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Old 21st July 2010, 01:50   #31
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Default Zotac ZBox HD-ID11 Review -Part 3 (Final)

8. Windows 7 Media Center (7MC):

With Windows 7 Home Premium installed, all the drivers starting with the INF update – which is in fact the Intel NM10 chipset drivers - were installed.

For the display driver I loaded the recent beta driver, which is supposed to improve Adobe Flash playback – the other weak point with Zbox apart from the poor built-in WiFi.

Before connecting to the internet, I insatalled AVG Free and then updated Windows.

All other programs, that included the Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre (TMT) and Slysoft’s anyDVD were installed then, not forgetting Shark 007 Codec Pack for Windows 7.

The TMT player in Windows 7 will play BDs, DVDs and media files but not the ISO images.

The TMT plug-in in 7MC will only play BDs and DVDs but not media files or ISO images from within MC.

In either case, to play ISO images one would need a virtual drive to mount the ISO image that will then kick start the TMT. I installed the Virtual CloneDrive, a freeware, for mounting the ISO images.

An external BD-ROM drive is required for playing BDs and DVDs. The Sony Optiarc BC 5500S H1 ordered on ebay was already waiting.

7MC will not recognise and include BD or DVD ISO images to the Movie Library.

After considering and trying out various options like Movie Browser, and My Movies (third-party plug-ins for 7MC), I stumbled upon one nice little program called Mikinho Mount Image which can be downloaded from here . After installing, add the folder containing the ISO images to 7MC movie library if you had not done it already and you are good to go.

With everything ready to fire up, the very first thing I did was to convert all my 5 BDs into ISO images using DVD Fab Platinum. This will take the load off my physical BD ROM drive for subsequent plays. I need not plug it in and my costly discs will also be safe.

And now the pictures:

My Computer:

A cute Mini-HTPC - Preview-my-computer.jpg

A cute Mini-HTPC - Preview-mycomputer-2.jpg

My Programs:

A cute Mini-HTPC - Preview-myprograms.jpg

My Video folder:

A cute Mini-HTPC - Preview-myvideofold.jpg

My ISOs:

A cute Mini-HTPC - Preview-myiso.jpg

My Movies:

A cute Mini-HTPC - Preview-mymovies.jpg

My Body of Lies:

A cute Mini-HTPC - Preview-bodyoflies.jpg

9. Final Words:

I am extremely happy with the Zotac Zbox as my Mediacenter PC. But then I had spent days and hours searching the internet to get both the Zbox and 7MC going. Considering that it is a DIY device, one would have expected Zotac to have given a better guidance.

Rafael Wolf whom I had referenced and followed earlier had this to say - "After racking my brain on this one for literally HOURS and trying different things I put in a support ticket out of frustration. I suppose that for a “geek” putting in a support ticket with a vendor is the modern equivalent of a guy asking for directions because he’s lost while driving and scouring his routes over on the map to no avail."

I fully echo his sentiments. If for a geek it was so frustrating, one can imagine how worse it will be for an ordinary user (like me ).

I now feel happy to have written this multipart Review cum How-to posts and it should be much easier for anyone to build this system with all told in one place. (Well, I am not asking you to donate as all or most freeware developers do.)

I found the Atheros WiFi in Zbox gave a better performance than the one in ZMag so much so I am thinking of putting it to a retest again under the same conditions when time permits.

While my Dlink adapter downloaded a large file at around 2.2 MB/s, the Atheros in Zbox did it at 1.2 MB/s much better than the KB/s download by Zmag.

The only other problem that had been highlighted by experts is the poor Flash video playback performance while streaming from the net.

After testing with the recent nVidia beta driver that was promised earlier by nVIDIA to addrees this issue, Anandtech has this to say - "The new driver definitely makes things better and it looks like NVIDIA is committed to improving the experience even further. But at this point, the original ION is still better for Flash video playback. If you’re using the NG-ION as a more traditional HTPC, playing files stored on your network and not streamed in a Flash movie then you’re of course fine".

For me Flash video playback or Atheros Wi-Fi not upto the mark, are non-issues.

Two Expert reviews on Zbox here:

Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 Review: Next Gen ION is Better & Worse than ION1 - AnandTech :: Your Source for Hardware Analysis and News

ZOTAC ZBox HD-ID11 and Next Gen ION - HotHardware

The End.

Last edited by Ponmayilal : 21st July 2010 at 01:54.
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Old 21st July 2010, 10:46   #32
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I have to applaud your effort to fit everything into one article. It will definitely make my job easier when I get my piece.

Given this thread a 5 star rating.
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Old 21st July 2010, 11:33   #33
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@Ponmayilal: Does this Zotac box play 1080p encoded mkv files? I too am looking at getting one rig for my htpc needs. I have over 400 movies encoded in 1080p and if this plays them without freezes and hiccups, I will look at getting this instead.
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Old 21st July 2010, 19:46   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brix View Post
...Given this thread a 5 star rating.
Thanks Brix, for your keen interest and appreciation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SumitB View Post
@Ponmayilal: Does this Zotac box play 1080p encoded mkv files? I too am looking at getting one rig for my htpc needs.....
The Zmag and Zbox can play any format 1080p video with aplomb without stutter or skip thanks to The nVidia ION and NG ION, which make them eminently suitable for an HTPC. IMO, Zbox gets a slightly upper hand due to the added 512MB DDR3 memory in the NG ION.

