ZOTAC ZBOX EN760 Plus gaming mini-PC review

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People love really tiny things. There’s something intrinsically satisfying about seeing something small produce something big – whether it’s a dose of truth from a kid or a wall-sized screen from a pico-projector.

The ZBOX EN760 benefits greatly from this phenomenon. It is a small black box that looks like a router – it even has two antennas sticking out of it – but it’s actually a gaming PC. And a media PC you can screw to the back of your HDTV. And yes, even a router, if you want it to be.

In this review, we’ll see what this small black box is truly capable of, as it challenges machines many times its size and price in the race for gaming performance. Read on to see how this £600 box performs!

Specifications

CPU Intel Core i5 4200U (dual-core 1.6GHz ~ 2.6GHz)
RAM Up to 16GB DDR3L 1600Mhz (8GB in Plus model)
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M w/ 2GB GDDR5
Networking 2x 1Gbps Ethernet, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4
Audio 2x stereo 3.5mm jack, 8 channel via HDMI, S/PDIF
Storage 2.5-inch SATA 6Gbps HDD/SSD (1TB 5400 RPM HDD in Plus model)
Ports DVI, HDMI (via incl. adapter), 2 DP, 2 SATA (1 SATA, 1 mSATA), 4 USB 3.0
Packaging Contents 2x antennae, VESA mount w/ screws, stand, DVI-VGA adapter, AC adapter, power cord, USB drive with drivers, driver CD
Dimensions 188 x 188 x 51mm
Weight 2.1kg

Compared to the Zbox EI730 that we reviewed earlier this year, the EN760 comes with a worse CPU – just a dual-core 4200U – but a proper discrete graphics card, the GTX 860M. This loadout feels unusual, but should still be capable of reasonable gaming performance.

The EN760 Plus, as reviewed here, includes 8GB RAM and a 1TB 5400 RPM mechanical hard drive. The regular model requires RAM and a hard drive to be installed; either a 2.5″ drive or an mSATA SSD.

Physical Features

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The EN760 is a small black box, measuring 188mm (seven-and-a-half inches) square and 51mm (2 inches) deep. It looks remarkably like a router, particularly with the dual antennas connected. However, a 4K sticker and the slick orange ring that appears when the machine powers on do a little to fade that illusion.

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Let’s take a tour of the machine. First, the front, which includes a pair of 3.5mm jacks for headsets and microphones, an SD card reader, a USB 3.0 port, two LED indicators, an infrared port and a power button.

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The next side has a single USB 3.0 port and a lot of grille.

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The back is considerably more interesting. Left to right we have a WiFi antenna port, something weird, two gigabit ethernet ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a DVI port, an HDMI port, a Bluetooth antenna port and a power input.

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The final side is again mostly grilles, but with two screws to allow full access to the internals and a curiously shaped cutout in the middle. This is used to secure the Zbox to the VESA mount, which can be used to attach the Zbox to TVs or monitors as seen below.

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You get everything you need in the box, including the antennas, a stand for upright use, the VESA mount, a power cable, a VGA/DVI adapter and the standard array of literature.

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Subjective Impressions

I used the EN760 for a period of about four weeks as a secondary PC at home. During that time, it was used by my flatmate (and fellow reviewer) Ross as his primary gaming PC. Here are our impressions.

 

Gaming

For gaming, the EN760 is surprisingly capable. I was worried that the dual-core processor wouldn’t be able to handle modern games, but I had no issues playing games like Chivalry, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, X-COM and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Generally, games ran at 1080p with mid to high settings, with only niceties like anti-aliasing and advanced effects being disabled to ensure a high frame-rate.

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The EN760 was very quiet even while gaming, which permitted us to keep the box on top of our desk instead of stuck beneath it. The four USB 3.0 pots and dual digital video outputs allowed us to connect keyboard, mouse and two 1080p displays, which it ran well.

Games took some time to load thanks to the mechanical hard drive, but once loaded generally performed smoothly. One advantage of forgoing an SSD is that storage space is practically unlimited; with 1TB of space at our disposal we were able to keep a dozen games installed simultaneously with no ill effects.

 

Work

The EN760 is a reasonable work machine as well. We had Windows 8 installed, and this booted quickly despite the 5400 RPM hard drive. The machine was dead-silent during daily use, and having USB ports on three different sides made it easy to plug in peripherals. The SD card reader also came in handy on a few occasions, a rarity for a desktop PC.

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Generally, the EN760 was unobtrusive and boasted strong performance, certainly enough for Photoshop and surfing the web, which is essentially the extent of my current work.

Benchmarks

Now we move onto benchmarks, including both synthetic tests and frame-rate tests in three recent titles: BioShock Infinite, Company of Heroes 2 and Metro: Last Light.

 

3DMark

3DMark is a popular cross-platform test of graphics and physics, in a manner that approximates a typical game at four different challenge levels. Ice Storm is designed for mobiles, Cloud Gate is for decent notebooks, Sky Diver is for gaming laptops and Fire Strike is for gaming desktops.

3DMark Ice Storm Cloud Gate Sky Diver Fire Strike
X7 v2 (SLI) 126314 17026 16348 4783
P35W v2 110792 16097 14297 4286
X3 Plus 89813 16474 14548 4193
X7 (SLI) 116534 17586 n/a 4171
P34G v2 54862 13102 11269 3735
ZBOX EN760 74417 8411 9174 3409
P25W 44699 9896 n/a 3228
P35K 86517 13154 n/a 2675
P27K 58487 12372 n/a 2557
U2442 42430 4463 n/a 1147
ZBOX EI730 78178 8709 5275 1138
Aspire S7 34113 3928 n/a 548
Aspire V5 32841 3633 n/a 474

The EN760 provides middle-of-the-road performance in 3DMark, with the combination of a slowish dual-core processor and a goodish graphics card providing strong results that rival top-end laptops of the previous generation – not bad for a box that costs half the price.

