Notebookcheck

Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980 Mini PC Review

Allen Ngo, 08/22/2016

GTX 980 in a mini PC. The ZBox EN980 is one of the first mini PCs to be VR Ready and, surprisingly, it runs relatively cool and quietly thanks to its dense cooling system. Nonetheless, idling fan noise could have been quieter and the system is still missing some key features we find should be common for its $1600 USD price.

The gaming-ready ZBox-EN760 mini PC from Zotac was intended to be a first generation Steam Machine. At the time of its launch over two years ago, its goal was to offer current generation console graphics on a portable chassis with the ULV Core i5-4200U and power-efficient GTX 860M GPU. The system was popular enough to spawn at least two successors thus far: the Zbox-SN970 with the GTX 960 and the Zbox-EN980 with the notebook-class GTX 980.

Our test unit today is the ZBox-EN980 provided to us in a barebones setup for us to populate with RAM, storage space, and an operating system for benchmarking. We’ve tested NUCs and mini PCs in the past including the very small Intel Skull Canyon PC, but our results below show the Zotac to be just as powerful as even the most well-equipped Maxwell notebooks currently available.

The EN980 is available in only one CPU and GPU configuration consisting of a quad-core Core i5-6400 and a GTX 980 with 4 GB GDDR5 RAM for just under $1600 USD. A Plus version is also available with 8 GB RAM, 120 GB M.2 SSD, and a 1 TB HDD with Microsoft Windows as optional. This review page will focus on how the Zotac compares to gaming notebooks of equivalent hardware and price.

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Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
Processor
Intel Core i5-6400, Intel Core i5-6400
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 - 4096 MB, Core: 1190 MHz, Memory: 7010 MHz, GDDR5, 359.3
Mainboard
Intel HM170 (Skylake PCH-H)
Storage
HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630, 1000 GB 
, 7200 rpm,
Soundcard
Nvidia GM204 - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
5 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 USB 3.1 Gen2, 2 HDMI, 2 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm earphones, 3.5 mm microphone, Card Reader: SDXC UHS II reader
Networking
Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit-LAN (10/100/1000/2500/5000MBit/s), Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 (a/b/g/n = Wi-Fi 4/ac = Wi-Fi 5), Bluetooth 4.0
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 128 x 225 x 203 ( = 5.04 x 8.86 x 7.99 in)
Additional features
Quick Start guide, Drivers disc/USB drive, 12 Months Warranty
Weight
3.89 kg ( = 137.22 oz / 8.58 pounds), Power Supply: 1.41 kg ( = 49.74 oz / 3.11 pounds)
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Case

While previous Zbox iterations were mostly made of plastic, the EN980 utilizes a combination of both aluminum around its sides and plastic for the top and bottom. Quality is solid with no unintended gaps between materials or creaking when attempting to depress its surfaces. This is in contrast to the older EN760 where its glossy plastics would warp, creak, and accumulate both fingerprints and scratches much more easily. Our only complaint about the design of the EN980 is its honeycomb exhaust top. Its plastic makeup can bend when applying pressure and it also discourages users from stacking books or decorations on the unit since this area will become quite warm when under load.

As for size and weight, the EN980 is significantly larger than the SN970 and is closer to being a full-on cube if it were just a little taller. Some users may find the Zotac a little stale compared to sleeker and more colorful gaming mini PCs like those from the Asus ROG GR series. At about 3.9 kg, the system is quite heavy for the size and is about as heavy as 17.3-inch gaming notebooks like the recent Asus G701VO. The dense weight can be attributed to the sizable liquid cooling solution that’s also utilized on the Asus G752VY where it is also responsible for the notebook’s immense weight.

Placing the unit on its side to save space is a safe option according to Zotac, but having it sit on its base as advertised will allow for better heat flow.

Plastic honeycomb top and firm aluminum sides with excellent rigidity
Plastic honeycomb top and firm aluminum sides with excellent rigidity
Plastic Power button feels cheap and is not always flush with the case
Plastic Power button feels cheap and is not always flush with the case
ZBox-EN980 next to its ZBox-EN760 predecessor
ZBox-EN980 next to its ZBox-EN760 predecessor
While powerful, the EN980 is about as heavy as many 17.3-inch gaming notebooks
While powerful, the EN980 is about as heavy as many 17.3-inch gaming notebooks
428 mm / 16.9 inch 294 mm / 11.6 inch 48 mm / 1.89 inch 3.9 kg8.53 lbs423 mm / 16.7 inch 322 mm / 12.7 inch 40 mm / 1.575 inch 4.1 kg9.02 lbs386 mm / 15.2 inch 270 mm / 10.6 inch 34 mm / 1.339 inch 3.1 kg6.86 lbs390 mm / 15.4 inch 266 mm / 10.5 inch 23.5 mm / 0.925 inch 2.6 kg5.68 lbs225 mm / 8.86 inch 203 mm / 7.99 inch 128 mm / 5.04 inch 3.9 kg8.58 lbs

Connectivity

Available interfaces are plentiful with a notable exception. While we appreciate the healthy number of video-out ports (2x DP 1.2 and 2x HDMI 1.4a) with G-Sync support, dual RJ-45, and a Kensington Lock on the left edge, it's becoming more difficult to ignore the absence of Thunderbolt 3 especially when high-end gaming notebooks and even some NUCs are incorporating the versatile port. There are also no options for using external GPUs like on Alienware's proprietary Graphics Amplifier solution. An infrared receiver and an optical-out/TOSLINK port would have been useful, too, but are omitted as the EN980 is not marketed as a HTPC.

Note that the rear USB ports are quite close to one another, so larger USB devices or flash drives will be a tight fit.

Accessible ports on the rear with USB Type-C Gen. 2 on the front...
Accessible ports on the rear with USB Type-C Gen. 2 on the front...
...but we wouldn't mind having more space between the USB ports
...but we wouldn't mind having more space between the USB ports

SD Card Reader

We test the 3-in-1 SDXC card reader with our Toshiba Exceria Pro SDXC 64 GB UHS-II SD card and the results are below average. Read rates average just 45 MB/s according to AS SSD compared to nearly 200 MB/s on the MSI GT72VR. It's unfortunate to see such a slow card reader on a system with high-end specifications.

SDCardreader Transfer Speed
average JPG Copy Test (av. of 3 runs)
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
 
135.3 MB/s ∼100% +227%
Dell XPS 13 2016 9350 (FHD, i7-6560U)
 
135 MB/s ∼100% +226%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10
 
78 MB/s ∼58% +88%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
 
41.4 MB/s ∼31%
maximum AS SSD Seq Read Test (1GB)
Dell XPS 13 2016 9350 (FHD, i7-6560U)
 
210 MB/s ∼100% +366%
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
 
186.3 MB/s ∼89% +313%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
 
45.1 MB/s ∼21%

Communication

WLAN is provided by an Intel 3165 module capable of theoretical transfer rates of up to 433 Mbps with integrated Bluetooth 4.0. Access to the module requires voiding the warranty and it's a shame that no other options are available with faster transfer rates such as the Intel 8260 or even the gaming-centric Killer 1525/1535. A transfer rate test with Jperf as shown below results in a stable real-world average transfer rate of about 243 mbps when connected to our Linksys EA8500 test router.

Jperf (Client)
Jperf (Client)
Jperf (Server)
Jperf (Server)
Networking
WiFi Speed Client 1m
WiFi Speed Server 1m
WiFi Speed Client 1m 512KB
WiFi Speed Server 1m 512KB
WiFi Speed Client 1m 4M x10
WiFi Speed Server 1m 4M x10 (-R)
WiFi Speed Client 1m 4M x10 (-R) - RU
WiFi Speed Client 1m 4M x10 - RU
1280x800 Lightsmark - 1280x800
1280x800 Lightsmark - 1280x800
1280x720 3DMark 06 - Standard 1280x720
1280x768 3DMark 06 - Standard 1280x768
1366x768 3DMark 06 - Standard 1366x768
1600x900 Crysis CPU - 1600x900 High
1600x900 Crysis CPU - 1600x900 Med
1600x900 Crysis CPU - 1600x900 Low
1600x900 Crysis GPU - 1600x900 High
1600x900 Crysis GPU - 1600x900 Med
1600x900 Crysis GPU - 1600x900 Low

Accessories

(Source: Zotac)
(Source: Zotac)

Included extras outside of the two power adapters are a Quick Start guide, warranty card, drivers disk and USB drive, and two antenna for WiFi reception. Of course, the drivers themselves are downloadable through Zotac as well.

