Without question, my living room PC is the most versatile piece of electronics in my AV system. I do just about everything with it, including all of my work for AVS Forum. From Photoshop to video editing in Premiere to music production in Ableton live, it’s the focus of my creativity and also a major source of entertainment.
Daily, I use a PC for streaming music with Google play, watch live sports on YouTube TV, and to stream TV shows plus movies using iTunes and Vudu. For years I’ve relied on a DIY PC that gets the job done, but is quite large. Now, with the Zotac ZBOX Magnus EC52070D Home Entertainment Mini PC, similar performance comes in a far more compact, modern mini-PC that’s much easier to fit into an AV system. Here’s my hands-on experience.
Zotac sent me a “barebones” Magnus EC52070D, meaning it had the RTX 2070 video card built in, but no hard drive or RAM. I use PCs for productivity, including video editing and rendering, as well as gaming, so I maxed the system with 32 GB of Ballistix Sport LT (16GBx2) DDR4 2666 RAM. The C drive is a 256GB SSD salvaged from an Intel NUC, and for good measure I added a Samsung 1TB SSD. Both are QLC drives (quad-level cell) which are super small. There was still room for a regular SSD in the easily-opened chassis, so I popped in a 1 TB unit.
Performance-wise, this PC offers a 6-core i5-8400T processor running @ 1.70GHz, with a “turbo” speed of 3.3GHz. This plus the RTX 2070 graphics card should allow it to at least match and sometimes outmuscle the GTX 1080 and i5-2500K quad-core CPU in my DIY PC.
As of the date of this review’s publication, the GeForce RTX 2070 sells for around $450 to $500 on its own. Meanwhile the barebones version EC52070D featuring the RTX 2070 retails for $1429. Adding 32 GB of RAM and a 1 TB SSD adds another $250 or $300 to the total and you’ll also need to buy a copy of Windows 10 if you are not upgrading. So all told, we’re looking at (roughly) a $2000 PC with a $500 video card in it.
Games are part of the equation and I rely on Steam for that. As for the display, I used both a Samsung Q90 4K QLED and a Samsung 49″ QLED Gaming Monitor with this PC.
Setup was smooth using the provided USB stick that had all the needed drivers on it, that got the rig up and running event-free. One of this PC’s nicest features is the toolless case. Throughout the time I had it, I added and swapped the SSD several times and appreciated what an easy task the ZOTAC makes it.
I’m not doing a benchmark review here, so if you are interested in how the Magnus EC52070D stacks up to other PCs this is not the review for you. Ultimately, this is a PC so you can reasonably predict its performance based on its components.
What makes this ZOTAC appealing is that includes RTX 2070 graphics. Otherwise you could get away with something much smaller like an Intel NUC. But if you want a multimedia PC that is explicitly able to handle gaming, high-powered built-in graphics are a must. The Magnus EC52070D struck a nice balance between small size, quiet operation and delivering robust gaming with at least 30 fps in 4K (and often up to 60 fps) with modern games and graphics set to “high” (if not “ultra high”). I played both Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and GTA 5 Online and found both games to be fluid with plenty of detail.
I ran the ZBOX continuously from the moment I set it up to when I returned it, which encompassed a couple months use. Even when not streaming or gaming, I was hammering it with some hard-core multitasking like simultaneously rendering 5.6K 360 video (using half of its six cores) while processing and uploading the resulting files. The nice thing is that with 6 cores, it can still play back the video smoothly while it’s rendering in the background. And it does it in commendable silence with very little heat output.
Perhaps most important, this PC did not crash once. It’s track record is perfect for the entire time I used it!
The main “catch” with HTPCs is copyright related and it limits the platform’s ability to play back some UHD content. For example, Vudu streams are often limited to 1080p SDR (aka HDX) instead of the UHD option that’s available through dedicated 4K streaming devices 4K TV’s built-in apps. And forget about playing Ultra HD blu-ray movies, you have to jump through hoops to pull that off. My advice is to get a dedicated devices for that sort of streaming and enjoy the PC for how it handles so much else including high resolution YouTube content.
I like this PC because it is highly capable and reliable. You do pay for the slick design, but the result is a very pleasant computing experience. The ZOTAC Magnus EC52070D is overkill for just streaming 4K, but as soon as you add PC gaming to the mix it demonstrates the value of the Nvidia RTX 2070 graphics card.
It’s not a PC for everyone, or for every situation. If you’re the sort who likes to build and modify PCs, this box is not going to satisfy. Stick with the DIY, gamer friendly builds. But that’s one of the most beautiful things about the PC platform, you buy the device that suits your application. Compared to a flashy gaming tower, this is a much more low-key device, a better fit I think for a living room or dedicated home theater. But it still packs a punch!
However, if you are looking for a premium PC based multimedia and gaming system that easily beats gaming console graphics for games and can do a ton more, then the Magnus EC52070D is an easy Recommended 2019 selection. Moreover, it’s a killer choice for a desktop PC if you do any sort of 3D work, video editing, or other tasks that will leverage the GPU. It’s a rock-solid all-around great performer.
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