If the Shuttle XPC X100 had come out back in February when it was first announced, we'd be pretty excited. But finally shuffling into view past the midyear mark, it's a case of too little, too late for what initially seemed like a very promising system. The smallest Shuttle we've ever seem, the X100 is a $1,089 bookshelf Media Center PC (when upgraded from 1GB of RAM to 2GB, as in our review unit), about the size of a large hardcover book. The basic specs are respectable enough, but the system is heavy and inelegant when compared to the WinBook Jiv Mini, which offers more features, such as Bluetooth and a TV tuner, in an even smaller package for an almost identical price. The trade-off is the smaller hard drive and 1GB of RAM in the Jiv, which may be a deal-breaker for some shoppers.
The system is definitely small, measuring 8 inches wide by 2 inches high by just shy of 12 inches deep. It can either lie flat or stand on one edge. It's only slightly bigger than the Jiv Mini, but at these small sizes, every fraction of an inch counts. It's also much heavier than the mostly plastic Jiv Mini, and it requires an external power brick of Xbox-360-like proportions.
Despite the slightly larger footprint, the Shuttle XPC X100 is an attractive system--a matte-black steel chassis with silver highlights. The front slot-loading DVD burner, a power button, a single-slot four-in-one media card reader, and a lone USB 2.0 jack are the only items on the uncluttered front face. Around back, you've got DVI and S-Video outputs, four USB 2.0 jacks, and one FireWire connection, plus analog and S/PDIF audio connections. The addition of component-video outputs, even through a breakout cable would have been nice, but the DVI and S-Video ports should suffice for most home-theater users.
It has everything you need for basic Media Center tasks, but the Jiv Mini also adds Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to the mix, as well as a built-in TV tuner. The Shuttle offers none of these features by default, but you can add a Wi-Fi card for $42 on the X100's online configurator. Enterprising users could add an external USB device, for example, the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-USB2, for TV and DVR functionality.
The Shuttle XPC X100's 1.6GHz Intel Core Duo CPU is the same processor you'd find in a Mac Mini, and it is certainly up to the task. But compared to Intel's new Core 2 Duo line, as well as other recent systems from Shuttle with more powerful processors, it doesn't rise to the top. The system has a generous 2GB of RAM, and the 250GB hard drive runs at a standard 7,200rpm, not the slower 5,400rpm we've seen in some ultrasmall form factor systems that use laptop hard drives. Though it's not the swiftest of systems, it has the power for running standard Media Center apps.
We even managed to get Quake 4 running on the ATI Mobile X1400 GPU, although at a measly 14.6fps. That's at 1,024x768 with anti-aliasing turned on, so you could turn off the advanced options and maybe knock the resolution down a notch and handle basic casual gaming if you were really desperate for some interactive entertainment; it's better than the integrated graphics in the Jiv or Mac Mini.
Bundled accessories and software were nonexistent, but you can add a Logitech Cordless Internet Pro Desktop mouse and keyboard for $35 or a Media Center remote for $31.
The tech support is toll-free, open weekdays from noon to 8 p.m. ET. The standard one-year warranty covers parts and labor, but there is no onsite support--you'll still have to send in your system for service. Outgoing packages are on your dime, but Shuttle will cover the cost of the return trip.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)