Shuttle XPC X200m Hands On

While I’m certain there are people out there that think Apple pioneered the “mini” computer, Shuttle Computers has long been an industry-leading designer and manufacturer of small-form-factor (SFF) PCs. The Shuttle XPC X200 is a prime example of that leadership.

Measuring 2.1×8.3×11.8 inches (HWD), the little black-and-silver box is a powerful Media Center PC. Operating on Microsoft Vista Ultimate and powered by a 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo 2 T7400 processor and 2GB of 667MHZ DDR2 memory, the X200m has plenty of pop to handle multimedia tasks as well as any productivity work you might want to do. (Prices start at $1,149, but my review unit’s configuration is currently $1,833.) It also has a built-in standard-def TV tuner, digital audio output and an integrated IR receiver for a Media-Center remote control.

If you’re simply looking for a compact, stylish computer, I recommend moving to the X100, which loses the more media-oriented features. But for either adding a Windows-Media-Center experience to your home entertainment setup or having a PC that pulls double duty for office work and entertaining, the X200m is a solid choice. Hit the jump for more images and full review.

Things up front are pretty simple; just a slot-loading DVD±RW drive, power button and a USB port. However, closer inspection reveals a little more.

That black dot below the power button is the eye for an IR receiver for use with the bundled Media-Center remote (jump down to the bottom for a picture of it). It’s nice that the receiver is built in, instead of opting for the easy way out of having an ugly external box that eats up on of your USB ports. Another nice touch: While it looks like an extension of the optical drive opening, that slot just below the IR eye is a multi-format memory-card reader. Just below that is an activity light that glows blue when in use. Unfortunately, it also blinks constantly when you put the computer into Sleep mode.

The back is pretty straightforward, too. That antenna is for the built-in 802.11g wireless radio. It easily unscrews, though, if you want to add a more powerful antenna or one that can be a little more easily hidden out of sight.

Clockwise from top left is the wireless antenna connection, RF connections for the SDTV tuner and FM radio receiver, DVI out and power input. The power supply is an external power brick just like those you’d find with a laptop. It’s big, but easy enough to conceal. The TV tuner works fine, too, but we’d prefer a high-def tuner.

On back you’ll also find four more USB 2.0 ports, analog audio I/O jacks, a coaxial S/PDIF jack for digital audio, Gigabit Ethernet and for some strange reason, PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard. Why you would add those to a modern, compact Media Center like this, I have no idea. I’d rather have a FireWire or eSATA port, but whatever.

The remote is pretty standard Media-Center fare. It does match the looks of the Shuttle and if you’re going to take full advantage of Media Center’s enlarged 10-foot interface, you should really have a remote. The big green button at the center launches you immediately into the Media Center interface.

The upgrades to the GUI in Vista are great and the X200m and its integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics adapter ably handles the OS’s new Aero graphics features as well. The overall performance was good and switching from music to watching or recording TV to flipping through your photos was snappy. My review unit had 250GB of storage space, but you can get the system with as much as 750GB. That’s a lot of room to store an expanding music, photo, and video collection, especially compared to the Mac mini that taps out at 160GB.

One thing I did notice was that the unit really heated up while recording TV, so you’ll want to make sure the unit gets plenty of air circulation. Performance while encoding video was better than expected for the system’s size. It can’t match a full-size desktop with a discrete graphics card, but really there’s no reason to expect it to.

There’s little not to like about the petite, sexy Shuttle XPC X200m. Yes, it’s pricey. But that’s the cost of getting something so small that doesn’t freeze up when you ask it to do the slightest demanding task. If you’re into gaming or tinkering, you’ll obviously want to stay away from this PC. But if you’re in need of a potent desktop that doesn’t take up more room than a large book and has the strength and features to manage your media collection, the X200m is one to consider.