capsule review

Shuttle XPC P2500g

At a Glance
  • Shuttle XPC P2500G

    PCWorld Rating

    Strong performance, lots of drive space, and the latest optical drive put this new compact system on our chart.

Shuttle XPC P2500g
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

Shuttle is well known for designing cases and motherboards that shoehorn a full PC's worth of components into a space about the size of a couple of shoeboxes. We tried out the company's newest gaming PC--built around AMD's 2.6-GHz Athlon 64 FX-55 and 1GB of RAM--and were pleased but not astounded by its performance.

Unlike many small systems, the XPC P2500g has a dedicated graphics board. It uses the PCI Express graphics bus and an ATI Radeon X850 XT board with 256MB of graphics RAM. With all that horsepower, the P2500g racked up a WorldBench 5 score of 105--a little below average among systems we've tested with comparable specs, and 16 percent slower than the top score of 125 earned by Xi Computer's MTower 64 AGE-SLI. That 16 percent speed gap probably wouldn't cramp the style of someone who plays nothing more demanding than computer solitaire, but aficionados of first-person shooters might find it makes the difference between fragging and being fragged. The frame rates we saw in our gaming tests were good, but not the best--in most cases trailing the top scorers by about 10 frames per second and finishing in eighth place in several tests. However, the P2500g put up 435 frames per second in Unreal Tournament at 1024 by 768 pixels and 16-bit color--the fourth-best result of any system we've tested recently.

The speaker system that came with our test machine, Logitech's monster-size Z-5500 Digital 5.1 set, takes up more room than the PC itself. The system is nicely designed, with streamlined, reasonably classy-looking satellites and a controller console that lets you keep the volume and mute buttons (plus a headphone jack) in easy reach. When I played a movie, I heard nice fidelity, as well as depth and separation, from the speakers. Various music tracks--including pop, jazz, and opera--sounded nice but not dazzling. I didn't turn the sound way up or go for booming bass, for fear of blowing out my eardrums as well as my coworkers'. If you choose not to order these, you can knock $299 off the P2500g's price. The XPC P2500g has an integrated sound processor that theoretically supports 8.1-channel surround sound; it also has S/PDIF optical-in and -out ports. Shuttle throws in a Logitech gaming headset (with integrated microphone) at no extra charge, and we received a Logitech force-feedback game controller as well.

The keyboard and mouse we received were also Logitech models; the wired keyboard had the typical complement of function and shortcut keys. If you like loud, springy keys and a flat, notebook-style angle to your keyboards, you'll like this model. The blue MX 510 USB mouse has a sophisticated look and eight preprogrammed buttons--about as many as anyone could need. It comes with software for customizing the settings. This pair of input devices accounted for $45 of our system price.

In addition to its space-saving dimensions, the Shuttle XPC case presents a sleek front: Except for its eight-in-one media-card reader, all the drives and ports are located behind steel-blue plastic covers that complement the black metal case. Although these port doors didn't feel flimsy, exactly, they weren't the sturdiest I've tried, and I wondered how long the latches would keep working. Behind one of these doors was one open drive bay, which let me peer into the system's innards. There was no internal plate covering the bay, perhaps because it would be too difficult to remove from the inside. The bay could be used for either a floppy drive or another SATA hard drive; it's too small for another optical drive (the system comes with two 250GB hard drives, so the need for a third is unlikely, but a second optical drive would have been handy). Our machine did not come configured for RAID, although it did come with software and a manual for setting up RAID.

The case was easy to open, and the cover slid fairly easily off its frame. It's secured with four large thumbscrews, but no case lock or loop. Inside the case, space is tight but tidy. The RAM slots are in the middle of the motherboard, with enough space around them that you can get your fingers on the slot latches and insert or remove the modules. One RAM slot was open in our machine. The drive bays and open slots on the motherboard--and the hard drives--can be removed without tools; for the graphics card, however, you will need a screwdriver. The power supply is fixed in place, and takes up much of the interior. The cables are bundled and tucked neatly to the side, leaving room to work.

None of this is surprising when you consider that Shuttle Computer designed this case for build-it-yourselfers: In fact, the installation guide that comes with the P2500g is not a user manual, but instructions on how to assemble a PC with this case. The motherboard manual in the system box also has step-by-step instructions for using these components to build a PC. Although they don't help with typical user problems--such as "How do I connect to the Internet?"--these manuals do offer good diagrams and photos that show how to add or remove components. Another feature on this system for tinkerers: On the back is a Clear CMOS button, which resets the BIOS PC Setup programa??s settings to their factory default.

I did encounter a slight glitch with fit and finish. At some point while setting up the speakers, moving the box must have jarred loose a metal fitting on one of the hard-drive rails. The system had slowed to a crawl, and when I opened the case, I found the small bracket sitting on the motherboard. Removing this bit of debris restored the system to normal functioning, but I wouldn't have discovered it without opening the case.

The monitor we received with our system, Shuttle's XP17 LCD with antiglare glass, did a fine job with text and graphics. Our photo screen looked slightly washed out, but on the whole the XP17 rendered images with good color balance and detail. Our DVD movie looked great on this monitor, with luminous, saturated colors and sharp detail. For everything but the most exacting graphics work, most people would have no complaints. The monitor's price as part of this system--$359 on Shuttle's Web site--is competitive with 17-inch LCDs in our most recent Top 10.

Shuttle deserves kudos for the display's sleek industrial design, which nicely complements its systems. The black case is surrounded with a slim brushed-aluminum frame, which has a carrying handle molded into the top. Neither the case nor the black bezel surrounding the screen is particularly thin, though. Its easel-style stand has three preset tilt positions and adjusts fairly smoothly. The stand pivots, so you can use this monitor in portrait mode, as well. You can pivot the screen through the ATI driver for the graphics board--but this control is buried in advanced graphics settings. An inexperienced user would never find it--there is no shortcut on the desktop and no hint in the monitor manual about this capability. When I tried to assign a keyboard shortcut to the command to rotate the screen, I couldn't.

Another small annoyance: Out of the box, this monitor was set to a lower resolution than its native 1280 by 1024 pixels. At the lower resolution text looked quite blurry and shadowed. We used the monitor's DVI input to test this monitor, and since the digital interface is essentially self-correcting, the monitor's auto-adjust button didn't do anything. It would have been nice for the button to generate some feedback when pressed, such as showing a message on screen saying "your monitor is adjusted."

The software bundle that came with this machine was pretty minimal, consisting of PC-cillin 2004, Acrobat Reader 6, and Muvee AutoProducer.

Shuttle's XPC P2500g is a smart-looking little system with nice features. It packs a respectable punch, but may not satisfy the most demanding of its target gaming audience.

Shuttle XPC P2500g


WorldBench 5 score of 105, 2.6-GHz Athlon 64 FX-55 CPU, 1GB of DDR400 SDRAM, Windows XP Professional, 250GB hard drive, DVD+R double-layer/DVD±RW drive, ATI Radeon X850 XT graphics card with 256MB of video RAM, 17-inch Shuttle XP-17 TempAG monitor, Logitech Z5500 speakers, compact case. One-year parts and labor warranty. Lifetime 8.5-hour weekday toll-free support during warranty period.
$3750
888/972-1818
www.shuttle.com

Rebecca Freed

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Strong performance, lots of drive space, and the latest optical drive put this new compact system on our chart.

    Pros

    • Compact size

    Cons

    • High price
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