UK price (as reviewed): approx. £425 (inc VAT) US price (as reviewed): approx. $519 (ex Tax)
The mini-PC market can hardly be described as a big one. With the Mac Mini, Apple largely has the high end corner to itself, with only a few names putting their weight behind less expensive devices. Zotac is one such name, and today marks the launch of some new additions to the Zbox range, specifically the ID89 and ID89 Plus (the Plus indicates that the system comes with a HDD and RAM). At £425, the ID89 Plus is hardly cheap, but Zotac has managed to cram a desktop Ivy Bridge CPU into its tiny frame, so it will be interesting to see what it can do.
The ID89 Plus uses the same tiny chassis as the ID42 Plus that we looked at recently with the same external connections too. The glossy black plastic lends it a home theatre look, but feels cheap and light and accumulates finger prints and dirt in no time. The soft blue glow of the ring that lights up when the system is on is a nice touch, but it's difficult not to feel let down by the reliance on plastic in a device that exceeds £400. By comparison, it's only £50 less than the cheapest Mac Mini model, which looks gorgeous thanks to its brushed aluminium shell.
Click to enlarge - The Zbox ID89 Plus certainly lives up to the name mini-PC
The system is powered by a single laptop-style power brick, which naturally helps to reduce its size. It can be stood horizontally on its four rubber feet which provide a little grip, or vertically in the supplied plastic stand. It can also be mounted directly to the rear of compatible displays thanks to a provided VESA mount, enabling you to keep it entirely out of sight should you wish.
The front panel has foregone the touch button of the ID42 Plus in favour of a traditional power button, although there's still no reset one. Two LEDs are also used to represent hard drive activity and wireless connectivity. The 4-in-1 card reader is a handy addition to the front panel, while the usual pair of analog audio jacks can also be found. The system features two easily accessible USB 3 ports; one on the front and one on the side (or top, depending how you stand it), which has its own rubber cover.
The ID89 Plus also comes with a pair of screw on antennas (one for Bluetooth, one for WiFi), which is sure to please fans of the wireless router look. Zotac is also generous enough to supply a media remote control, which works with the IR receiver on the front of the unit, or the supplied USB extension receiver in case you prefer to keep the unit itself out of sight.
Click to enlarge - A pair of antennas and a Media Centre remote are supplied
While there's no operating system supplied with the ID89 Plus, you'll still need a USB optical drive to take advantage of the supplied driver disc. The requisite software can also be downloaded from Zotac's website, but as you'd need either ethernet or wireless drivers beforehand the best method is to obtain everything on a different computer. This is a potential oversight on Zotac's part (especially when the Mac Mini runs OS X out of the box), but equally we don't feel it's unreasonable to expect people buying a mini-PC with no operating system to be able to manage this.
Ventilation on the chassis allows the single fan to pull and push air around the hardware. There's nothing in the way of dust filtering material, but the case is joyfully simple to open thanks to just a single pair of thumbscrews holding it shut. Let's open it up and see what awaits us on the inside.
Chipset Intel H61 Express
CPU Intel Core i5-3470T (dual-core), 2.9GHz (max Turbo frequency 3.6GHz), 3MB L3 cache
Memory 2 x 204-pin SO-DIMM slots (1 x 4GB DDR3-1600 included)
GPU Onboard Intel HD Graphics 2500, 650MHz (max dynamic frequency 1.1GHz)
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD audio
Networking 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n/g/b WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
Storage 1 x SATA 3Gbs (1 x Toshiba MQ01ABD050 500GB 5,400rpm drive included)
Video Output 1 x DVI-D, 1 x HDMI
External Connectivity Power, 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, stereo, microphone, 1 x S/PDIF, 4-in-1 card reader (MMC/SD/SDHC/SDXC)