The pioneer of the small-form-factor (SFF) PC, Shuttle has been the darling of LAN-party gamers. The company expanded its product lines so that you need not be a gamer on the go to shop at Shuttle. Take the $1,611 Shuttle XPC I 8600b, for example, which is built for business. It's also the first SFF PC we've seen that uses Intel's BTX architecture for creating cooler-running computers, but we're not swooning over the results.
The idea of BTX technology is to make computers operate more quietly by rearranging the layout of the motherboard, the case fans, and the CPU to maximize cooling, admittedly a challenge in an SFF case where space is already at a premium. The XPC I 8600b is by no means a loud PC, but its front fan makes more of a racket during heavy computing work than other BTX PCs we've seen.
While the XPC I 8600b may disappoint with its loud sound, its appearance will certainly impress. The size of a bread box, the glossy-white system has a gentle swoop on the front panel and an electric-blue power light for added style. Front ports line up along the front edge of the right-side panel, which lets the XPC I 8600b retain its graceful looks even when you have cables plugged into it. The recessed, hidden CD-RW/DVD combo drive adds to the system's clean, polished appearance. We expect the XPC I 8600b to catch the eye of executives looking to add a little tech bling to their corner office.
Configured for basic day-to-day computing tasks, the Shuttle XPC I 8600b runs Windows XP Professional and uses a 3.0GHz Intel Pentium 4 530J processor (the J means the CPU supports Intel's Execute Disable Bit feature, which can prevent certain types of virus attacks). Our test machine arrived with 512MB of 400MHz memory--ample for general business use--and two 160GB Western Digital drives for a whopping 320GB of storage. Business users can shave a little off the price by choosing a single drive.
Basic office apps won't tax our test system's integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 video chip, but thankfully, the spare x16 PCI Express (PCIe) graphics slot allows for future graphics upgrade. Shuttle offers a few graphics cards--a midrange Nvidia card and high-end ATI model--on its configurator that should work fine in the small case. If you decide to buy a 3D card elsewhere, be sure to take the size, heat, and power-consumption restraints of the form factor into consideration. While the XPC I 8600b has a built-in Ethernet port, neither a modem nor a wireless network adapter comes standard. You'll also have to be selective with your upgrades because the Shuttle has only one free standard PCI slot, in addition to the aforementioned PCIe slot.
Because of its small size, the XPC I 8600b has fewer expansion ports than you'll find on a full-size PC. There are two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 400 port, and headphone and microphone jacks along the front edge of the left-side panel. The power button is found on the right-side panel, and just below it is an 8-in-1 memory-card reader. The rear has PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, but only two additional USB 2.0 ports (no extra FireWire). The five audio-in and audio-out ports on the rear are color-coded, making it relatively easy to match them up to the correct speakers. To further assist speaker setup, an onscreen alert pops up whenever you plug a speaker into the wrong jack.
Although our Shuttle XPC I 8600b review unit didn't come with speakers, you can pick from four different Logitech speakers at checkout. If you need a monitor, you can buy a matching 15-, 17-, or 19-inch flat screen, as well. We recommend the terrific Shuttle 17-inch LCD XP17 ($359), which we first encountered with the . Our review system came with a standard PS/2 Logitech keyboard and a USB Logitech mouse with a PS/2 adapter.
In our CNET Labs' performance tests, the Shuttle XPC I 8600b's scores came in below those of any of our comparable systems. It got left behind by the nearly identically configured on our SysMark 2004 office-productivity test, trailing by 9 percent. The 3D results were poor as well, with the Shuttle not even able to achieve 60 frames per second on our relatively forgiving Unreal Tournament 2003 1,024x768-resolution test. This is not to say that the Shuttle is a terrible system, but we expect more people will be drawn to this PC for its looks than its performance. It has enough juice for basic computing tasks, but heavy graphics use and even daily multitasking may be too much for this little Shuttle.
The Shuttle XPC I 8600b's software bundle doesn't include a lot of frills, but it comes with enough applications to get you started. Included are Microsoft Office 2003 Basic, an OEM version of Nero Express 6.0 for DVD burning, CyberLink's PowerDVD 5.0 for watching movies, virus scanner , and MuVee Auto Producer 3.1 CE video-editing software, which seems out of place, given that the XPC I 8600b isn't really configured with video editing in mind.
Shuttle backs the XPC I 8600b with a one-year limited warranty, about right for a PC in this price range. Printed materials consist of manuals for the case and the motherboard and instructions for the RAID configuration, as well as a setup poster that has well-detailed case illustrations for two Shuttle cases other than this one (not the most helpful arrangement). We were happy to see a well-organized online support page, though; there's a prominent support phone number (with toll-free help available during West Coast business hours), along with an e-mail support link and links to online help forums.
|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). Depending on the class of the system, we may report only the office-productivity or Internet-content-creation portions of SysMark.
|Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768|
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests and are set to 4X and 8X respectively during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal provides an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.0GHz Intel P4 530; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X300 (PCIe); Seagate ST3160827AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.0GHz Intel P4 530; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB (shared memory) integrated Intel 915G ; Seagate ST3160023AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.2GHz Intel P4 540; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X600 (PCIe); WDC WD2000JD-22HBB0 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.0GHz Intel P4 530; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB (shared memory) integrated Intel 915G; WDC WD1600JD-22HBB0 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.4GHz Intel P4 550; Intel 915G chipset; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 6600GT (PCIe); WDC WD2000JD-00HBB0, 200GB, 200GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm