Zotac has been selling pocket-sized computers under the ZBOX Pico brand for nearly a decade, but the new ZBOX Pico PI430AJ is the most powerful to date, thanks to an Intel Core i3-N300 octa-core processor.

While that’s a relatively efficient 7-watt processor that’s part of Intel’s Alder Lake-N family, it can still generate a reasonable amount of heat in a computer as small as a ZBOX Pico. So while most of the computers in this line are fanless, Zotac tapped Frore’s AirJet technology for this model, offering active cooling in a compact, silent package.

Zotac first announced plans for the little computer earlier this year, and now the company says it’s available in select regions in two configurations:

  • ZBOX Pico PI430AJ barebones system with 8GB of LPDDR5 memory, but no storage or operating system
  • ZBOX Pico PI430AJ Windows system with 8GB of LPDDR5 memory and a 512GB NVMe SSD

Both models have an M.2 2280 slot with support for PCIe 3.0 NVMe or SATA drives, which means the storage is user replaceable, with support for drives up to 4TB. But since the LPDDR5 memory is soldered to the mainboard, you’re stuck with 8GB no matter which model you opt for.

The computer measures 115 x 76 x 24mm (4.5″ x 3″ x 0.9″) and the chassis has a volume of just 0.21 liters. That makes it smaller, (but thicker) than most modern smartphones, but it’s a full-fledged computer with support for Windows 11 or GNU/Linux operating systems and a set of ports that includes:

  • 1 x HDMI 2.0
  • 1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x USB 3.2 Type-C
  • 2 x USB 3.2 Type-A
  • 1 x 3.5mm audio
  • 1 x microSD card reader

Zotac says the system supports up to three 4K displays if you use both dedicated video ports plus the USB-C port, and there’s also built-in support for WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

But aside from the move to a Core i3-N300 processor, the key thing that sets this computer apart from other ZBOX Pico systems is the solid state active cooling, which comes courtesy two AirJet Mini modules, which have membranes that vibrate at high frequencies to move air quickly through the system to help dissipate heat without the need for spinning fans.

The upshot is that the ZBOX Pico PI430AJ should run at cooler temperatures than a similarly-sized system that uses only passive cooling, but since there’s no fan to make noise, the computer should be silent during operation.

Zotac says the active cooling solution allows the Core i3-N300 processor to offer “longer sustained performance” than a passively cooled solution as well.

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  1. Nice to see an N300 device come to market, although I couldn’t dredge up a price or availability from any of the links I followed from Zotac’s website.

    The N200/N300 CPUs look to be excellent for building a low-energy HTPC; this box, with a single storage option, would have to be fed from a USB storage device, for anyone with a serious collection of media.

    I’ve got a system with an N305, have tried playing a few video games on it, using Ubuntu 22.04LTS, and at 720p low settings, it’s good enough. I imagine an N300 would be similar, at less than half the power consumption. 8 modern threads at 6 watts is pretty nice, if power consumption is important to you.

    I’m unconvinced that the Frore Air Jet cooler has a place in the market, just yet. It maxes out at 10W heat capacity, which is enough to cool this CPU, but a 6W CPU IMO could be just as easily cooled with a passive heat sink. Perhaps several of these Frore devices over a hotter CPU/GPU make more sense, or maybe they belong on PCIe v5 nvme sticks.

    I’d still be keen to try this box, if the price is right. I use a passively-cooled N5105 as a slow, but power-efficient, data cruncher right now, I think this system would consume fewer watt-hours for the same amount of work.

  2. Really curious to see this AirJet thing in person. I wonder if it could make active cooling actually bearable.

    1. Any minor annoyance, like fan noise, is bearable until you’ve got enough people calling you a poor and stupid loser for thinking that it is bearable. Laptops used to be a heck of a lot louder, you know, and people put up with it then.
      But I too would like to see how it does in a store display model of laptop, since those kinds of people do exist and a sufficiently quiet laptop would at least shorten their lists of reasons why I suck.

      1. I am not an extrinsically motivated person – read: I do not give a shit about people’s opinions, if those opinions are obviously dumb to begin with. It is unfortunate for you that you get hung up on the opinions of idiots. Rember: they’re idiots. You should be more worried if they liked you.

        On fan noise: I just find it distracting, and that’s especially problematic when I need to focus and get work done. If it does not bother you, count your blessings, and get yourself much more peformance for the same amount of money.

  3. I know that Frore insists on calling it “solid state”, but it’s really not accurate to separate it from other cooling solutions using such terms. There’s some pretty darn solid heat sinks out there that are just a chunk of metal. No moving parts, no flex.
    But they couldn’t just call it a bellows, because it doesn’t make you think “newer thus better” the way “solid state” (Solid State Drives! Solid State Batteries!) does.

    1. It’s not really a bellows. It’s using piezo drivers to pulse the air in hundreds of small jets at the surface of the CPU/SOC package. A bellows would create a laminar flow. The many small jets create a higher degree of convective heat transfer than a laminar flow. It’s cool tech. You should read more about it. And piezo is considered solid state, the same way a crystal oscillator or an LCD panel is… even though each has moving parts.

      1. I thought it was comparable enough given that it’s not a fan and relies on a flexible expanding and contracting cavity. Well, if people think it’s too dissimilar to a bellows to be called one than whatever, but I still think they should have called it something other than “solid state”. “membrane jet” or “piezo cooling” or “ultra low profile cooling” would have been a bit more descriptive and wouldn’t lead to the implication that fixed metal heat sinks are not solid state.

  4. Hm. I wish more micro-PCs like this would use USB-C for power. Especially since this one is already running on 5 volts. I have some uses for these where they would be deployed in field applications, and USB-power would give me more flexibility.

    That, and I’m getting tired of barrel power connectors in general…