Zotac Zbox ID83 Plus review

Pros

  • Compact chassis
  • Generous port selection
  • Supports dual-display output

Cons

  • No operating system
  • No bundled peripherals
  • Limited space for expansion

The Zotac Zbox ID83 Plus is a reasonably priced small form-factor PC that packs a decent punch into its compact chassis. This machine has the chops to go beyond its intended media consumption purposes, allowing users to dabble in some media creation as well as daily computing tasks. These attributes, alongside its sub-£400 price, help overshadow its shortcomings – like the absence of an operating system or bundled peripherals – and make this machine a viable way to rev up any home theatre.

Design and features

The Zbox ID83 Plus measures 43 x 190 x 190mm (WxDxH). With a silver strip lining the outer edges of its otherwise all-black body, its two-tone finish makes for an appealingly simple design. Although the glossy black portion invariably attracts fingerprints, chances are you won't be touching the system very often, since it will likely be nestled behind your TV or monitor.

Given its tiny size and quiet fan operation, there's even a good chance that you'll forget it's there. A circular blue LED on the side of the chassis makes for a cool visual effect, while the opposite side of the chassis sports four rubber feet to provide grip for horizontal positioning. Alternatively, the system ships with a stand for vertical orientation, as well as a VESA monitor mount.

The Zbox ID83 Plus crams an impressive number of ports onto its limited surface area. The front panel houses headphone and microphone jacks, a 6-in-1 card reader, and a USB 2.0 port (see the image below).

Another USB 2.0 port can be found on the top of the system, while the rear features a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a pair of USB 3.0 ports (marked in blue to prevent confusion), an Ethernet port, an optical S/PDIF (5.1 digital audio) port, and HDMI and DVI outputs (see the pic below). The latter two outputs allow for two displays to be used simultaneously.

Additionally, the rear sports a screw-in jack for the bundled antenna, which helps strengthen the Zbox ID83's 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi signal. The Zbox ID83 Plus also sports Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, so users can pair it with a wireless keyboard or mouse without having to deal with wires or dongles. Although it does come with a remote that can navigate through your preferred media playback interface, users must nevertheless purchase peripherals separately.

Opening the chassis is achieved by removing a pair of thumbscrews on the bottom panel and popping off the side, revealing some room for upgrades. Our test unit's single DIMM socket was occupied by a 4GB memory module, which can be replaced with a stick as large as 16GB. The included 500GB, 5,400rpm hard drive, moreover, can be swapped with a more capacious 2.5in HDD or a solid state drive (SSD).

The Zbox's 500GB hard drive doesn't come with any bloatware – but that's mostly due to the fact that it doesn't ship with an operating system, so users must spring extra cash for Windows 7 or Windows 8 (we installed Windows 7 on our test unit). Moreover, since the system doesn't have an optical drive like the Lenovo H520s, installing the OS may entail the additional expense of an external optical drive.

Performance

With its 2.5GHz Intel Core i3-3120M CPU and 4GB of RAM, the Zbox ID83 Plus packs a decent punch beneath its trim chassis. It achieved a PCMark 7 score of 1,855 points, not a great result, but it made up ground on Cinebench R11.5 with a more impressive benchmark of 2.52 points – although that’s still well short of the class-leading, similarly priced Lenovo H520s which scored 4.9 on Cinebench.

Although geared primarily toward media consumption, the Zbox ID83 Plus also displayed some finesse for moderate levels of media creation. It finished our Handbrake video encoding test in 1 minute and 26 seconds, and the Photoshop CS6 test in 6 minutes and 39 seconds – both solid scores. Similarly, the machine exhibited some surefootedness for 3D rendering, with a score of 1,118 points in 3DMark11.

The Zbox ID83's integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU isn't geared towards high-end gaming, so it unsurprisingly couldn't crack the 30 frames per second playability barrier in either our Heaven or Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tests.

Verdict

With its Intel Ivy Bridge processor, generous port selection, and support for dual-display output, the Zbox ID83 Plus has the capacity to go beyond its intended media consumption purposes. If you're a patient person who doesn't mind separately acquiring an OS and peripherals, it's a good enough way to rev up your home entertainment centre.

Specifications

Model and Manufacturer

Zotac Zbox ID83 Plus

RAM

4GB

Processor

Intel Core i3-3120M

Storage Capacity (as Tested)

500GB

Graphics Card

Intel HD Graphics 4000