ZOTAC HAS FINALLY launched its CULV powered mini-ITX motherboard that we spotted back in June at Computex. Alongside it Zotac also announced a pair of new ZBOX mini PCs which also use Intel’s CULV processors paired up with Nvidia’s ION chipset. We’re still waiting for a few more products from Zotac that we were shown behind closed doors at Computex, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, instead let’s take a closer look at today’s announcements.
The ION ITX P and ION ITX N is the name of the motherboards where the first model comes with a dual core Intel Celeron SU2300 processor and the latter a single core Intel Celeron 743. Neither is what could be called cutting edge as the SU2300 has a clock speed of 1.2GHz and the 743 ticks a little bit faster at 1.3GHz. Both CPUs were initially intended for use in CULV notebooks, albeit as this market is slowly moving over to Intel’s Core i series of processors, it’s likely that Intel is trying to find alternative markets to offload these CPUs to.
Although the clock speed might be lower, these CPUs still offer better performance than Intel’s Atom processors – even the dual core 330 – in just about anything you can throw at them. As these are mobile CPUs they also use less power in idle and no more power than the Atom 330 in use. The pairing with Nvidia’s ION chipset makes for an interesting platform, albeit the graphics performance will only be marginally faster as the ION chipset isn’t terribly CPU limited even when paired with an Atom processor due to its entry level nature.
Features wise there isn’t much to complain about, as Zotac has thrown in just about everything you could want in this form factor. The rear of the board is home to four USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 connector, HDMI, DVI and D-sub display connectors, an eSATA port, Gigabit Ethernet, three analogue audio jacks for 5.1-channel sound as well as optical and coaxial S/PDIF out. Last but not least Zotac also includes a mini PCI Express 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi card as with so many of its other products. Both boards also features a PCI Express x16 slot and as far as we can tell it offers the full x16 bandwidth. There’s also a pair of memory slots, three SATA connectors and headers for an additional four USB 2.0 ports and even a serial port. Our only complaint would be the fact that the CPU and chipset are actively cooled by a fan that doesn’t look like the most quiet model on the market.
The two new ZBOX models are the HD-NS21 and HD-ND22 where the ND22 features the dual core Celeron SU2300 and the NS21 the single core Celeron 743. Otherwise both systems appear to be identical in terms of features. Zotac has created a custom motherboard for these models, just as with all of its other ZBOX barebones. There’s space for a 2.5-inch hard drive that connects directly to a SATA header on the motherboard and these models also rely on SO-DIMM memory to keep things as compact as possible.
In terms of connectivity we’re looking at a 6-in-1 card reader, eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet, six USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and DVI (no D-sub here), optical S/PDIF out and a pair of front mounted audio jacks. Zotac has also fitted 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi as standard and it appears that there’s a second mini PCI Express slot available for those that are interested in adding additional expansion cards.
The ION ITX P has a MSRP of $169 which seems a bit steep, but we’d go for it over the $130 ION ITX N as in this day in age a single core CPU isn’t going to do you many favours. The ZBOX HD-ND22 comes in at a steep $269.99 which seems like a huge price premium even though it includes a chassis and an external power adapter. The ZBOX HD-NS21 is expected to retail for $199.99. We’re not sure why there’s a $30 price premium between the ZBOX models compared to the motherboards. Overall the ION ITX P is actually offering better value than Zotac’s ION ITX F board which features the Atom 330 processors which has an MSRP of $179.99 and that’s with the added benefit of a faster CPU.S|A
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