ZOTAC ZBOX CI320 nano Budget SFF Desktop PC Review

ZOTAC ZBOX CI320 nano Budget SFF Desktop PC Review

We're taking a look at a new ZOTAC ZBOX CI320 nano SFF desktop PC with passive silent cooling and a tiny footprint. Read on for Trace's full thoughts.

@tracehagan
Published Wed, Sep 17 2014 8:10 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT
Rating: 89%Manufacturer: ZOTAC

Introduction & Specifications, Configurations and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 26 IMAGES

A quick note before we move to the new ZBOX: We've gone ahead and created a new set of charts for systems that are less than $750-1000, basically putting systems into two categories: budget and performance. Putting a sub $750 system through a 4K Ultra test on Battlefield 4 is pointless. For this new set of charts, we've reduced our gaming settings to better illustrate how these systems perform in their designed use cases.

On to the review: We've got in-house the new ZOTAC ZBOX CI320, a passively cooled small form-factor machine with a tiny footprint. The CI320 is NOT a gaming machine, and will only be able to play the lightest of games. But, it does have other great use cases that we will discuss in a bit.

One of the best features of the ZOTAC ZBOX line is its tiny size, something that the CI320 continues on with. Other great features include equally tiny power consumption and the ability to mount it to the VESA mount on the back of a monitor.

Without further ado, let's dive into the meat of this review.

Specifications, Configurations and Pricing

The ZBOX CI320 comes with the low-power Intel Celeron N2930 CPU. The N2930 is a quad-core part with a nominal clock of 1.83GHz and a boost speed of 2.16GHz. It's based upon the Intel Silvermont architecture, a low-power architecture designed for SoCs. It has a TDP of just 7.5W with an SDP of 4.5W.

Cooling the low-power Celeron N2930 is a passive cooler, making the system effectively silent. How well will this hold up to a heavy load? We'll have to hold off just a bit to see.

The design of the system is basically an Intel NUC, and utilizes a custom motherboard that includes gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and 8-channel digital audio via HDMI. In terms of I/O, the ZBOX CI320 comes with HDMI, DisplayPort, mic/headphone/S/PDIF, four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and an eSATA port.

Unfortunately, the system features just one SO-DIMM slot, which is populated with a 2GB Crucial DIMM. Graphics are provided by Intel's built-in "HD Graphics" clocked at 313MHz with a boost speed of 854MHz.

Windows 8.1 64-bit with Bing is installed upon the 64GB SSD. The SSD is from Foresee, an SSD manufacturer that I've never heard of, so I'll be interested to see how it performs. The CI320 nano will set you back around $236, which is really a pretty darn good deal for a complete system, including an SSD.

PRICING: You can find the ZOTAC ZBOX CI320 nano Desktop Computer for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The ZOTAC ZBOX CI320 nano Desktop Computer retails for $142.88 at Amazon.

Packaging, Bundle & System Pictures

Packaging

As the system is small and tightly packed, it fits into a tiny box and requires minimal packaging. Below, you can see the backside of the box. The outer box is a sleeve covering an inner plain black box.

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Opening the plain black box, you're greeted with a getting started guide and a recovery disk for Windows 8.1.

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Above left, the ZOTAC ZBOX is wrapped in a plastic bag and suspended in the middle of the box by two foam endcaps. To the right, the package's contents are displayed. You can see the power adapter, screws for mounting to a VESA mount, the plate for mounting to a VESA mount, the system itself, the Wi-Fi antenna, and a mini-S/PDIF adapter.

System Pictures

The following pictures are of the system:

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Here you can see the ZBOX attached to the plate used to attach the system to a VESA mount.

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This is the front of the system. From left to right, we have the power button, indicator lights, IR receiver, card reader, two USB 2.0 ports, and the headphone and microphone jacks.

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This is the back I/O panel. From left to right, we have the power jack, the DisplayPort and HDMI ports, two USB 3.0 ports, the gigabit Ethernet port, two more USB 3.0 ports, the eSATA port, and the Wi-Fi connector.

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Here you can see the bottom of the system. The triangle-like indents are used for the VESA mounting plate.

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Here we have removed the bottom panel to gain entry to the system. You can see the FORESEE SSD, Wi-Fi chip, and the single Crucial DIMM.

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Here we have removed the SSD so you can get a better look at the motherboard. There isn't much of interest on the board to note.

Testing Methodology

We appreciate the support provided by Corsair, GIGABYTE, and ASUS. Without their support, our job would be much more difficult.

