Connectivity is where the Zbox Nano AD10 Plus (now try saying that ten times fast) really shines, by offering everything we could have asked for and more. At the front, we have an IR receiver which works with the included remote, an SDXC card reader, and 3.5mm headphone plus microphone jacks.
The rear hosts two USB 2.0 ports, two of the faster USB 3.0 variety, an eSATA port, Wi-Fi antennae input and Gigabit Ethernet. Video is comprehensively covered by both HDMI and DisplayPort. On the wireless side of things, meanwhile, Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 3.0 round it all off nicely. Our only minor quibbles are that we would have liked at least one USB port on the machine’s front and a dedicated digital audio output, though the Nano will happily pipe up to eight channel audio over HDMI. And while we’re being picky, a TV tuner would have been an awesome addition.
When it comes to specifications, the Nano AD10 (the ‘Plus’ addition designates the model that’s preconfigured with RAM and a hard drive) sports an AMD ‘Fuzion’ CPU and GPU combo, similar to that found in some netbooks, tablets and of course rival nettops. Specifically, there’s an E-350 dual-core processor that runs at 1.6GHz, which should provide performance that just about tops a dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Atom. Essentially then, it will be adequate for many people’s computing needs, as long as you’re not the impatient type, a heavy multi-tasker or run CPU-intensive apps.
The graphics side of things is also interesting, as the Radeon HD 6310 should get you playable frame rates in very undemanding games - though it didn’t fare too well in our TrackMania Nations Forever test, achieving a barely playable 25.3fps (frames per second) average on medium detail and at 720p.
However, for video duties it will handle everything its dedicated desktop siblings can manage, including online and offline 1080p video in any format. The closest equivalent is probably Nvidia’s ION2, which we often find pairing Atom CPUs. However, AMD’s solution uses slightly less power than an Atom/ION combo while providing slightly more performance.
Getting to RAM and storage, you can either go the preconfigured ‘Plus’ route, or buy the vanilla AD10, which lets you stick in any DDR3 SO-DIMM and a 2.5in hard drive or SSD of your choice. Though the E-350 platform can support up to dual 1066MHz DIMMS in theory, in the Nano’s case (pun intended) you’re limited to a single stick of ‘laptop’ memory. The AD10 sells for £189, while the AD10 Plus will set you back £255 with 2GB of RAM and a Samsung 5,400rpm 320GB HDD.
Considering you can buy 4GB of laptop RAM for under £30 and a 1TB 2.5in HDD for around £50 these days, you’re definitely better off installing these yourself, but it’s nice to have the option for those disinclined to tinker with their PCs’ innards. You could even go so far as to stick in an SSD, though that will likely be overkill compared to the rest of the system.
Speaking of tinkering, Zotac’s Nano provides very easy access. Merely undo four screws to remove its base, then two more for the hard drive cage, and both memory and storage can be installed in mere minutes. Regardless of your configuration choice, you will need to install an operating system yourself, so if opting for Windows - instead of a free alternative like Linux – you’ll need to factor in that cost too.