Shuttle XPC H7 5800
You can find plenty of small form factor gaming systems out there, notably from Falcon Northwest and Maingear, but the Shuttle XPC H7 5800 might be the smallest chassis we know of that still supports multiple graphics cards. As much as we credit Shuttle for loading up its small H7 5800 chassis with a competent selection of performance hardware, the high $2,849 price tag and no 64-bit operating system option prevent a stronger recommendation. If you value size efficiency and fast performance, Shuttle has something to offer you with XPC H7 5800, but we just don't feel that it's worth the price premium, especially considering that it's stuck in the 32-bit past.
Compare the dimensions of the XPC H7 5800 to Maingear's X-Cube and you'll see why Shuttle's system has a certain appeal. At 11.5 inches high, 11.5 inches wide, and 14.25 inches deep, the X-Cube looks something like a small microwave oven. In contrast, the Shuttle, at 8.75 inches tall by 8.25 inches wide by 12.75 inches deep, takes up considerably less space. We've never really been sold on the idea of purchasing a small form factor system for the sake of portability, but whether you really are looking for a system to move between LAN parties, or you simply want a fast system that's as compact as possible, the XPC H7 5800 strikes a well-considered balance between speed and size.
Which is not to say that the X-Cube or the FragBox 2 waste their extra space. One of the chief benefits of those desktops is their expandability. Whether you want to cram them full of graphics cards, or load up on TV tuners and other expansion cards, their larger cases make those combinations possible. The XPC H7 5800, on the other hand, has room for either one single-slot graphics card and a second card upgrade, or, like our review unit, a single double-wide 3D card. That means you have to take a fairly focused approach to how you intend to use this Shuttle system, as its small size comes with the sacrifice of configurability.
|Shuttle XPC H7 5800||Maingear X-Cube|
|CPU||2.93GHz Intel Core i7 940||3.7GHz (overclocked) AMD Phenom II X4 940|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel X58||AMD 790GX|
|Memory||6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 285||2GB ATI Radeon HD 4870X2, 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870|
|Hard drives||500GB 7,200 rpm||(2) 750GB 7,200 rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit SP1||Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit SP1|
As we've come to accept closed desktops like the Mac Mini, we have no problem with the Shuttle's size-vs.-expandability trade-off. Our difficulty comes with its price tag. The Shuttle and Maingear systems above describe the configurations we've reviewed, but Intel has since discontinued the Shuttle's 2.93GHz Core i7 940 chip, replacing it with the 3.06GHz Core i7 950. Maingear offers the Core i7 950 for its X-Cube line as well. If we use that chip as our starting point, and configure a Shuttle XPC H7 5800 to match our reviewed unit as closely as possible, we get a price tag around $2,850. The same system from Maingear will cost you approximately $2,200, and around $2,600 at Falcon Northwest. We appreciate that the Shuttle's reduced size makes it unique, but we can't see that it's worth an extra $200 to $650.
The other problem with the Shuttle system is its 32-bit Windows Vista operating system. This is actually a two-fold offense. First, we're surprised when we see budget PCs sneak in with 32-bit Vista. Hampering a performance desktop with a 32-bit operating system means you're stuck with supporting only 4GB of RAM. Check out our Photoshop results below to see the impact of extra memory. Perhaps a bigger offense, though, is the fact that Shuttle offers up to 6GB of memory with this system, effectively selling you 2GB beyond what its 32-bit operating system can actually use.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
|1,600 x 1,200 (high, 4x aa)||1,280 x 1,024 (medium, 4x aa)|
|1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)||1,440 x 900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)|
You'll notice that aside from Photoshop, the Shuttle actually does fairly well on our benchmarks. We'd imagine the faster Core i7 950 chip would nudge it to first or second place on the tests where it lags behind by a thin margin. You'll also notice that its gaming scores match up reasonably well with the FragBox 2, but there's a very clear drop-off on the higher resolution Far Cry 2 test. Given that its dual-chip GeForce GTX 285 3D card is the fastest graphics card Shuttle offers for this system, our scores represent more or less the pinnacle of what you can expect for its 3D performance. And with sub 60-frames per second scores on Far Cry 2 at 1,920x1,200, we don't recommend the Shuttle for anything beyond a 1,680x1,024 22-inch LCD. A larger screen will require you to compromise on either the resolution or the image quality for more demanding PC games.
Shuttle offers a few other amenities for the XPC H7 5800. You can upgrade the CPU, add a second hard drive, and even add solid state storage or a Blu-ray drive. An 802.11b/g wireless networking kit comes included, and you also get Gigabit Ethernet and three external-SATA ports on the system, including an external eSATA power connection. Our GeForce GTX 285 had no HDMI output, meaning you'll have to track down a DVI-to-HDMI adapter if you want to connect this system to an HDMI-equipped HDTV. The other 3D card options may have HDMI ports built-in, but we were unable to tell from the outdated reference link on Shuttle's configuration page.
|Raw (annual kWh)||711.87702|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$82.08|
The addition of EnergyStar-compatible power efficiency testing to our desktop reviews gives us a new perspective on PC ownership. We don't have enough of a data backlog yet to put the Shuttle in perspective with other performance desktops, but we can say that compared with our mainstream all-in-one results, this system will use more than six times as much energy, and unlike the all-in-ones, the scores here don't take a display into consideration. We estimate more time under load for this system, given that it's a gaming box, but by any calculation, it's clear that even without a monitor, this gaming PC will consume noticeably more energy than an all-in-one desktop.
Finally, Shuttle's service and support offerings have never been that remarkable, and this system is no exception. Online help is basically nonexistent, requiring you to trudge through an endless stream of user hostile descriptions and product names. The default warranty covers you for one year of parts and labor with depot drop-off service if you need Shuttle to perform hardware maintenance. Phone support is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday only. Online, the only support options we found referred to Shuttle's bare-bones SX58H7 equivalent for this system.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell XPS 625
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 3.0GHz AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 3.2GHz Intel Core i7 (overclocked); 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 285 graphics cards; 1.5TB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive
HP Firebird 803
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 2.83GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800S graphics cards; (2) 320GB 5,400 rpm hard drives
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 64-bit; 3.7GHz (overclocked) AMD Phenom II X4 940; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870X2 graphics card; 1GB Radeon HD 4870 graphics card; (2) 750GB, 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drives
Shuttle XPC H7 5800
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 32-bit; 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 940; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 285; 500GB, 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive