Thu. Jun 1st, 2023
Zotac Zbox EN1080 review: console-sized 4K PC gaming - and it's expensive

Mark Walton

Specifications at a glance: Zotac Zbox EN1080 (barebones)
Processor Intel Core i7-6700
GPU Nvidia GTX 1080
Networking Dual gigabit LAN, 802.11ac/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports Microphone, Headphones, 4x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1x USB 3.1 Type-A
RAM 2 x DDR4-1866/2133 SODIMM slots (up to 32 GB)
Storage 1x 2.5″ SATA 6.0 Gbps HDD/SSD slot, 1x M.2 PCIe x4 slot (22/42.22/60.22/80)
Price £2000/$2000
Mate 225mm x 203mm x 128mm

Last year, Zotac released its small, gaming-ready Zbox EN1060 mini PC. With an Intel Core i5-6400T processor and Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card, the EN1060 is more than fast enough for 1080p gaming at high settings at 60FPS or more. But for those demanding more frames, more resolution and more powerful hardware in a console-sized chassis, especially since Sony upgraded the game with the PlayStation 4 Pro, Zotac has another option.

Enter the Zotac Zbox Magnus EN1080, a vented black cube with a fully water-cooled Skylake Intel Core i7-6700 processor (note the lack of the unlocked “K” designation) and Nvidia GTX 1080 in a chassis just 225mm wide and 203mm deep. Such powerful hardware means the EN1080 is capable of playing games at native 4K resolution with near maximum settings of over 60FPS. Even better, thanks to the clever water-cooling setup inside, it does this while remaining quieter than any console or desktop PC with a standard cooling setup. It’s seriously impressive stuff.

Of course, there’s a price to be paid for such a setup – and it doesn’t come cheap. A barebones EN1080 – where you provide your own storage, memory and operating system – costs around £2,000 / $2,000. A more conventional desktop system with the same components plus storage, RAM, OS and a decent all-in-one liquid cooler will cost less than £1,500.

hey looking good

That system wouldn’t be nearly as small, of course, even with a proper mini-ITX chassis, nor would it be quite as quiet unless you invested in a water-cooled graphics card as well (graphics cards are often the noisiest part of a computer). modern computer). Whether it would be more or less appealing is of course a matter of personal taste, but I think Zotac has done much better with the EN1080 than the EN1060 and its predecessor, the GTX 980 powered EN980.

The stubby square chassis is much larger than the EN1060 at 128mm, but the overall size and footprint of the EN1080 is still compact. The matte black front panel features a large power button with customizable RGB lighting, an HDMI port for VR headsets, an SD card reader, USB 3.1 Type A and Type C ports, and a microphone and headphone jack, which are virtually covers all functions. IO you need. The side panels have the same matte black finish, but are additionally decorated with RGB-illuminated Zotac and 10th Anniversary logos. These are surprisingly (and thankfully) subtle for a gaming system and, with the lights turned off, barely visible.

The round back is a large vented area along with four USB 3.0 Type A ports, two DisplayPort 1.3 ports, two HDMI 2.0 ports (up to four displays can be connected simultaneously), two gigabit Ethernet ports and antenna connections for the integrated 802.11 ac/b/g/n Wi-Fi. There are also two DC inputs for the pair of included 180W (19.5V @ 9.23A) power bricks. High-end small form factor gaming systems with two power bricks are not uncommon – see the Asus ROG G20 or Acer Predator 21X laptop – especially since OEM bricks come in at around 330W (Eurocom has a massive 780W model on the way , but it won’t be cheap).

The most striking feature of the EN1080 is the honeycomb ventilation on the top, which removes the majority of the heat from the system. It is a pleasing design that is unique without being overbearing.

A look inside

On the bottom of the EN1080 are four rubber feet, which can be unscrewed to access upgradeable parts without having to dig out a screwdriver. Inside are two DDR4 2133 SO-DIMM slots for up to 32 GB of RAM, an M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 slot for something like a Samsung 960 Pro, and room for a standard 2.5-inch hard drive or SSD. Those with larger storage needs may complain about the mere 2.5-inch disk space, but the storage options work well for a gaming system with an M.2 drive for the OS and frequently used games, and a larger 2.5-inch SSD for storage.

While the late Steve Jobs would never have approved the exposed screws along the side panels of the EN1080, they do make it easier to view the system beyond the user-upgradeable parts. Inside is an impressively compact setup, with two custom waterbocks for the socketed CPU and MXM-based GPU, connected to a sealed, single water-cooling setup. A separate pump is mounted on the side of the chassis, which pumps water to a 120mm radiator which flows upwards from the honeycomb openings.

It’s a neat solution, but using just a single 120mm radiator to cool both a top-end CPU and GPU is a compromise that somewhat explains why Zotac didn’t include an overclockable “K” variant of the Core i7-6700 CPU. , which is locked to a 4GHz boost clock; overclocking both a GPU and CPU would have pushed the cooling system too far.

This was proven by testing. Running an AIDA 64 stress test on the CPU resulted in good temperatures of 63 degrees Celsius after an hour. However, with AIDA 64 and the Unigine Heaven GPU benchmark running at the same time, CPU temperatures reached 94 degrees Celsius, resulting in the dreaded thermal throttling. GPU temperatures reached 83 degrees Celsius, but boost clock speeds were stable around 1,800 MHz.

To be clear, this is an extreme use case. While gaming, both the CPU and GPU temperatures are decent and there is no thermal throttling. The EN1080 is also surprisingly quiet, with a dull, barely audible fan that is much quieter than the high-pitched whine of both the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S. What the extreme load test shows is that there isn’t much room to to push the system further; those who want to get a little more performance out of the GTX 1080 with some overclocking are out of luck.

By akfire1

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