There are no other optional accessories specific to the unit.

Maintenance

Access to the M.2 slot, 2.5-inch SATA III bay, and 2x SODIMM slots requires no tools. Like the EN760 and SN970 before it, the bottom four rubber feet are designed to be hand-twisted to remove the outer panel. Servicing the mini PC any further will break the warranty seal, but Zotac tells us that the CPU and GPU are on LGA 1151 and MXM sockets, respectively, and are not surface mounted. Replacing both is theoretically possible should the user decide to take the risk.

Beyond that, the system supports DDR3 only for up to 16 GB and its two storage bays are not RAID compatible. The M.2 slot accepts 2242, 2260, and 2280 sizes while the 2.5-inch bay includes a mount for securing the drive.

Bottom panel held secure by four rubber feet that double as screws
Bottom panel held secure by four rubber feet that double as screws
Further disassembly beyond this point will break the warranty seal
Further disassembly beyond this point will break the warranty seal

Warranty

Zotac includes a two-year limited warranty as standard on new purchases of the EN980. Owners must register the unit in order to take advantage of the warranty and submit any RMA claims.

Performance

Turbo Boost up to 3.1 GHz
Turbo Boost up to 3.1 GHz

The quad-core Core i5-6400 runs at a base 2.7 GHz clock rate with Turbo Boost rated up to 3.3 GHz. This particular Skylake CPU is not available on notebooks as it is a desktop processor and notebooks that do carry LGA 1151 sockets - like the Eurocom DLX7 - typically offer faster CPU options like the i7-6700K. Unfortunately on our tests, the processor in the EN980 maxes out at 3.1 GHz or 200 MHz slower than its advertised maximum. See Intel's dedicated page on the i5-6400 for more technical information on the processor.

A quick look at the GTX 980 GPU-Z specifications indeed show it to be the a full-fledged GTX 980 and not the GTX 980M. That is, it includes all 2048 CUDA cores instead of 1536 as on the GTX 980M. Note, however, that the 4 GB GDDR5 VRAM is fixed with no option for 8 GB. Some gaming notebooks like the Asus G701VO and certain Clevo barebones ship the GTX 980 with 8 GB GDDR5 VRAM for longer legs in 4K resolutions.

There is no Optimus for graphics switching as the integrated HD Graphics 530 is disabled.

Processor

CPU performance from the i5-6400 is lower than expected due in part to its previously mentioned 3.1 GHz maximum even though the processor itself is rated for a maximum of 3.3 GHz. It doesn't matter if we're running single-threaded (Super Pi) or multi-threaded (wPrime) workloads; core clock rate refuses to run any faster than 3.1 GHz. The processor's lack of Hyper-Threading when compared to mobile Core i7 CPUs means it lags behind even the older Haswell i7-4700HQ in multi-threaded benchmarks according to CineBench. Performance in single-threaded benchmarks is similar to the ULV i7-6600U found on many higher-end Ultrabooks and about 10 percent slower than the common i7-6700HQ.

