Price Analysis & Conclusion
The Shuttle X1 is an astoundingly small and powerful mini PC that’s ideal for the living room, with adequate performance for VR and AAA games running at 1080p with high (or, sometimes, "Ultra") settings. Although Shuttle slaps "4K Ready" on the package, the X1’s Core i7-7700HQ and GeForce GTX 1060 3GB graphics card are not an ideal pairing for a 4K display if gaming is the goal. And we don’t recommend pushing the resolution past 1080p if you desire a smooth 60 FPS without sacrificing too much eye candy in new AAA games.
The chassis is the smallest gamer we’ve reviewed recently, and the abundance of slots and ports (USB, an SD card reader, and multiple display outputs) is uncommon for such a tiny device. The concealed Wi-Fi antenna under the top panel gives it an even smaller footprint compared to other mini PCs with exterior antennas, and we’re impressed with Shuttle’s compact design.
The tiny design doesn’t come without a few sacrifices. The most obvious (and detrimental) drawback is the static storage configuration, which consists of a 256GB M.2 SATA SSD. Most gamers will find themselves running out of space rather quickly if their library consists of anything more than a handful of games, and the low-capacity SSD is simply not a good starting point for a gaming enthusiast’s library. The speedy load times are welcomed, but the storage space (or lack thereof) is a downer.
The low total storage capacity can be remedied by installing your own 2.5” drive, and a 1TB HDD is a good investment if you intend to purchase the Shuttle X1. However, we aren’t fond of the procedure to install it. The top cover screws are each covered with a sticker; that may make it look sleek, but the residue that remains after you crack the seal isn’t attractive. The top panel and drive cage are easy enough to detach (more screws), but the SATA ribbon cable is delicate and difficult to connect to the motherboard (or, at least, it was for these large hands). We’d be much happier with an additional storage drive already installed to save us the trouble, even if it increases the price a little bit.
We’d also have liked to see a 6GB version of a GTX 1060 MXM graphics card installed instead of the 3GB model, mostly because the halved VRAM buffer means the X1 takes a significant performance hit when memory-hungry effects are enabled. The performance difference is so severe in some games that the Shuttle X1 can’t produce a stutter-free benchmark run with the usual all-maxed settings we use in our reviews at 4K (even though 6GB models can complete the tests). And some games downright restrict certain high-end settings with the less-powerful 3GB GPU. If getting that 6GB of graphics memory means adding another $50 to $100 to the MSRP, we wouldn’t even complain.
The mini PC market is starting to see more of these tiny gaming systems, and Shuttle has been an innovator in the SFF space for quite some time. The X1 is a marvel in its own right for the performance packed inside, and although it doesn’t meet all of our enthusiast expectations, it is still an adequate starting point for a new PC gamer looking for a compact design, VR-ready performance, and a plethora of USB connectivity.
MORE: Best PC Builds
MORE: How To Build A PC
MORE: All PC Builds Content
And compared to gaming laptops, this Mini PC is quite expensive for the hardware you get. It's around $1400, while better equipped laptops can be found for hundreds of dollars less. Just a brief search turns up an MSI laptop at Newegg for $1150 ($1050 after rebate), with the same CPU and the same amount of RAM, but with a 6GB 1060 and a much more usable 512GB SSD. Plus, you get an integrated 15.6" display, SteelSeries backlit keyboard, trackpad, speakers, DVD burner, webcam, and a battery, allowing the device to be used anywhere. Sure, it will take up a bit more desk space, although once you add a keyboard to the Shuttle X1, any size advantage it has will be negated.
I suppose it could fit a little better into a home theater environment though, where it's going to stay connected to a television and be used with wireless peripherals. Unless you are completely starved for space though, you could undoubtedly get more performance with desktop hardware for less.