That said, Windows 7 does not provide native support to .mkv files - and many other formats. That is where the Swiss Army Knife of codec pack, the Shark 007 Windows7 codec pack comes in. Please see my post #14 in this thread.

The movie image is a .mkv file being played (though not HD) with Shark007 Codec pack installed. The only settings I changed in the Audio tab to get 5.1 channel SPDIF output is also shown there.

Add your .mkv folder to the Video Library in 7MC. You will be ready to go roaring.

A cute Mini-HTPC - Preview-video-library.jpg
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Old 22nd July 2010, 16:28   #35
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Are you able to switch between onboard gfx &ion?
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Old 22nd July 2010, 20:25   #36
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^^ By GFX, I presume you mean the integrated GMA 3150 graphics in the Atom D510 processor. (GMA 3150 is GMA 3100 shrunk to 45nm.).

GMA 3150 provides hardware acceleration for MPEG-2 video only. It does not provide acceleration for H.264 and VC-1. So why should one even try it when NG ION is there?

The bios of course provides you an option to select IGD, PCI/IGD, PCI/PEG, PEG/IGD, PEG/PCI. (PEG means PciE Graphics - in this case the NG ION connected to one PCI express channel of NM10 chipset - I did quite a bit of research to find out what PEG is. ). I left it at its default PEG/IGD.

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Old 23rd July 2010, 06:44   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ponmayilal View Post
^^ By GFX, I presume you mean the integrated GMA 3150 graphics in the Atom D510 processor. (GMA 3150 is GMA 3100 shrunk to 45nm.).

GMA 3150 provides hardware acceleration for MPEG-2 video only. It does not provide acceleration for H.264 and VC-1. So why should one even try it when NG ION is there?

The bios of course provides you an option to select IGD, PCI/IGD, PCI/PEG, PEG/IGD, PEG/PCI. (PEG means PciE Graphics - in this case the NG ION connected to one PCI express channel of NM10 chipset - I did quite a bit of research to find out what PEG is. ). I left it at its default PEG/IGD.
Yup i meant the gma3150 gfx...didnt know that gma 3150 doesnt provide acceleration for other video formats..
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Old 27th July 2010, 09:09   #38
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Default Another cutie to go with Zotac Mini-PC

My eyes are now set on another cutie below:

Name:  Plextor BD.jpg
Views: 667
Size:  36.8 KB

At USD 100, its a steal.

Loading and unloading the BDs should be a breeze with this drive when compared to the Sony Optiarc BD ROM drive I have now, which actually is a OEM lappy drive used by HP and Sony in their laptops - and you know the hassle involved in loading and unloading a disc in a lappy drive.

Last edited by Ponmayilal : 27th July 2010 at 09:18.
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Old 31st July 2010, 23:37   #39
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Default Now a BD burner for my Desktop HTPC

I have been casualy going through the other thread on "Is it good to buy on ebay-in/ Global Easy Buy". One BHPian there had mentioned that there is a 15% discount (subject to a maximum of Rs.1000/=) on Global Easy Buy till 1st Aug. Since then I had been cracking my head on what I can possibly buy there. Finally I decided that it should be a BD burner for my desktop/HTPC.

The very first item that I came across on Blu-ray burners was a Liteon iHBS 112-29 SATA blu-ray/DVD/CD burner for Rs 8727. Less Rs.1000, the take-home price is Rs 7727, too good to resist. The cost of the Pioneers and Plextors were above Rs. 10000. So out went an order for the Liteon drive. It was a blind purchase based on the price alone.

After placing the order, I started researching on it. To my surprise, I found that this drive is the latest release from Liteon with the fastest speed available currently. It was released in the U.S market just a month back with an MSRP of USD 150.

Name:  BD Burner.jpg
Views: 633
Size:  78.4 KB

Incidentally, the Plextor BD Reader/DVD writer I had mentioned in the previous post is yet to hit the store shelves in U.S. and I am continuosly monitoring it.

Finally, I do think that BD readers and BD writers are becoming more affordable, while the discs themselves cost a bomb still.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 18:53   #40
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I've owned 2 Plextor drives in the past and they are really superior. But Liteon is also a VFM brand.
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Old 9th September 2010, 21:55   #41
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Zotac has released a new Nettop with Blu-Ray.

Zotac launches new nettop line with integrated Blu-ray
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Old 10th September 2010, 18:47   #42
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Default Zotac Nettop with integrated BD Player DVD/CD writer

The specs is alluring too while the two-tone black and white cladding is not (my opinion).

Name:  Zotac NT BR.jpg
Views: 585
Size:  18.8 KB

Name:  Zotac bluray.jpg
Views: 604
Size:  187.5 KB

Zotac also says that these two have a mini PCIe expansion slot inside apart from eSata and USB3. Release date and pricing not known yet.

For those wanting a compact and power-frugal living room Media Center/HTPC, these may be the its. But expect a steep price due to the inclusion of the BD player DVD/CD writer.
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