Shuttle mini X 100HA review

Price when reviewed

We first saw a pre-production sample of the Shuttle X100 a few months back and now, four months later, the mini X 100HA is finally ready to launch. It remains as impressive out of the box as it was when we first saw it – you could fit three of them lengthways on the top of the Acer Aspire A9802WKMi. It doesn’t win too many points for style, with the front of the chassis being totally frill free. But then the 100HA is all about discretion – in the spirit of helping you forget that this is a PC, Shuttle has even omitted a reset button from the front.

An included stand allows you to position it on its side, and at just 226mm high and 296mm deep it’s small enough to have a happy existence on most bookshelves. The chassis is too small to integrate the PSU, which instead is an external, fanless model. The plus point to this small amount of extra clutter is that the 100HA is near-silent, even under intensive strain – hold your head next to the case and at most you’ll hear a low-level hum.

This low noise is thanks to the near-exclusive use of notebook components. The CPU is a Core Duo T2050 – the 100HA is the first system we’ve seen with this particular CPU. This is a slight downgrade on the chip seen in our pre-production model four months ago, which had a T2400 with a core speed of 1.83GHz, compared with 1.6GHz of the T2050, but our benchmark results were still respectable at 0.84. A slight worry is the RAM configuration, which is 512MB across a pair of SODIMM slots. For the moment, you’ll be fine, but Windows Vista will really need twice this, and upgrading will mean throwing away at least one 256MB module.

The rest of the PC is well specified, although given the low price it’s no surprise that there are a few minor compromises. The Samsung SpinPoint hard disk is the only desktop component and has a capacity of 200GB. Should it come time to upgrade, removing the hard disk is as simple as removing a panel from the bottom of the 100HA and lifting out the old disk. It’s a fuss-free process that you might find yourself doing sooner rather than later if you intend on making it a media centre, although it’s otherwise sufficient.

The slot-loading optical drive keeps the looks minimalist on the front of the system, and will write to all formats of disc including dual-layer and DVD-RAM. A single mini-PCI slot holds Intel’s PRO/Wireless 3945ABG WLAN card, wired to an internal aerial that sits just behind the fascia. The rather peculiar internal USB port remains, and is a potentially useful inclusion – if you can solve the problem of how to wire it to an antenna, you could install a TV tuner, or possibly make use of Windows Vista’s ReadyBoost feature, which uses USB flash devices to increase system speed.

The 100HA even has some gaming potential. Scores of 17fps in Call of Duty 2 and 14fps in Far Cry at our lowest setting may not sound much, but there are plenty of slightly older games available that the Radeon Mobility X1400 will cope with, and the single front-mounted USB port is perfect for plugging in a game controller. The GPU itself is installed on an MXM board, which, theoretically, can be replaced and upgraded, although we’d be wary about installing a component that might overwhelm the heatpipe cooling system.

Compared to the Acer Aspire iDea 500, the 100HA has a limited range of ports for A/V equipment. There’s still enough for most people, though. DVI-I and S-Video take care of getting the picture onto your choice of display, while three 3.5mm audio jacks are complemented by an optical S/PDIF port to make use of the 5.1 Realtek audio chip. The backplane is rounded off by four USB ports (but no PS/2) and a full-sized FireWire port. The front is also home to a memory card reader, compatible with SD, MMC and Memory Stick cards.

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