CineBench R10 32-bit
CineBench R10 32-bit
CineBench R11.5 64-bit
CineBench R11.5 64-bit
CineBench R15
CineBench R15
Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit
DogHouse Systems Mobius SS
Intel Core i7-6700K
166 Points ∼76% +24%
HP Pavilion 17 FHD V3A33AV
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
149 Points ∼68% +11%
MSI GE62 2QC-468XPL
Intel Core i7-5700HQ
144 Points ∼66% +7%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga-20FRS1VS00
Intel Core i7-6600U
135 Points ∼62% +1%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
Intel Core i5-6400
134 Points ∼61%
Toshiba Satellite S70-B-106
Intel Core i7-4700HQ
131 Points ∼60% -2%
CPU Multi 64Bit
DogHouse Systems Mobius SS
Intel Core i7-6700K
865 Points ∼20% +70%
MSI GE62 2QC-468XPL
Intel Core i7-5700HQ
719 Points ∼16% +41%
HP Pavilion 17 FHD V3A33AV
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
679 Points ∼16% +33%
Toshiba Satellite S70-B-106
Intel Core i7-4700HQ
566 Points ∼13% +11%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
Intel Core i5-6400
510 Points ∼12%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga-20FRS1VS00
Intel Core i7-6600U
305 Points ∼7% -40%
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit
DogHouse Systems Mobius SS
Intel Core i7-6700K
1.91 Points ∼78% +26%
MSI GE62 2QC-468XPL
Intel Core i7-5700HQ
1.68 Points ∼69% +11%
HP Pavilion 17 FHD V3A33AV
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
1.61 Points ∼66% +7%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga-20FRS1VS00
Intel Core i7-6600U
1.51 Points ∼62% 0%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
Intel Core i5-6400
1.51 Points ∼62%
Toshiba Satellite S70-B-106
Intel Core i7-4700HQ
1.49 Points ∼61% -1%
CPU Multi 64Bit
DogHouse Systems Mobius SS
Intel Core i7-6700K
9.56 Points ∼22% +61%
MSI GE62 2QC-468XPL
Intel Core i7-5700HQ
7.96 Points ∼18% +34%
HP Pavilion 17 FHD V3A33AV
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
7.48 Points ∼17% +26%
Toshiba Satellite S70-B-106
Intel Core i7-4700HQ
6.02 Points ∼14% +2%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
Intel Core i5-6400
5.92 Points ∼13%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga-20FRS1VS00
Intel Core i7-6600U
3.32 Points ∼8% -44%
Cinebench R10
Rendering Single 32Bit
DogHouse Systems Mobius SS
Intel Core i7-6700K
6487 Points ∼60% +27%
MSI GE62 2QC-468XPL
Intel Core i7-5700HQ
5567 Points ∼51% +9%
HP Pavilion 17 FHD V3A33AV
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
5474 Points ∼51% +8%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
Intel Core i5-6400
5088 Points ∼47%
Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
DogHouse Systems Mobius SS
Intel Core i7-6700K
26150 Points ∼40% +43%
MSI GE62 2QC-468XPL
Intel Core i7-5700HQ
21681 Points ∼33% +18%
HP Pavilion 17 FHD V3A33AV
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
20419 Points ∼31% +12%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
Intel Core i5-6400
18297 Points ∼28%
wPrime 2.0x - 1024m
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
Intel Core i5-6400
327.064 s * ∼4%
MSI GE62 2QC-468XPL
Intel Core i7-5700HQ
206.294 s * ∼2% +37%
DogHouse Systems Mobius SS
Intel Core i7-6700K
178.464 s * ∼2% +45%
Super Pi Mod 1.5 XS 32M - ---
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
Intel Core i5-6400
660.102 Seconds * ∼3%
MSI GE62 2QC-468XPL
Intel Core i7-5700HQ
573.691 Seconds * ∼3% +13%
HP Pavilion 17 FHD V3A33AV
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
563.053 Seconds * ∼3% +15%
DogHouse Systems Mobius SS
Intel Core i7-6700K
498.33 Seconds * ∼2% +25%

* ... smaller is better

Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
6831
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
18297
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
5088
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
62.94 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
5.92 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.51 Points
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
99.6 %
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
109.6 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
134 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
510 Points
Help

GPU Performance

3DMark benchmark place the EN980 within just a few percentage points of the Asus G701VO with the same GTX 980 GPU. Thus, the GPU here is not being artificially throttled in any way and users can enjoy the full performance of the hardware. Its combined 3DMark 11 score, however, is much lower than its competitors due to the slower CPU. This fortunately has little impact on real-world gaming performance as most modern titles have become GPU bound.

Moving up to the pricier GTX 1070 for notebooks would net users a 30 percent graphics performance boost over the GTX 980.

