Zotac ZBOX CI321 Fanless Nano PC

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Zotac ZBOX CI321 Fanless Nano PC

April 27, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Zotac ZBOX CI321 Nano
Barebones Mini PC

A few months back we took a look at the Zotac ZBOX CI540 Nano, a barebones UCFF (ultra compact form factor) system that also happened to be completely silent. This was made possible by using an ultra low voltage dual core Haswell processor, the Core i5-4210Y, and a plastic chassis with considerable ventilation on all sides. Rounding out this mini-PC was a wireless adapter, SD card slot, and consumer IR receiver, all built-in, giving it a varied and unique list of features that set it apart from the competition. The CI540 is part of a stable of passively cooled nettops, the ZBOX C series, which will soon be welcoming a new low cost member, the CI321.

Zotac ZBOX C Series (Barebones) Comparison
Celeron N2930
Celeron 2961Y
Core i3-4020Y
Core i5-4210Y
CPU Clock (Turbo)
4 x 1.83 (2.16 GHz)
2 x 1.1 GHz
4 x 1.0 GHz (1.4 GHz)
2 x 1.5 GHz
2 x 1.5 GHz (1.9 GHz)
Intel HD Graphics
Intel HD Graphics
Radeon HD 8250
Intel HD 4200
Intel HD 4200
GPU Clock
313 ~ 854 MHz
200 ~ 850 MHz
300 ~ 400 MHz
200 ~ 800 MHz
200 ~ 850 MHz
802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0
2.5" SATA
1 x 6 Gbps
1 x 3 Gbps
1 x 6 Gbps
Card Reader
3-in-1 (SD/SDHC/SDXC)
Front USB
2 x 2.0
2 x 3.0
2 x 2.0
Rear USB
4 x 3.0
2 x 3.0
1 x 2.0
2 x 3.0
3 x 2.0
4 x 3.0
4 x 3.0
US Street Price (Plus Edition)
$110 ($235)
$140 MSRP
$150 ($260)
$235 ($350)
$290 ($405)

The primary difference between all the available models is the processor, with a Bay Trail-M Celeron in the entry level CI320, a Kabini APU in the CA320, and Haswell chips for the rest, including the CI321. Compared to the Core i3-4020Y and Core i5-4210Y, the Celeron 2961Y is a little stripped down under the hood, equipped with a lower class integrated graphics chip with fewer EUs, only 2MB of cache instead of 3MB, no Hyper-threading, and no Turbo Boost. The latter is particularly unfortunate as the chip has a very modest 1.1 GHz clock speed.

The loss of computing prowess is acceptable when you consider its US$140 MSRP is less than half the going rate for the CI540, and being newer, actually has more features. The latest edition to the C series touts front USB 3.0 ports, a second gigabit ethernet controller, and memory support doubling to 16GB, though the average user probably will only use one of these extras. To complete the system, you'll need one or two DDR3L (1.35V) SO-DIMMs and a single 2.5 inch SATA drive. It's simple to add these components but if you can't be bothered, or want to save a bit on a full copy of Windows, they also offer complete systems. Each model has a corresponding Plus edition that ships with 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD with Windows 8.1 pre-installed for US$110~$125 more. Currently there's no pricing information on the fully configured CI321 Plus, but you can expect to pay a similar premium.

Specifications: Zotac ZBOX CI321 Nano
(from the product web page)
Product Name ZBOX CI321 nano (ZBOX-CI321NANO)
CPU Intel Processor 2961Y (dual-core, 1.1 GHz)
GPU Intel HD Graphics
Memory DDR3L
1600 MHz
2 x 204-pin SODIMM
up to 16GB
Networking 2 x 10/100/1000Mbps
802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Analog Stereo output
Digital 8-ch via HDMI S/PDIF
Storage Hard Drive: 2.5-inch SATA 6.0 Gb/s compatible
Memory Card Reader: 3-in-1 (SD/SDHC/SDXC)
Ports HDMI x 1 (1920x1200 @ 60 Hz)
DisplayPort x 1 (2560x1600 @ 60 Hz)
SATA x 1 (SATA 6.0 Gb/s)
USB 3.0 x 4 (2 front, 2 on back panel)
USB 2.0 x 1 (back panel)
Passive cooling without cooling fan
Packaging Content 1 x ZOTAC ZBOX CI321
1 x WiFi antenna
1 x VESA mount
4 x Mounting screws
1 x Mini-Optical S/PDIF adapter
1 x AC adapter 1
1 x Power cord
1 x User manual
1 x Warranty card
1 x Quick Install Guide
1 x Driver disc

One thing noticeably absent from the specifications is Consumer IR. For some reason, this is omitted on every member of the ZBOX C family even though it clearly exists. The receiver is visible on the front panel, a working driver for it is provided by Zotac, and it's even mentioned as a feature in the included pamphlet.

The ZBOX box and the ZBOX itself.


The ZBOX is somewhat larger and taller than the original slim version of the Intel NUC, but it's still quite petite, about the same size as two standard 120 mm fans stacked atop one another. Included in the package is the requisite power adapter and cable, VESA mounting bracket and screws, wireless antenna, mini-optical S/PDIF adapter, warranty card, manual, and a rather large illustrated fold-out assembly guide/brochure. And while the CI540 shipped with a USB thumb drive containing the necessary drivers for the machine, the cheaper CI321 comes with just a plain driver disc.

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