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Zotac Zbox Magnus EN1070 review: Incredible power in a tiny chassis

How do you match the performance of a high-end gaming PC in a chassis that’s two-thirds the size of an Xbox One? Lots and lots of practice. Zotac has long been a purveyor of mini-PCs, with the company launching its first offering all the way back in 2008. Its latest offering, the Zbox Magnus EN1070, features NVIDIA’s Pascal-based GTX 1070 (the full-fledged variant) combined with an Intel Core i5-6400T.

The result is a machine — slightly larger than your average router in size — that can run rings around any game console available today. Mini-PCs are on the rise as their compact size allows them to be tucked away underneath a TV cabinet, making PC gaming a viable option in the living room without the added clutter of a full-blown gaming rig.

The Magnus EN1070 is the mid-tier offering in Zotac’s high-end gaming mini-PC lineup. The EN1060 — which has a GTX 1060 — makes up the entry-level model, whereas the GTX 1080-powered Magnus EN1080 is the most powerful variant of the lot. The EN1060 and EN1070 look identical, but the EN1080 features water cooling and comes in a slightly larger chassis.

All three models are sold as barebones units, which means that the CPU, GPU and motherboard are soldered onto the chassis, but you have the option of installing your own RAM and SSD. You’ll also need your own copy of Windows.

Specifications

Computing System

  • Processor
    Intel Core i5-6400T (quad-core, 2.2 GHz, up to 2.8 GHz)
  • Chipset
    Intel 100 Series, NVIDIA
  • System Memory
    2 x DDR4-1866/2133 SODIMM Slots (up to 32GB)
Graphics
  • Graphics Engine
    GeForce® GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5 256-bit
  • Video Output
    2 x HDMI 2.0
    2 x DisplayPort 1.3
Storage
  • Hard Drive
    1 x 2.5-inch SATA 6.0 Gbps HDD/SSD bay
  • Mass Storage
    N/A
  • Optical Drive
    N/A
  • mSATA
    None
  • M.2
    1 x M.2 PCIEx4 / SATA SSD slot (22/42,22/60,22/80)
  • Card Reader
    3-in-1 (SD/SDHC/SDXC)
I/O Ports
  • Audio
    Microphone, Headphone
  • USB Port
    2 x USB 3.0
    1 x USB 3.1 Type-C
    1 x USB 3.1
    2x USB 2.0
  • LAN
    Dual Gigabit LAN
  • Antenna
    1 x WiFI SMA connetor
  • Wifi
    802.11ac/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth
    Bluetooth 4.0
  • Legacy I/O
    None
  • CIR Infrared Port
    Yes
  • Expansion
    None
  • USB
  • IDE
  • VGA
Mechanical
  • Kensington Lock
    Yes
  • LED Indicators
    Power, HDD, WiFi
  • Power Supply
    AC Adapter
    O/P: DC 19.5V/180W
  • Cooling system
    Fan + Heatsink
  • ZBOX Dimensions
    210mm x 203mm x 62.2mm
  • Case Mounting
    None
Miscellaneous
  • Supported OS
    Windows 8.1/10 (32/64-bit)
  • Accessories
    WiFi antenna
    AC Adapter
    Power Cord
    Warranty Card
    User Manual
    Quick Install Guide
    USB drive with O/S driver
    Driver Disc

Design

The Magnus EN1070 doesn’t have a distinct design, and that works in Zotac’s favor. When tucked away in your living room entertainment stack, it doesn’t call any attention to itself, and its subdued design — it’s just a black box with a glossy front panel — makes it look almost like a set-top box.

The styling definitely does not reflect the sheer performance on offer with the Magnus EN1070, and while it blends in with ease, it doesn’t necessarily scream high-end PC. It would’ve worked out to Zotac’s advantage if the Magnus picked up a few styling cues from the manufacturer’s current-generation video cards. Zotac’s GTX 1080 looks imposing thanks to the grey and yellow paint scheme along with the software-controlled LED lighting, and the Magnus EN1070 would have benefitted with some of that design flair.

However, doing so would likely have led to an increase in the size of the chassis. Moving on from the design to the port configuration, the Magnus EN1070 offers a wealth of I/O options at the front and rear, with the front of the chassis featuring a card reader, USB 3.1 port, USB-C port, and audio connectors.

Round the back, you have the slot for the Wi-Fi ac connector, two DisplayPort ports, two HDMI 2.0 ports, two USB 2.0 along with two USB 3.0 ports as well as dual Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Hardware overview

Cramming an Intel Core i5-6400T and a GTX 1070 in a box that isn’t much larger than your set-top box means heat dissipation is a real issue. Zotac managed to figure that out by essentially building a large copper heatsink and pipes that siphon heat away from the unit. The low-profile fan also aids in cooling the system down.

You can easily install the RAM and storage by removing the thumbscrews at the back. There are two SO-DIMM RAM slots that can take up to 32GB of memory, an M.2 slot, a 2.5-inch SATA enclosure, and a mini-PCIe slot that’s taken up by the Wi-Fi ac card. Installing the memory modules and storage takes just a few minutes, and should you need a visual guide, Zotac’s user manual has an easy reference on how to install an SSD in the M.2 slot.

The CPU itself is a quad-core desktop part with a TDP of 35W, with a base clock of 2.2GHz and a boost clock of 2.8GHz.

As for the GTX 1070, the GPU is clocked at 1443MHz, with a boost of 1645MHz. It is clocked slightly lower than its desktop sibling, and it makes sense considering the limitations of the mini-PC form factor. As such, there’s a 10% difference in performance from the desktop SKU.

Benchmarks

Let’s kick things off with 3DMark, the industry standard for testing video cards. The GTX 1070 variant in the EN1070 offers 90% of the performance of the desktop SKU, and the scores highlight the same.

3DMark Time Spy

3DMark Fire Strike

AIDA64’s benchmark tests also provide a quick look at how the hardware fares in real-world scenarios.

I slotted a WD Blue SSD and an M.2 Samsung Evo 850 into the Magnus EN1070 to test the read and write speeds. First up, we have the Evo 850 SSD:

The WD Blue 250GB SSD manages to hold its own, exceeding the 850 in a few areas:

When it comes to thermal management, the heatsink and the fan do a great job of ensuring that the chassis stays cool. You’ll be able to hear the fan when the system boots up, but in day-to-day usage, it runs fairly quiet.

 

Verdict

With the Magnus EN1070, Zotac sets the standard for high-end mini-PCs. The chassis itself is unobtrusive, and the sheer power on tap means that it can handle even the most visually-intensive titles with aplomb. The hardware crammed into the chassis also means that you can drive VR headsets like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift from the Magnus EN1070 without any hassles, making it a much more enticing alternative when seen against a full-fledged gaming rig.

The one drawback with the EN1070 is the cost — there’s no getting around the fact that at $1,049, the mini-PC costs nearly three times as much as game consoles if you figure in the added costs for the memory modules, storage, and a Windows installation.

The EN1070 is infinitely more upgradeable than your average game console, but the high cost is likely to limit its appeal to a mainstream audience. The sells for the equivalent of $1,360 (SGD 1,899) on Lazada, but if you’re looking for a small form factor machine with great hardware prowess, there isn’t a better option available.

 

Harish Jonnalagadda
http://harishjonnalagadda.com
Harish Jonnalagadda is an avid reader of science-fiction novels. A long-time Arsenal fan, his other interests include gaming, basketball and making music. He also likes tinkering with hardware in his free time.

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