3DMark 11
3DMark 11
Ice Storm Unlimited
Ice Storm Unlimited
Cloud Gate
Cloud Gate
Fire Strike
Fire Strike
Fire Strike Extreme
Fire Strike Extreme
Fire Strike Ultra
Fire Strike Ultra
3DMark
3840x2160 Fire Strike Ultra Graphics
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ
3984 Points ∼39% +29%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, 6400
3093 Points ∼31%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK
3009 Points ∼30% -3%
EVGA SC17
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 6820HK
2326 Points ∼23% -25%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ
942 Points ∼9% -70%
Fire Strike Extreme Graphics
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ
8153 Points ∼41% +30%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, 6400
6261 Points ∼32%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK
6123 Points ∼31% -2%
EVGA SC17
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 6820HK
4663 Points ∼23% -26%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
3517 Points ∼18% -44%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ
2004 Points ∼10% -68%
1920x1080 Fire Strike Graphics
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ
17354 Points ∼43% +28%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, 6400
13510 Points ∼33%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK
13018 Points ∼32% -4%
EVGA SC17
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 6820HK
9820 Points ∼24% -27%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
7321 Points ∼18% -46%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ
4249 Points ∼10% -69%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Graphics
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ
103082 Points ∼56% +19%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, 6400
86619 Points ∼47%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK
70557 Points ∼38% -19%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
50205 Points ∼27% -42%
EVGA SC17
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 6820HK
45568 Points ∼25% -47%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ
27162 Points ∼15% -69%
3DMark 11
1280x720 Performance Combined
EVGA SC17
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 6820HK
9256 Points ∼41% +39%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK
9017 Points ∼40% +35%
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ
8452 Points ∼37% +27%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
7952 Points ∼35% +19%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, 6400
6666 Points ∼29%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ
5472 Points ∼24% -18%
1280x720 Performance Physics
EVGA SC17
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 6820HK
9574 Points ∼49% +52%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK
9468 Points ∼49% +51%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ
8671 Points ∼44% +38%
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ
8521 Points ∼44% +36%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
8347 Points ∼43% +33%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, 6400
6283 Points ∼32%
1280x720 Performance GPU
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, 6400
17811 Points ∼35%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK
16946 Points ∼33% -5%
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ
13760 Points ∼27% -23%
EVGA SC17
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, 6820HK
12890 Points ∼25% -28%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
9824 Points ∼19% -45%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ
5452 Points ∼11% -69%
3DMark 11 Performance
12348 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
134303 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
18386 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
10345 points
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme Score
5628 points
Help

Gaming Performance

Despite "only" having 4 GB GDDR5 VRAM, the Zotac is still on par with the Asus G701VO and even surpasses it on a few titles including Thief and Rise of the Tomb Raider. The GTX 980 GPU in the Zotac plateaus at a slightly higher clock rate of 1228 MHz compared to 1190 MHz on the Asus when gaming. The additional 4 GB advantage will typically not show unless if ultra texture packs are enabled or when gaming above native 1080p.

We recommend checking out our dedicated GPU page on the GTX 980 for more technical information and benchmark comparisons. Please note that our gaming benchmarks with the GTX 1070 on the GT72VR are preliminary results with pre-release Nvidia graphics drivers, so results should be higher now that the correct drivers have been made public.

