Jun 03, 2014 Nick Rego
ZOTAC have decided that they want to shake up the design of their mini-PCs a little bit, and have introduce the ZBOX Sphere OI520. Yes it’s a bit of a mouthful, but you’ll soon forgive ZOTAC once you see just how adorable this min-PC actually is. Shaped oddly like the now defunct Google Nexus Q, the OI520 is a spherical mini-PC that would fit just about anywhere in your home or office.
The quirky spherical design means that ZOTAC have pushed every single port and button to the back of the device. Except for a USB 2.0 port on the right side, you’ll have to grope around at the back for the power button and other connectivity ports. There’s plenty to see at the back as well, including ports for HDMI and DisplayPort, USB 3.0, SD card reader, Ethernet, and audio jacks. There’s also a thin ring that surrounds the device that lights up to let you know when the device is on – of course you can switch this off completely via the BIOS. Included with the OI520 is a compact power charger as well as a CD with necessary drivers. Thankfully, ZOTAC have also included a read-only USB thumb drive with the drivers as well, so you can simply plug this in to configure the internal hardware.
The device itself is mostly plastic, making it quite lightweight to move around your house. The top part simply twists off like the lid on a jar, exposing the minimal internals. The only thing you can upgrade here is the RAM and HDD – ours came equipped with a single stick of 4GB RAM and a 500GB 2.5” HDD. The packaging for the box proudly screams “4K”, but with those kind of internals you’re better off swapping them for more RAM and an SSD. Our review model came with an Intel Core i5 4200U at 2.3GHz, 4GB DDR3L RAM, 500GB Samsung 2.5” 5400RPM HDD, and the Intel HD 4400 GPU.
The OI520 is like most other mini-PCs I’ve tested before – compact and capable, but only up to a certain point. I fired up a 4K movie and as predicted there were certain instances of screen tearing every now and then. This boils down to the fact that it’s chugging along with 4GB RAM and a slower hard drive – bump up the RAM and slot in an SSD and you’ve got a very capable 4K-multimedia machine. General HDD tests as well proved that the bundled drive just wasn’t up to snuff, so if you’re serious about it then get an SSD into this thing from the get-go. Don’t expect to play any video games at all on the OI520 – even on the lowest resolutions and settings, games like Borderlands 2 and Diablo III just wouldn’t deliver a satisfactory frame rate. But for most other tasks and especially streaming multimedia, the OI520 performed flawlessly.
As with most of ZOTAC’s mini-PCs, the OI520 is whisper-quiet and hardly generated any heat. This is a perfect device to have in your living room or bedroom as it barely makes any noise at all when running, even when streaming full HD clips or downloading content in the background.
The OI520 is a fun-looking device simply because it’s a refreshing change from all the mini-PCs we’ve seen in the market so far. The only downside is the RAM and HDD that are included – these are just about average to use, but if you’re watching 4K content you’re going to need a better hard drive and certainly more RAM. But other than that, the OI520 is a fun little addition to any living room space and will leave people wondering how you turned a bowling ball into a full-fledged PC.
Recommended retail price is $1,749
+ Original design
+ Easy to upgrade
+ Quiet operation
- Average HDD performance
A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys playing videogames during work hours and tinkering with the latest gadgets.
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