Shuttle XS29F: Is VIA's Nano Processor Powerful Enough?

The Verdict

We set out today to figure out if the fanless, ultra low-power Shuttle XS29F book-sized PC was really powerful enough for the simple daily tasks of typical office systems, but we faced several hurdles in making any determination. While we did find that it consumed little electrical power, we also found that it offered little computational power.

Benchmarks show that anyone who thinks the Atom is barely sufficient will be sorely disappointed by the Nano. But our own experience was even more revealing. Such a simple task as switching between open windows was often an annoyingly long experience when using the U1700-based system. Double-clicking a program and waiting several seconds before the loading window appeared felt like millennia. Watching as it took nearly an hour to convert a five minute video from DVD to a more Web-friendly format was almost as exciting as viewing a typical PowerPoint presentation. Running Vista on a 1 GHz VIA Nano processor actually felt like running Vista on a 1 GHz processor, and there’s a reason most people don’t run Vista on their old Pentium III systems.

The Atom 330, on the other hand, was almost acceptable, switching between windows in almost real-time and loading program launch windows fast enough that we didn’t have to question whether or not we really double-clicked the icon. The slow hard drive still made us wait for some programs to load, but at least we could see that the system was doing something. In that respect, the Atom felt at least 50% faster than the Nano.

To get back to the original question, is the XS29F really fast enough for daily office duty? In our opinion, it’s only fast enough for the most patient user. Most office personnel will likely require a machine of at least similar performance to the Atom-powered X27D to be truly satisfied with their desktop computing experience.

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  • Wouldn't this just be a linux-only machine then? I can't possibly see any other use for it other than maybe a childs pc or a general "Internet & Email only" PC.
  • pakardbell486dx2
    This may be a dumb question, but why was Xp not used for this test? Clearly "just barely" wont work for people who spend their hard earn money on something like this. Maybe the celeron is ok for vista basic but the atom and nano platforms are just not good enough for Vista. If I can make an analogy comparing Vista and Atom/Nano it's like an old 73' Corolla trying to haul ten tons uphill.
  • werr20
    wonderful ! i'm waiting for faster cpu-s from via
  • ethaniel
    No CPU usage tests on Blu-ray playback? I was expecting that...
  • tacoslave
    amd huron platform thats all i have to say i want to see it benched see how it stakes up.
  • Blueridge
    I agree that the major drawback of this review is the use of Microsoft Vista. I think that Windows XP Home edition for ULPC or a netbook spin of a linux distro (e.g. Ubuntu) would have been a much better choice for this review, especialy since is very well known that Vista is just not the right choice for netbooks (or nettops). Some time ago I read several reviews of the nano processor, based on Win XP and they performed more than OK, they were even suitable for a small HTPC at that time (the toughest challenge was DVD playback back then) and with a better chipset would have performed even netter. But this happens when a resource hungry OS like vista is used... just my 2 cents.
  • HalfHuman
    i guess a windoze xp or 7 would be a lot better to use with this kind of hardware. in fact i cannot think at a more inapropriate os to run on a nentop than vista. :)
    maybe the performance delta would be the same but the usability would be more than "acceptable".
    regarding the "benchmarking" stuff... i do not think that anybody sane would buy a nettop to use it for hardcore photo editiing or transcoding.
    if i'd buy a nettop i'd be interested in several factors:
    - to be powerfull enough for office work and maybe hd playback
    - to use as little power as possible (which nano does nicely) as this kind of device would be rarely powered down
    - to be silent (which nano is)
    i think that performance per watt is irrelevant here as a system like this is not meant to be "performant". i think that the one that uses less watts, has more features is queter wins here.
    my take on this is that via has a very nice platform and nano wins even if it's not the fastest.
  • Blueridge
    I just took a look at Via's website and it seems that Nano is available in flavors up to 1.8GHz. I wish a machine based on such a processor was used for this review, though I think the main issue here is availability.
  • HalfHuman
    i would be nice to see some noise evaluations, some hd playback tests... some appropriate os. :)
  • eddieroolz
    The Nano would be the perfect computer to just leave it powered on, seeding torrents and such.
  • apache_lives
    Intel must still have large stock piles of 945 based chipsets if there still selling them with Atom's etc - kinda sad we have to wait for the next gen SoC like designs to see true low power setups and platforms etc
  • Don't understand y u even wrote this article.
    No Point at all.
    u guys problems are u doesn't even know what we want to read. You guys simply put up unprofessional article. Who would run vista in these types of platform? where is da video performance? Where is the noise test?

    speechless... really speechless...
  • juliom
    Why is a dual core CPU being compared to a single core one?...
  • tenshin0313
    Why not using 1.6Ghz Nano XS29 system to do a fair test against Atom 330?

    http://www.mostreviews.com/reviews/23357
  • tenshin0313
    Why not using 1.6Ghz Nano XS29 system to do a fair test against Atom 330?

    http://www.mostreviews.com/reviews/23357
  • Blueridge
    Yep, I totally agree! As long as there is a Shuttle machine equipped with a Nano processor that's running at a frequency close to the Atom's, that's the one that should have been used for this article. It's not fair to make the Intel based machine a clear winner in this article without pitting against a worthy opponent.
    Though this may seem far fetched, if Tom's hardware wants to maintain their standards as professionals, there should be a sequel to this article with a proper suite of benchmarks, a proper OS and balanced HW configurations (at least a 1.6Ghz Via Nano).

    After digging a little on the VIA's website, I think a better netbook would be build with the fastest Nano processor and the ULV version of the VX800 chipset. Just my two cents... again :)
  • Regected
    juliomWhy is a dual core CPU being compared to a single core one?...


    I was thinking the same thing through most of this write-up. Come on Thomas, you can do better than that. Compare comparable equipment. Why not throw an entry level dual core Pentium in for good measure?
  • DjEaZy
    ... give the nano a nVidia 9400m...
  • amnotanoobie
    This would be an interesting 24/7 printer server/web server/NAS and an occasional movie box.
  • amdfangirl
    I would so want this computer...
  • You should this properly: Intel Atom 270/280 vs VIA Nano U1700
    That would be a useful test for those interested in fanless nettops.
    The Atom 330 is a dual core which requires a fan...
  • Crashman
    ethanielNo CPU usage tests on Blu-ray playback? I was expecting that...


    You don't play blu-ray movies on office PC's. Well you might, but generally speaking office PC's don't even come with blu-ray drives.

    These two models target the desktop specifically, not home theaters.
    juliomWhy is a dual core CPU being compared to a single core one?...


    That's the way Shuttle wanted it.

    tenshin0313Why not using 1.6Ghz Nano XS29 system to do a fair test against Atom 330?http://www.mostreviews.com/reviews/23357


    That's not the way Shuttle wanted it.

    plinoYou should this properly: Intel Atom 270/280 vs VIA Nano U1700That would be a useful test for those interested in fanless nettops.The Atom 330 is a dual core which requires a fan...



    Then why doesn't the CPU HAVE a fan?
  • saint19
    Where is the Athlon neo???, could be interesting make a comparation fo those 3