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Shuttle's New $99 KPC Review

The KPC has an MSRP of $99 for barebones and $199 for the complete system. Pricing out a similarly equipped complete system (but with a mid tower case) showed that even the cheapest list of parts weighed in at about $185 with shipping. This is cheaper than the Shuttle, but not for the small form factor and not with it pre-built and the OS loaded. As far as the value of the barebones KPC, things are pretty close in the retail world, in that by the time you put a case and motherboard together you are at $90 for the cheapest combo with shipping.

The Shuttle KPC might be slightly more expensive than the cheapest systems as far as pure hardware is concerned, but if you compare this to the cheapest small form factor systems, it is clearly a leader at this price. In addition, the complete system comes pre-assembled and pre-installed with an operating system and basic suite of programs.

The KPC should do well as a business PC, Internet Café PC, PVR, loaner or hot spare, software test bed, appliance PC, and low cost PC. It is small, power efficient, has a low price, and performs well enough that users will be happy with its level of performance. It is upgradeable for those that need more memory or a faster CPU, so it could easily replace workstations at many businesses that need more power.

The only item the KPC fails to deliver is an OS that will make it a super value. It should be noted that the version of Foresight Linux installed is a prerelease version, and they are working hard to improve the issues noted. If they can fix the minor usability annoyances noted here - as well as any we haven’t detected - it should provide a very good value. The main issue is not availability of software for Linux, but the ability of users to install it; users do not always need the newest hardware and software, but they need it to work. Our experience was that some hardware was difficult enough to install that a novice would not be able to complete the task. Since this system will almost surely find its way to the value shopper and novice user, Foresight Linux must do better to succeed with this user segment.

Shuttle has delivered on its promise to bring a low price small form factor to market, and it will likely find several segments in which it will excel. While the KPC delivers as promised in terms of being customizable, expandable and green, there is definitely room for improvement as far as user-friendliness is concerned. But while the Linux install falls a little short of delivering for casual users, in the big scheme of things Shuttle should do well with the KPC.

The Good

  • Inexpensive
  • Quiet
  • Good CPU support
  • Surprisingly good performance
  • Smaller than a bread box
  • Picture customization feature is cool

The Bad

  • No PCIe slot
  • No Optical Drive
  • No Front USB
  • Linux hardware detection could be better
  • Learning curve for Linux OS

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