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Flash Review: ZOTAC Magnus EN1070 VR Ready Mini PC

Waaay back when the HTC Vive started shipping (May 2015), VR-ready PCs were pretty dang huge. Most of the PCs used for demos were full towers. Some were mini ITX rigs while others used monster VR laptops.

With the arrival of the 10th Gen NVIDIA GPUs, mini PCs now that have the horsepower to crunch those massive VR graphics.

Enter the ZOTAC EN1070, an itty bitty box roughly 8” square with a GTX 1070 inside.

To test the ZOTAC, I ran the EN1070 through the toughest test imaginable -- relatives surly from thanksgiving arguments, desperately in need of a distraction to take their minds off politics and each other. Did it work out?

HIGHEST COMPLIMENT

So let’s get right to it -- the EN1070 is highly recommended. The little monster is stable like no other PC I had on hand. And since we’re constantly testing PCs around these parts, I had a number of killer rigs with me to use for familial VR.

Alas, not all PCs worked. In fact, only the ZOTAC was able to provide handle the demanding VR graphics hour after hour.

At this very moment, my 77 year old mother is about four hours into VR world, visiting London landmarks in Google Earth VR. I’m slightly worried she’s never going to take it off.

In fact, this thing is a tiny beast that has been running so long, the Vive controllers have lost battery power. Thrice. Mom, it’s time for dinner otherwise I’ll have to take the video games away.

Really, the ZOTAC is going to set new standards in what mini VR boxes should look like. At the moment, I believe the ZOTAC is the smallest commercially available VR PC around. Sure, others have demoed VR-ready smart watches, but ZOTAC is here with a smile.

 

LET'S TALK NUMBERS

To achieve the tiny 8” x 8” x 2.5” size, ZOTAC went with low power and laptop guts. That means an i5-6400T CPU, rather than the 6400 vanilla or higher end. “T” is the CPU signifier for low power found on tiny systems like the ZOTAC. The “T” CPUs are part of the four core desktop LGA1151 class, not the two core i5s found in laptops. The performance takes an approx 15% hit compared to the full power 6500, but the 6500T makes up for the difference in heat and cooling.

Other components include double slots for laptop size SODIMM DDR4 RAM up to 32GB at 2133 speeds. Those are some decent specs considering the size. The unit I received had a single 8GB stick.

For storage, a single PCIe M.2 and a single 2.5” slot are available. The PCIe M.2 means monster SSD speeds 400% faster than traditional SSDs.

Finally, the new Pascal Magnus line comes with either a GTX 1060 or GTX 1070. Now, both of these GPUs are of the laptop variety. But because NVIDIA made the laptop and desktop GPUs similar this time around, performance going with the mobile models shows only a 10% hit in benchmarks. Pretty sweet.

There’s also the Magnus EN1080 with watercooling and a GTX 1080 for $1999. While about double the size, it still has just about the smallest footprint for a full GTX 1080 around.

The ZOTAC EN series comes in barebones, meaning you bring your own RAM and SSDs. The PCs are so simple to put together, anyone could do it (as long as they know what RAM is).

There are also ZOTAC bundles and pre assembled units available. The base price for the EN1070 barebones is $1199 and includes the i5 CPU and GTX 1070. You will need to bring your own copy of Windows.

Downsides? The biggest issue I had with the boxes was styling -- the generic black boxes simply don't look as powerful as they are. This is a bit of a disapointment because the styling on the ZOTAC graphics cards is my personal favorite among GPUs. Their graphics cards have this killer faux metal finish with subtle touches that really sets them apart from the competition (read our coverage of the ZOTAC 1080 Extreme). It wouldn't be hard to take the styling from the cards and apply it to the Zbox, right? 

In any case, the ZOTAC EN1070 is a real-world champ. Performance is near-silent, which is incredibly impressive given the crazy-taxing VR gaming. I can feel the heat radiating off this thing, but, remember, it’s about 60% the size of an Xbox and much smaller than a Dish DVR.

So hats off to the ZOTAC engineers for making the best mini VR box available. Given ZOTAC’s history of making the official Steam Machine, it makes sense ZOTAC would be first to market with a perfect consumer VR box. Nice.