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Shuttle XPC P2 4800X review: Shuttle XPC P2 4800X

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Shuttle says that the idea of its tiny XPC P2 4800X gaming PC is to compete with the Falcon Northwest FragBox 2. We suggest that Shuttle head back to the lab. The chief hallmark of this $3,200 configuration is its Intel X48 chipset and its Core 2 Extreme QX9650 processor. And it's true that no other PC with a compact design offers such a high-end motherboard/CPU combination, but this system fails to deliver sufficient performance for its high-end price. It's also missing some key capabilities of the X48 chipset because of its size. If you're a gamer looking for a small, semiportable PC, we'd pick the FragBox 2 over this system in a heartbeat.

4.8

Shuttle XPC P2 4800X

The Good

Built-in fingerprint reader; external SATA data and power ports.

The Bad

Too-small case rules out second graphics card; outperformed by systems that cost $1,500 less.

The Bottom Line

Shuttle wants the XPC P2 4800X to compete with Falcon Northwest's FragBox 2 as a small gaming PC. But from the case to the configuration Shuttle sent to us, we don't get any sense that Shuttle knows what PC gamers really want.

Like most of its PCs, Shuttle's XPC P2 4800X is a small form factor (SFF) desktop. The FragBox 2 is also an SFF system, and the two share many of the same benefits and limitations inherent to their size. Each offers a degree of portability and a small footprint, but at the expense of expandability. At 8.5 inches tall by 8.6 inches wide by 13 inches deep, the Shuttle system is smaller than the FragBox 2 (9.3 inches tall by 10.5 inches wide by 15 inches deep.) That smaller case ends up costing the Shuttle some very serious expandability for gamers.

What we mean by that refers chiefly to adding more than one graphics card. Because the FragBox 2 system uses a larger case, it can accommodate a larger power supply (up to 1,000 watts!), and thus can power two 3D cards. Even though the Shuttle's Intel X48 chipset comes with AMD's CrossFireX multicard support, Shuttle stuck with its own 450-watt power supply, with no option to upgrade. That leaves you with enough juice for only a single 3D card, and explains why Shuttle will not sell you an XPC P2 4800X preconfigured with a second graphics card. Falcon Northwest, on the other hand, has several dual 3D cards options on offer for its FragBox 2, giving it much better potential for PC gaming than this Shuttle system.

  Shuttle XPC P2 4800X Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Price $3,200 $1,499
CPU 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 3.2GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
Motherboard chipset Intel X48 Intel Q35
Memory 2GB 1,600MHz DDR3 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT
Hard drives 250GB 7,200 rpm 500GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11g WiFi, Bluetooth Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)

Aside from the multi-3D card issues, when we compare the Shuttle XPC P2 4800X with the most recent FragBox 2 we've reviewed (from April), we find a few configuration disparities. First, as configured, this Shuttle is more than twice as expensive as the FragBox 2. That Core 2 Extreme chip accounts for roughly $1,000 of the Shuttle's price. Falcon Northwest also offers non-Extreme CPU upgrades that would raise the FragBox 2's price tag.

You can mix and match various parts to align the prices (and Falcon no longer offers the Core 2 Duo E8400), but we find it suspect that the FragBox 2 has a larger hard drive than the Shuttle system. We're glad that Shuttle includes both Bluetooth and 802.11g wireless networking, but we'd like to think that every specification would be superior, given its $1,700 price differential. Even before we realized the issue that the Shuttle can't support more than one 3D card, that hard-drive disparity was a hint to us that this Shuttle PC might not be the best bargain.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3
15,090 
4,212 
Velocity Micro Edge Z15
14,040 
3,948 
Shuttle XPC P2 4800X
11,723 
3,291 
Maingear Prelude
8,210 
2,153 

As expected, the Shuttle did, in fact, outperform the FragBox 2 on almost every one of our application tests. The iTunes results, the lone exception, are tied very closely to processor speed, so we suspect that the overclocked 3.2GHz chip in the FragBox 2 helped it outpace the 3.0GHz Shuttle. But our bigger issue is the Shuttle's performance relative to the $1,799 Velocity Micro Edge Z15. That system features the 64-bit version of Windows Vista, and also 4GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM. It was also faster than the Shuttle system on every single application test, making it hard to recommend this particular Shuttle configuration for its productivity capabilities.

To its credit, Shuttle offers 64-bit Windows and more memory options (although only 1,600MHz DDR3, which is expensive stuff), and pairing them with a more modest CPU would likely improve its price-performance outlook. It's too bad it didn't send us a more thoughtfully configured PC to test.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200  
1,280 x 1,024  
Maingear Prelude
163 
203 
Shuttle XPC P2 4800X
98 
147 

Crysis (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200  
1,280 x 1,024  
Shuttle XPC P2 4800X
19 
35 

The gaming tests demonstrate a similar gap in the Shuttle's value. First, the dual-card Velocity Micro system simply destroys it. So if you were curious whether a high-priced small PC might outperform a midrange system, we're sure it's possible, but not with this system. More damning is the Shuttle's scores in relation to the FragBox 2. The Shuttle PC demonstrates an edge at higher resolutions, but the FragBox 2 actually outpaces it on the 1,280 x 1,024 Crysis test.

Keep in mind that the FragBox 2 configuration we reviewed in April is no longer available, and that you can get a faster system for the same price from Falcon Northwest today. Then notice that you can configure a FragBox 2 with two 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4870 cards, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and the non-Extreme Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 for $100 less than the price of the Shuttle. Given the performance from the Velocity Micro system and its pair of lower-end Radeon HD 4850 cards, we expect a FragBox 2 thus configured would outperform this Shuttle across the board.

Even if its configuration fails to impress us, the Shuttle's case and chipset provide the XPS P2 4800X with a few unique options. Although we didn't get to try it out for lack of software, the case comes with a built-in fingerprint reader that gives you an extra layer of system security. And on the rear panel, in addition to the standard analog and digital audio and USB 2.0 ports, Intel's X48 chipset provides two external serial ATA (e-SATA0 inputs, as well as a separate e-SATA power input. If you're a digital media creator and you want a small, semiportable desktop with inputs for fast e-SATA hard drives, this feature on the Shuttle may make up for its configuration deficiencies elsewhere.

For other storage options, the Shuttle can support a second internal hard drive, and installation is actually very easy thanks to a pair of smartly positioned drive trays. There's also an option for a Blu-ray drive, for an extra $240, or $345 for the Blu-ray writer. Weirdly, this system has no media card reader, and there's also a gaping hole where you would normally find one behind a front panel door. Even $400 desktops have card readers, so we're stymied as to why Shuttle would leave that option off here. We'd also like to know where the drive bay panel went.

Shuttle's service and support policies are about average, but online help is basically nonexistent, assuming you can even find it. 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 option we found referred to Shuttle's barebones SX48P2-E equivalent for this system.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Shuttle XPC P2 4800X
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 (32-bit); 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650; 2GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics card: 250GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive

AVADirect Core 2 SLI DDR3 Gaming System
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 (overclocked); 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card; (2) 500GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drives; 150GB 10,000 rpm Western Digital hard drive

Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit; 3.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics cards; 500GB 7,200 rpm Samsung hard drive

Maingear Prelude
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT graphics card; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive.

Velocity Micro Edge Z15
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics cards; 750GB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive

4.8

Shuttle XPC P2 4800X

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 5Performance 5Support 5