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Shuttle XPC P2 3700G review: Shuttle XPC P2 3700G

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The Good High-end CPU and graphics; case design.

The Bad Hefty price; lack of expansion possibilities.

The Bottom Line A true gaming heavyweight, this desktop is let down only by its low upgrade potential and its comparatively high price. If you have the means, and the desire to play games with all the graphics effects switched on, snap one up immediately

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.8 Overall

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If you thought Shuttle small-form-factor PCs were dainty, then think again. Though no bigger than a pair of newborn babies joined at the face, the XPC P2 3700G provides enough grunt to embarrass most desktops twice its size. If you've ever fancied a miniature PC with Alienware-type performance, you're looking in the right place.

The XPC P2 3700G is available direct from Shuttle's Web site, which lets you configure the spec to your heart's delight. We tested the highest-spec model available, which came in at a hefty £2,432.

Design
The XPC P2 3700G is based on the XPC Barebones SD37P2 chassis -- a box that's about half the size of a traditional desktop PC. What it lacks in size it makes up for in looks -- the front of the unit is constructed of three distinct fold-down sections, each of which has a front panel with a subtle brushed-metal effect. The silver detailing down the front right makes a great contrast, as do the curved disc eject and power buttons. The third curved button is a hard drive activity LED.

Running along the bottom, top and right-sided front bezel are glossy reflective sections. The bottom-most one opens to reveal a reset switch, headphone and microphone ports, two USB ports and a four-pin FireWire port. The left and right sides of the PC are host to a set of vents and engraved Shuttle logos.

The rear is much busier. There's a large circular vent expelling hot air from the CPU and two DVI ports from the GeForce 7950 GX2 graphics card. Here you'll also find five discrete 1.5mm audio ports, two SPDIF inputs and outputs, six USB ports, a six-pin FireWire port, a LAN port and an external Serial ATA port.

The interior design of the PC is very clever. The top of the unit plays host to two 3.5-inch drive bays, one of which is populated. We would suggest you don't bang the top of the PC unless you fancy damaging one of the drives. The CPU sits towards the front of the PC beneath a large aluminium heatsink and an even larger fan. It's hard to imagine how Shuttle has managed to include two PCI Express ports in the box, but that's exactly what it's done -- both are occupied, as are all four of the PC's DDR memory slots.

Features
Shuttle has tried not to make many compromises in the XPC P2 3700G's specification. It uses a proprietary Shuttle FD37 motherboard with an Intel 975X chipset, which is exploited very well by an Intel Core 2 Duo X6800 CPU and 4GB of DDR2 667MHz memory.

All good so far -- that lot could power a space shuttle to Mars and back without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, Shuttle seems to have made a slight mistake in the configuration of our review sample. It's plonked four 1GB modules into each DIMM slot, but the total memory only shows up as being 2,816MB. At the time of writing Shuttle was unable to give us an answer as to why this is.

Graphics are totally sorted on the XPC P2 3700G. It uses a high-end Nvidia GeForce 7950 GX2 card, which at the time of writing is considered the fastest in the world. Like a dual-core CPU, it uses two graphics processors, has 48 pixel pipelines, 16 vertex shaders and a monstrous memory bandwidth of 76.8GB per second. It's not all about grunt, though -- the card is also HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection)-compatible, meaning it'll run copy-protected hi-def movies. Our only gripe is that though the card is SLI-capable and can be attached to a second identical card for even more performance, there's no space inside the PC to accommodate this.

Shuttle has opted not to supply the PC with Windows XP Media Center Edition, opting instead to use Windows XP Professional Edition. This limits the multimedia user experience slightly, but multimedia file hoarders will love the 400GB hard drive. This provides enough room for well over 500 DivX movies of average size or over 100,000 MP3s. Get yourself a decent set of speakers and you can enjoy either through 7.1-channel high-definition audio via the onboard Intel sound card.

Performance
With components as mental as those inside the XPC P2 3700G you wouldn't expect it to be a slouch. It racked up by far the highest PCMark 2005 total we've seen in a desktop PC: 7,169. This beat the Shuttle XPC P 2500G's 6,244 hands down.

Graphics processing was equally sublime. It chalked up a 3DMark 2006 total of 8,196, which again is the highest we've ever seen. In short, if you're looking for a PC that won't bat an eyelid at any task, whether it be video encoding, gaming or word processing, the XPC P2 3700G is extremely difficult to beat.

Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Elizabeth Griffin

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