Overwatch - 1920x1080 Epic (Render Scale 100 %) AA:SM AF:16x
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SNAT256G1122
151.7 fps ∼100% +31%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK, 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0)
118.2 fps ∼78% +2%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
116 fps ∼76%
Asus Strix GL502VY-DS71
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SN8U1T001122
87.3 fps ∼58% -25%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
40.2 fps ∼26% -65%
Fallout 4 - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:T AF:16x
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SNAT256G1122
100.9 fps ∼100% +28%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK, 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0)
79.3 fps ∼79% +1%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
78.8 fps ∼78%
Asus Strix GL502VY-DS71
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SN8U1T001122
57.9 fps ∼57% -27%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B128
43.5 fps ∼43% -45%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
24.1 fps ∼24% -69%
BioShock Infinite - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset, DX11 (DDOF)
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SNAT256G1122
129.5 fps ∼100% +9%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
119.2 fps ∼92%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK, 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0)
106.2 fps ∼82% -11%
Asus Strix GL502VY-DS71
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SN8U1T001122
86.4 fps ∼67% -28%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B128
69.5 fps ∼54% -42%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
45.8 fps ∼35% -62%
Thief - 1920x1080 Very High Preset AA:FXAA & High SS AF:8x
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
83.2 fps ∼100%
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SNAT256G1122
78 fps ∼94% -6%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK, 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0)
67.9 fps ∼82% -18%
Asus Strix GL502VY-DS71
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SN8U1T001122
58.6 fps ∼70% -30%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B128
47.5 fps ∼57% -43%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
28.2 fps ∼34% -66%
Guild Wars 2 - 1920x1080 All Maximum / On AA:FX
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
60.1 fps ∼100%
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SNAT256G1122
54.7 fps ∼91% -9%
Batman: Arkham Knight - 1920x1080 High / On AA:SM AF:16x
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SNAT256G1122
79 fps ∼100% +25%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK, 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0)
63 fps ∼80% 0%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
63 fps ∼80%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B128
36 fps ∼46% -43%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
22 fps ∼28% -65%
Metro: Last Light - 1920x1080 Very High (DX11) AF:16x
Asus G701VO-CS74K
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK, 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0)
88.3 fps ∼100% +2%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
86.4 fps ∼98%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B128
50.5 fps ∼57% -42%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
31.4 fps ∼36% -64%
Metal Gear Solid V - 1920x1080 Extra High / On
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B128
60 fps ∼100% 0%
Asus Strix GL502VY-DS71
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SN8U1T001122
60 fps ∼100% 0%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK, 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0)
60 fps ∼100% 0%
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SNAT256G1122
60 fps ∼100% 0%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
60 fps ∼100%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
32.1 fps ∼54% -46%
Rise of the Tomb Raider - 1920x1080 Very High Preset AA:FX AF:16x
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SNAT256G1122
92.3 fps ∼100% +25%
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
74.1 fps ∼80%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK, 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0)
60.4 fps ∼65% -18%
Asus Strix GL502VY-DS71
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SN8U1T001122
55 fps ∼60% -26%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B128
42.8 fps ∼46% -42%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
23.5 fps ∼25% -68%
Sleeping Dogs - 1920x1080 Extreme Preset AA:Extreme
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
84.3 fps ∼100%
Asus G701VO-CS74K
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK, 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0)
75.2 fps ∼89% -11%
Asus Strix GL502VY-DS71
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SN8U1T001122
57.5 fps ∼68% -32%
Asus Strix GL502VT-DS74
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Lite-On CV1-8B128
44.9 fps ∼53% -47%
HP Pavilion 15 UHD T9Y85AV
GeForce GTX 960M, 6700HQ, SanDisk Z400s SD8SNAT-128G
24.1 fps ∼29% -71%
low med. high ultra
Sleeping Dogs (2012) 84.3 fps
Guild Wars 2 (2012) 60.1 fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 119.2 fps
Metro: Last Light (2013) 86.4 fps
Thief (2014) 83.2 fps
Batman: Arkham Knight (2015) 63 fps
Metal Gear Solid V (2015) 60 fps
Fallout 4 (2015) 78.8 fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) 74.1 fps
Overwatch (2016) 116 fps

Stress Test

The EN980 performs extremely well when subjected to stress with low core temperatures across the board and absolutely no throttling of the CPU or GPU. Running both Prime95 and FurMark simultaneously will have the CPU and GPU running at 70 C and 66 C, respectively, compared to gaming notebooks like the Aorus X5S v5 where core temperatures stabilize in the 80 C range or even higher.

Running Unigine Valley is more representative of gaming loads. CPU and GPU temperatures plateau in the mid 50s and low 60s, respectively, which are again cooler than what one would find on most gaming notebooks under the same conditions. It's worth noting that the processor TDP for the i5-6400 is also more demanding than the typical HQ-class processor used for the majority of gaming notebooks (65 W vs. 45 W).

Prime95 stress
Prime95 stress
FurMark stress
FurMark stress
Prime95+FurMark stress
Prime95+FurMark stress
Unigine Valley stress
Unigine Valley stress
CPU Clock (GHz) GPU Clock (MHz) Average CPU Temperature (°C) Average GPU Temperature (°C)
System Idle -- -- 38 37
Prime95 Stress 3.1 -- 51 41
FurMark Stress -- 1051 66 64
Prime95 + FurMark Stress 3.1 1063 70 66
Unigine Valley Stress 3.1 1228 56 61

Emissions

System Noise

The liquid cooling system utilized by the EN980 is what makes the system unique in the mini PC category. it's a denser and heavier cooling solution compared to traditional heat pipes used on notebooks, but our stress test above and the resulting fan noise measurements below show the benefits of having such a powerful cooler.

When gaming, fan noise essentially remains at its low state of about 36.5 dB(A). This is compared to most gaming notebooks that settle in the low to mid 40 dB(A) range under the same conditions, so the Zotac is noticeably quieter when stressed. We were able to record a fan noise of about 43 dB(A) with both Prime95 and FurMark active, which is very good considering that some Aorus and Gigabyte notebooks can be as loud as 50 dB(A) under the same conditions.

