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ZOTAC ZBOX $250 mini-PC teardown

Bill Detwiler cracks open the remarkably small, $250 ZOTAC ZBOX HD-ID11 mini-PC bare-bones computer.
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Topic: Hardware
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The ZOTAC ZBOX HD-ID11 is a bare-bones, mini-PC that retails for around $250 (US). It's available from several online retailers, including Amazon and Newegg. Depending on who you buy it from and which configuration you choose, it will likely ship without a hard drive or RAM. And, it definitely won't come with an operating system.
Let's take a look at the hardware inside this remarkably thin system.
Photo by: Bill Detwiler / TechRepublic
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The ZBOX HD-ID11 uses NVIDIA ION and Intel Atom architectures.
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As the illustrations on the back of the box indicate, ZOTAC is marketing the ZBOX as a computer that's perfect for the living room, kitchen, or bedroom.
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Inside the box, you'll find the ZBOX HD-ID11, a vertical stand, a VESA mount (attached the ZBOX in this photo), mount screws, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, AC adapter and power cord, driver CD, and product documentation.
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The ZBOX HD-ID11 uses an external 19V power supply.
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This removable plastic stand allows you to position the ZBOX HD-ID11 vertically.
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Using this removable mount and the included mounting screws, you could affix the ZBOX HD-ID11 to the back of a monitor or television.
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The shinny, black panels on either side of the ZBOX's case look great, but they are fingerprint magnets.
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Four rubber feet are located on the bottom panel of the ZBOX's case--for use when the device sits flat. There is also an octagonal air intake vent.
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Along the top edge of the case is an exhaust vent for the ZBOX's cooling fan and a USB port.
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Along the bottom edge are more air intake vents, two thumbscrews, and a slot for the vertical stand.
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Along the front edge of the ZBOX HD-ID11 are the headphone jack, microphone jack, multimedia card slot, USB port, indicator lights, and power button.
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Along the back edge of the ZBOX HD-ID11 are an eSATA port, four USB ports, Ethernet port, DVI port, HDMI port, optical audio port, power connector.
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Two external thumbscrews hold the bottom/back panel in place.
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With the two thumbscrews removed, you can easily slide the bottom panel forward and then lift it away from the case.
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With the bottom panel removed, we get our first look inside the ZBOX HD-ID11. As I noted earlier, this unit did not ship with a hard drive or RAM.
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A small piece of plastic sits below the DVI port and can come loose once the bottom panel is removed.
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Notice the large space for the hard drive at the bottom of the case and the RAM slot to the left of the cooling fan. There are four Phillips #1 screws that hold the motherboard to the case.
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Although ZOTAC designed the ZBOX HD-ID11 to be opened, otherwise you couldn't install the hard drive or RAM, they don't want you removing the motherboard from the case. This "Warranty void if removed" stickers won't last long as it's hiding one of the motherboard screws.
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Before removing the motherboard, we'll need to disconnect this cable.
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Once the screws are removed and cable disconnected, you can lift the ZBOX's motherboard away from the case.
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Two thin gray wires connect the antenna to the wireless card. Be careful not to tear them when removing the motherboard.
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With the motherboard removed, there's not much left in the case.
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We'll need to disconnect the two antenna cables from the ZBOX's wireless card.
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Two Phillips #0 screws hold the wireless card to the motherboard.
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With the screws removed, the wireless card will pop up from the motherboard.
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The ZOTAC ZBOX HD-ID11 uses an AzureWAVe 802.11 n/g/b Wireless Mini PCI-Express Module.
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A plastic clamp can be tightened with this thumbscrew to hold the hard drive in place.
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Two Philips #1 screws hold the hard drive clamp to the motherboard.
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With the screws removed, the clamp comes free from the motherboard.
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We'll need to remove the cooling fan and heat sink to see the CPU and GPU beneath.
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Five, spring-loaded Phillips screws hold the cooling fan and heat sink in place.
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Along the bottom of the heat sink is a thermal pad for the CPU and some residual thermal paste for the GPU and a second Intel chip.
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with the cooling fan and heat sink removed, we get our first look at the three large chips beneath.
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Genesys Logic GL850A Low Power USB 2.0 Hub Controller
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Although I was unable to find a data sheet for this chip (markings RTM875N-606) on Realtek's site, it is likely a clock generator.
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The ZBOX HD-ID11 uses a Realtek ALC888 7.1+2 Channel High Definition Audio Codec and Realtek RTS5158E chip, which is likely the controller for the multimedia card reader.
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The ZOTAC ZBOX HD-ID11 has four Winbond W631GG6JB-12 Graphics DRAM chips.
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According to Nuvoton documentation, the NCT5571D LPC Super I/O integrated circuit "supports serial port interface, PS/2 interface, GPIO, hardware monitoring functions, Intel PECI and AMD SB-TSI."
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Our ZBOX HD-ID11 has an Intel NM10 Express chipset, that consists of a Pinetail Atom D510 1.66 GHz Dual Core CPU (shown here) and a southbridge chip (shown in the next photo).
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The Intel CG82NM10 southbridge chip handles the ZBOX's hard drive and external ports.
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Our ZBOX HD-ID11 has an NVIDIA ION 2 (GT218-ION-A3) GPU.
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This Texas Instruments chip with markings 05A5GHM CD4060BM G4 is likely a CMOS 14-Stage Ripple-Carry Binary Counter/Divider and Oscillator.
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Just below the Ethernet jack (shown in this photo with the markings "UDE" ) is the Realtek RTL8111D(L) Integrated Gigabit Ethernet Controller for PCI Express Applications.
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The ZOTAC ZBOX HD-ID11 uses a 3V CR2032 Li-ion system battery.
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The ZOTAC ZBOX HD-ID11 mini-PC was a snap to disassemble. The computer has an easy-open case and uses standard Phillips screws to secure its internal components. I can't wait to get it back together and up and running.
I'll be using it for an upcoming article on building a living room computer.
Photo by: Bill Detwiler / TechRepublic
Caption by: Bill Detwiler

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