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Zotac is getting crazy small with its Zbox line of mini PCs

Zotac is widely known for its PC-based graphics cards and its huge lineup of Zbox hand-sized mini PCs. The company also sells even smaller “Pico” mini PCs that customers can cram into their pocket. Now Zotac is pushing the mini PC form factor to its limits by offering a solution in the form of a stick: the Zbox PI220 and the Zbox PI221.

Both units are seemingly identical. They pack a quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8300 “Cherry Trail” processor (1.44GHz, 1.84GHz), 2GB of DDR3L-RS1600 memory, and 32GB of storage. Connectivity is handled by Wireless AC (via an external antenna) and Bluetooth 4.0 on the wireless front, and through a 10/100 Ethernet port on the wired front.

As for other features, the new sticks provide a USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack, a microphone jack, a three-in-one SD card reader, and an HDMI port. They also come packed with a pre-installed copy of Microsoft’s Windows 10 home operating system (32-bit), meaning the sticks support DirectX 1,2 although they rely solely on the Atom processor’s integrated HD graphics.

So what’s the difference between the two then if they have identical components? It’s in the way they stay cool. The PI220 is sold with a mounting bracket and an active micro-fan to keep its innards chilled while the PI221 uses passive cooling (no fans) thanks to a unique metal chassis that dissipates heat. Thus, the former is a little noisy while the latter is completely silent.

Related: See Zotac’s ZBOX Mini PCs here

The idea with these sticks is that customers can cram them into their suit pocket and take their work anywhere around the world. They come with a multi-plug adapter that’s compatible in many countries, making them ideal for international business trips. Simply plug them into an HDTV’s HDMI port (an extension cable is also included), pair up a Bluetooth-based mouse and keyboard, grab an Internet connection, and users should be good to go.

Zotac said that the PI221 model won the Computex 2016 Design and Innovation Award in the Computers and Systems category. It was chosen by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council in conjunction with the International Forum Design GmbH. More than 5,000 submissions from 70 different countries seek out this prestigious award each year.

“With space increasingly becoming a luxury, size is a critical factor in determining the solution for your needs. Oftentimes, this means compromising between size and functionality,” the company said on Wednesday. “Our engineers are always looking for ways to shrink the Mini PC while still maintaining performance and functionality.”

Typically, Zotac ships its Zbox mini PCs as either a bare-bones unit, or with memory and storage thrown in for an added price. However, the latter solution almost never comes with an operating system preloaded. That said, the two new sticks are fully loaded right out of the box, allowing users to plug in and get started immediately without having to shop around for an operating system.

Unfortunately, Zotac didn’t indicate how much these new Windows 10 Home PC sticks will cost. However, they will be on display during Computex 2016, which begins on May 31. Perhaps we’ll find out more about pricing and actual availability during the show.