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Old 07-01-2012, 09:45 PM   #1
razor2025
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Default Review: Zotac Nanobox ID61-U (ULV Sandybridge minibox)

I've recently bought a Zotac Nanobox ID61-U from Newegg to replace an E-350 setup. The main complaints I had with the E-350 setup was the weak CPU not providing enough power for remote desktops and smoother Gchat sessions. It was also not powerful enough to run less-than-optimal HD video.

Link to box @ Newegg:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16856173042

Outside Impressions - Really tiny box, roughly size of 5-6x CD cases stacked together. Incredible how much stuff you can cram into boxes this small. USB3, Displayport, HDMI, and eSata. It's basically as future-proof as you can get on connections, short of thunderbolt connector. A 3.5mm to TOSLink adapter provides optical SPDIF connections, for older receivers too. The design of the box is not too-bad for PC product. It's definitely not very polished aesthetic-wise, and the plethora of ports certainly doesn't help either. The antenna for integrated Wifi is removable, so you can get better antenna if need arise. Definitely function first, form second. But it's not too bad looking, unless you're one of those industrial design folks.

Inside Impressions - You're limited to 1x 2.5" drive and 1x SODIMM slot on this tiny box, which is understandable given the dimensions. 4 screws holds the bottom panel that gives access to the drive and RAM compartment. Almost tool-less except for the drive bracket. The CPU / HM65 chip side is not visible/accessible without taking out good chunk of the unit and screws off. Would've been nice if there was some cover over the area where 2.5mm drive resides, to prevent metal parts touching each other... (I crafted a small piece of plastic cover to go between the board and the HDD).

Performance - Definitely satisfied with the speed of the unit. The difference between the E350 and this ULV Sandy Bridge is dramatic. Running two 1080p trailers via VLC at the same time was handled well, the CPU peaked around 80-85%. Youtube HD was no issue at all on Chrome. Using Logmein while chatting (the issues I wanted to solve) was also much smoother. All the while the CPU remained at 60*C or below using cooler unit similar to what they use on laptops these days. This should be plenty of performance for casual family PC.

Conclusion - For $200, this is pretty spiffy unit. A self-built mITX unit might give you more expansion options, but you'd have hard time reaching this performance/dollar. The hardware is entirely mobile-centric, the same CPU & Chipset (Celeron 867) used in the brand new Chromebooks and the Wifi-module is surprisingly, an Intel unit, single-band Centrino 130. If you want to build a <$300 family/office PC that can fit anywhere, this combo is truly hard to beat right now. The only weakness is in casual gaming. If they can fit a Trinity APU into size of this box, I'd be willing to grab one for myself as movie / casual gaming box.
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Old 07-02-2012, 11:06 AM   #2
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Thanks for the review. I've wondered about these things.

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Performance - Definitely satisfied with the speed of the unit. The difference between the E350 and this ULV Sandy Bridge is dramatic.
That is interesting to note. I just ordered an E-350 mini barebones. Hopefully it is faster than my other one with an Atom 510.

I have a notebook with a 1.3GHz Core i3 Sandy Bridge, and I did notice a bit of a difference over my notebook with a 2.4GHz Core i5 Sandy Bridge, and both feel slower than my desktop with a quad core Sandy Bridge (stock clocked even). All are running SSDs. Interesting. On the one hand even the slowest is "usable." On the other hand, a noticeable difference, however little.
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Old 07-03-2012, 12:49 AM   #3
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I have an E-350 mini-ITX (Gigabyte). Handles 1080i without issue.
I don't need/have/use 1080p which is a far greater demand on CPU and bandwidth than is 1080i. I like the USB3 on the Gigabyte board. Also did HDMI video and audio with nary a hassle.

The E-350 is much faster than my retired Atom D510 - which did OK with standard-Def video but not HD.

Last edited by stevech; 07-03-2012 at 12:51 AM.
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Old 07-03-2012, 08:03 AM   #4
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When is foxconn going to put trinity into a mini barebone? I'd buy that in a heartbeat. E350 is just a little too underpowered for my liking.
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Old 07-03-2012, 10:59 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevech View Post
The E-350 is much faster than my retired Atom D510
Thanks. Makes me feel a bit better.

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When is foxconn going to put trinity into a mini barebone? I'd buy that in a heartbeat. E350 is just a little too underpowered for my liking.
They're only using very low wattage notebook parts, plus there is the cost consideration. AOpen made some using higher end notebook CPUs but their barebones ended up costing many hundreds.
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Old 07-03-2012, 11:42 AM   #6
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how small is the stuff inside? i'm wondering if the guts could be removed and then crammed into a C64 or an atari
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Old 07-04-2012, 10:34 AM   #7
razor2025
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The inside is packed pretty tight, so the board itself is about the same width x length as the case. It uses external power brick.

The E-350 setup worked fine for 720p/1080i on VLC player, but it struggled a bit on XBMC (slower response, esp while the playing video). It also had some issues running web-pages with lots of dynamic content. Remoteing into the box was also annoying due to slower response. E-350 was much faster than Atom mITX box I used to replace, but this ULV Sandybridge is quite bit better in general computing. I really hope AMD can churn out something similar with Trinity.
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Old 07-04-2012, 01:32 PM   #8
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Nice review. What are the noise levels at light and heavy loads?
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Old 07-06-2012, 08:59 AM   #9
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The noise level can be bothersome. The fans spins up pretty fast once the unit boots. and stays on for quite awhile. The fan profiles can be tuned on the BIOS, so I'll play around with that when I have more time. It's definitely not "quiet". I'd like to check the thermal contact on the HSF unit with the CPU, but the warranty sticker prevents me from popping to board out to inspect it on the other side.
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