3dmark

 

Cinebench

Cinebench is a nice cross-platform benchmark that stresses the CPU and GPU. All results are shown using the discrete graphics processor, if available.

Cinebench R15 OpenGL CPU
X7 v2 (SLI) 123.18 609 cb
X3 Plus 118.56 630 cb
P35W v2 103.04 603 cb
P34G v2 91.10 532 cb
X7 (SLI) 88.42 641 cb
P35K 82.34 636 cb
P27K 82.24 560 cb
ZBOX EN760 72.91 231 cb
P25W 58.18 330 cb
ZBOX EI730 51.57 451 cb

The CineBench scores here are quite disappointing, coming behind last-gen laptops in the OpenGL portion and our lowest-ever recorded CPU score… That dual-core i5 just doesn’t provide a lot of horsepower. That suggests we’ll see poor performance in CPU-limited games, although these are generally high-end titles that you wouldn’t expect to run well on a box of this performance level anyway.

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GeekBench

GeekBench is another cross-platform benchmark that examines memory and processor performance. As usual, I’m using version 3 of the benchmark.

GeekBench 3.1.3 Single-core Multi-core
X3 Plus 3287 12631
P35W v2 3186 12262
X7 3196 12044
P35K 3233 11993
X7 v2 3240 11784
P34G v2 2838 10241
P27K 2820 10212
ZBOX EI730 2875 9108
ZBOX EN760 2338 4517
P25W 1693 6170

As before, we see very poor performance in a CPU test, both in single-core and multi-threaded modes. It’s interesting to note that the EI730 comes with a faster quad-core CPU, and therefore outdoes the generally-more-capable EN760 in this test.

Screenshot 2014-11-24 17.56.03

 

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite is a new addition to our range of benchmarks. I’m running it on the ‘high’ preset at 1080p resolution; the benchmark itself is run from the ‘binaries’ folder of the game’s files if you’d like to compare your current setup to the EN760.

Bioshock Infinite Average fps
Aorus X3 Plus 85 fps
ZBOX EN760 65 fps

The EN760 received an average score of 64.85 fps, with a minimum score of 13.06 fps and a maximum score of 159.87 fps. That’s definitely a playable frame-rate, although the Aorus X3 Plus laptop pulls ahead a good 20 fps thanks to its faster Core i7 processor.

 

Metro: Last Light

Metro is a challenging game, both on you and your PC. Its benchmark tool is quite formidable, so let’s take a look at how the EI730 performs in an actual game. The settings are Direct X 11 renderer, 1920x1080p, High quality, AF 4X filtering, normal motion blur, no SSAA, DirectX 11 tessellation or PhysX.

Metro: Last Light Average fps
Aorus X7 v2 49 fps
Gigabyte P35W v2 35 fps
Aorus X3 Plus 30 fps
Gigabyte P34G v2 30 fps
ZBOX EN760 28 fps
Xbox EI730 16 fps

The EN760 records a score of 28 frames per second on average, across three runs. That’s just off the 30 fps score of the Aorus X3 Plus, and shows that in some games the Core i5 processor used in the EN760 is more than sufficient. This is once again a playable framerate in one of the most demanding titles, which is an encouraging result for the EN760.

 

Company of Heroes 2

Our final benchmark is Company of Heroes 2, an excellent strategy game centred around the Eastern Front of WW2. The game includes a robust worst-case benchmark, so if the game is playable here then you’d expect much better results in actual singleplayer or multiplayer. The test settings are 1080p resolution with no unit occlusion, v-sync or anti-aliasing, then medium for the other options.

Company of Heroes 2 Average fps
Aorus X3 Plus 47 fps
Gigabyte P34G v2 42 fps
Gigabyte P35W v2 40 fps
Aorus X7 v2 37 fps
ZBOX EN760 34 fps
Zbox EI730 15 fps

Once again, in CPU-intensive benchmarks we see the EN760 show worse performance than its better-equipped (and admittedly more expensive) counterparts. Still, getting 34 fps in the notoriously punishing CoH 2 benchmark still means the game is quite playable in normal battles.

Conclusion

The Zbox EN760 is a surprisingly well-equipped machine for the price, offering good gaming performance at 1080p in GPU-bound modern titles. While the most processor-intensive games require lower resolutions to run well, performance was generally comparable to leading laptops of the previous generation.

The EN760 also made for a capable media and work PC, with its unique capabilities – VESA mount, dual antennas, dual ethernet – allowing it to fulfill roles impossible for a desktop or laptop. The strong port selection and quiet operation also proved to be points in the machine’s favour.

Ultimately, the EN760 is a competitive mini-PC with a wide range of capabilities; a true example of ‘good things come in small packages.’

 

Pros

  • A silent machine, well-equipped with ports for desktop use
  • Reasonable gaming performance for its price point
  • Unique loadout allows it to perform niche roles – like being a router or an invisible media PC
 

Cons

  • A somewhat weak CPU limited performance in some circumstances
  • The included hard drive was capacious but slow at 5400 RPM
 

Score

  • 9 / 10

editors

 

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About William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @wsjudd or on G+.

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