Zotac ZBox Nano XS AD13 Plus review

The Zotac ZBox Nano XS AD13 Plus is a neat little box that will fit nicely into your home entertainment system.
Photo of Zotac ZBox Nano XS AD13 Plus

When we reviewed the Zotac ZBox Nano AD12 Plus back in February we were impressed with its diminutive size and assortment of I/O ports but lamented the fact that you had to supply your own OS, keyboard, and mouse. We weren’t very impressed with its performance, either. With the ZBox Nano XS AD13 Plus you get the same processor configuration in an even smaller chassis, and slightly better performance thanks to the addition of a solid state drive. You still have to supply your own operating system and peripherals, though.

Design and Features
The AD13 Plus measures 4.1-by-4.1-by-1.5 inches (HWD) and weighs less than a pound (0.74 pounds), making it smaller than the ZBox Nano AD12 Plus by almost an inch and lighter by around 7.9 ounces. The basic design remains the same with a black plastic top and brushed silver sides. One corner of the top sports a small Zotac logo while the adjacent corner is home to an embedded LED power indicator. Once powered up, the lid glows with a bright green circle.

To get inside the Zbox you must loosen the four rubber feet/screws and remove the bottom cover. There isn’t much you can do in the way of expansion other than replacing the existing 2GB memory module with a higher capacity module (up to 8GB) and replacing the 64GB mSATA drive with a higher capacity mSATA drive. However, you can install the included VESA mounting plate if you want to mount the box on the back of a VESA-compliant HDTV or monitor.

The front-facing side holds a power switch, a 6-in-1 card reader slot, an eSATA/USB combo port, and two audio ports (headphone/SPDIF, microphone). The rear side panel contains two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, an HDMI output, and the power jack. Gone is the DisplayPort input from the A12 model. Another HDMI port would be beneficial for connecting to multiple devices though.

In additional to the aforementioned VESA mounting plate the ZBox comes with a remote control for use with Media Center applications. An IR receiver is built in to the front of the ZBox but you also get a USB receiver that you can use if you decide to tuck the box away out of sight or mount it behind an HDTV. Also included are a power adapter, a driver disk, a USB Wi-Fi 802.11n adapter, a quick start guide, and a user guide. You have to supply your own mouse and keyboard, and you’ll have to install your own operating system on the solid state drive. Zotac covers the ZBox with a one year warranty.

Performance

The AD13 Plus is fueled by a 1.7GHz AMD E2-1800 dual-core CPU with an onboard AMD Radeon HD 7430 graphics controller, and 2GB of DDR3 system memory. Although these are the same exact components found on the A12, the A13 managed slightly better scores on our benchmark tests, with slightly being the operative word.

Its PCMark 7 score of 1,681 was 641 points higher than the A12 but paled in comparison to the Intel Core i3-powered Intel NUC DC3217BY (3,704) and the Core i5-powered Giada i53 Mini PC (4,337).

Not surprisingly, results from the Cinebench R11.5 CPU test were similar. The A13 scored a lowly 0.70 but it did edge out the A12 (0.65). The Giada led the pack with a score of 2.17.

The A13 needed 6 minutes 21 seconds to complete our Handbrake encoding test, while the Intel NUC did it in 2:32. The ZBox A12 took a lengthy 6:41 seconds to complete the test.

The AD13 Plus’s poor showing on our productivity and multimedia tests comes as no surprise as this box is meant for HTPC (Home Theater PC) tasks like storing and playing video and music rather than encoding video and rendering 3D images.

The on-chip Radeon HD 7340 renders video just fine but you don’t want to press it into duty for 3D gaming. It managed just 7.6 frames per second (fps) on our medium quality Aliens vs. Predators test and 5.8 fps on the high quality test (you’ll want at least 30 fps for smooth game play). Results were similar on our Heaven gaming tests with scores of 6.3 fps (medium quality) and 1.9 fps (high quality).

You don’t get much in the way of computing power from the Zotac ZBox Nano XS AD13 Plus, but that’s not what this little box is about. It has more than enough chops to store and stream media, and it won’t take up much room in your entertainment center. Although its $300 price is affordable keep in mind that you’ll have to supply your own OS, keyboard, and mouse, which can drive the price up considerably (unless you decide to go the Linux route). If you want a more robust nettop, consider our Editors’ Choice, the Acer Revo RL100-UR20P. It’s more expensive but it comes with an OS pre-installed and ships with a keyboard and a mouse, and it has a Blu-ray drive.

Specifications
Touchscreen No
Processor Family AMD E2
Storage Type SSD
Graphics Card AMD Radeon HD 7340
Monitor Type None
RAM 2 GB
Type Nettop
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 64 GB

Verdict
The Zotac ZBox Nano XS AD13 Plus is a neat little box that will fit nicely into your home entertainment system. However, you don't get much in the way of performance with this nettop, and you'll have to supply your own operating system.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc