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Thursday, 06 February 2014 08:17

Nvidia ION resurrected in Zotac mini PC

Written by Peter Scott

GT 640 coupled with Ivy Bridge

Remember Nvidia ION? It was a way of adding a bit more GPU muscle  to Atom-based nettops a few years ago and it made sense, since Atoms at the time were weaklings with a terrible GPU and it many cases they even struggled with 1080p content.

Now that low voltage parts from Intel and AMD feature much more powerful graphics, very few vendors choose to use a discrete GPU on their mini PCs and notebooks based around Atoms and AMD APUs, but there is a catch. UHD or 4K is coming and although few people actually need it at the moment it is nice marketing tool. A somewhat more powerful GPU should make cheap systems a bit more future proof and since people don’t tend to upgrade their media PCs that often, it makes sense.

Zotac’s new ZBOX ID45 resurrects the ION concept, but with a much more powerful CPU in tow. It is based on an Ivy Bridge Core i3-3227U clocked at 1.9GHz and it features an Nvidia GT 640 GPU with 2GB of DDR3. The GPU is 4K capable and users can choose between HDMI, DVI-I and VGA outputs (of course you can’t get UHD on the latter).

zbox-id45

“ZOTAC has always married the capabilities of energy-efficient Intel processors with incredible NVIDIA GeForce graphics since the first ZBOX shipped with NVIDIA ION,” said Carsten Berger, senior director, ZOTAC International. “The latest ZBOX ID45 series pushes that synergy even further with greater performance while maintaining excellent energy-efficiency.”

The rest of the package is more or less standard. Ivy based ZBOX systems have been around for a while, but this one features 802.11ac wireless, which should come in handy for high-resolution streaming. It also has gigabit Ethernet, just in case. The design hasn’t been changed and it might be time for Zotac to tweak it a bit. The ZBOX has been around for four years and it could do with a new paint job or an even bigger makeover.

There is still no word on the price and as always the new ZBOX will be available as a barebones unit or a complete system with the Plus moniker, in which case you’ll get 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. 

Peter Scott

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