Interior and Connectivity
One of the first things you see when opening the chassis is the bundled hard drive, the same Toshiba 500GB model as in the ID42 Plus. It's a 5,400rpm model, fairly standard for a 2.5-inch drive, but is connected via a SATA 3Gbps interface. This is a limit of Intel's H61 chipset, upon which the ID89 Plus is based on, and though not a problem for the Toshiba drive it does mean anyone considering the barebones ID89 or looking to upgrade the drive won't be able to take full advantage of modern SSDs here. Zotac's choice to opt for storage over the speed of an SSD with its hard drive choice also makes sense for a product geared mainly towards handling lots of media.
Click to enlarge - The internal components are wonderfully simple to access
Removing the cooler reveals the heart of the ID89 Plus, Intel's Core i5-3470T. Based on the 22nm Ivy Bridge architecture and using the LGA1155 socket, this CPU was launched mid-2012, and is clocked at 2.9GHz with a maximum Turbo Boost clock of 3.6GHz. While a significant step up in horsepower comapared to the 1.1GHz Celeron processor in the ID42 Plus, it's the only CPU in the i5-3400 series to feature two rather than four cores. However, it's this that allows it to keep its TDP down to just 35W, and it's still impressive to see such a meaty CPU in so small a unit.
Click to enlarge - It's possible to replace the CPU, but it's not recommended
While it's technically possible to seat another processor in the provided LGA1155 socket, only Intel's T processors are supported, which makes the only viable upgrade path the i5-3570T or the i7-3770T. However, such an upgrade is not only rather pointless, but also runs the risk of not working, thanks to the higher 45W TDP of these two CPUs. Overclocking the supplied CPU also isn't supported, unsurprisingly, but it is possible to downclock it should you need to.
The CPU is cooled by a large chunk of aluminium that has a copper baseplate. Cool air is drawn in from a tiny single fan, and the black plastic shroud on the cooler means that most of this air is blown across the heatsink's fins before being exhausted through the case ventilation. The rest of the cooler air is free to circulate the chassis, providing a little airflow to the other components.
Click to enlarge - The compact CPU cooler keeps temperatures under control
Removing the bundled hard drive reveals the included memory, a single stick of Samsung 1,600MHz 4GB RAM. We would have preferred to see a 2 x 2GB kit here, but users are free to choose the barebones model if this is an issue. The barebones model is £350, and the £75 price premium reflects fairly accurately the retail cost of the supplied memory and the specific hard drive in the Plus unit.
That said, we do feel Zotac could have built a better system for the full ID89 Plus. A cheaper 500GB drive and single stick of 1,600MHz 4GB memory can be had for around £66, for example. Meanwhile, the 1TB model of the Toshiba drive can be found at retail for just £10 more than the £50 500GB one, so it's a shame this wasn't included instead. 64GB SSDs can also be found for less than £50, and dual channel RAM kits aren't too costly either, so it's hard not to feel that the barebones option is the better one, at least based on the launch pricing.
Click to enlarge - The ID89 Plus has a decent array of media and networking connections
Graphics processing is left up to Intel's onboard HD Graphics 2500, which we also saw on the Core i3-3220 recently. It consists of just six execution units, and is clocked at 650MHz with a maximum dynamic frequency of 1.1GHz. It's fair to say, therefore, that the Zbox ID89 Plus won't be well suited to high resolution gaming, but it should hold its own when it comes to media playback. The DVI and HDMI outputs at the rear of the unit can be used concurrently, and a DVI to VGA adaptor is also provided.
The onboard audio chip is Realtek's ALC892. This is able to supply full 7.1 surround sound via the rear S/PDIF connection, as well as stereo audio through the previously mentioned front panel analog ports. Along with the dual display outputs, dual ethernet ports and a pair each of USB 2 and USB 3 connections, this means the ID89 Plus is very well connected for a small media centre PC.