Inside the ZBOX-AD04-U is an AMD E-450 APU with onboard Radeon HD 6320 graphics. We plan to compare it with Intel’s finest Atom processor (with Nvidia graphics) and see which wins as a media center computer.
To read more about the Zotac ZBOX in general see the post analyzing the Intel board here. This post will look at the AMD technology and benchmarks against the previously reviewed ID80.
We will also be featuring articles detailing the full setup of a Linux home theater PC (HTPC) and the benefits of a small computer attached to your television.
ZOTAC ZBOX Setup
Once again we installed a 120GB SSD and 2GB 1066MHz DDR3 SO-DIMM for benchmarking purposes.
You can usually secure a 2GB memory module for under $15 at http://www.amazon.com/ (just search for “so-dimm ddr3″). This motherboard supports 1333MHz (PC3-10600) memory so make sure the memory you select is at least that fast. A hard drive is not necessary which we will address in an upcoming post. For this reason we do not suggest upgrading to the “PLUS” versions of any ZBOX. However, if you do wish to install a hard drive make sure it is 2.5-inch (most SSDs and laptop drives are this size).
Notice we used slower 1066MHz memory for these benchmarks. Any benchmarks able to take advantage of faster 1333MHz data rate memory may score higher.
AMD E-450 is a low power APU (accelerated processing unit) that combines a CPU and GPU on the same die. However, while Intel fails to deliver good integrated graphics with any of their low-power Atom-based CPUs, AMD’s integrated graphics are worthy of high definition video. The APU is rated at 18 watt TDP and since we do not have to add discrete graphics the overall system power consumption stays fairly close to that figure.
Overall system power varied from 17 watts while idle in Ubuntu 12.04 up to 28 watts while encoding videos. The E-450 was only drawing 21-22 watts during the gaming benchmarks. Across the board power was significantly down from the Atom/Nvidia combination. Power figures are observed using a P3 “kill a watt” meter.
Graphics Background and Hardware Acceleration
Graphics in the E-450 are handled by the integrated Radeon HD 6320. Unlike the Radeon HD 6310 in the AMD E-350 APU, the HD 6320 supports higher bandwidth DDR3-1333 memory and turbo mode (graphics clock rate will speed up when requested).
Both the Radeon HD 6310 and 6320 support UVD 3.0. UVD (Unified Video Decoder) is the video decoding engine AMD/ATI uses to support hardware decoding of H.264 and VC-1 high definition video codecs. In Linux this is accomplished through the XvBA API with the use of the AMD linux driver (fglrx). If all that went over your head, don’t worry…there are versions of XBMC that are nice enough to take care of it for us.
You will notice two benchmarks of this AMD platform on the next page. Ubuntu 12.04 does not install the AMD linux driver by default and instead relies on an open source video driver (referred to as “radeon”). We decided to do the benchmarks on a base Ubuntu install followed by benchmarks with the AMD “fglrx” driver. Again, this is only important if you install a version of Linux without AMD drivers out of the box.
- High-Definition analog stereo
- Optical Digital S/PDIF output
- HDMI and DisplayPort video ports
- HDMI-to-DVI adapter
- 802.11n/g/b wireless (WiFi)
- Gigabit ethernet (hardwired internet connection)
- 2 x USB 3.0 and 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- SD/SDHC/MMC/MS/MS Pro/xD Card Reader
- Media Remote
Benchmarks and conclusions on next page
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