monitors quite easily. There are also a number of high-powered USB ports, which are perfect for charging certain USB devices. USB 3.0 ports also make an appearance, as well as an eSATA port at the back. There’s also a memory card reader, Ethernet and wireless connectivity, as well as Bluetooth. The familiar green ring lights up on top of the Zbox when in use, which again you can turn off in the BIOS if you find it distracting.
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. The system bundles with 2GB of RAM and a 320GB 5400RPM HDD, and you can upgrade the RAM up to 8GB.
Specs and Comparisons
The Zbox nano AD12 Plus makes some minor changes to the hardware, with the only major change being the use of the AMD Radeon HD 7340 GPU. This provides much better HD playback and handling, and ensures that your experience is as smooth as possible with the system. Here is a quick comparison sheet between the Zbox Nano XS AD11 Plus and the Zbox AD12 Plus:
The Zbox nano AD12 Plus didn’t blow me away with its performance, simply because it’s a PC designed for media consumption and maybe a few everyday tasks. The revised GPU and sizeable HDD make for a fairly responsive PC, however the overall performance was just marginally better than the Zbox Nano XS AD11 Plus.
Zotac markets the Zbox nano AD12 Plus as the “perfect palm-sized home theatre mini-PC”, and for the most part this is true. The improved GPU really helped when watching full HD video from my network drive, and even YouTube videos on full screen showed no stuttering or interruptions. A rather amazing feat was that I was able to launch Diablo III and run the game on the minimal settings - the framerate did get chopping in certain areas, but this game would probably have never run on earlier Zbox models.
As with previous models, the Zbox nano AD12 Plus bundles with a Windows-compatible media remote, which lets you access the Windows Media Center to view content on your PC and network. There’s an included IR receiver that you can connect if the IR port on the front doesn’t pick up the remote properly. Again, there’s no OS on Zbox nano AD12 Plus so you’re going to have to plug in an optical drive to install the OS and bundled drivers.
For the most part the Zbox nano AD12 Plus does a good job of keeping itself cool despite just having one internal fan. While the side vents aren’t of the most appealing design, they help pass through enough air to keep the unit cool under most circumstances. Only when I ran the benchmarks in rapid succession did the system fan kick in a little louder than usual. Even with large files being copied to the HDD the system was barely audible, so overall it can be installed almost anywhere and forgotten about.
The Zbox nano AD12 Plus is a minor improvement from the Zbox Nano XS AD11 Plus, and handles media playback a lot better than the previous model. The new graphics chip certainly makes for an improved experience, and the option to use DisplayPort or HDMI is also 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.