Zotac is best known (if it's known at all) for its graphics cards and motherboards. But more people will know about it now with the introduction of its latest mini-PC.
The new Zbox Sphere OI520 is the latest desktop that deviates from the traditional tower form factor with an orb-like design that takes a page out of the new Mac Pro aesthetic. It also provides an alternative to the rounded-corners box design of many mini desktops (which borrows from the Mac Mini look). The top part of the sphere functions as the access point to the components inside, twisting off to allow upgrades.
Of course, the Zbox OI520 isn't a complete sphere, as you probably can imagine, because you don't really want your computer rolling around your desk. It tapers to a rectangular rear area, which doubles as the connectivity hub for a quartet of USB 3.0 ports, a couple of USB 2.0 ports, memory-card reader, and HDMI and DisplayPort outputs. Built-in Bluetooth 4.0 support allows you to use wireless input devices, and it can connect to the Internet via integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi or the included Ethernet port.
While there isn't room inside the Zbox to add a high-power graphics card for gaming, it's not a crippled entry-level model. It comes with a Core i5 4200U Haswell processor, which makes use of Intel's integrated HD Graphics 4400, and the Plus version comes pre-installed with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Otherwise, you're free to add 16GB of RAM and a 2.5-inch hard drive or SSD of your choosing on your own. As with some diminuitive desktops, the Zbox Sphere eschews an optical drive, which may or may not turn you off to the design depending on whether CDs and DVDs are still a factor in your life.
Unfortunately, Zotac also hasn't included any U.S. pricing or availability to its announcement, though Hexus.net says the base OI520 will cost 275 pounds in the UK, and 345 pounds for the Plus version.