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ZOTAC ZBOX PI320 Budget SFF Desktop PC Review

The PI320 from ZOTAC measures in at about the same size as a pack of cigarettes, so portability is covered. But how does it perform? Trace investigates.

@tracehagan
Published Mon, Dec 15 2014 9:12 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: ZOTAC

Introduction & Specifications, Configurations and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 22 IMAGES

We have another tiny system from ZOTAC in the lab today. What is so surprising about this machine is its size; it's about the same size as a pack of cigarettes. The PI320 is a tiny little system that makes use of tablet hardware to run silently.

But just how powerful can tablet hardware be? Well, Intel's latest series of Atom processors have come a good distance since the Netbooks of yesteryear, and the PI320 is certainly no slouch.

While it certainly won't outdo a full-fledged gaming PC, the PI320 is truly a portable desktop. One could easily argue that it is more portable than a laptop or tablet, provided you have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse at all the locations you wish to use it at.

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

Specifications, Configurations and Pricing

The ZBOX CPI320 makes use of Intel's Z3735F quad-core Atom processor. This 22nm processor features four cores and four threads and comes clocked at 1.33GHz, with a boost speed of 1.83GHz. The SDP of the processor is a tiny 2.2W.

The system is about the same size as a 2.5-inch portable HDD, yet ZOTAC has still managed to fit a good amount of IO. We have available to us a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet connection, three USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack, and an HDMI out port. We also have a microSD card reader available. It includes 2GB of DDR3L-1333 in a single channel configuration, allowing for a max memory bandwidth of 10.6GB/s. Along with that, we have 32GB of eMMC storage with Windows 8.1 with Bing installed as our operating system.

In case you want the physical dimensions, we have you covered. The PI320 measures in at a petite 115.5mm x 66mm x 19.2mm. And, of course, ZOTAC includes a bracket for mounting this system behind a display, just like the previously reviewed CI320.

PRICING: You can find the Zotac ZBOX Pico series Intel Atom Z3735F 2GB Memory 32GB hard Drive with Windows 8.1 with Bing Preinstalled ZBOX-PI320-W2 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 Pico series Intel Atom Z3735F 2GB Memory 32GB hard Drive with Windows 8.1 with Bing Preinstalled ZBOX-PI320-W2 retails for $189.99 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 frontside and backside of the box. The outer box is a sleeve covering an inner plain box.

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Above left, the ZOTAC ZBOX is wrapped in a plastic bag and suspended in the middle of the box by some folded cardboard. To the right, the package's contents are displayed. You can see the power adapter, with plugs for multiple regions, screws for mounting to a VESA mount, the plate for mounting to a VESA mount, the system itself, the recovery CD, and the manuals.

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 back of the system. From left to right, we have a USB 2.0 port, HDMI port, and the power port.

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This is one of the long sides of the system. From left to right, we have the headphone jack, two USB 2.0 ports, and the 10/100 Ethernet jack.

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Here you can see the front of the system. There sits a lone power button on it.

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Finally, we have the other long side of the system, whereupon the microSD card reader sits. We were unable to open the system case for fear of breaking it.

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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Sitting just behind the relatively much larger, but still small, CI320, the PI320 produces a Cinebench score of 1.08. Again, we're running tablet hardware, so this is about where we would expect the system to line up.

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 PI320, due to the nature of the hardware and design specs.

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 eMMC storage is quicker than an HDD in the all-important 4K reads, but is bested by an SSD.

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Write speeds are similar to the above. While sequential speeds are a bit lower than the traditional HDD, 4K writes are much better. This is important as you are unlikely to be doing large sequential writes due to the size of the eMMC 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 PI320 nano produces a score of just 1,402. Considering this has slower hardware than the CI320, we're quite happy with this score. It is, of course, bested by a more expensive and larger machine. Considering its size, however, the PI320 does quite a good job in this test.

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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I hope you're not planning on gaming on the PI320 as you'll be disappointed. As we stated multiple times in the CI320 review, these systems aren't meant to game. ZOTAC has a specific ZBOX for that use case. We show these results for consistency and on the off chance that you might do some light gaming while at work. Hey! Who are we to judge?

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 PI320 for gaming. It produces just 199 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 PI320, either. It produces a score of just 675.

Battlefield and Crysis were not tested due to the small size of the hard drive and poor performance in the synthetic benchmarks.

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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This is where the PI320 really shines. Using passive cooling, the machine is silent, as you'll see below. This can have an effect on the temperatures, but the 86 degrees Celsius seen on the CPU is acceptable for the Z3735F processor.

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The PI320 produces absolutely no discernable noise thanks to its passive cooling. This is a great perk if you plan to be working long hours in front of the system.

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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The PI320 has a tiny power draw. At idle, we use just 6 watts. Under full load, that jumps to just 8 watts. As a PC spends quite a bit of time at idle, this low power consumption is great on the wallet.

Final Thoughts

So, here we are again at the end of another review. Just like the CI320 review, the benchmarks haven't painted a pretty picture for the PI320, but that's mainly because our system review methodology is aimed at higher performance machines, usually used for gaming.

The PI320 has a rather interesting use case. Rather, it has two use cases. The first is a very similar use case to the CI320. It makes a great system for lightweight work or POS systems. The second use case goes along somewhat with the first. It's highly portable. It can be easily moved from place to place, so if you don't need a laptop, you can easily use this as your main system and take it to meetings and hook it up to a projector.

As a point-of-sale system, the low power consumption of the system is very attractive. Similarly, for use in schools where systems are constantly idle, the low power draw and silent operation is very attractive.

The low price point is also attractive. It will set you back around $200, give or take, and is a fully functional system. This system could easily be used as a low power server or HTPC, something else the silent operation is useful for.

When it comes down to it, the PI320 is an attractive buy for a low power and silent system. While you certainly won't be playing any games or doing any rendering on the PI320, browsing the internet, watching movies, and light Office work is certainly within the realm and prowess of the PI320.

PRICING: You can find the Zotac ZBOX Pico series Intel Atom Z3735F 2GB Memory 32GB hard Drive with Windows 8.1 with Bing Preinstalled ZBOX-PI320-W2 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 Pico series Intel Atom Z3735F 2GB Memory 32GB hard Drive with Windows 8.1 with Bing Preinstalled ZBOX-PI320-W2 retails for $189.99 at Amazon.

Performance80%
Quality including Design and Build94%
General Features90%
Bundle and Packaging93%
Value for Money95%
Overall90%

The Bottom Line: ZOTAC's ZBOX PI320 is a reliable, tiny machine. As they say, silence is golden, and the PI320 is silent, so what does that make the PI320? It's never going to set any performance records, but for what it's designed to do, it does quite well.

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

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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.

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