As I was leaving the Labs the other day, I slipped the Zotac ZBox Nano AD12 Plus ($304.99 direct) into my bag before heading out. This would be fairly unremarkable if the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus was an ultrabook or tablet. But here’s the thing: It’s a nettop, and one that’s compact enough to fit as behind your HDTV as easily as it did in my bag. For a shade over $300, it’s an affordable way to jazz up your home entertainment system. That said, though, it’s far from perfect. For starters, you’ll need to purchase an operating system separately to actually get the system running. Additionally, the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus doesn’t have the chops to do anything more intensive than light computing tasks. Still, though, it’s a decent option for anyone who intends to use it mainly for media consumption.
Design and Features
Measuring 1.77 by 5 by 5 inches (HWD) and weighing 1.23 pounds, the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus is even smaller than the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q150 and fits in the palm of your hand as easily as a stack of jewel cases. Its square-shaped metallic chassis is decked out in a two-tone color scheme, with black plastic on the top and bottom abutting silver lining on the sides. Like the Giada i53 Mini PC’s chassis, the glossy black plastic is highly prone to smudging. There’s a circular LED that emanates a green hue. Four removable rubber feet on the bottom provide a grip for horizontal orientation. These can be unscrewed if the user opts for vertical positioning, which clears the way for attaching the bundled VESA mounting plate on the underside.
Despite its limited surface area, an impressive amount of ports have been crammed onto the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus. The front panel houses a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a mini-optical S/PDIF out jack, a microphone jack, and a 7-in-1 memory card reader (MMC/SD/SDHC/SDXC/MS/MS Pro/xD). The rear panel features two more USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, an RJ45 Ethernet port, and a socket for the included Wi-Fi antennae connector, which can be used to strengthen the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus’s 802.11n Wi-Fi signal. The ZBox Nano AD12 Plus also sports Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, letting users connect a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse without having to mess about with dongles. Lastly, there are HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, which allows for two displays to be used simultaneously. While the latter is undoubtedly a nifty feature, the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus nevertheless forces users to remain tethered to their larger displays since it doesn’t feature Intel’s Wireless Display technology, which can beams data directly to a HDTVs outfitted with an aftermarket adapter like the Netgear Push2TV ($99 list). Still, that’s a forgivable omission at this price point.
Opening the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus’s chassis is a simple operation that merely requires removing the underside’s four rubber feet—which double as thumbscrews—and popping off the cover. Doing so reveals a little room for upgrades. Our test unit’s single DIMM socket was occupied by a 2GB memory module, which can be replaced with a 4GB or 8GB stick. The included 320GB 5,400rpm HDD can be swapped with a more capacious 2.5-inch HDD or a solid-state drive (SSD).
Included peripherals, on the other hand, aren’t as abundant. Unlike the Acer Revo RL100-UR20P, the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus doesn’t come with a bundled keyboard or mouse. It does, however, ship with a remote, which is handy for navigating through whichever media-playback interface you install.
Speaking of omissions, the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus doesn’t ship with an operating system, so users intent on using Windows Media Center as an entertainment portal will need to shell out extra cash for Windows 7 or 8 (we installed Windows 7 on our test unit). Bear in mind that since the ZBox Nano AD12 doesn’t have an optical drive, doing so will require the use of an external optical drive, which in turn contributes to another added expense.
The ZBox Nano AD12 Plus packs a 1.7GHz AMD A2-1800 APU (accelerated processing unit), which combines a dual-core AMD processor and Radeon HD 7430 graphics on a single chip. The system yielded predictably modest scores on our benchmark tests. Its PCMark7 score of 1,040 points managed to squeak past the Acer RL100-UR20P (994 points) while falling significantly short of the Giada i53 Mini PC (4,337), which boasts a more robust Core i5-3317U CPU but also costs twice as much. Its Cinebench R11.5 score of 0.65, meanwhile, landed between the Giada MiniPC A50 (0.64) and the Acer RL100-UR20P (0.69), and trumped the Lenovo Q150 (0.52).
Since the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus is primarily geared toward media consumption, its capacity for creation was unsurprisingly not as sure-footed. It completed our Handbrake video-encoding test in 6 minutes 43 seconds, which is sluggish even though it outpaces both the Giada MiniPC A50 (9:18) and Lenovo Q150 (12:31). Moreover, it took 15:09 to run through our usual collection of a dozen filters in Photoshop CS5. That was quicker than the snail-like pace of the Lenovo Q150 (23:38) but short of the Acer RL100-UR20P (13:19) and, to a greater extent, the Giada MiniPC A50 (9:02).
Given these scores, then, it didn’t come as a major shock that the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus couldn’t run any of our gaming benchmark tests. Ultimately, the results confirm what we had already suspected: beyond its home-entertainment functionality, the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus doesn’t have the firepower to perform much beyond light daily tasks such as web browsing and casual social gaming.
For folks looking for an affordable way to jazz up their home entertainment systems, the Zotac ZBox Nano AD12 Plus is a decent choice. It’s compact, stuffed with ports, and looks cool enough to show off to your friends. Still, it doesn’t bring enough to the table to unseat the Acer Revo RL100-UR20P as Editors’ Choice for nettop PCs. The latter includes a Blu-ray player and larger hard drive, and while it costs $300 extra, the difference isn’t as pronounced after outfitting the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus with an operating system, keyboard, and mouse. Still, for anyone interested in using it mainly for its intended media-consumption purposes and who doesn’t mind these shortcomings, it’s worth checking out.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS: Check out the test scores for the Zotac ZBox Nano AD12 Plus
Compare the Zotac ZBox Nano AD12 Plus with several other desktops side by side.
More Desktop Reviews:
|Processor Family||AMD E2|
|Type||Multimedia, Nettop, Mini Desktop PC|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||320 GB|
|Graphics Card||AMD Radeon HD 7340|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc