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Two New Mini-Powerhouses from Shuttle

Time To Overhaul The Classic PC Design, Continued

What happened? It looked like a dream come true in the ad, a perfect way to solve every problem: a dirt-cheap PC system for $1000 with all the peripherals you'd never need. What now? Will this love affair with cheap, hulking computers ever come to an end? There are still many computer magazines testing off-the-shelf PCs with designs that basically haven't changed in over a decade. However, there is one bright spot yet: progress has been made toward more compact and higher-quality PCs. Lately, the PC systems arriving at THG's Munich lab have been based on an entirely new design. One of these was the first mini PC with AGP graphics, reviewed in the article Whoohoo! A Mini PC That Goes To The Max ; another was the smallest PC in the world, reviewed here:The Smallest of Them All: The P4/2400 Micro PC .

Shuttle is clearly the leader in mini PCs. In addition to its bread-and-butter business - producing conventional motherboards and components - the manufacturer has devoted a lot of its efforts to developing a compact computer for AMD and Intel processors. In the meantime, its competitors in Taiwan have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, preferring to let Shuttle test the waters in the market for barebone systems with beefy price tags. These two brand-new systems represent the third stage of development. Unlike the first system, which didn't have AGP graphics, front ports and was also lacking in the craftsmanship department, these PCs are much more mature products. That doesn't mean that everything is perfect, though, as our test reveals.

High-quality buttons on the front aluminum panel of the Shuttle SN41G2.

We were particularly interested in finding out how well the mini PCs stacked up to conventional PCs with identical hardware, but based on a standard ATX board. Since the PCs are based on the Intel 845 GE and the NVIDIA NForce 2 chipset, we also wanted to learn more about the actual onboard graphics performance.

AGP slot in the mini PC - the basis for high 3D graphics performance.