Zotac CI321Nano Barebones System Review

by - 4 years ago

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Final Thoughts


Pricing

Zotac CI321 nano is priced at $149.99 and I think that it is a decent and fair price for such a barebones kit. Being a barebones kit this allows you to adjust what memory and SSD or HDD that you put in for your budget or needs. We chose to test the system with two 4GB DDR3-1600 SO-DIMMs of Crucial Ballistix and a 250GB Crucial MX200 SSD. So the total for the system we used as tested was $329.96 which for a full entry-level system isn’t that bad.

Overview

When using the Zotac CI321 nano you must keep in mind that this is a system that is made for being dead silent and using very little power. This means that the system won’t be that powerful and will not multitask that well due to trying to be very power efficient. The System is ideally suited to run a light desktop that won’t be overloaded with lots of processes and apps running all at once. It would be best suited I think for an HTPC and it even has an IR receiver for use with a controller if you were to use it that way.

One thing I quickly learned when using the CI321 nano was that you will need a 1080P display for use with it during setup. I used an HP ZR2720w monitor that has a set resolution of 2560×1440 and the 1080P output that the CI321 puts out without the driver installed didn’t get recognized. I then took the little box into my living room and hooked it up to my TV via HDMI. It then worked flawlessly and I think that it excels where I put it as an HTPC. I installed Media Player Classic and chose hardware decoding and with large .MKV movie files the playback was great. You can even use the Toslink adapter to use with a home receiver though it might be preferential to go with a USB DAC. I had a little bit of trouble when I had multiple programs running since it is a low power system and it definitely struggles when multitasking. With an average draw of 15.5W it will be very affordable to run even if you have pricey electricity. The dual gigabit LAN could make this an ideal choice for someone who wants to run it as something like a firewall with Linux. It may even suit your needs as a little home server though it would seriously lack the power to do things like transcoding files if used as a PLEX media server. You will want to keep it in a place that gets some air movement, and definitely not in a sealed off area since the unit starts to throttle at 65C.

Overall the CI321 nano is a great little box that proves its value as an HTPC or a system for daily tasks that can easily hide behind a monitor with the included VESA mount. It could be used as an office workstation for general business tasks and would help reduce the power usage by a substantial amount. The system would definitely respond to a few tweaks that you can make to reduce the amount of apps and processes that will run. This little bit of work will make your experience with the CI321 much better.

Pros

  • Sips electricity
  • Dead silent
  • Itty Bitty form factor
  • Dual Gigabit LAN
  • Easy to assemble
  • Good price point

Cons

  • WiFi Antenna not that resilient
  • Some displays may not work correctly
  • Will start to throttle at 65C which it can easily hit

Neutral

  • No OS

Thank you Zotac for providing us with the review sample.

Article Index

  1. Introduction
  2. A Closer Look
  3. Test Procedure
  4. System Performance - PCMark 8
  5. CPU Performance - Cinebench and SuperPi
  6. SSD, HDD and USB 3.0 Performance
  7. Networking Performance
  8. Noise, Power Consumption and Temperatures
  9. Final Thoughts
  10. View All

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