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Zotac’s Zbox AD03BR-PLUS

Low-Power Gaming: AMD's E-350 Vs. Intel Atom D525 And Ion 2
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We recently looked at a number of nettops in our Slim Atom/Ion 2-based Nettop PC Roundup. That review included Zotac’s Zbox HD-ID34, a system equipped with an Intel Atom D525 at 1.8 GHz and Nvidia’s Ion 2 chipset handling graphics.

Zotac submitted another flavor of its Zbox to stand up in our benchmarking gauntlet: the AD03BR-PLUS. Physically, this model is indistinguishable from the HD-ID34. But its internals are quite different. Instead of Intel’s Atom, the AD03BR-PLUS has an AMD Zacate-based E-350 with integrated Radeon HD 6310 graphics.

The Zbox AD03BR-PLUS measures a slim 11.5”x7.5”x1.5”, despite the inclusion of a slim Blu-ray combo drive. Zotac continues to use the attractive brushed metal/gloss black finish on its nettop HTPCs. The bright-blue power indicator ring also remains.

The bundle includes a driver CD, a manual, a quick-start guide, a VESA mount bracket for attaching the Zbox to the back of a monitor, a DVI-to-VGA converter, a full version of CyberLink’s BD Solution DVD for Blu-ray playback, and an external 19 V/4.74 A DC power supply.

Once again, we make note of the fact that Zotac's Zbox' lacks a remote. Purchasing a dedicated HTPC remote is certainly an option, but in an HTPC-oriented device like this, it seems like its inclusion should be automatic.

The rear outputs include DVI and HDMI ports, a dedicated USB port, an eSATA port that can also function as a USB port, a gigabit Ethernet port, the power supply input, and an optical S/PDIF audio output.

The front of the Zbox features the wide optical drive slot. There are also two more USB ports, a memory card reader, and audio jacks sharing the space—one for output, the other for a mic.

Unlike many slim nettops, Zotac’s Zbox is easy to open for access to RAM and the hard disk. Our test unit has 2 GB of DDR3. The memory can be expanded to 4 GB, which is an attractive option since the memory is shared between the system and graphics core. The included 250 GB hard disk is the same standard 5400 RPM Samsung Spinpoint that we saw in the HD-ID24. AMD's E-350 APU runs at 1.6 GHz, while the integrated Radeon HD 6310’s clock is set to 492 MHz.

We’d be remiss if we were to judge Zotac’s Zbox AD03BR-PLUS strictly as a gaming machine, a purpose for which it was never intended. We think it’s important to mention that we’ve found this E-350-equipped HTPC to be quite pleasant to work with in general productivity-oriented tasks, and video playback is excellent (although the E-350 does not include MVC support, so it cannot accelerate Blu-ray 3D video playback). The size of the machine is completely unobtrusive and it’s quiet, both positive attributes in an HTPC.

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  • 2 Hide
    tacoslave , April 14, 2011 6:17 AM
    so the gpu's in modern consoles are around the same as the e-350? since these gpus are mainly cpu bound? Also should have put counterstrike fun and not demanding.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 14, 2011 6:34 AM
    Can they make a video game that features a Monopolistic Chip Company who threatens and bribes computer manufacturers to be zombies?
  • -3 Hide
    ujaansona , April 14, 2011 6:53 AM
    Aamusing... ;) 
  • 4 Hide
    warjunkieltu , April 14, 2011 7:13 AM
    Why are you guys not testing some good quality freeware first person shooters, that could run smoothly on those low end PCs? For example:
    Urban Terror (my favorite one), Open Arena, Alien Arena? Or at least Quake live?
    Cause it's ridiculous to test all those latest shooters on such low end machines...
  • 1 Hide
    silverblue , April 14, 2011 7:17 AM
    I was just thinking about reinstalling either of the Star Trek: Armada titles now I've moved to Windows 7, just to see if it removes the stuttering I experienced in XP. Good to see one of those titles here.

    Good review; was kinda wishing for the HL2:LC or some previous-gen UT titles though. :) 
  • 5 Hide
    nevertell , April 14, 2011 7:53 AM
    You could've tried overclocking them :D 
    But seriously, the ION seems to be bottlenecked by the cpu.
  • 1 Hide
    rolli59 , April 14, 2011 7:54 AM
    Low end graphics! How about testing them with popular MMOG for addicts that travel, but like the portability of netbooks!
  • 3 Hide
    vaughn2k , April 14, 2011 7:58 AM
    Diablo 2? and Warcraft 3?
  • 1 Hide
    gondor , April 14, 2011 8:22 AM
    Thank you for including older titles in your comparison ! I hope you'll be able to include even more of them in any future tests to give each major game engine of the era a fair chance :) 
  • -4 Hide
    kartu , April 14, 2011 8:23 AM
    tacoslaveso the gpu's in modern consoles are around the same as the e-350? since these gpus are mainly cpu bound? Also should have put counterstrike fun and not demanding.

