Shuttle XPC G5 1100h
Shuttle made a name for itself by pioneering the small-form-factor (SFF) PC case, and the XPC G5 1100h is the company's smallest system yet. Lose the graphics card, and we'd wager that it could also stake a claim as Shuttle's quietest system. We typically don't recommend integrated graphics over a midrange graphics card--it's money well spent for 3D-gaming power and overall application performance--but for the XPC G5 1100h, which will most likely sit atop your desk instead of tucked away underneath it, we'd take the performance hit. (Gamers cringing at the words performance hit should look at theinstead.) You pay a premium for the unique design, but the $1,807 Shuttle XPC G5 1100h (the price includes an excellent 17-inch LCD) is an able mainstream performer that makes a smart choice for space-constrained dorm and apartment dwellers as well as anyone with an eye for design.
With its brushed-aluminum exterior, rounded corners, and blessedly simple front panel, the Shuttle XPC G5 1100 won't offend when placed in a prominent area of your home. It won't take up much space either, measuring 7.4 inches high by 7.8 inches wide by 12.3 inches deep. You will need to take into account the external 220-watt power brick in the middle of the power cord; it's the price you pay for eschewing an internal power supply.
Despite its small size, the XPC G5 1100h serves up a full range of mainstream desktop features. Hidden behind flip-down panels on the front panel are a 16X DVD burner, a multiformat media-card reader, two USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin FireWire port, and headphone and microphone jacks. The back panel supplies two more USB 2.0 ports; a six-pin FireWire port; and VGA, DVI, and S-Video connections. There's also a Gigabit Ethernet jack, an 802.11b/g wireless-LAN antenna, and 7.1 audio outputs, courtesy of a Creative Sound Blaster Live daughter card.
We love the built-in wireless capability, which cuts down on cable clutter and makes it easy to add the system to your network. The bundled Logitech UltraX Media keyboard-and-mouse set also helps keep cables to a minimum. The keyboard is sleek, the optical mouse is comfortable to use, and both have useful but not excessive shortcut keys.
Only two thumbscrews stand between you and the inside of the case. The graphics card in the x16 PCI Express slot is easily accessible, but you'll have to remove it to get to the free x1 PCI Express slot just inside it. Getting to the 200GB, 7,200rpm hard drive and the optical drive is a little trickier given the small work space. Home-theater enthusiasts looking to maximize storage space for large video files can opt for a second hard drive in place of the media-card reader.
The XPC G5 1100h isn't the first desktop we've seen that uses a mobile processor. The HP Pavilion Slimline PC uses budget Intel Celeron M chips, and Apple's new iMac uses Intel's mobile Core Duo chip. For SFF and all-in-one systems where thermals are more of a concern, mobile chips are becoming more common. Shuttle offers three Pentium M chips for the XPC G5 1100h; our review unit came with the middle one of the trio, the 2GHz Pentium M 760. (Looking at the prices of each, the 760 resides in the sweet spot. Still, we'd opt for a Core Duo chip, which Shuttle expects to offer, but not until the end of the year.) Paired with 1GB of 533MHz DDR memory, the Pentium M 760 kept pace with the desktop competition. Though it's clocked slower than comparable desktop chips, it features a large 2MB L2 cache (most mainstream single-core desktop CPUs feature 512KB or 1MB).
When pitted against the, which uses the more recent Intel 945 chipset and a dual-core Pentium D 830 desktop processor, the XPC G5 1100h lagged by only 7 percent. Its SysMark 2004 score of 175 put it in a statistical tie with systems that use mainstream Intel processors (the and the ) as well as with the highly rated , which uses a midrange AMD Athlon 64 chip. If budget is the bottom line, the eMachines T6524 is the pick here; with a 17-inch LCD, it costs roughly half what you'd pay for the XPC G5 1100h.