Shuttle X100 review
It’s no surprise that a console-style machine remains the Holy Grail for PC designers. These quiet, powerful systems will fit virtually anywhere, in stark contrast to most high-end PCs, which still tend to be huge, noisy beasts. But the X100 manages to cram a surprising number of high-end components into its small chassis. Our pre-production review unit was rushed over from Germany just in time to go to press: production samples will be black rather than silver.
It’s not as petite as the Hi-Grade mDMS P60, but the X100 will still fit comfortably on top of a television, or can be set up to stand vertically next to one. Like the mDMS P60, the X100 is powered by the Core Duo T2400, but this time allied to 512MB of RAM. The pre-production nature of the test sample meant we had some problems running our standard benchmarks, but with these specifications performance will be very similar to the Hi-Grade’s. However, there are certain areas in which the X100 will outgun the Hi-Grade machine. The hard disk, for instance, is a desktop 250GB model, and graphics come via ATi’s Mobility Radeon X1400.
This is an impressive hardware line-up for such a small system, and in our 3D benchmarks the X100 scored 34fps in Half-Life 2 at 1,280 x 1,024 and 21fps in Far Cry. Neither of these games were run with anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering, but for those prepared to lose a notch or two of detail the X100 will prove perfectly capable of playing most of the games currently on the shelves. Crucially, though, it won’t be at the end of its useful life when the next crop of games hits – the X1400 GPU is located in an MXM socket, of the type normally found in desktop-replacement laptops, so the GPU can in theory be lifted out and upgraded.
Like both the Hi-Grade and the Mac mini, the power supply for the X100 is an external, fanless affair. While this is less tidy than an integrated PSU, it keeps size and heat down, the latter meaning less noise. There’s just a single fan inside the X100, fed by heatpipes from both the CPU and GPU. The X100 is louder than the mDMS, largely because of the desktop hard disk, but you’re still unlikely to hear it in a living room.
On the back, you’ll find four USB ports, with a supplementary one at the front. On the back of the unit, you’ll also find a full-sized FireWire port, as well as an S-Video output, 3.5mm and optical S/PDIF audio jacks. On our unit, Intel’s mini-PCI 3945 802.11a/b/g adaptor is integrated, while an onboard Realtek chip supplies 10/100 Ethernet. It’s worth noting that having the latter technically disqualifies the X100 from sporting a Viiv badge.
Accessing the X100’s innards is simple – the top panel simply unscrews and slides off. Once you’re in, upgrading the CPU or graphics chip is a complicated process, as the entire heatpipe assembly has to be removed first, but the two SODIMM slots are easily accessed, making upgrading the RAM easy. Curiously, there’s also an internal USB socket, so you could potentially add a TV tuner or similar.
Shuttle tells us the X100 will be on sale for around £839. While the exact specifications aren’t finalised yet, a system of this size for less than £900 would represent a real bargain. It isn’t cheap enough to threaten games consoles, but it will have Apple looking over its shoulder.