Shuttle XPC X200 review: Shuttle XPC X200

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The Good Attractive, compact design; better basic Windows Vista performance than we anticipated; more features than the previous model.

The Bad Disappointing overall performance compared to that of similar systems; no HD optical drive option; opening the box voids the warranty, discouraging DIY upgrades (although the interior is tough to navigate).

The Bottom Line Shuttle's updated supersmall home theater PC introduces a few new features to bring it inline with similar diminutive living room PCs. It also came to us with Windows Vista Home Premium. If you're in it for the looks (and you don't want HD video), you'll find a system to like here, but we think you'll be able to find more capable PCs on the market soon.

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6.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Support 4

Shuttle's XPC X100 PC impressed us with its design this past summer, but its feature set lagged behind similar systems', such as Apple's Mac Mini and the WinBook Jiv Mini. With its updated XPC X200M, Shuttle brings the features in-line with what we expect from a smaller PC, adding an integrated analog TV tuner and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, but now it's performance that's the problem, at least with this $1,149 baseline model. Shuttle sent us this system with Windows Vista Home Premium, and we found anecdotally that Vista ran smoothly enough, but when we ran it through CNET Labs' benchmark tests, it lagged behind others in its class. We're also surprised that Shuttle doesn't offer an option for an HD optical drive. We attribute both of those issues to the XPC X200M's Intel chipset. Still, it is attractive, and it has the basics down, which might be enough to sway some of you.

Like the original model, the Shuttle XPC X200M uses a laptop processor and chipset to help keep it small. Its footprint remains a svelte 8 inches wide, 2 inches high and just less than 12 inches deep. That's larger than a Mac Mini but smaller than HP's small-form-factor Pavilion SlimLine systems. Thanks to its size and its attractive black, brushed- aluminum chassis, you should feel comfortable placing the XPC X200M on display in your home, dorm room, or place of business. If all you're looking for is a basic computer for serving up media, this isn't a terrible choice. Just know that you can get more performance for your money.

A crowd-pleasing slot-loading DVD burner lines the front of the system. That feature comes standard, but we wish Shuttle gave you the option to go to Blu-ray, HD DVD, or a combination drive. We'd certainly expect to pay more for the privilege, but we have a feeling that Shuttle doesn't give you the choice because of the motherboard chipset. The board's integrated Intel graphics chip isn't exactly known for power and image quality. Dell's XPS M1710 laptop and its Nvidia chipset have shown that you can use laptop parts to process Blu-ray video, so we wish that Shuttle had taken a more aggressive stance on the XPC X200M's foundation.

As it stands, Shuttle has done about the best it can do with an Intel-based laptop design at the core of this PC. A 1.67GHz Intel T2300E Core 2 Duo processor and 1GB of 667 MHZ DDR2 SDRAM form the core components. Shuttle offers higher- and lower-end processors and memory allotments throughout its X200M line, but for Vista, you really don't want less than 1GB of RAM. We admit we were surprised by how well our configuration handled moving around the Vista operating system. We had Aero and Flip 3D turned on, including a window with a video playing on it, and the system was able to scroll through the different applications with no trouble. On the one hand, the XPC X200M performed better than we thought it would, because all signs leading up to Vista pointed to a 1GB RAM-integrated graphics chip combo not faring very well. The good news, then, is that Vista will work on this system; the bad news is how poorly the system performs overall compared to other PCs in its class.

Multimedia multitasking test
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Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test
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Apple iTunes encoding test
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Rendering Multiple CPUs
Rendering Single CPU

As you can see from CNET Labs' benchmarks, the Shuttle came in last on every single one of our benchmark tests. Its multitasking, media encoding, and image and audio processing performance lags significantly behind even that of the Acer Aspire L310, another small box that costs about $250 less. Whether it's the Shuttle's slower notebook processor and chipset, the overhead from Windows Vista, or a combination of those things (which is what we suspect), it's hard to say what's slowing down this system so badly. We also find it interesting that the HP TouchSmart PC with twice the memory and a dedicated graphics chip didn't fare that much better than the Shuttle. That system also uses laptop hardware, so we can't say anything definitive about Vista dragging down system performance until we can test true desktop parts. Still, it's fair to say that for these two Vista PCs, older Windows XP-based systems deliver more efficient performance for your computing dollar.

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