Shuttle's New $99 KPC Review

Conclusion

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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8 comments
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  • BaconCache
    Grandma build!
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  • imatt
    Great for a public computer for internet access in a family room. Small footprint, low heat, low price. Will be interesting to see what the masses can mod these things into.
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  • styln
    Regarding Linux's readiness for prime time...

    Six months ago I installed Ubuntu 7.10 on a compact barebones for my wife, a computer novice. I reconfigured Gnome to look a lot like XP with only one toolbar at the bottom and created desktop icons for common programs: browser, word processor, spreadsheet, media viewers/players, etc. I automounted our NAS and created an icon for that, too. Used CUPS to easily connect two networked printers (yeah, my house is fully networked with a GB backbone :)

    She's as happy as can be and uses it everyday for routine "mommy", tasks including classroom rosters, art class schedules, saving/viewing picture and videos, etc.

    Bottom line is she loves it. As the home IT admin I like it too because it's rock solid and gives me less to do than maintaining the kids and my XP machines. So except for playing games, I see no reason to buy Windows in the future.... and I won't.
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  • quicsilver
    Pros: Tried and true chipset, linux, windows, windows server compatible. Small, low wattage, QUIET, stylish. Slot under faceplate for a laptop sized cd/dvd-rom

    Cons: barebone comes with no processor fan, no case fan, no cd-rom. Room for only 2 hard drives. NO CASE FAN

    Rumor has it that they will offer the ICE Genie as an optional separate purchase, which is nice for the processor but I don't know if it's sufficient enough to cool the HDD's. I built one with a celeron 420 and a stock core 2 duo proc fan. (the stock proc fan that came with the celeron was DOA) The fan size on the back is 92mm, I bought an antec 92mm case fan and it's very quiet, the loudest fan on the system is the small power supply fan. It has the slot under the faceplate for a slim dvd/cd-rom. You would have to dremel mod the front clear plastic to make it look right, but it's easily doable. AT LEAST it has the option.

    I built it for a Windows Home Server and it works perfect.
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  • Luxcrete
    ** DO NOT BUY THE PC62 PSU FOR THE KPC! **

    ...in spite of what this article would have you believe, it doesn't physically fit. I just wasted $100, and I'm pretty angry that the reviewer didn't do his research.

    If you're thinking of getting the KPC for a home server, bewarned that it's not that quiet. Probably fine if you can lock it away in a cupboard, but too irritating to be left out in the open, if you're anything like me.
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  • sloto
    There is a cutout for a front USB, but you have to hack and do your own mod. Same conditions for an optical drive. It's doable.
    Mint is my preferred linux and works just fine on KCP
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  • uafon
    I have tried many many wifi adapters.....and I can say one thing for sure...
    ..I don't know about you guys, but for me UAWIFI UA3 usb adapter is the BEST.
    No other adapter can compare to this baby, it is VERY powerful.
    There are few people sell them on ebay, but I got mine directly from mft. website www.uawifi.com price is same.
    I also know that it is Made in USA, so at least by buying it I am supporting US workers.
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  • uafon
    In other words, you do not have to power it up, as this adapter. It uses 5V from the USB plug.
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