Unfortunately, the 36 dB(A) range is still audible and this appears to be the slowest fan state when the system is simply idling or performing low processing loads. Most notebooks run quieter in comparison in the low 30 dB(A) range when idling. Fan controls are available in BIOS as pre-set percentages, but we were unable to reduce fan speeds by any more than its default setting.

Another noteworthy advantage of the EN980 is its large 120 mm fan. Most gaming notebooks utilize thinner and smaller fans that operate at higher frequencies compared to the Zotac as shown by our microphone measurements below. As an example, the Zotac fan peaks at about 500 Hz compared to about 2000 Hz on the thin Aorus X5S v5. This difference is noticeable even subjectively as the system is lower-pitched and easier on the ears.

The EN980 fan peaks at lower frequencies than most notebooks (White: Background, Red: System idle, Blue: Unigine Valley, Green: Prime95+FurMark)
The EN980 fan peaks at lower frequencies than most notebooks (White: Background, Red: System idle, Blue: Unigine Valley, Green: Prime95+FurMark)
Asus G701VO (White: Background, Red: System idle, Blue: Unigine Valley, Green: Prime95+FurMark)
Asus G701VO (White: Background, Red: System idle, Blue: Unigine Valley, Green: Prime95+FurMark)
Aorus X5S (White: Background, Red: System idle, Blue: Unigine Valley, Green: Prime95+FurMark)
Aorus X5S (White: Background, Red: System idle, Blue: Unigine Valley, Green: Prime95+FurMark)

Noise Level

Idle
36.2 / 36.2 / 36.5 dB(A)
Load
36.5 / 42.9 dB(A)
  red to green bar
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   BK Precision 732A (15 cm distance)   environment noise: 29.5 dB(A)
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
GeForce GTX 980, 6400, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
Asus G701VO-CS74K
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6820HK, 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0)
MSI GT72VR 6RE-015US
GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), 6700HQ, SanDisk SD8SNAT256G1122
Aorus X7 Pro v5
GeForce GTX 970M SLI, 6820HK, Samsung SM951 MZVPV512 m.2 PCI-e
Eurocom Sky DLX7
GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 6700K, Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL m.2 PCI-e
Noise
2%
1%
-6%
4%
off / environment *
29.5
29.1
1%
28.9
2%
30
-2%
Idle Minimum *
36.2
29.1
20%
32.4
10%
34
6%
31.9
12%
Idle Average *
36.2
31.9
12%
32.4
10%
35
3%
32
12%
Idle Maximum *
36.5
31.9
13%
32.4
11%
39
-7%
34
7%
Load Average *
36.5
46
-26%
39.4
-8%
39
-7%
39
-7%
Load Maximum *
42.9
47.5
-11%
52
-21%
54
-26%
44.5
-4%

* ... smaller is better

Temperature

Surface temperatures are not a concern around the sides of the unit. The fan draws in cool air from both the rear and bottom ventilation grilles. The temperature maps below show the result of this design as the top exhaust grilles can be as warm as 57 C towards the center. This same area is about 32 C when idling against an ambient temperature of 20 C. We don't want to call it a personal radiator, but it's hard to deny based on its design and overt exhaust.

System idle (Front)
System idle (Front)
System idle (Back)
System idle (Back)
Maximum load (Front)
Maximum load (Front)
Maximum load (Back)
Maximum load (Back)

Energy Management

Power Consumption

Two identical power bricks (15 x 7.5 x 3 cm each) supply power to the unit as opposed to most devices that only require one adapter. Be prepared to handle twice the number of cables and occupy two sockets as a result, which may be more of a hassle than simply having one larger PSU. Notebooks with SLI graphics like on the MSI GT80 and certain Clevo barebones ship with just one power adapter each. The Zotac will not power on if only one adapter is connected, so both are required for operation. This unique setup also means that we had to connect our Metrahit multimeter to each adapter and then sum both readings for proper measurement.

Despite the two 180 W adapters being the same, the system does not draw equal power from both at any given moment. The table below shows our measurements on each adapter and one adapter is almost always providing significantly more power than the other. Gaming will demand about 190 W of power, which is already higher than what a single adapter would be capable of, so there is justification for having multiple bricks. We were able to measure a demand of just over 260 W when on maximum processing load with both Prime95 and FurMark active.

