Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement | How we test computers
The XPC P 2500G doesn't subscribe to the belief that gaming PCs have to live in enormous, gaudy cases. It is housed in the SN25P Barebones chassis, a unit approximately the size of a large toaster and promises performance in line with the fastest, largest gaming desktops. Its innocuous looks may deter some hardcore gamers, but it provides a refreshing alternative to the rash of boy-racer desktops that litter the desktop PC market.
The XPC P 2500G is built around Shuttle's XPC SN25P Barebones chassis. It's very compact at 325 by 220 by 210mm (WHD), which is about the size of four phone books stacked vertically. It's also very pretty thanks to its reflective anthracite front panel, but we personally prefer the look of Shuttle's white or silver SFF boxes.
The front panel of the unit plays host to an 8-in-1 memory card reader, which is conveniently located at the top for easy access. Below this, there are two flaps for concealing DVD rewriter drives, although one of the optical drive bays is vacant. The lower flap conceals a pair of USB ports and a FireWire port, along with headphone and microphone ports.
Unlike other SFF boxes in the Shuttle range, the XPC P 2500G does not use an external power brick. Instead, a miniature 350W power supply unit (PSU) whirrs away inside the unit. It's a welcome sight, as it reduces the amount of clutter outside the PC, but it raises possible cooling issues and limits the amount of space inside the machine. Its relatively limited power rating is also slightly concerning for upgraders, as additional components may lead to crashing and general instability as a result of the limited power.
Despite the P 2500G 's use of an internal power supply, and its use of so many high-performance components, the PC's temperature and power was well regulated and it was reliable in use. There's a vent to the left of the unit, through which the main CPU heatsink expels hot air generated by the processor, and three further fans at the rear (one for the integrated PSU and two smaller exhaust fans at the rear), all of which help the P 2500G stay cool.
At the rear of the PC, Shuttle has supplied a wealth of input/output ports. You'll find six discrete audio ports, including optical and digital SPDIF input and output. These make it easy to connect a set of surround-sound speakers to the PC's onboard 8-channel (7.1) audio system. Also at the rear are a further four USB ports, a FireWire port and a single Gigabit (1,000Mbps) Ethernet port. We were also happy to see PS/2 ports, the inclusion of which saves you wasting USB ports on a mouse and keyboard.
The port collection is rounded off with a serial port, which will come in handy for any ageing peripherals, and a pair of DVI graphics ports courtesy of the ATI Radeon X1900 XTX graphics card. At the time of writing, this is the fastest ATI graphics card available thanks to its abundance of pixel shading units, high graphics processing unit (GPU) clock speed and advanced memory architecture.
The card is paired with the awesome AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU, and 2GB of DDR400 RAM. Like the graphics card, the FX-60 CPU is the fastest component of its type available today. It's the first dual-core CPU designed with gaming in mind, and is capable of running circles around the current competition from Intel where gaming is concerned.
All components are connected to a Shuttle FN25 motherboard, which sports an Nvidia nForce4 Ultra chipset. It lends the PC 8-channel audio capabilities, as mentioned earlier, one traditional IDE port and four Serial ATA (SATA) ports with support for Native Command Queuing (NCQ) -- a technology that speeds up the rate at which data is processed on compatible hard drives.
Only one of these ports is in use. The remainder are unoccupied, though two have SATA cables attached to the motherboard. The opposite ends of the cables aren't connected to any devices, but their presence makes it easy to add extra SATA devices without battling with a screwdriver to access the case's cramped interior.
Shuttle has been clever in supplying an NCQ-compatible hard drive. The 250GB Samsung SP2504C has a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 300MB per second, has an 8MB buffer and fast 7,200 RPM rotation speed, and supports the SATA-300 interface rather than the slower, older SATA-150 standard. It's therefore ideal for users who perform disk-intensive tasks such as video editing.
The P 2500G has a good optical drive. Shuttle has opted for the BenQ DW1620, which can write to dual-layer DVD+R discs and records up to 16 hours of VHS quality video at 16x (or about 7 minutes per disc). It's not as versatile as the NEC ND-4551A Labelflash drive, which can print text and images directly to the label surface of compatible discs, but it's fine for most users.
The XPC P 2500G uses the Professional Edition of Windows XP, has a copy of Cyberlink PowerDVD playback software, and a one-year warranty.
The XPC P 2500G is extremely fast, mainly because of its high-end CPU and graphics card combination. It achieved a PCMark 2005 score of 6,244, and while this isn't as high as that achieved by the Alienware Aurora 7500 PC, it isn't far behind.
Gaming performance was also impressive for a PC using a single graphics card. At the default screen resolution of 1,280x1,024 it achieved a 3DMark 2006 score of 5,565, which is just 3,268 less than the Mesh X-treme FX60 PC, which has the luxury of a dual-graphics card.
At the same resolution with 4x anti-aliasing and 4x anisotropic filtering image quality (IQ) settings enabled, the XPC P 2500G scored 4,472. At a resolution of 1,600x1,200 pixels, it scored 4,894, and at the same resolution with 4x AA and 4x AF it scored 3,837.
It also impressed in real-world gaming tests. It clocked up a Doom 3 frame rate of 109 frames per second (fps) at a resolution of 1,024x768 with 4x AA and 4x AF enabled. This score fell to 87fps at 1,280x1,024, and to 67.5fps at 1,600x1,200, all at the same IQ settings.
With maximum detail settings (6xAA and 16x AF) at a resolution of 1,600x1,200 it achieved 51.6fps, which is still highly impressive.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield