capsule review

Shuttle XPC G5 2100

At a Glance
  • Shuttle XPC G5 2100

    PCWorld Rating

    This toaster-sized model packs a lot of functionality into its highly portable case, but it offers little room to expand.

The toaster-size Shuttle XPC G5 2100 ($1049 as of July 14, 2006) crams a surprising number of features into its small case and delivers great performance for its class. The system comes equipped with a 2.2-GHz Athlon 64 X2 4200+ processor and 1GB of RAM. Its score of 104 on our WorldBench 5 benchmark tests was above-average for a recent value system, and represents a significant increase over the 84 that its predecessor, the Shuttle G5 1100 put together.

Unlike the G5 1100 that we reviewed, which relied on integrated graphics, the G5 2100 comes with an eVGA e-GeForce 7600GT PCI Express 16X graphics board with 256MB of video RAM, This midrange card is quite capable, enabling the G5 2100 to rank fourth among current value systems on our graphics tests, and it dramatically outperformed its older sibling. For example, the G5 2100 managed 113 frames per second in Return to Castle Wolfenstein at 1280-by-1024-pixel resolution, nearly three times the frame rate turned in by the G5 1100 on the same test.

Though the system was quiet most of the time during our testing, its fan noise got more noticeable the longer the system was on and the hotter its components get.

The system's compact design has other disadvantages. For one, it's a pain to open; you'll need a screwdriver to get in, and adding an extra hard drive or replacing the single optical drive involves removing several screws, disconnecting several cables, and lifting out the entire drive bay assembly. You have to do the same thing--an awkward process at best-- if you want to access the motherboard to add more memory.

As you'd expect, the small system leaves little room for expansion. You have space for a second hard drive (our system came with a single 200GB hard drive) or a media-card reader (a $16 option) in the open 3.5-inch externally accessible drive bay, but not a second optical drive. And if you want to introduce expansion cards, you'll need to use ones that are designed for tight spaces; neither the available PCI Express 16X slot nor the single vacant PCI slot can accommodate full-size add-in cards.

The compact case offers a reasonable selection of connectivity options, including two FireWire ports (one at the back, one up front), up to 5.1 channels for audio, and an SPDIF output. However, the case has just two USB 2.0 ports in front and two at the rear. If you use a lot of peripherals, you'll need to buy an extra USB hub to plug your devices into

The 17-inch Shuttle XP17 LCD monitor displayed strong colors and reasonably good detail in shadows. It's not as good as the larger monitors we've seen shipped with some other value desktop PCs, but it is much more portable--and it even has a handle.

Shuttle doesn't supply a system manual in the box; all you get is a quick-start guide and component manuals. The company doesn't offer a manual online, either--a distinct disappointiment considering how awkward the case is to navigate inside.

If you need a well-equipped system that won't take up a lot of real estate, the Shuttle XPS G5 2100 should fit the bill. But users who want lots of expansion opportunities will need something larger.

Richard Baguley

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This toaster-sized model packs a lot of functionality into its highly portable case, but it offers little room to expand.

    Pros

    • Compact, portable case

    Cons

    • Very limited expansion
    • Case is awkward to open
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