No More Penny-Pinching: Seven Mini-PCs On The Catwalk

Shuttle XPC ST61G4, Continued

The third bare-bones from Shuttle in this comparative test is based on the brand-new ATI RS300 chipset and thus offers powerful onboard graphics. Those who do not need to play the most up-to-date 3-D games with DirectX9 support for detailed display (pixel and vertex shaders) will be content to use the IGP9100 graphics. According to the testers, the ST61G4 does not make the same classy impression as the two other Shuttle models in the test panel. The coloring - a silver-gray aluminum case with partially glossy front panel - could have something to do with this. Finally, under the cover is the same basic mechanical structure as with all XPC-bare-bones - narrow tolerances and good workmanship. In any case, the mirrored front remains a matter of personal taste. A card reader - surely a good decision in favor of the user - comes factory-installed in the 3.5" drive slot. Otherwise, the Shuttle uses tried-and-tested components that can also be found in the other models of the XPC series.

Potent 250-watt power supply

Cumbersome: to remove the slot panels, a tool must be used to undo the screws.

Optical digital in- and output

That includes the heat pipe for CPU cooling, the 3-phase switch on the mainboard and the brackets for the hard drives - in sandwich arrangement, however. Shuttle uses a power supply that at 250 watts is even more powerful than the two other XPC models in this test. In theory, that means there is nothing preventing a full expansion with components - but in practice, there is. To operate two hard drives, the card reader must be sacrificed. The cables prevent the addition of a powerful 3-D graphics card: Only disassembly helps - in an extreme case, even the power supply will have to be expanded. The extremely tight space in the interior of the case is only seen with Shuttle. But for all that, there are features en masse: 6-channel audio, digital (optical) and analog audio in- and outputs, network, FireWire and USB 2.0. The TV output with good signal quality, allowing the mini-PC to function as a DVD or Divx player, is worthy of notice. Soltek, with its EQ3701M, is the only other manufacturer in the test panel to offer this function.