    PS3 has a kind of nVidia 5700, not sure how it compares/
  • -1 Hide
    gracefully , April 14, 2011 8:44 AM
    Pretty soon I'll be running these on my phone outputting to the HDTV at 720p. The iPhone and Android game markets are gaining ground, and look good too.
  • 2 Hide
    ukee1593 , April 14, 2011 8:53 AM
    PS3 actually has a NVidia 7900GT which has been adapted to communicate better with the CELL BE. This should be considerably better than the Ion and the E-350. The XBOX 360's GPU is faster than the PS3's also. Now both the Ion and the E-350 beat the crap out of the Wii however
  • 1 Hide
    yyrkoon , April 14, 2011 9:19 AM
    "PS3 actually has a NVidia 7900GT which has been adapted to communicate better with the CELL BE. This should be considerably better than the Ion and the E-350. The XBOX 360's GPU is faster than the PS3's also. Now both the Ion and the E-350 beat the crap out of the Wii however"

    The PS3 also uses 10-15x more power from the wall, in comparison. That is, the original PS3's I believe used around 300W, where one that a friend of mine purchased used 190(ish)W. Not to mention, thats just the system, not including "monitor" power.
  • -9 Hide
    yyrkoon , April 14, 2011 9:42 AM
    Looks like my original post got hosed somehow, and if not, sorry in advance.

    But to sum it up. Reviewer. You blew it. Where are the power consumption results ? Then, 3 readings wont cut it. 3 reading PER test, minimum. Since all games use different amounts of power. Depending on how hard they tax the hardware.

    Also, these tests are not necessarily a waste of effort. The waste of effort, comes when purchasing such systems. Laptops, can be had cheaper, that use comparable power, while far outperforming, anything atom like in nature. Need something computer wise thats tiny, and lightweight ? Get a cell phone, or maybe a tablet. Something based on ARM technology.

    What do you expect. Atom was designed with set top devices / cell phones in mind. Even in that capacity it fails as ARM is far superior to x86 where power efficiency is concerned.

    The only good point, is that since Atom, and similar technology is x86 based, developers who are not familiar with various (non Microsoft ) software technologies, have something to use with windows embedded. Do not get me wrong, personally I would love to write software for windows embedded using the .NET framework. It is certainly awesome for R.A.D.( rapid application development ). But at what cost to me, and my consumers ? In the end, it is just not worth it, when the costs can be 10x as much to me, and my customers. So once again, atom (namely x86) falls short again.

    Now, when will Intel, and AMD finally figure all this out I wonder.
  • 0 Hide
    pelov , April 14, 2011 10:07 AM
    Looooooove the new fusion tech. So much potential. screw bulldozer and ivy bridge.

    Nvidia isn't making anymore chipsets for Intel; but we knew that. Are they getting love from nvidia for the GPU component for future atoms? I haven't heard anything in that regard.

    The power consumption is on par with the atom/ion combo. Iirc it actually consumes a bit less power in general and significantly less power while in idle.

    This is the perfect netbook solution for me and many others. can't wait to see the new llano's
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , April 14, 2011 10:18 AM
    Hmmm, it looks like the E350 could handle Guild Wars...

    (and battery life would beat the snot out of 880G/HD4250)
  • 0 Hide
    feeddagoat , April 14, 2011 11:16 AM
    AMD looked to be CPU limited in fallout 3 and the speed in which it fell away after 720p would suggest possibly a memory limit or GPU being maxed out. Im surprised the ion didn't display the same characteristics.
  • 3 Hide
    juliom , April 14, 2011 11:23 AM
    yyrkoonLooks like my original post got hosed somehow, and if not, sorry in advance.But to sum it up. Reviewer. You blew it. Where are the power consumption results ? Then, 3 readings wont cut it. 3 reading PER test, minimum. Since all games use different amounts of power. Depending on how hard they tax the hardware.Also, these tests are not necessarily a waste of effort. The waste of effort, comes when purchasing such systems. Laptops, can be had cheaper, that use comparable power, while far outperforming, anything atom like in nature. Need something computer wise thats tiny, and lightweight ? Get a cell phone, or maybe a tablet. Something based on ARM technology.What do you expect. Atom was designed with set top devices / cell phones in mind. Even in that capacity it fails as ARM is far superior to x86 where power efficiency is concerned. The only good point, is that since Atom, and similar technology is x86 based, developers who are not familiar with various (non Microsoft ) software technologies, have something to use with windows embedded. Do not get me wrong, personally I would love to write software for windows embedded using the .NET framework. It is certainly awesome for R.A.D.( rapid application development ). But at what cost to me, and my consumers ? In the end, it is just not worth it, when the costs can be 10x as much to me, and my customers. So once again, atom (namely x86) falls short again. Now, when will Intel, and AMD finally figure all this out I wonder.


    If you're SUCH a visonary, why aren't you working for a huge company like Intel or AMD already? Atom and Brazon and fantastic for some needs, you cannot say that everyone's needs will be satisfied with the devices you suggest. Grow up a bit before starting to talk like that.
  • 3 Hide
    masteren , April 14, 2011 11:27 AM
    ukee1593The XBOX 360's GPU is faster than the PS3's also. Now both the Ion and the E-350 beat the crap out of the Wii however


    Source?
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