Shuttle XPC G5 8300MC
Shuttle's XPC G5 8300mc ($1,452 in our test configuration) is a fine example of what the company does best: build slick little boxes that fit equally well in the home or in the office. The XPC G5 8300mc measures just 7 inches high, 7 inches wide, and 12 inches deep, notably deeper than it is wide, and features a mirrored front panel. Given its size and style, the XPC G5 8300mc will blend into any room in your house. We just wish you got more Media Center power for your money.
The included remote is all you'll need to control the(MCE) functions, including FM radio; live and recorded television, with an online program guide; and music, photo, DVD, and video playback. A 16MB Nvidia TV tuner card lets you input a TV signal, and you can then archive your favorite shows on disc with the G5 8300mc's double-layer DVD burner. In addition to four USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin FireWire port, and headphone and microphone jacks, the system features six-channel sound and an Ethernet connection.
Shuttle offers five different Logitech speaker systems and five of its own 17-inch LCDs, plus one 19-inch Samsung LCD. You can opt for none of the above and choose to have just a keyboard and mouse accompany the system, which is how our test system arrived (it included a wireless Logitech duo). We connected the Shuttle XPC G5 8300mc to our main audio system via the S/PDIF port and sent video to a CRT television. Setup wasn't difficult, taking about half an hour, but the complete lack of documentation slowed us down. We used MCE's software tools to overcome picture bowing and make the image fit the screen.
While you're manipulating media, remember that the Shuttle XPC G5 8300mc is also a capable computer. The 3.0GHz Intel Pentium 4 530J CPU, the 512MB of memory, the 250GB hard drive, and the 128MB GeForce 6600 graphics card are competent, midrange components. At 39 frames per second on Half-Life 2 at a resolution of 1,024x768, the PC will handle only lighter gaming tasks (you'll have better luck if you lower the detail levels), but running Microsoft Office apps or browsing the Internet is a snap, in addition to Media Center functions, such as watching and recording TV. The PC scored a respectable 173 overall on our SysMark 2004 benchmark, putting it right in line with HP's powerful z555 Digital Entertainment Center PC. Power-hungry Media Center shoppers can choose a faster Pentium 4 500-series processor, 1GB or 2GB of memory, and the more powerful graphics card, which won our Editors' Choice award earlier this year. If you're more interested in recording reruns of Buffy than playing the latest 3D games, the GeForce 6600 is up to the task; it supplies both VGA and DVI connections.