Introduction, Design, Features
How much performance can you cram inside a PC that is smaller than a shoebox? As it turns out, quite a bit. Zotac, one of the more popular players in the growing mini PC market, has been proving as much for years with its diminutive Zbox family. These comparatively puny systems run the gamut from fanless pocket-sized computers for productivity chores (P-series) to larger, but still compact boxes tailored for gaming (E-series). The Magnus EN51050, one of Zotac’s newer entries, falls into that latter category.
Yes, folks: believe it or not, the Magnus EN51050 is a gaming PC. Casual observers may scratch their head and wonder how it’s possible to deliver true gaming performance in such a small package. The answer lies in the core components, which are a cut above what you would find in a lower-end mini PC such as Azulle’s Byte3.
For one, all E-series Zboxes sport discrete graphics from Nvidia’s latest-generation “Pascal” stack. In this case, the Magnus EN51050 wields a GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. It’s the lowest-end GPU option among all current-generation Magnus machines, with other options ramping all the way up to a mighty GeForce GTX 1080Zbox Magnus EN970Alienware AlphaAsus ROG GR8 II. That is something to think about when looking at a Zbox.
On the flip side, you’d be giving up the benefits of an ultra-compact system by going with a console-sized PC. The Zbox Mangus EN51050 measures just 8.27 (L) by 2.45 (W) by 7.99 (H) inches and is small enough to slip into a backpack, leaving plenty of room for peripherals, snacks, and clothes in case you’re planning an all-night LAN party.
The low profile and overall compact design of the Magnus means it can wedge into places where most traditional desktops can’t, such as an AV rack. That’s not to say there aren’t any PCs specifically built to take residence in a home theater, because there are (along with HTPC cases for DIY builders). With the Magnus, however, you won’t have to whip out the measuring tape or rearrange shelves—it’s not much bigger than a cable modem.
Of course, you don’t have to use the Magnus as an HTPC; it just happens to look right at home in that kind of setting. The design of the square-shaped chassis borrows heavily from the previous generation. Only now, it’s a little sleeker, with a beveled top panel and more ventilation cutouts for cooling…
The glossy front panel offers convenient access to a USB 3.1 Type-A port and a USB 3.1 Type-C port, along with separate headphone and microphone jacks and a memory card reader…
Over to the left is a large power button encircled by an orange LED.
Around back, the Magnus serves up two more USB 3.1 Type-A ports, plus two USB 2.0 ports, both situated underneath the main exhaust vent…
The power adapter connector sits just to the left.
Over on the right side are a series of HDCP-compliant display outputs, including two HDMI 2.0 outputs and two DisplayPort 1.3 outputs…
The internal GeForce GTX 1050 GPU powers all four outputs, as opposed to the CPU’s onboard graphics. They also support up to a 4K resolution at 60Hz—3,840×2,160 on the HDMI ports and 4,096×2,160 on the DisplayPort 1.3 ports.
For Internet connectivity, there are two LAN ports for wired connections and a spot to mount the Wi-Fi antenna. Attaching the antenna adds a little bit of height to the Magnus, though you can swivel it down so that it lies horizontally behind the chassis.
There are three versions of the Magnus EN51050—a barebones model, a Plus configuration with preinstalled RAM and storage, and a fully fleshed-out version that adds Windows 10 to the mix. The model we received is the base system, priced at $699.99.
To get at the guts of the Magnus, remove the pair of thumbscrews on the back panel. Once those have been extracted, the bottom panel slips right off the housing with little effort.
With the bottom panel removed, we installed a pair of 8GB Crucial DDR4-2133 memory modules for 16GB total, and populated the 2.5-inch drive bay with a 250GB Crucial BX100 solid state drive. There’s also room to install an M.2 NVMe SSD, which would offer even more speed and free up the 2.5-inch bay to install a thin profile hard drive for bulk storage.
A similar configuration to the one we chose would drive the price up by about $250. If you need to factor in the cost of an OS as well, you’re looking at a grand total of around $1,050. You can trim the cost by going with 8GB of RAM instead of 16GB and either swapping out the SSD for an HDD, or going with a less capacious storage drive. These options would obviously come at a performance penalty, though.
Zotac also sells a version of this Magnus that comes with 8GB of RAM, a 120GB SSD paired with a 1TB HDD, and Windows 10 for around $1,000 (street). Some buyers may find that preferable to outfitting the barebones model with their own hardware.