I was lucky this week in that I got a chance to take a hands-on look at the Zareason Zeto. Zareason have been shipping quality Linux rigs since 2007. They concentrate mostly on the R&D side so that they are able to guarantee their customers the highest quality systems. Unlike other Linux PC builders, Zareason are extremely versatile when it comes to Linux.
- Distribution: Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
- CPU: i3 4130 3.4 GHz 4 Core
- Memory: 8 GB DDR3-1600
- Hard Drive: 1 TB SSHD (Hybrid HD+SSD Cache)
- Optical Drive: CD/DVD RW
- Video Card Zeto: Nvidia GTX 760
- Networking: Dual Ethernat + Intel Centrino Ultimate-N
- PSU: 500w 80Plus Gold
- Lights: Blue
- Bluetooth: (included)
When ordering a rig they offer a large choice of Linux distributions for you to choose from. Whether it be Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse, Linux Mint, Kubuntu, Edubuntu or Debian the choice is yours. If all that is still not enough then you can specify your personal choice in the ordering notes and Zareason will do their best to accommodate you. The machine I was shipped even arrived dual booting SteamOS (the community version) which makes this unit perfect for a living room setup.
R&D is our main mission, working with the best hardware that shows off how solid, accessible, and easy-to-use free and open source software can be. Since 2007 ZaReason has been building and shipping computers to individuals, businesses, government, research labs, every sector of society.
Appearance and Presentation
The Zeto is a small, compact unit standing at just 12 inches tall with a width of 6.6 inches and a depth of 12.1 inches. Perfect for sitting on top of your desk or by the side of your TV in the living room. The case itself has a matte black metallic finish with the top grated to allow for heat dissipation. The front of the case is very minimalistic with a gloss finish, the only markings being the Zareason logo and a small “powered by Linux” Tux sticker in the bottom right corner. The power button is in the center of the front panel. It is very refreshing to see a Tux sticker and it definitely put a smile on my face. The left side panel has a crystal clear window for viewing and monitoring the internals. These transparent side panels are excellent for monitoring your system, if you have a fan or cooler failure you can pick up on it very quickly and limit the damage. Overall the Zeto has a very sleek appearance with a simple but not too minimalistic design. It is very pleasing to the eye.
Just like most PC makers you’ll have a choice of hardware configurations when buying your Zeto. Choose from various i3, i5 and i7 CPU configurations accompanied by a choice of graphics cards from the GTX 660 all the way up to the GTX Titan Black, but at $1,499 the Titan Black is going to set you back a bit.
With its stunning looks and build quality, this Linux machine is the perfect living room entertainment system and potent desktop anyone can appreciate.
When I first unpacked the unit I was surprised to see that it had an i3 and not an i5 or even an i7 CPU, however, this turned out not to be an issue at all and has made me think a bit different about the lower cost i3 CPU. It also ships with an SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive) and although it is not quite as fast as an SSD (Solid State Drive), it performs very well and will certainly beat a standard HDD hands down any day of the week. The Zeto comes equipped with 7.1 high definition audio onboard and it sounds great when paired with a true surround headset. I love the addition of the Wireless Dual-band 2.4/5ghz as it makes life a lot easier when doing a living room setup with the Zeto, no having to run cables here, there and everywhere around the house, simply connect wirelessly to your network and off you go. The workmanship on this unit is excellent. For such a small case the cable management is done very well, everything is kept tidy and hidden away as best it could be. The large GTX 760 in this unit fits just fine with a bit of room left over. It has good spacing between the GPU and the PSU to allow for good air circulation. The case itself has two top mounted exhaust fans which run quiet making sure the hot air is expelled efficiently. There are two front mounted drive bays one of which has the SSHD in it leaving one spare for expansion. The unit comes with a standard Intel cooler which is perfectly adequate for modern CPU’s however it would be nice to have more options available when ordering. The rear I/O has everything you’ll need:
- 4x USB 3.0 ports
- 2x USB 2.0 ports
- 2x HDMI (video/audio) port
- DVI port
- 2x Gigabit Ethernet ports
- Optical Audio + S/PDIF audio out ports
- 6x Analog Audio I/O jacks
- PS2 port
- Wireless Dual-band 2.4/5ghz connectors
The front right side of the case has the following ports:
- 2x USB 3.0 Ports
- Headphone and Mic Jack
In Game Goodness
Even with the lack of an i5 CPU in this test unit I have been pleasantly surprised at the performance in game. The infamous Natural Selection 2 runs at between 30 and 60 fps and believe it or not, it didn’t crash once with all settings maxed out. It was visually stunning using the Nvidia GTX 760 and ran very smoothly without a hitch. I didn’t have time to run through my entire library of Steam games, however, I did also test out Nuclear Dawn getting between 57 and 62 fps. Metro Last Light produced a stable 59 and 60 fps, with all settings maxed out. They ran great with no noticeable reduction in performance.
The Zareason Zeto is definitely worth a look when shopping for a new PC or living room Steam Machine. It’s small, compact, relatively light, and transportable for those LAN parties and is very well made. The workmanship is superb, cable management is great and there is plenty of room for further expansion if you decide to replace the GPU, memory or drives. The real bonus from a Linux standpoint is that when ordering you can basically choose which ever Linux distribution you prefer and the guys will install it and ship it to you ready to go.
I would like to see a bit more choice when it comes to hardware configuration, coolers especially, a liquid cooling option would be nice. And the pricing though ok is still a little on the high side.
If I was going to buy a Linux gaming PC today I would definitely be looking at the Zareason Zeto. Ok, I do feel the pricing might be a bit on the high side, however, you’re not just supporting any old hardware company. You’re supporting an open, Linux based hardware company from California that is not just willing to install your chosen distribution but also guarantees that Linux will work great on your system. How many years have we been crying out for hardware companies to support Linux in this way? This alone is worth paying that extra bit of cash I think.
A massive thank you to Vy Nguyen over at Zareason for providing us with a Zeto for testing. For further information on Zareason products please visit the following links: