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Zotac ZBOX Sphere OI520 barebones vs Sphere Plus review

by on02 December 2014



Aesthetics and Build Quality

When it comes to the ZBOX series, one of our biggest complaints was the lack of a comprehensive redesign over the past four years. While there were a number of tweaks and new form factors, the basic design language did not change until the Sphere came along. So, instead of small, incremental redesigns each year, Zotac decided to make up for four years of lethargy and predictable designs with something completely different, a radical redesign. Some may argue it went too far, but personally I don’t think so.


Kensington in lower left corner, note the alignment indentation at the front

The basic design is ballsy in more ways than one, pardon the pun. As its name suggests, the Sphere is an almost perfect 154mm diameter sphere, with small cut-outs at the back. The overall dimensions, with the chamfered box stand, are 154x154x161mm and the whole contraption weighs just 780g, less than an average 10-inch convertible tablet with a keyboard dock.


Lone USB 2.0, right hand side

However, there is a price to pay for the minimal design, as all the ports are located at the back, apart from a lone USB 2.0 port on the right side. Most users probably won’t mind, although a USB 3.0 on the side would have been preferable.


We're just showing off here

Zotac used PC+ABS plastic with a smooth, matte finish. Matte black is a good match for most offices sand living rooms, but we would really like to see a white option. It would make the Sphere stand out even more and attract more consumers, or at least help some of them justify the purchase to their significant other. On the other hand, a white version could be an invitation to a lawsuit from Pixar.

The top can be removed with no tools – just twist it off counter-clockwise and that’s it. The Sphere looks pretty good even with the top off, like something you'd expect to see inside a Borg cube.


Despite the volume, the components are tightly packed

The cover is about 2mm thick, which makes it relatively sturdy for a desktop. The top rests on a translucent ring, lit up by a PCB housing an array of blue LEDs, giving the Sphere a space-age orb look, with a glowing equator so to speak.


The circular LED PCB is huge

The light show is controlled by a Holtek chip, which rests at the bottom of the round LED PCB.


Section of LED array exposed at the top 

Last modified on 10 December 2014
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