Zotac ZBOX EN760 Gaming HTPC Preview & Installation Tutorial

By Published June 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm
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The newest addition to the world's lineup of gaming-grade home-theater PCs is Zotac's ZBOX EN760, which we first wrote about a few weeks ago. Zotac has been making its "ZBOX" product line for years now, though the EN760 is the first model to have serious competitive potential in the living room gaming market.

The original plan was to have our EN760 review and benchmark online by now, but issues encountered with nVidia's 337.88 drivers have stalled that  temporarily. Zotac's new EN760 -- not yet shipping on the consumer market -- uses an nVidia GTX 860m mobile GPU for its graphics solution. The 860m ships in two SKUs: a Kepler-powered unit and a Maxwell-powered unit. According to the specifications provided by Zotac, it appears that the EN760 uses the Maxwell architecture 860m GPU in league with a portable i5-4200U CPU (1.6GHz / 2.6GHz turbo boost). These components together are what have created driver compatibility issues with 337.88, though nVidia and Zotac are working to resolve them rapidly.

As you all know, we're pretty thorough about our game benchmarking process. Given that we've tested all of our modern nVidia GPUs on 337.88, to run the tests on the (stable for Zotac) 320.6 drivers would produce results that create a false dichotomy in performance. Some of the performance gains would exist entirely on a driver level, rather than a hardware level, and that makes it difficult to create a proper comparison. 337.88, making careful note that we're using Watch Dogs in the bench, sees significant performance gains over the older 320.6 driver update. Attempting to install 337.88 results in either a blue screen, failure to boot, or failure to recognize the video device; using 320.6 is successful, but is not something I want to test on given that all our recent testing has used 337.88.

In light of this, I've notified Zotac of the issue and am presently awaiting a patch. The company assures me that they're working with nVidia to produce a solution shortly, and emphasizes that the EN760 is not yet shipping to consumers.

Zotac ZBOX EN760 / PLUS Specs 

Spec ZOTAC EN760 ZOTAC EN760 Plus
SKU ZBOX-EN760 ZBOX-EN760-P
Memory Compatibility 2x204-pin DDR3L SO-DIMM
Up to 16GB DDR3-1600MHz
2x204-pin DDR3L SO-DIMM
Up to 16GB DDR3-1600MHz
RAM None. 1x8GB DDR3-1600.
Storage None.
Supports 1x2.5",
1xmSATA
1x1TB 5400RPM HDD
Supports 1xmSATA
CPU Intel i5-4200U 1.6GHz / 2.6GHz TB
3MB L2 Cache
Intel i5-4200U 1.6GHz / 2.6GHz TB
3MB L2 Cache
GPU GTX 860M
2GB GDDR5 / 128-bit bus
1020MHz BCLK / 1097MHz Boost CLK
GTX 860M 2GB GDDR5 / 128-bit bus
1020MHz BCLK / 1097MHz Boost CLK
I/O - HDMI
- DVI-I
- SD / SDHC / MMC / SDXC
Card Reader.
- 2xEthernet
- 802.11ac
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 4xUSB3.0
- 1xHDMI Audio
- 1x3.5mm Audio
- HDMI
- DVI-I
- SD / SDHC / MMC / SDXC
Card Reader.
- 2xEthernet
- 802.11ac
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 4xUSB3.0
- 1xHDMI Audio
- 1x3.5mm Audio
MSRP $550 $700
Release Date June, 2014 June, 2014

Still, I wanted to get some content online about this little HTPC, so that's what this post is here for. The video linked above gives a component fly-through of the EN760 and its interior, then explains how to install RAM and an SSD in the non-Pro model; the Pro model ships with its own 1x8GB DDR3-1600 RAM and 1x1TB 5400RPM HDD, though there is much greater value in the non-Pro unit ($550 vs. $700) and using aftermarket hardware.

I cannot yet comment on whether the EN760 is worth buying, can't talk about its performance, and can't discuss its merits as a product. None of these can be explored until the driver issue is resolved. I should note, however, that the "4K ready" branding needs some clarification: It is entirely impossible to game at anything remotely close to a 4K resolution on the 860m at a playable framerate; the "4K ready" branding should be seen as entirely for video playback, not gaming.

We can do the quick tutorial and video overview (above), though.

How to Install RAM & an HDD / SSD in the ZBOX EN760

zbox-en760-2

This is a pretty easy process. Note that the EN760 is only compatible with SO-DIMM laptop RAM, meaning you won't be able to stick desktop modules in here. Only 2.5" drives are supported internally, with 3.5" being relegated to external drive docks.

  • Open up the ZBOX by removing the two screws on the rear side. Pop the panel off.
  • Ensure you are grounded.
  • Remove the retention screw for the 2.5" sled. Remove the sled.
  • Install the RAM modules into the SO-DIMM slots. Do so carefully and do not force anything. Wait for the latches to pop into place.
  • Install the SSD/HDD on the sled with the SATA header on the opposite side of the retention screw.
  • Mount the SSD. Screw it back down. Close the box.
  • Done!

Pretty easy.

Anyway, we're not in a position yet to make conclusions as to whether this particular product is a good value, performs well, or should be a consideration for your HTPC needs. The on-paper specs look great, the build quality is fairly solid (albeit fingerprint-hungry), but I need to benchmark the thermals and FPS before making conclusions. That won't happen until the drivers are updated in a few days. Stay tuned!

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.

Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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