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Shuttle KPC K-4800 review: Shuttle KPC K-4800

Shuttle KPC K-4800

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Rich Brown
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Rich Brown

Executive Editor / Reviews - Home and Wellness

Rich moved his family from Brooklyn to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013 to start CNET's Appliances and Smart Home review team, which includes the CNET Smart Home, the CNET Smart Apartment, and the Appliances Review lab. Before moving to Louisville, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printed guns to Z-Wave smart locks.

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We liked Shuttle's $230 KPC K-4500 PC mostly because it was one of the cheapest complete desktops around. This higher-end model is a different story. We should qualify "higher end," because the Shuttle KPC K-4800 still starts at $299. But at that price, it's closing in on standard Windows PC territory. While we welcome this model's DVD drive, for the same price you can get systems from eMachines with Windows XP or Vista and significantly better hardware. That hurts the Shuttle's outlook as a budget-friendly PC for the non-Windows savvy, and also sours the deal for Linux enthusiasts or anyone looking for a cheap PC to repurpose as a home server. That makes it tough for us to recommend the K-4800 to even the most dedicated Linux enthusiast.

6.1

Shuttle KPC K-4800

The Good

Optical drive; faster audio transcoding performance than comparable Windows PC.

The Bad

Cheap Windows desktops offer better hardware for the price; case could offer more expandability.

The Bottom Line

We liked Shuttle's original low-cost Linux desktop, but even though the KPC K-4800 adds a DVD drive and a few other upgrades, the price increase takes a toll on its overall value. Regardless of their operating system, too many Windows PCs give you more hardware for the money.

We'll refer you to our review of the KPC K-4500 for the ins and outs of this model's Foresight Linux operating system. This prebuilt, easy-to-use operating system is common to both models, and remains largely unchanged in the K-4800. Instead, the biggest difference between this model and the last is its hardware. By opting for a larger case with the K-4800, Shuttle has expanded the available hardware options. The price has also gone up correspondingly, which is the chief problem.

  Shuttle KPC K-4800 Shuttle KPC K-4500
Price $299 $229
CPU 1.8GHz Intel Celeron D 430 1.8GHz Intel Celeron D 430
Memory 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM 512MB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 224MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 224MB (shared) Intel GMA 950
Hard drive 80GB, 7,200 rpm hard drive 80GB, 7,200 rpm hard drive
Optical drives DVD/CD-RW drive N/A
Operating system Foresight Linux Foresight Linux


Our review unit represents the K-4800's base configuration, which is only barely different than the KPC K-4500. The biggest changes include an extra 512MB of RAM, for 1GB total, and the DVD/CD-RW optical drive. To Shuttle's credit, the codec for playing DVD movies came preinstalled on this system, we had to download it separately on the K-4500. The K-4800's resulting standard definition movie playback was perfectly acceptable, giving this system some basic capability as a home entertainment PC.

The other added hardware, while an improvement from the K-4500, is underwhelming compared with budget-priced Windows systems like those from eMachines. Both of eMachines current $299 PCs come with 160GB hard drives and dual-layer DVD burners. Better, the eMachines E1161-01 also supports 7.1 audio output and also includes a media card reader. Even if you're adamantly anti-Microsoft, you would still get a better deal with eMachines from a pure hardware standpoint, and you can always wipe Windows and install the Linux operating system of your choice. The Shuttle's lone advantage is that you can configure it with a wireless networking card, but for an extra $55.

As before, we don't think any reasonable shopper would look to sub-$300 computers with performance in mind. That said, we still find these systems worth testing, on the grounds that even if the price and your expectations are low, you might as well get the fastest computer you can.

JAlbum photo album creation (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Shuttle KPC K-4800
503 

Audacity audio encoding (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Shuttle KPC K-4800
503 


We've updated our Linux tests since the K-4500 review, so we aren't able to compare that model with these, but the scaling between the Linux and Windows systems remained roughly the same. On the JAlbum test, in which we create a simple photo album, the Windows-based eMachines W3653 outperformed the Shuttle by a large margin. However, when converting 19 WAV files to MP3s, the Shuttle system showed a surprising advantage. The gap is less significant than on the JAlbum test, so overall we think the eMachines is the better bet, but perhaps if you have this Shuttle system in mind for a cheap audio converter, it would make sense.

If you have a mind to expand the Shuttle's hardware, your options are extremely limited. You don't get any expansion card slots, only two memory slots, and no front panel bays aside from the singe optical drive opening, which is already occupied. The integrated Intel GMA 950 chip isn't powerful enough to handle HD video, so we wouldn't recommend popping a Blu-ray drive into this system. You can add a second hard drive, but Shuttle doesn't offer a secondary drive on its configurator.

Finally, Shuttle's support also keeps this system best left to those who know what they're doing with Linux and PC hardware in general. The standard warranty covers the hardware for a year after purchase, and Shuttle says its own support staff has basic capabilities with this operating system, but in general it intends to rely on the Linux community to provide help to those who need it. Hope you're handy with Google.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Shuttle KPC K-4800
Foresight Linux; 1.8GHz Intel Celeron D 430; 1GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 224MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 graphics chip; 80GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.

eMachines W3653
Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit; 1.6GHz Intel Celeron E1200; 1GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip; 320GB, 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

6.1

Shuttle KPC K-4800

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 5Performance 7Support 5