Zotac Mek1 Desktop Review: Killer 1440p Gaming

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Price Analysis & Conclusion

The Zotac Mek1 is a fine first outing for Zotac in its endeavor to provide larger gaming PCs with desktop components at an affordable price point. Like most of Zotac’s wares, its primary benefactor is the uninitiated gaming enthusiast; DIY gearheads likely wouldn’t look twice at the Mek1’s edgy black chassis, induction side panels, and integrated RGB lighting when you can always “build it yourself.” The plastic construction also feels somewhat flimsy compared to a traditional tower PC's. However, the Mek1 isn’t configured for the experienced PC builder looking for unlocked and overclocked CPUs, top-shelf RAM and storage speeds, or monstrous and heavy cases. And we think that’s just fine.

The interior design is intelligent, and the components are easy to access, giving the Mek1’s crucial and most frequently replaced components a degree of longevity with a clear upgrade path. (The memory, GPU, and storage are all upgradable.) The dual-chamber design and well-positioned vents keep the CPU and M.2 SSD heatsinks exceptionally cool; the processor never exceeded 78C in our tests. However, the graphics card experienced high temperatures, capping out at 85C and keeping the GPU from attaining boost states for prolonged periods when it was at full load. However, if you opt to install Zotac’s FireStorm GPU overclocking and monitoring software, you can easily circumvent this by tuning up the fan speeds. (We tested the cooling system as it came, out of box.)

The Mek1’s static hardware configuration is suitable for gaming with high details and effects at 1080p and 1440p, primarily thanks to its Zotac GeForce GTX 1070 Ti graphics card. Although, at times, the locked Core i7-7700 holds back potential performance at 1080p compared to faster and unlocked Core i7 CPUs, the Mek1’s hardware is particularly adept for 1440p gaming, where the processor is less a limiter to frame-rate throughput. You can even get playable 30 FPS average frame rates at 4K with certain games, but you’ll have to substantially turn down the eye candy to reach a target 60 FPS at that resolution.

Not everything is peachy-keen on the performance front, though. The Mek1’s 240GB Phison PS5008-E8 M.2 NVMe SSD performs more like a SATA SSD at low queue depths (normal user workloads). Although a more robust storage workload would yield better results, the target audience (average gamers) won’t see much difference in storage performance in their daily use, and end users will appreciate the sheer presence of an SSD, period. (Any kind of SSD is better than a HDD boot drive.)

The 16GB (2 x 8GB) kit of DDR4-2400 memory has higher-than-average CAS timings (17-17-17-39), giving it slightly less total memory bandwidth than our test rig running DDR4-2133 at CAS 15. This combination of performance setbacks in the storage and memory subsystems hampers productivity-application performance, and professionals looking for a midrange video-editing or CAD workstation would be better suited looking elsewhere. However, gamers won’t see too many AAA titles make a fuss over memory bandwidth or storage speed.

At $1,599, it would be hard to argue that the price isn’t right. The Mek1 costs only $100 more than the MSI G25 Vortex’s suggested MSRP, and the Mek1 offers a lot more horsepower in crucial components for the extra money. Whereas MSI’s SFF desktop features an 8th Generation ("Coffee Lake") Core i5-8400 processor, the Mek1 counters with a 7th Gen Core i7-7700, which proves slightly better for most games and multi-threaded applications (although some benchmarks prefer physical cores over Hyper-Threading).

The memory specifications of both machines are nearly identical (16GB DDR4-2400, CAS 17), but Zotac ships the Mek1 with dual-channel memory instead of one stick of RAM, giving it substantially higher total memory bandwidth versus the Vortex. The Mek1’s desktop-sized GTX 1070 Ti graphics card handily outperforms the Vortex’s GTX 1060 MXM module in games and GPU-intensive workloads by a significant margin, and despite somewhat weaker everyday storage performance, the Mek1 excels where it matters most for gamers.

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Derek Forrest
Derek Forrest is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes hardware news and reviews gaming desktops and laptops.
  • bigdragon
    This is an impressively compact system given its performance. It's always nice to see attempts to minimize the footprint of a desktop system without compromising on performance.
  • MCMunroe
    I am a fan of the console sized PCs with full sized GPUs. I own a traditional tower (Deepcool Genome 2), a Alienware Alpha, and a Node 202 (about the same size as here). I really don't feel like I am missing anything in the Node, where as the Alpha is as upgradable as a laptop. Too me it's a new sweet spot.
  • velocityg4
    Given the specs. There is no surprise about performance. A decibel reading under load would have been a useful addition for some people. If there was mention. I didn't notice it.
  • raymes0428
    Can the stand be removed and it placed on its side? Looking for an Alienware M1 replacement.
  • DerekA_C
    at that price they could have thrown in a 500w full modular psu
  • Lutfij
    The chassis reminds me of Silverstone RVZ/Milo series of SFF chassis's.