The Good Almost as small as a Mac Mini; only costs $230; Foresight Linux operating system relatively easy to use; has potential as a home media server or general hack-around box.
The Bad No internal DVD drive bay; adding software to Foresight can be a challenge; no digital audio or video outputs.
The Bottom Line Shuttle's KPC K-4500 has appeal as a prebuilt Linux PC for a tech-savvy owner to play around with or as a more or less accessible, basic computer to bestow upon a loved one (for whom you're willing to provide tech support). If you're aware of the potential pitfalls we recommend it, not least because it's so affordable.
Shuttle KPC K-4500
Much like the Asus Eee PC before it, the Linux-based Shuttle KPC K-4500 will impress the tech savvy--especially the Linux comfortable. You can strip it down, expand it, or simply use it as basic day-to-day desktop. You can even put a photo in the removable front panel. Because of its low price, we can also see bestowing this system on a non-tech savvy loved one. At $229, the K-4500 is a very inexpensive computer, and as such is missing a few features. However, as long as you or the person you might give it to understands its limitations, you'll be surprised at just how much you can do with this system, and how easily.
The tiny KPC K-4500 is the lowest-end full system in Shuttle's KPC family. You can also get the bare-bones K45, which has no operating system for $99, as well as a Vista Home Basic version in the SYK-4500. All share the same chassis and motherboard, with variations in operating system as well as basic hardware. The K-4500 comes with no mouse or keyboard.
The case itself is distinctive for a few reasons. Shuttle is known for its bread box size, small form factor PCs, but the KPC line is one of the smallest Shuttle systems we've seen. At 7.5 inches tall, 6.7 inches wide, and 11 inches deep, the K-4500 is not quite as small as a Mac Mini, but it makes even Hewlett-Packard's scaled-down SlimLine systems look big. You'll notice there's no optical drive door on the front panel, which is because this system lacks an internal 5.25-inch drive bay. Since it didn't provide optical drive access, Shuttle installed a removable piece of clear acrylic glass on the system's front panel that you can use as a picture frame. A row of USB and audio ports runs along the system's bottom edge. Between its small size and plain-looking front, this tiny desktop looks more like a nondescript appliance than a computer.