General Hands-On Usage
Here's a CPU-Z screenshot showing some detailed specs of what's running under the ZBOX's hood:
And a GPU-Z screenshot as well:
Once the basic software install had completed, we restarted the machine to get a boot time. The ZBOX reached the Windows 7 desktop in 67 seconds, a few seconds faster than the previous ZBOX we reviewed.
Obviously, since we did the OS install ourselves, the desktop contained only the standard Windows 7 icons.
Overall, the HD-ID34BR 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.
Like many machines and components we've seen that are housed in black plastic, the ZBOX is a magnet for fingerprints. Fortunately, there's plenty of aluminum real estate by which to grasp the machine, should you need to do so.
The ZBOX draws a quite low 28.5 watts at idle, bumping up to only 32.9 watts under load.
We ran the HD-ID34BR 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 412 seconds, which is slightly faster than the HD-ID11 took.
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, which is exactly how long the HD-ID11 took.
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.
That being said, the HD-ID34BR is intended as a mini-HTPC, and users might find themselves quite frustrated with the unit's slow performance in this regard while ripping CDs and DVDs.
We installed the included CyberLink PowerDVD 9 software and watched a few scenes from Blu-ray discs. Titles loaded in a very reasonable amount of time, and navigation between menus and scenes didn't feel at all sluggish.
Video playback quality looked quite good on both a 22" LCD monitor, as well as a 50" plasma TV. Watching movies in the living room, however, made us wish this computer came with a remote control. With the relatively limited number of USB ports available, most users probably wouldn't want to commit one to a remote control's receiver dongle.