When compared to high-end gaming notebooks, the Zotac is comparable when idling or when running very low loads. This delta increases when gaming as even the powerful Asus G701VO and its notebook version of the GTX 980 will demand about 30 W less under similar conditions. The efficiency of Pascal on the new Asus G752VS has to be mentioned as well as the system draws significantly less at about 94 W.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 1 / 1.74 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 34.9 / 35.9 / 40.4 Watt
Load midlight 190.4 / 260.8 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Metrahit Energy
AC Adapter #1 (W) AC Adapter #2 (W) Total Consumption (W)
Idle Minimum 30.0 4.9 34.9
Idle Average 30.7 5.0 35.7
Idle Maximum 35.5 4.8 40.3
Load Average 78.4 112.0 190.4
Load Maximum 110.6 150.2 260.8
Off 0.84 0.16 1.00
Sleep 1.57 0.17 1.74
Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U
6400, GeForce GTX 980, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630, , x, 0
Asus G752VS-XB78K
6820HK, GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop), Toshiba NVMe THNSN5512GPU7, IPS, 1920x1080, 17.3
MSI GT72S 6QE-071PL
6820HK, GeForce GTX 980M, 2x Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ128G8NU (RAID 0), IPS, 1920x1080, 17.3
MSI GT80-2QES32SR311BW
4980HQ, GeForce GTX 980M SLI, 4x Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ256G8NU (RAID 0), Wide View, Super PLS, 1920x1080, 18.4
Asus G701VO-CS74K
6820HK, GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop), 2x Samsung SM951 MZVPV512HDGL (RAID 0), IPS, 1920x1080, 17.3
Power Consumption
26%
20%
-7%
19%
Idle Minimum *
34.9
24
31%
14.5
58%
34.3
2%
28.2
19%
Idle Average *
35.9
31
14%
28.3
21%
41.9
-17%
32
11%
Idle Maximum *
40.4
36
11%
44
-9%
49.3
-22%
32.6
19%
Load Average *
190.4
94
51%
165.5
13%
140.2
26%
162.2
15%
Load Maximum *
260.8
204
22%
214.8
18%
328.6
-26%
173.5
33%

* ... smaller is better

Pros

+ superb workmanship and build quality
+ accessible RAM and storage bays
+ low operating temperatures
+ quiet fan noise under load
+ no CPU or GPU throttling
+ socketed CPU and GPU
+ G-Sync via mDP 1.2
+ USB Type-C Gen. 2

Cons

- no Thunderbolt 3, NVMe, RAID, or additional WLAN options
- motherboard not accessible without breaking warranty
- no DDR4; only up to 16 GB RAM
- no 8 GB GDDR5 VRAM option
- loud fan noise when idling
- two AC adapters required
- slow SD card reader
- no Core i7 options
- heavy

Verdict

In review: Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U. Test model courtesy of Zotac.
In review: Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980-U. Test model courtesy of Zotac.

The ZBox EN980 isn't the smallest or lightest gaming mini PC around, but it utilizes its extra girth wisely with a very efficient cooling system that shouldn't be overlooked. When compared to even thick gaming notebooks like the GT72S or Asus G752 series, both fan noise and core temperatures are noticeably lower when under load for higher GPU overclocking potential. It's a very solid design - albeit dull in shape - that's more practical than pompous.

For its $1600 USD asking price, however, we feel that the system could have offered more. Features such as NVMe, DDR4, RAID, Thunderbolt 3, and superior fan controls are common finds on gaming notebooks in the same price range. Fan noise when idling could have been quieter and higher CPU options from the Core i7 range would have made this a better buy as the existing Core i5-6400 is slightly underpowered in multi-threaded workloads. The already low CPU operating temperatures suggest that the cooling solution in place would be sufficient for faster processors should Zotac continue to utilize this chassis.

With Pascal now available on both desktops and notebooks, we fully expect the EN980 (and other Maxwell-equipped systems) to drop in price within the next few months. Its core design and GPU performance are excellent so long as users don't mind losing out on some hardware and connectivity features.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Zotac ZBOX Magnus EN980 Mini PC Review
Allen Ngo, 2016-08-22 (Update: 2016-10-30)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.