Introduction and Setup Impressions

Intel's Crystal Well parts (-R series) with integrated eDRAM have arguably been the most interesting products in the Haswell line-up. In the early stages, only Apple had access to these parts. However, since the beginning of 2014, we have seen other vendors roll out products based on the -R series processors. The BRIX Pro (BXi7-4770R) was one of the first products to roll out with Crystal Well in the PC space. With a design reminiscent of the NUC, the focus was more on designing a compact platform rather than providing more features on the hardware side. The -R series processors are all OEM-only, so users have to look to PC manufacturers to get systems based on it. Expandability in terms of adding PCIe cards (such as discrete GPUs and/or wired network adapters) is ruled out, and one has to rely on what the OEM designs into the motherboard. Zotac has taken their full-size mini-PC chassis (similar to the one in the Zotac ID89) and put in a motherboard sporting a Core i7-4770R inside it to create the ZBOX EI750.

Zotac provides both barebones and Plus models, as is customary with all their pre-built PCs. The Plus model comes with a disk drive as well as some DRAM bundled. Our review configuration was the Plus model with the following configuration.

Zotac ZBOX EI750 Plus Specifications
Processor Intel Haswell Core i7-4770R
(4C/8T x 3.20 GHz (3.90 GHz Turbo), 22nm, 6MB L2, 65W)
Memory 1 x 8GB DDR3L-1600
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 5200
200 MHz / 1.3 GHz (Turbo)
Disk Drive(s) 1 TB Seagate 2.5" HDD + Spare mSATA Slot
Networking 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x1 802.11ac mPCIe
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (DVI-HDMI / 2x DP 1.2)
Operating System

Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 8.1 x64

Pricing (As configured) $780 on Newegg
Full Specifications Zotac ZBOX EI750 Plus Specifications

The ZBOX EI750 doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but we do have a read-only USB key with Windows drivers. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 120 W (19V @ 6.32A) adapter, a US power cord, plastic stand / base holder for the main unit, a single 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz antenna for the Wi-Fi module, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, screws for 2.5" HDD installation, a Quick Start guide and an user manual. We installed Windows 8.1 Professional x64 for our evaluation purposes.

The stand-out aspects of the ZBOX EI750 compared to similar mini-PCs include the presence of two Display Port outputs, two GbE LAN ports and an optical SPDIF output. The gallery below takes us around the hardware in the unit.

In the course of our review, we found that the EI750 Plus came up with some disappointing benchmark numbers compared to the BRIX Pro. It was quite obvious that the single-channel memory in the ZBOX was pulling it down. To simulate a typical end-user situation, we augmented the unit with an ADATA mSATA SSD (SX300) boot drive and replaced the original single Crucial SODIMM with 2x 8 GB ADATA SODIMMs having the same CAS latency of 11. The rest of the review will present benchmark numbers for both configurations.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the ZBOX EI750 against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the EI750 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Zotac ZBOX EI750 Plus
CPU Intel Core i7-4770R Intel Core i7-4770R
GPU Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200 Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
RAM Crucial CT102464BF160B.C16
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
1x8 GB
Corsair Vengeance CMSX8GX3M2B1866C10
10-10-10-32 @ 1866 MHz
2x4 GB
Storage Seagate Momentus ST1000LM024
(1 TB, 2.5in SATA, 5400 RPM)
Samsung SSD 840 EVO
(120 GB, 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s, 19nm, TLC)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Realtek 8821AE Wireless LAN 802.11ac
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $780 $829

 

Performance Metrics - I
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  • xdrol - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    "EPIC GAMING" is also on the box.. Reply
  • fokka - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    any idea why the brix pro manages to get considerably higher fps, albeit using the same iGPU? Reply
  • NARC4457 - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    just a quick comment from a BI standpoint - I think it would be a better presentation to flip your ranking for charts where "lower numbers are better". Having the "1st Place" ranking at the bottom of the chart is opposite from the rest of the charts. Having it at the top presents a consistent message.

    Regarding the content, all measurments show the Brix to be a better performer (aside from wifi) with extra throttling. I don't see the point of having an i7 box that cannot run at full tilt.
    Reply
  • rituraj - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    Exactly my thoughts Reply
  • jwcalla - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    Before I clicked the article link I asked myself, "How much you want to bet this thing is ridiculously expensive?"

    Check!
    Reply
  • yannigr2 - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    It's difficult to read the graphs without the information about the gpu(gaming benchmarks) or the cpu(performance metrics) near the name of each machine. You just can't remember each machine's specs. So you just scroll down fast and don't really read them which is really a pity considering the work that is done in this article. Reply
  • leopard_jumps - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    A rig with FX 6300 and GTX 660 wiil outperform that and the price will be lower . Reply
  • Shiitaki - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    The thing Intel won't accept is that their graphics is substandard, and inferior. And yet they insist on combining the best graphics capabilities on to the most expensive cpus. The very cpus, which are the most likely to NOT use the integrated graphics.

    The Iris graphics is great, on a dual core! Not a quad core, and certainly not on a hyper threaded quad core! Intel like Microsoft concentrates too much on forcing everyone to buy the product they want to sell, not selling the products people want to buy.
    Reply
  • bsd228 - Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - link

    no one is buying discrete graphics for a mini system like this. You do want the best graphics (focused on video playback) that you can get, but you're not going to change the size profile, nor do you want a hot AMD chip with lower cpu performance either. The gamers...they are getting something different. Reply
  • Laststop311 - Monday, August 25, 2014 - link

    This thing would make a ROCKIN htpc. I would have to add a ram stick to make it dual channel and I would want at least a 256GB samsung evo msata for the OS and games and applications, maybe even 512GB considering how large games can be and the fact the standard hdd won't be used. The spinning hard drive can go, much better to have a nas store the massive movie catalog you acquire for watching on the tv. Get an xbox one controller with the windows drivers up and running on it and install emulators for all the older games have full catalogs for mame, atari, nes, snes, genesis, neo geo, gameboy, game gear, nintendo ds, ps1, nintendo 64, psp.

    Sure you will end up spending like 1200 dollars when all is said and done on just an HTPC. But this isn't your average HTPC. It's incredibly small and quiet and power efficient and it's the ultimate freakin entertainment hub. And the 1200 pays for itself when you get infinite movies and music albums for free that alone pays itself off. Instead of paying 15-20 per movie and 10 per album all those savings adds up to getting the htpc for free essentially. That's not even counting having a huge full catalog of every retro gaming system at your fingertips to play on your tv as well and with xbox one controllers you don't have to be stuck with bad controls for the old games. Hook up a wireless keyboard and mouse as well and you got great couch surfing abilities as well like that old school webtv device that let you browse the web from the couch.

    I could see myself replacing my extremely ghetto full tower htpc that is just an old regular pc repurposed as a htpc. It's a core 2 duo x6800 running at 3.61ghz which when I originally got it 8 years ago was pretty speedy and the gpu it currently has is a little more recent a radeon 4870. I wonder if the iris pro 5200 can beat the dedicated radeon 4870.

    I probably won't though. The main issue with this is the broadwell version of these mini pc's is supposed to be hitting stores q1 2015. Secondary issue is replacing my x58 core i7-980x to x99 core i7-5960x is my main priority. I will likely wait and see how the i7-5770r stacks up. Intel always makes a rly nice push on the graphics side when they shrink during a tock. All the extra transistors available allows them to really pump up the integrated gpu. Crystal well's successor should basically make dedicated gpu's totally extinct in htpc's.
    Reply

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