As you can see from CNET Labs' benchmarks, the Shuttle came in last on every single one of our benchmark tests. Its multitasking, media encoding, and image and audio processing performance lags significantly behind even that of the Acer Aspire L310, another small box that costs about $250 less. Whether it's the Shuttle's slower notebook processor and chipset, the overhead from Windows Vista, or a combination of those things (which is what we suspect), it's hard to say what's slowing down this system so badly. We also find it interesting that the HP TouchSmart PC with twice the memory and a dedicated graphics chip didn't fare that much better than the Shuttle. That system also uses laptop hardware, so we can't say anything definitive about Vista dragging down system performance until we can test true desktop parts. Still, it's fair to say that for these two Vista PCs, older Windows XP-based systems deliver more efficient performance for your computing dollar.
You may also notice that we don't have any gaming results for the Shuttle. Not that we'd expect gaming-powerhouse performance from the XPC X200M, but we'd at least expect Quake 4 to run--it did on the HP TouchSmart with its Nvidia chipset. We were never able to pinpoint why it didn't handle our Quake test, but since Vista hasn't officially launched, Shuttle still has time to get the kinks out. And since this isn't a gaming desktop, we can't be too hard on it for not running a higher-end 3D game such as Quake 4. We'll simply say that we'd be surprised if this were the last issue we saw as we make the transition to the new operating system.
With its integrated 802.11b/g wireless networking capability and built-in TV tuner, the XPC X200M makes a stronger showing than the X100, which lacked those features, made six months ago. The 250GB, 7,200rpm hard drive might be a little small for serious digital media archivists, but if you think you'll need more storage, you can add larger internal drives, up to 750GB, when you configure this system on Shuttle's Web site. Shuttle also includes an innocuous, four-in-one media card reader that's built in to its front panel, and you'll find an assortment of peripherals, such as an external Creative Sound Blaster audio card, speakers, and a floppy drive available as options, as well.
Shuttle's support is about average for a smaller desktop vendor. You get a one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the XPC X200M, and toll-free phone support from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday. Shuttle's Web site has a FAQ and a few other pages of troubleshooting help. We have a large issue with this system's support policy, however. A shiny sticker blocks one of the rear-panel screws advising you that if you remove the sticker, your warranty becomes void. Sure, the inside is tightly packed, and DIY upgrading or service is harder than it might be normally, but that restriction also means that even if you want to perform a task as simple as upgrading the memory, you have to take the system to a Shuttle-approved depot center. What a waste of time.
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6300; 1,024MB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; integrated 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3000 graphics chip; 250GB Western Digital 7,200rpm hard drive
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600; Intel P965 Express chipset; 1,024MB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT; (2) 250GB Hitachi 7,200rpm hard drives
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 3800+; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 500MHz; integrated 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6150 LE; 250GB Western Digital 7,200rpm hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-51; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7600 Go; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.66GHz Intel T2300 Core 2 Duo; 1,024MB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Intel 950 GMA graphics chip; 250GB 7,200rpm Seagate Barracuda hard drive