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The Zotac ZBOX’s are designed to be fully functioning HTPCs, although the hardware inside also makes them great as standalone desktop replacement machines for offices. Today I’ll be looking at the ZBOX ID89 Plus which comes in the regular box size curved towards the edges.

Design

You’ve got an HDMI and DVI out for video, two USB 2.0 high amp ports for faster charging of mobile devices and dual gigabit LAN ports as well. A separate port for optical out with two separate antennas for WiFi and Bluetooth are also included.

On the front you have a mic and headphone out port, a memory card reader and a USB 3.0 port. There’s another USB 3.0 port hidden under a rubber flap on the right side. The WiFi and HDD activity LEDs along with the IR port and power button complete the front of the ID89 Plus.

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At the bottom you have the rubber feet while the top has the glowing blue circle found on every ZBOX. Included, apart from the driver disc and manuals, are the VESA mount and a floor standing mount. There’s also a Windows Media Center compatible remote control with an additional USB IR receiver in case you keep the ZBOX out of direct line-of-sight.

Specifications

Now let’s get to the juicy part, the new ZBOX ID89 series is powered by Intel’s 3rd generation Core i5-3470T dual-core processor running at 2.9GHz (turbo up to 3.6GHz). Graphics on board are the integrated HD 2500 running at 650MHz (turbo up to 1100MHz). The processor is matched up with 4GB memory and a rather slow Toshiba 500GB 5400rpm hard drive. Of course, as with any ZBOX, Zotac allows you to change the hard drive and memory by easily removing the bottom flap.

Test Setup

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As with every ZBOX, there’s no OS on the hard drive so you’ll have to install some flavor of Windows. Now this is where things got very irritating. To install Windows 7, you need the RAID drivers for the adapter used to plug in the SATA hard drive.

So first off you’ll have to arrange an external DVD rom to read the disc, or copy over the content to a USB from another computer. To make matters worse, the drivers supplied on the disc, for some inexplicable reason, wouldn’t work, so I literally couldn’t install Windows 7. So I just ended up slapping in our office SSD (Kingston HyperX 240GB) which already had Windows 7 on it.

Hopefully this won’t be a problem later on as updated drivers are available from Zotac’s site directly.

Benchmarks

For comparison I have used the ZBOX ID83 Plus which comes with Core i3-3210M @ 2.5GHz and Intel HD 4000 iGPU, 4GB RAM and 500GB hard drive, costing $430.

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I have shared the full Performance Test results, but ignore the overall score and Disk score because I have replaced the ,5400rpm 500GB drive with a 240GB SSD.

During the above tests the ZBOX ID89 Plus posted 42°C during idle and 78°C maximum in

Conclusion

The Zotac ZBOX ID89 Plus performs very well, although I’m wondering who will need it. On the one hand the Core i5 processor is too powerful to just be used as an HTPC as most other lower-end processors can easily handle 1080p video. Unless, of course, you’re planning on 4K video playback. But seeing as the 4K format is still highly uncommon at this point, as are TV sets supporting that format, the ZBOX ID89 Plus maybe thought of as future-proofing yourself. Then again, in a year or two, when 4K videos are common, there will be an extremely more powerful version of the ZBOX available at the time.

Right the ZBOX ID83 (with Core i3-3120M and HD 4000 graphics) seems like a good enough, if not a better option due to low price. Using the ID 89 Plus in an office environment, however, seems like a decent enough task, although I would still argue that the Core i3 with HD 4000 iGPU in the ID83 makes a better alternative than the Core i5 with HD 2500 iGPU in the ID89 Plus.

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It’s a tough call with the Zotac ZBOX ID89 Plus, on the one hand there’s nothing wrong with it, except for the low-end Intel HD 2500 graphics, and on the other hand Zotac has other, cheaper and equally powerful products good enough for HTPCs and office PCs.

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