Zotac has been a pioneer in bringing Small Form Factor (SFF) machines to market since the days of ION. The introduction of the ZBOX EI750 in 2014 marked the beginning of Zotac’s entry into the SFF PC gaming segment. With the boom in the embedded systems market (which successfully started the Intel NUC initiative), Zotac has also grown from strength to strength. The company now has about 8 different families of mini PCs targeting different chipsets. The ZBOX E series (initially E stands for ‘EPIC GAMING’, before becoming the more obscure ‘Enthusiast’ in recent years) caters to the gaming audience and is marketed under the MAGNUS brand. The first minicomputer in the series, the ZBOX EI750, used CrystalWell parts integrated into eDRAM in 2014. The MAGNUS EN970 introduced in 2015 was Zotac’s first attempt to integrate a discrete GPU board into a miniature computer form factor.
Gaming mini PCs have always had to deal with trade-offs in terms of processor TDP, GPU TDP, and PSU integration. Almost all gaming mini PCs included a reimagining of the laptop motherboard in the desktop form factor – MXM GPUs and 45W TDP subprocessors were the norm. Gaming-focused enthusiasts at Intel and Extreme NUCs upped the ante in this department, and Zotac was up to the challenge. The company’s current flagship is the ZBOX MAGNUS ONE (introduced at CES 2021). By combining a Comet Lake desktop CPU with an nVIDIA Ampere desktop GPU, it promises plenty of gaming prowess. This review takes a look at the performance and value proposition of the high-end ZBOX MAGNUS ONE model – the ZBOX-ECM73070C-W2B.
Product introduction and impressions
Zotac’s E-Series Mini PCs have taken a hit in the gaming mini PC market, which has led the company to regularly update the lineup with the latest and greatest CPUs and GPUs. Tracing the history of Zotac’s flagship E Series systems, we’ve found various trade-offs applied between CPU TDP, GPU TDP, and PSU. Higher TDP components usually command a premium price to accommodate a liquid cooling solution, which has led the company to experiment with air cooling systems to expand market appeal at lower prices. The details of the leading gaming titles in each generation are listed below:
- 2014 ZBOX EI750: CrystalWell (65W TDP CPU + Iris Pro Integrated GPU), 120W External Power Brick
- 2015 ZBOX MAGNUS EN970: Broadwell-U 15W TDP CPU + 100W TDP GTX 970M, 180W External Power Brick
- 2016 ZBOX MAGNUS EN980: Skylake-S 65W TDP CPU + 180W TDP GTX 980, 2x180W External Power Bricks
- 2016 ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080: Skylake-S 65W TDP CPU + 180W TDP GTX 1080, 2x180W External Power Bricks
- 2017 ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080K: Kaby Lake-S 65W TDP CPU + 180W TDP GTX 1080, 2x180W External Power Bricks
- 2018 ZBOX MAGNUS EK71080: Kaby Lake-H 45W TDP + 180W TDP GTX 1080 CPU, 330W External CPU
- 2019 ZBOX MAGNUS EN72080V: Coffee Lake-H 45W TDP CPU + 150W TDP RTX 2080 Mobile, 330W External Power Brick
- 2020 ZBOX MAGNUS EN072080S: Comet Lake-H 45W TDP CPU + 150W TDP RTX 2080 Super Mobile, 330W External Power Brick
- 2021 ZBOX MAGNUS ONE: Comet Lake-S 65W TDP CPU + 220W TDP RTX 3070, 500W Internal PSU
Between the MAGNUS EK71080 and the MAGNUS ONE, Zotac has begun to focus more on the content creator market with its high-end E-series units. The flagship Inspire Studio is equipped with a 65W TDP Coffee Lake-S CPU and 175W TDP RTX 2060 SUPER, with a form factor similar to the MAGNUS EK71080. Both the EN72080V and EN072080S were based on the thinner EN970 form factor. Thus, the 2021 MAGNUS ONE marks Zotac’s strong return to the SFF gaming market with a desktop-friendly CPU and GPU.
Zotac provided us with an engineering sample of their high-end MAGNUS ONE SKU – ZBOX-ECM73070C-W2B. It’s powered by an Intel Core i7-10700 Comet Lake-S CPU and a GeForce RTX 3070 Ampere GPU (Zotac RTX 3070 Twin Edge), along with a 512GB NVMe SSD and a 1TB 2.5″ SSD. Package: Windows 10 Home x64 is preinstalled on the SSD. The entire system is housed in a 265.5 mm x 126 mm x 249 mm (10.45 mm x 4.96 x 9.8 in) 8.3-liter chassis. Taking a cue from Intel’s Ghost Canyon NUCs, Zotac has integrated a 500W 80+ Platinum PSU and redesigned the chassis for vertical routing. This contributes to creating a compact and easy to transport system.
Thanks to the built-in PSU, the package contents are greatly simplified compared to other E-series mini PCs. There is a US AC power cord, two WLAN antennas, a USB read-only key for Windows image recovery, and a quick start guide.
Our revision configuration specifications are summarized in the table below:
|Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS ONE (ECM73070C) specifications|
|Healer||Intel Core i7-10700
Comet Lake-S, 8C/16T, 2.9 – 4.8GHz, 14nm +++, 16MB L2, 65W TDP
|memory||Crucial CT16G4SFS832A DDR4-3200 SODIMM
22-22-52 @ 3200MHz
1 x 16 GB
|Graphics||Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 3070 Twin Edge
5888 Coda colors
8 GB GDDR6
Intel UHD Graphics 630
|drives)||Phison E13 reference design (Zotac source)
(500 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; Kioxia 96L 3D TLC)
(Phison E13 remote control)
Seagate Barracuda ST1000LM048
(1 TB, 2.5 inch SATA 6 Gbit/s)
|Networks||Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6 processor AX1650x
1 x Realtek RTL8168 Gigabit Ethernet
1 x Killer Ethernet E3000 2.5Gbps Controller
|My voice||3.5 mm headphone jack
Capable of 5.1 / 7.1 digital output with high-resolution audio bitstreaming (HDMI / DP)
|Diverse I/O Ports||1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A (front)
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C (front)
1 x SDXC UHS-I (Front)
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A (rear)
4 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A (rear)
|The operating system||The retail unit is Windows 10 Home x64, but we installed Windows 10 Enterprise x64|
|Pricing (depending on configuration)||$2400|
|full specifications||Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS ONE ECM73070C with Windows 10 مواصفات Specifications|
In terms of outward appearance, the influence of Ghost Canyon NUC can be clearly seen. The chassis top plate includes two pairs of fans. Slides on easily after removing the two rubber screws. This is a toolless process, unlike what we’ve seen at Ghost Canyon and Beast Canyon NUCs.
The two side panels can be removed once the top panel is out of the picture. This exposes the GPU and motherboard on both sides.
Unlike NUCs, the M.2 SSD slots, 2.5-inch drive bay, and vertical SODIMM slots are immediately accessible after removing the side panel.
Since our review model was essentially a pre-built system, we didn’t have to install any new components inside the chassis. Zotac chooses to fill only one DRAM channel in the system. This hampers system performance, but we chose to review the system as it is in terms of hardware. We have reinstated the M.2 SSD image with Windows 10 Enterprise x64, as it provides more precise control over benchmarking actions without unexpected interference from the operating system.
In the next section, we look at BIOS options along with analyzing the motherboard platform. Next, we have a number of sections that focus on different aspects of performance before concluding with an analysis of the system’s value proposition.