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ZOTAC Magnus ER51070 review: Age can't stop this compact powerhouse

Expert Reviews Staff
8 Feb 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,015
inc VAT

4K gaming and quality physical design carry this barebones PC, but the CPU is showing its age

Pros 
Great for VR
Remarkably compact
Strong graphical performance
Cons 
Outdated CPU
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We had plenty of good things to say about Zotac’s Magnus ER51060. Despite being a barebones system with no RAM, storage or operating system included in its £699 price, we were more than satisfied with the gaming prowess of its 3GB GTX 1060 graphics card and the multitasking power of its Ryzen 5 1400 processor.

This time, it’s the Magnus ER51070’s turn and, besides having a GTX 1070 GPU instead of the GTX 1060, it’s an essentially identical system. That would seem to put it in good stead, although there are a couple of things working against it. First, the price: finding the Magnus ER51070 at a low price, from a reputable UK vendor, is surprisingly tricky, and with the Magnus ER51060 still being sold for around £750, it’s a massive jump just for a graphics card upgrade.

Second, the competition is a lot tougher this year. The Intel NUC Kit is bringing both Core i7 CPU power and 1080p gaming potential in a PC that’s both cheaper and smaller, while the MSI Trident 3 Arctic – a fully built small form factor PC – has the specifications to bother the Magnus ER51070 in the high-performance stakes.

READ NEXT: MSI Trident 3 Arctic review

ZOTAC Magnus ER51070 review: Benchmarks

On that note, the Ryzen 5 1400 is not the perky all-rounder it once was, at least not by late-2018 standards. Running our 4K benchmarks with 8GB of DDR4 memory, the Magnus ER51070 scored 100 in the image test, 116 in the video test, 106 in the multitasking test and 108 overall.

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In fairness, this represents very decent everyday computing power, tangibly more so than the Lenovo IdeaCentre 620S. It compares less favourably to more recent rivals, however. The NUC Kit, which runs on what is basically a transplanted laptop chip, beats it with 136 overall, while the Trident 3 Arctic dominates with a final score of 217.

ZOTAC Magnus ER51070 review: Performance

It’s up to the GTX 1070 to preserve the Magnus ER51070’s performance credentials, and at least it’s more successful than the CPU. In the punishing Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark, this boxy PC is ahead of the pack, including the Trident 3 Arctic. With maxed-out settings, it put in strong showings of 64fps at 1,920x1,080, 38fps at 2,560x1,440 and 17fps at 3,840x2,160. You might point out that 17fps isn’t playable by any stretch, but simply disabling SSAA bumps this up to a reasonable 34fps without much visual downgrading at all. The same is true at 1440p: switching off SSAA boosts performance to 69fps, and the resolution is still high enough for edges not to appear jagged.

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Dirt: Showdown paints a more complex picture. The ER51070 is undoubtedly superior at 4K resolution, where it beat both the Trident 3 and the NUC Kit by achieving a smooth 66fps, but its 1080p and 1440p results were lower than expected, at 105fps and 99fps respectively. In both cases, the Trident 3 Arctic is faster and, as we said in its own review, this is most likely down to Dirt’s heavy reliance on CPU power in addition to the usual GPU heft. The Core i7-8700 is several leagues ahead of the Ryzen 5 1400, so in this and likely other CPU-heavy games, the GTX 1070 alone won’t be reaching its full potential.

ZOTAC Magnus ER51070 review: Hardware

That’s unfortunate, as it is fairly impressive that Zotac was able to squeeze such a large graphics card into a case this size. It also makes the Magnus ER51070 one of the very best cube PCs for virtual reality. Its SteamVR Performance Test result of 10.5 is nearly a perfect score, and easily bests the Trident 3 Arctic’s 7.8 and the NUC Kit’s 4.3.

There’s only one HDMI output at the back, so when plugging in a headset you’ll need to make sure your monitor is hooked up via one of the three Display Ports or the single DVI-D output. That’s still a good mix, and connectivity is well handled across the board. There are enough USB ports for multiple peripherals, with four USB3s on the rear, and single USB3.1 and Type-C ports on the front, while a 3-in-1 SD card reader makes it easy to transfer photos and videos.

Dual Ethernet ports are another nice touch – ideal for setting up a redundant connection in case one fails, or simply for connecting a NAS drive – and 802.11ac Wi-Fi is enabled, too, thanks to an internal M.2 card and two screw-on antennas.

Since this shares a chassis design with the ER51060, opening it up it is just as idiot-proof: all you have to do is unscrew the four feet, which double as thumbscrews, and lift off the base. From here, the two SO-DIMM RAM slots, single M.2 slot and 2.5in storage drive bay are free to do with as you wish – there’s no immediate access to the CPU or graphics, but everything you need for the initial setup is right under the base.

READ NEXT: PC Specialist Official ESL Certified Gaming PC review

ZOTAC Magnus ER51070 review: Verdict

Much of the Magnus ER51070 still stands up over time, to be sure – if only it had a CPU more befitting of its stature. As it stands, the NUC Kit is more appealing as a basic barebones system, and the Trident 3 Arctic serves almost as well for AAA gaming, while having far more multitasking ability to boot. Here’s hoping for a processor refresh, as most of the ingredients for greatness are already here.

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ZOTAC Magnus ER51070 specifications
ProcessorAMD Ryzen 5 1400 3.2GHz
MotherboardN/A
Memoryup to 32GB
GraphicsZOTAC GeForce GTX 1070 8GB
CoolingN/A
Storage1 x SATA HDD/SSD bay
ChassisN/A
Power supplyN/A
Dimensions225 x 203 x 128mm (WxDxH)
Operating systemWindows 10