General Hands-On Usage
Here's a CPU-Z screenshot showing some detailed specs of what's running under the ZBOX's hood:
Once the basic software install had completed, we restarted the machine to get a boot time. The ZBOX reached the Windows 7 desktop in 72 seconds.
Obviously, since we did the OS install ourselves, the desktop contained only the standard Windows 7 icons.
Overall, the ZBOX performs quite admirably with everyday computing tasks. Though we certainly didn't experience (nor expect) the blazing fast responsiveness we've seen on solid-state drive-equipped desktops lately, the general computing experience was on par with what one might expect from a modern laptop. We experienced no crashes or hangs of any kind during the review of the ZBOX.
The ZBOX draws an incredibly low 21 watts at idle, bumping up to only 28 watts under load. While one of the least-demanding systems we've tested in terms of power consumption, there are some tradeoffs in terms of performance, as we will see below.
We ran the system through the standard media encoding test regime here at TweakTown, which includes music and video transcoding.
All systems are tested "as is", which means operating systems and drivers can and do vary and some come pre-installed with applications that may or may not affect performance.
Any anti-virus or security applications are disabled and uninstalled before any testing is started, as they can affect test numbers.
For the iTunes encoding test we took the White Stripes - Under Great White Northern Lights album in MP3 format and encode it to AAC format using iTunes and time the results with a stopwatch.
The ZBOX performed this task in 442 seconds. This is one of the longer times we've seen a machine take to do this task, but with a low-voltage processor and a 5,400RPM HDD, we can't say we're surprised.
For the movie-encoding test, we took the Microsoft Magic of Flight VC-1 WMV (1080p HD) video with six-channel audio and transcode it to XviD (1080p HD) with LAME MP3 two-channel audio and an MP4 container using MediaCoder 0.7.3.4616 32-bit edition.
The ZBOX took 862 seconds to complete this task-again, one of the slower times we've noted on recent machines.
The types of chips that operate well in low-voltage applications tend to perform rather poorly in CPU-intensive tasks such as media encoding and transcoding. This is just a tradeoff one must keep in mind when considering a low-voltage machine.