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Low-Power Gaming: AMD's E-350 Vs. Intel Atom D525 And Ion 2

Zotac’s Zbox AD03BR-PLUS

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.