Sleek Shuttle PC embraces form

This supersmall system will look great on your desk, but don't expect to perform power-hungry graphics operations on it

Slim and stylish, with its matte-black and brushed-silver finish, the Shuttle XPC X100 is a striking attention-getter that would fit well in your office or your living room. This US$1323 system (based on our test configuration) is more about form than functionality, however.

When laid flat, the PC takes up about the same amount of space as a stack of paper--it measures a scant 8.3 inches wide by 11.8 inches deep, and it stands a mere 2.1 inches tall. The unit comes with a sturdy yet unobtrusive metal stand so you can orient the system vertically instead. Setting up the X100 is a breeze, as it's highly mobile and easy to position. The matching, included 17-inch Shuttle XP17 LCD is similarly portable, offering a handle and a built-in folding stand; it rendered reasonably good image quality, too.

To achieve its compact size, the superquiet X100 incorporates notebook components instead of larger desktop PC parts. Our test model came with a 1.6-GHz Intel Core Duo T2050, ATI's Mobility Radeon X1400 GPU, a 250GB hard drive, and a slot-loading, multiformat, double-layer DVD burner (with a maximum single-layer DVD write speed of 8X). The system conveniently stashes a Memory Stick and SD Card reader right between its power button and its blue status light on the front of the case.

Not surprisingly, the small case design eliminates the option of upgrading (the case does have some screws, but if you remove the top, you void the Shuttle warranty). The case has little real estate to spare for connectivity and components. It has only a handful of ports--namely, one front-mounted USB 2.0 port, four rear USB 2.0 ports (one of which must be used with the bundled splitter to connect the included wired Logitech keyboard and mouse), one FireWire port, gigabit ethernet, S-Video, audio inputs and outputs, and DVI-D (digital only).

As much as the X100's design impressed me, the system's performance did not: In our WorldBench 5 tests, the unit scored a 92, slightly below the current average mark of 95 for value desktop systems. Its graphics performance was at the low end of our range of average results for value desktops as well; I noticed image glitches while playing a game, but not while watching a DVD movie.

If you simply want a desktop system that will take up minimal space, the XPC X100 will suit you well. I can also see it having a role in the living room if you lay out more cash for a roomier hard drive and a TV-tuner card. But if space isn't an issue, you can spend less money on a slightly larger desktop PC that will provide you with a lot more power.

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