Shuttle XPC G5 9500g
It's no wonder that small-form-factor (SFF) PCs are all the rage these days. Just look at Shuttle's XPC G5 9500g, which packs as much power under its toaster-oven hood as many full-size desktops and boasts compelling extras, such as an HDTV tuner. (Note: Shuttle isn't currently offering the ATI HDTV Wonder card as an option on the system but expects to soon.) Our $3,645 test system (the price includes the $195 HDTV tuner) has just two strikes against it: below-average application performance and an awkward DVR interface. Choose the XPC G5 9500g for LAN-party gaming but look at the XPC G5 9500m, which uses Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 OS, if you want a multipurpose PC with DVR capabilities.
Shuttle's shiny, tiny tower has all the trappings of the typical SFF PC: a single optical drive (in this case a multiformat, double-layer DVD burner), a six-in-one media reader, which is always welcome; and some convenient frontside ports (two USB 2.0, one mini-FireWire, headphone, and microphone). Inside, it's standing room only, with the AGP and PCI slots both occupied and the DVD burner's power and interface connectors butting uncomfortably against the rear fan housing. You'll need a screwdriver to remove the burner, plus a fair amount of disassembly time to access the hard drive, which can be expected of most SFF machines.
Fortunately, with its AMD Athlon 64 3800+ processor, 250GB Serial ATA hard drive, andgraphics card, the XPC G5 9500g is one system you won't need to upgrade anytime soon. The X800 Pro, a top choice for games, gives the system a definite edge compared with other SFF systems, many of which rely on slow, onboard graphics processors. On an older game such as Unreal Tournament, its score of 104 frames per second on the high-end 1,600x1,200 test competes with the results from the most-powerful, full-size gaming PCs we've tested. On a newer, more powerful game such as Far Cry, its frame rates stacked up equally well against the competition, making the G5 9500g a perfect LAN-party companion.
While the system chewed through games, it posted below-average application results. Similarly stocked full-size desktops scored much higher, leaving us to suspect a bottleneck in the SFF motherboard. The G5 is by no means a slow machine, and it showed no signs of sluggishness in any of our real-world tests. But if you want optimum performance for tasks such as video editing, you may want to consider something faster.
Shuttle pairs the X800 card with an ATI TV Wonder, which includes both cable-TV and over-the-air HDTV tuners, plus an antenna for the latter. Marvelous as it is to watch and record high-def TV on your PC, it can be frustrating if you live in an area where signal strength is poor. In our edge-of-suburbia test house, we were able to tune in about 10 HD stations, but most of them looked more like slide shows, owing to weak signals.
ATI's DVR software left us longing for TiVo. The electronic program guide (EPG) is too hard to read in couch-viewing situations, and it lacks HDTV data. Plus, you have to run separate apps to switch between standard-def and HD broadcasts. We particularly disliked the unintuitive, button-stuffed remote. If your primary use for this system is more multimedia than strictly gaming, we suggest you look for a system that uses Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 OS, which has the best desktop DVR interface we've seen.
One of the true highlights of our G5 9500g test system is Shuttle's gorgeous XP17 monitor, a 17-inch dual-input LCD with an industrial-chic design and a razor-sharp screen. We especially like its integrated carrying handle, handy for lugging the monitor to LAN parties. A foldout stand in the rear pivots 90 degrees so that you can use the monitor in Portrait mode, though we found no software or instructions pertaining to that option. For your gaming setup at home, thespeakers will rattle your walls. Shuttle also supplies Logitech's excellent wireless mouse-and-keyboard combo and Microsoft Works Suite 2004. To our surprise, the system came with no software CDs or documentation, save for a huge illustrated setup poster, which, alas, was tailored to the Windows XP Media Center Edition version of the G5, the 9500m. The system is backed by an industry-average one-year warranty.
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).
|Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF||Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768|