Zotac ZBox ID80

Zbox ID80

After getting the Alienware machine, I found myself with an extra 20″ monitor and noticed that the Blue Diamond box was getting a little long in the tooth. It has been running Ubuntu 10 and while it works, it’s very slow. Time for an upgrade.

The Zotac Zbox ID80 plus was about $300 from newegg, and while they have versions that are with and without HDD and memory, the one I got had 2GB of ram and a 320GB HD. I didn’t really need the HD since I had one of that size, but the price really tossed that in for almost free. I did get 4GB of RAM for it for an additional $21.

Which Linux Distro?

After messing with Debian 16, I decided that Linux Mint 12 was a better fit for my needs. Debian comes with Open Office rather than Libre Office, and comes with a strange duck called Ice Weasel rather than Firefox. Linux Mint comes with both Libre Office and Firefox.

I tried to figure out how to upgrade Debian, but it was too much trouble. All the recent instructions on the web were out of date.


The Linux Mint Live DVD didn’t run from my USB DVD ROM, but all was fine after I got a more modern DVD drive into the USB enclosure. Installation and update was no problem using a wire and once the system was running the wireless worked just fine.

Installing the NVIDIA drivers and rebooting supported the graphics and defaulted to the correct size for the monitor – an Acer 20″ 1600×900 model.

Piggy Back on a Monitor

The ZBox comes with a bracket to mount the system on the back of the monitor, and while it’s not as clean as this with it’s wires, it does look handy. Beware, the system generates a surprising amount of heat, although it is very quiet.

Sound Issues

The sound recorder application gave an error for one of the launchers and the other one didn’t record sound, but I have fixed that problem and will include another post. So att this point the sound recorder and Audacity work just fine.

I found that Skype works just fine out of the box.

Bottom Line

The Zbox is a very affordable and nifty system if you have a spare monitor lying around. Llinux Mint supports it right out of the box, but you will need a USB DVD drive or build a Thumb drive to install it. From now on, be sure you buy monitors with VESA mounting holes on the back so that you can have flexibility for the future. Not all modern monitors some with the mounting holes.

Oh here’s another tip: Use Docky. It’s a little dock that will make it easy to launch the applications that you use frequently. Install it from the Software Manager. It seems that the menu in Mint has left out the ability to pin items to the desktop or task bar, so you need a dock. Just launch an application, then notice that it appears on the Docky. Right click on an icon there, and say Pin to Dock, and it’s there for you to launch later. Open the Docky prefs and you can drag it to the side or top of you’d like.

– ww