Benchmarks and Testing Methodology

- CPU Tests

Cinebench R11.5 starts off our tests. The multi-threaded rendering test is ran and the score reported.

wPrime is ran for both the 32M calculation and 1024M calculation with the number of threads available on the system.

- Storage Tests

CrystalDiskMark is run to put a number on how well the system hard disk drive / SSD runs. It measures five different metrics, of which higher is better for all. The higher the numbers, the snappier the operating system will feel, especially if the "4K" number is high as most operating system files are small files.

HD Tune is run on any storage drives installed in the system. Maximum, minimum and average read and write speeds are reported in the charts.

- System Tests

PCMark 8 - Work is run to get an idea of how the system performs as a whole. It tests all aspects of the PC and puts a score on how well it performs overall. In this test, a low scoring area can affect the overall score, so it's important to read the analysis. A higher score is better.

- Gaming Tests

3DMark Vantage is ran on the Entry preset to get a feel for how the computer would manage gaming. The CPU, GPU and combined scores are reported. A higher overall score is the best and a high GPU or CPU score shows particular prowess with tasks that use that part of the computer.

3DMark 11 is run on the Entry preset and the Physics, GPU and combined scores are reported. This test is only run if the system supports DirectX 11. A higher overall score is the target, though a high individual result shows prowess in a particular area.

3DMark - Cloud Gate Test is run on the system to measure DirectX 11 performance and CPU performance. 3DMark is the latest version of Futuremark's widely used gaming benchmarking software. The combined, GPU, and Physics scores are all reported in the charts.

Battlefield 4 is run at 1280x1024 with the graphics preset set to "Low." FRAPS is used to record 60 seconds worth of FPS data. The game is played in a similar manner each time.

Crysis 3 is run at 1280x1024 resolution with the graphics specifications set to "Low." No anti-aliasing is used. FRAPS is used to record 60 seconds worth of FPS data. The game is played in a similar manner each time.

- Heat, Noise and Power Consumption

The system is fully loaded using Furmark and Prime 95. Component temperatures are recorded using CoreTemp and Furmark. Noise is recorded in front of the system, midway up, six inches from the machine using a decibel reader.

Idle power consumption is system consumption while sitting at the desktop, as recorded by a Kill-a-watt style meter. Loaded consumption is recorded during the load of Prime 95 and Furmark using the same meter.

Benchmarks - CPU Tests

Cinebench

Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5 build CB25720DEMO

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You can see that with the decreased power consumption comes decreased performance. The ZBOX CI320 produces a score of just 1.36. If you're planning on doing CPU-intensive tasks, then the CI320 may not be something you want to look at.

wPrime

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.09

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wPrime shows the same as above: relatively low performance. Again, CPU intensive workloads are not very well suited to the CI320 nano.

Benchmarks - Storage Tests

CrystalDiskMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

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Looking at the results of CDM, we can see that the FORESEE SSD isn't the fastest SSD we've ever seen. It utilizes just SATA 3.0Gb/s. It is, however, still quite a bit better than an HDD, as seen in the charts. The all-important 4K metric results in a 24 MB/s read speed, which is not great, but decent.

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Write speeds are similar to the above. While sequential speeds are quite a bit lower than we expect for modern SSDs, the 4K metric comes in at a pretty decent 40.2 MB/s. Of course, it is miles ahead of a hard drive.

Benchmarks - System Tests

PCMark 8 - Work Test

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.228

PCMark 8 comes with various benchmarks to assess PC performance in key areas. We make use of the Work test to see how these budget systems would work in the work environment.

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You can see in the chart above that the CI320 nano produces a score of just 1,425, over 1,000 behind the Ironside Minion. This is due to the low CPU and GPU performance. The SSD wasn't able to make up for the lower CPU and GPU performance here.

Benchmarks - Gaming Tests

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0

3DMark Vantage tests both processor and graphics performance and is a good indication of how systems compare. The results are generally more repeatable and consistent than other forms of benchmarking. Vantage uses DirectX 10 and can handle multi-core CPUs.

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Moving to the gaming benchmarks, we can see that the CI320 is not intended to game. Lacking a PCIe slot for an external GPU, the CI320 has to rely on Intel's HD Graphics that, while better than they used to be, still lag behind the cheapest of dedicated GPUs. This can be seen by the CI320's overall score of 4,464.

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.3.0

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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3DMark 11 shows similar results to Vantage. You should not be considering the CI320 for gaming. It produces just 465 points for its overall score.

