Zotac Zbox nano XS AD11 Plus £300
4th May 2012 | 13:50
The smallest full PC we've ever seen
The Zotac Zbox nano XS AD11 Plus is quite a mouthful, but the title is almost bigger than the incredibly diminutive PC itself.
When you think of the mini PC you might think of something with the dimensions of a couple of chunky netbooks sat directly on top of each other. With the Zotac Zbox Plus Nano XS though you might have to rethink that.
The 'XS' has to stand for xtra small because this thing is tiny.
To put it into some perspective the Zotac Zbox nano XS AD11 Plus is about half the size of the novelisation of the Lord of the Rings films, it could have been the same size if that Tolkien bloke hadn't embellished on Peter Jackson's story so much...
So yeah, it's small, and inside is a fully-functional PC with an SSD, 2GB RAM and AMD's latest low-power, dual-core APU.
And that means it's actually got fairly decent graphical prowess for something this wee.
Now the Zotac Zbox nano XS AD11 Plus is never going to be any gaming heavyweight, but as a bedroom PC or even a decent little home theatre machine, it's absolutely ideal.
It comes with a remote control and wireless connectivity making it perfect for hiding behind the tele, or as the powerhouse behind your projector.
CPU - AMD E-450 @ 1.65GHz
Chipset - AMD M1
GPU - AMD Radeon HD 6320
Memory - 2GB DDR3
Storage - 64GB SSD
Operating system - None supplied
The issue though is that, somewhat inevitably, the Zotac Zbox nano XS AD11 Plus comes sans operating system.
It's more than capable of running with Windows 7, coming with the drivers you need to get it running. With AMD's constant driver updates though you'll mainly just need to get the network drivers installed and go from there.
As we're mentioning networking we can't fail to talk about the beautifully neat wireless card.
It just looks like a wireless antenna attached to a USB stick, and a small USB stick at that. Drop it into a spare port (though there aren't too many after you've plugged in a keyboard and mouse) and install the drivers and WiFi connectivity is your proverbial bitch.
The lack of an installed OS though needn't be a huge problem as there are many very useable forms of Linux out there for free these days with the latest Ubuntu distribution being the most user-friendly Windows-a-like version around.
If you're just looking at the Zbox Nano XS as a media centre though then Zotac thinks it's got you covered on that front.
A link on the Zotac home page will take you to the download pages for OpenELEC which is a distribution designed to work perfectly with the AMD Fusion platform to run HD video content without a problem.
Now the HD playback wasn't a problem but the audio initialisation was. Try as we might we couldn't get the distro working with the AMD hardware in any way to give us proper sound.
Still, with the media centre OpenELEC OS you're spending a lot of money to turn a full PC into a basic media streamer.
We'd much rather go for a fuller Linux distro or just take the hit and go for Windows.
As a normal PC though it does a pretty impressive job, better than most other nettops you'll see in the wild.
As we mentioned earlier it's never going to be a gaming powerhouse, but that said we still saw frame rates in the 20s for DiRT 3 and World in Conflict at 720p. That should give you a pretty good indication of the sort of graphics power this machine has.
You're not going to be playing Skyrim on it, but casual gaming isn't out of the question and it also means that HD playback and internet visuals aren't going to cause the AMD chipset a lot of problems.
The tiny size of the Zotac Zbox nano XS AD11 Plus is the most impressive thing about it. Being able to pack a fully functional (minus optical drive) PC into such a small package has to be applauded.
It's also relatively powerful thanks to that dual-core AMD E-450 APU beating away at its heart. It makes HD playback an absolute doddle for this machine.
The sad fact is that if you want to stick a Windows installation into your Zbox shopping trolley then you're pushing the price perilously close to the £400 mark.
An Ubuntu installation will be free and just as functional, but for the uninitiated it can be a struggle getting drivers fully installed.
The free OS from available from Zotac ought to give you some decent media functionality, but it then turns the Zotac Zbox nano XS AD11 Plus into a very expensive media streamer.
A relatively powerful mini PC, ideal as a media centre or bedroom machine, but lacks the raw performance for anything much more taxing.