Shuttle XPC M 2000M review

£1374
Price when reviewed

We were quite taken with Shuttle’s previous media centre PC, the XPC M 1000. With great internal design, sleek looks and a quietness that would put the best-behaved children to shame, it won many admirers. Only its price and sluggish Pentium M processor held it back.

Shuttle XPC M 2000M review

The XPC M 2000M is the answer to our criticisms, with a dual-core CPU and other internal upgrades offered for slightly less money than the XPC M 1000. But has Shuttle done enough? With the current media centre king being the sub-£700 Acer Aspire iDea 500, the M 2000 M really needs to justify its substantially heftier price tag.

Both systems make substantial use of notebook components, with both plumping for a Core Duo – Shuttle opts for the slightly more powerful 1.83GHz T2400 to the Acer’s 1.6GHz T2300. However, Acer compensates by having a full 1GB of RAM rather than the 512MB of the M 2000M and their final result in our benchmarks was identical at 0.88.

You can opt for 1GB via the System Configurator on Shuttle’s website for an extra €59 (around £40), and we recommend you do so. Once you’ve configured your system – note that you’ll have to use the configurator to obtain the reviewed specification – you click on “Refresh Price” to get a price in euros and then “Reseller Request” to select a UK retailer. This company will then get in contact to finalise the deal (including the price in sterling, which should be a straight currency conversion).

Acer opts for a dual-tuner mini-PCI card, but the M 2000M uses a ribbon cable to power a daughterboard with one PCI Express and two PCI slots. The PCI slots are occupied by two hybrid analogue/digital TV tuners, with the PCI Express slot filled by an Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS graphics card.

This mid-range card is powerful enough for gaming at resolutions of 1,024 x 768, returning average scores of 34fps and 40fps in Call of Duty 2 and Far Cry respectively. The Acer uses integrated graphics and so has little gaming performance. Shuttle’s card also gives two DVI outputs, plus the multi-use seven-pin video-out port and composite video out. But the Acer adds scart outputs and is HDCP compatible, while the Shuttle isn’t; although no-one is sure when HDCP protection will be enforced, this is potentially a major oversight.

With optical and digital S/PDIF outputs, plus the 7.1 phono outputs, you’ll be able to feed just about any existing speaker arrangement. These outputs directly match what the Acer offers.

One place where Shuttle scores points over the Acer is in the choice of hard disk. Whereas Acer uses a standard desktop part, Shuttle opts for a 300GB Seagate DB35.1 disk. This is a consumer electronics disk that’s designed for quietness, although inevitably installing software and shutting down brings a little disk-write rattle.

As with the M 1000, you also get a 2.5in hard disk caddy and hot-swap bay to the right of the LCD – you’ll have to supply your own disk, though. It doesn’t have video or audio outputs (only USB), but it could come in handy for easily transporting media around. To the left are a couple of media card slots for everything but xD, a mini-FireWire and two USB ports, plus two audio mini-jacks. Another pair of USB ports and a full-sized FireWire connection are found at the back. The Shuttle LCD shows the same sort of useful information that the Acer does: time and date, or the channel being viewed, for example.

We prefer Shuttle’s RF keyboard over that of the Acer. The trackball to the right and mouse buttons to the left make using Windows from the sofa easy, and buttons for Media Center launch and shortcut keys negate the need to swap between keyboard and remote control. There’s also a power button, for making the most of the Intel Viiv Quick Resume drivers – press the on/off switch and it reacts almost as quickly as a TV. The infrared remote is standard fare, with everything logically arranged.

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