Next-Generation Nvidia Ion with 512MB dedicated DDR3 graphics memory
2 x 200-pin DDR2 SO-DIMM slots (ID34 comes fitted with 1x2GB DDR2-800 DIMM)
One Gigabit Ethernet socket
Digital optical sound output and 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks
Two USB 3 ports
One powered eSATA port (doubles as one USB 2 port)
Two USB 2 ports
6-in-1 card reader (MMC/SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro/xD)
One dual-link DVI port and one HDMI port with HDCP and 8-channel digital audio
One 2.5" hard drive slot (ID34 comes with a 250GB pre-fitted)
Blu-ray drive with 4x read, 8x DVD read and 24x CD read/write. No BDR or DVDRW function.
A close-up of the rear ports
Given the limited space there's a good mix of features, and two display outputs is a nice addition for those looking to use the ZBox as an actual PC rather than a media box. USB 3 also keeps the ZBox as modern as possible, but since the machine comes without an OS installed you'll need to use the USB port of the powered eSATA port to have both keyboard and mouse available, prior to installing the OS and its USB 3 drivers.
Importantly, we found the slimline, slot loading Blu-ray drive is inaudible on disc playback. Integrated into the top of the machine sits a large, blue circular light that glows constantly when the system is on and then pulses slowly when it goes asleep. As far as blue LEDs go in 2010 we actually think it fits nicely with the design, but if you hate that kind of thing then there's a button to disable it in the BIOS. We're not quite sure why Zotac needs another small blue LED in the corner to show the same thing though.
The blue ring on top actually looks pretty nice, but it can still be turned off in the BIOS if need be (providing you can dig deep enough to find the option!)
One thing missing is a built in infrared port with remote control. It's almost criminal that Zotac forgot this, so instead it requires either budgeting for your own, a wireless mouse and keyboard, or VNCing from a smartphone over WiFi using something like Hipporemote.
Getting into the machine simply requires unscrewing the six Philips head screws in the base. From there it you have access to the main PCB, hard disk bay the and memory slots for upgrading.
The underside simply screws off to allow access to the insides for all-important upgrades
Zotac throws in Cyberlink PowerDVD Blu-ray Edition which is necessary to get to use the Blu-ray drive for movies, but as it's the bundled version it's limited to DVD-quality 5.1 audio or two channel + two channel HD audio, so you'll need to pay Cyberlink more for the extra licenses to actually use the full HD audio features on the disc.
As it stands, the Next-Gen Ion hardware can output eight HD channel audio over HDMI as LPCM but as movie companies always want to squeeze the pennies, we're thankful Zotac has not opted to add it at extra cost to the whole machine. It's better to budget and buy for it if you know you'll make use of it - and chances are if you are that serious about the full HD experience, you'll be considering more expensive hardware than this anyway.