3DMark - Cloud Gate

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0

Fire Strike is a new test that is designed for powerful gaming desktops. We have checked the "Extreme" test option to make it that much more torturing on the system. Overall, CPU, and GPU scores are reported.

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Continuing the trend, we can see that 3DMark Cloud Gate is not nice to the CI320, either. It produces a score of just 1,400, showing that it will play just the lightest of games.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

Battlefield 4 is the latest installation in the Battlefield franchise. We benchmark BF4 with a custom 60 second run played in a similar manner each time. Settings are 1280x1024 for the resolution with the "Graphics Quality" set to Low.

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Even with reduced graphics settings for our new Budget category, the CI320 produces an average frame rate of just 5.4 FPS. This is compared to the Minion, which sees an average of over 90 FPS. Suffice to say, BF4 is not playable on this system.

Crysis 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

Crysis 3 is run at 1280x1024 resolution with the graphics specifications set to "Low." No anti-aliasing is used. FRAPS is used to record 60 seconds worth of FPS data and recording starts at the start of the campaign and finishes most of the way up the tower. The game is played in a similar manner each time.

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Again, even with lower graphics settings, the CI320 produces an average of just 3.75 FPS. The Minion, on the other hand, produces an average frame rate of over 60 FPS. Again, Crysis 3 is not playable.

Temperatures and Noise & Power Consumption

Temperatures, Cooling and Noise

The system is fully loaded using Furmark and Prime 95, similar to our laptop testing. The sound recordings are made in front of the machine, about 6 inches from the center of the tower. Temperatures are reported as recorded by CoreTemp and Furmark.

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Here is where we start to see the low-power CI320 start to excel. Even with passive cooling, the ZBOX reaches a maximum temperature of 74C. As the GPU is integrated, we use the CPU temperature of 74C for the GPU as well.

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Even better, the CI320 produces virtually zero noise. With a passive cooler and no moving parts (SSD instead of HDD), there is nothing to produce sound. Our meter is unable to pick up any noise above and beyond the low ambient noise.

Power Consumption

Power consumption is measured while the system is loaded for the temperature test and while sitting idle at the desktop. Measurement is taken at the wall, so it includes everything running in the system, not including the monitor.

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Additionally, power consumption is another strong point of the CI320. At idle, it consumes just 7W. Under full load, it draws 13W. This is an incredibly small amount and would cost next to nothing to run 24/7.

Final Thoughts

Our benchmarks haven't been very kind at all to the extremely affordable ZOTAC ZBOX CI320 nano. Performance wise, the system isn't powerful, which is one of the reasons it can be passively cooled in such a small chassis.

The simple fact is that you won't be looking at the CI320 nano for a gaming system, unless you are the most casual of gamers, and don't require anything special in terms of graphics quality. Rather, this system is much more suited to the work environment where people spend all day in Word and Excel. Either work or an HTPC.

Being passively cooled is an excellent feature for an HTPC as it doesn't make noise during movies. Furthermore, it's very compact, making it easy to tuck away underneath a TV or in a cabinet. It also comes with 8-channel audio over HDMI and an IR receiver for IR remotes.

I also love the ability to mount the system behind a monitor. This is perfect for POS systems and also work systems, as noted above. As both of these types of systems are often left on, the low power consumption is also a bonus.

One of the other items of note is that the CI320 can be had without RAM and storage for around $130, allowing you to customize it to your needs with up to 8GB of RAM and either an HDD for mass storage or a larger or quicker SSD.

Despite the rather paltry performance, I rather find myself quite happy with the ZBOX CI320 nano, if you know that it will meet your use case. I will repeat that this system is not for gaming, not at all. But for an HTPC or work environment, the CI320 is the perfect fit, and the price is right too.

PRICING: You can find the ZOTAC ZBOX CI320 nano Desktop Computer for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The ZOTAC ZBOX CI320 nano Desktop Computer retails for $142.88 at Amazon.

Performance (including Overclocking w/a)75%
Quality93%
General Features89%
Bundle and Packaging92%
Value for Money95%
Overall89%

The Bottom Line: ZOTAC's ZBOX CI320 nano is an excellent choice for use in the workplace or as an HTPC. Gaming, however, is just not within the scope of this tiny budget system.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

Trace is a starving college student studying Computer Science. He has a love of the English language and an addiction for new technology and speculation. When he's not writing, studying, or going to class, he can be found on the soccer pitch, both playing and coaching, or on the mountain snowboarding.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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