When it comes to mini-PCs, they seem to offer a certain specific number of purposes. You can use them potentially as thin clients, media streaming devices, and for general lightweight computing. ZOTAC have been masters of the mini-PC market for many years, so they certainly know what they’re doing. But would you ever use a mini PC for playing the latest games on?
Build quality & design
While most PC gamers opt for massive chassis with plenty of cool LED effects, the Magnus EN1060 features ZOTAC’s signature boxy, plain design. While avid PC gamers might be a bit let down by the lack of fanfare in the looks department, this is actually a good thing. Almost everyone who spotted the Magnus EN1060 in my living room assumed it was a new set top box or fancy NAS, and not a gaming PC.
Port wise, you’re spoilt for choice. In the front of the machine you have a USB 3.1 port and USB 3.1 type-C port, along with a 3-in-1 card reader. At the back you’ve got 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 2x HDMI 2.0, 2x DisplayPort 1.3, Dual Gigabit LAN, along with WiFi and power connectors. I really would have liked if ZOTAC ditched one of the USB 2.0 ports in favor of an optical out port, which would have been a good choice for connecting to larger speakers or gaming headsets.
As with most ZOTAC boxes, getting under the hood is fairly simple. There are just two thumbscrews at the back holding the base plate in place – just unscrew these and you can slide the plate off. It’s worth mentioning here that the only upgradeable parts of the Magnus EN1060 are the hard drive and RAM. Two RAM slots can take up to 32GB of RAM, while a 2.5” HDD can be easily installed in the available slot. There’s also a M.2 slot available for compatible SSDs, so I recommend you install this for OS usage, and use a larger HDD or SSD in the 2.5” slot for installing programs on.
The Magnus EN1060 is mostly sold as a barebones model, which means you’ll have to install your own RAM, HDD, and OS. Our model featured an Intel Core i5-6400T quad-core processor at 2.2 GHz, along with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip. For testing purposes we kitted our review unit with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB Zotac SSD, and Windows 10. The Magnus series does expand to other models that include the similarly-specced EN1070 with a GeForce GTX 1070 chip, and the water-cooled EN1080 that uses a GeForce GTX 1080 chip.
But while the Magnus EN1060 comes with a very capable GTX 1060 chip, it’s important to note that you won’t get the full performance of say a full-size desktop GTX 1060 card, since the Magnus EN1060’s GPU is clocked at a lower speed of 1404MHz.
Benchmarks & Performance
Here’s what you’ve been waiting to hear – whether or not something as tiny as the Magnus EN1060 is actually capable of running on par with massive gaming PC beats. The short answer, is yes – the Magnus EN1060 is more than capable of holding its own in some of the latest PC games. Firing up Titanfall 2, Overwatch, and Battlefield 1 at max settings at 1080p yielded a minimum framerate of about 92fps, and a maximum framerate of 137fps. For such a tiny box, that’s actually a really impressive feat, so you’ll be more than pleased with the performance here.
Cranking things up a bit to 2k resolution saw a dive in framerates, with the minimum fps dropping down to an average of 71fps in most games, again with max settings. At full 4k resolution, Titanfall 2 ran at 41fps, which you can’t really complain about since trying to drive full 4k at 60fps with something as small as the Magnus EN1060 is asking just a little bit too much. But then again, gamers who are gaming at 4k are going to have massive PCs to begin with, so while the Magnus EN1060 is more than capable of outputting to a 4k display, I recommend keeping your gaming resolution to 1080p for the best performance. The option to output via four displays is also super tempting, and would make for a very impressive gaming setup.
In addition to outputting at 4k, ZOTAC says that the Magnus EN1060 is VR-ready, which was something that I was highly skeptical of. I’ve tried VR on laptops and on desktop machines, and in both cases the setups were pretty intense, with plenty of power under the hood. Nevertheless, I hooked up an HTC Vive to the Magnus EN1060 to see just how it would do with some of our more taxing VR demos. To my utter surprise, the Magnus EN1060 actually did very well during our intense gaming sessions. Everything from Space Pirates Trainer to the zombie-infested demo The Brookhaven Experiment ran really well. NVIDIA’s own Funhouse demo did see an occasional frame skip, but was still very much playable. Running Futuremark’s VRMark Orange Room demo yielded a score of 5548, while the more taxing Blue Room demo can in with a score of 1054, just shy of what Futuremark deems a ‘VR-ready PC’.
Heat and Noise levels
With great power comes a substantial amount of noise and cooling, so it’s interesting to see how ZOTAC have managed to keep the Magnus EN1060 running as efficiently as possible when under heavy use. Two fans in the case keep the GPU and CPU running cool, both of which never get louder than a gentle hum during gaming sessions (they’re virtually whisper-quiet during regular use). Ventilation around the back and top also ensures that heat is dissipated quickly, so as long as you’ve kept the Magnus EN1060 in a well ventilated area, you should be good to go. Having said that, I do have to point out that the base of the Magnus EN1060 would get considerably warm. That’s a bit alarming, since that’s also where your storage and RAM is installed, so I’m hoping that ZOTAC can keep an eye on this to ensure that components aren’t going to be affected.
Looking for a gaming PC that you can fit almost anywhere but can still churn out some stable framerates? Then the Magnus EN1060 is the PC for you. But before you rush out and grab one, there are some important pitfalls to consider. First and foremost is the price tag – the Magnus EN1060 retails here for AED 3,450, and that’s without RAM, storage, and an OS. Factor these things in and you’re looking at a price tag of at least AED 4,200. If you’re able to swallow the price tag, you’re next going to have to make peace with the fact that you’re going to be stuck with this hardware for a long time. The Magnus EN1060 can’t be upgraded in any other way, and while regular PC users can slot in a new graphics card or processor when they need to, you’ll have to make do with the Magnus EN1060 for at least two or three years before having to buy a whole new system that sports a faster graphics card or processor. It’s pretty much the same as buying a laptop – you’re locked in with the specs for as long as you can bear it, until you go and buy a whole new (and faster) model. Despite this caveat, the Magnus EN1060 is still a very capable gaming PC – if only it was more reasonably priced.