Altech Computers Shuttle XPC Prima
- Transportable form factor, e-SATA, Windows XP installed (better performance)
- Windows XP is installed not Vista (no DirectX 10 support), limited upgradeability
For LAN gamers this is a great choice, but its limited upgrade options may put some people off.
Price$ 1,925.00 (AUD)
Altech has used Shuttle's XPC Prima case to create a funky small form factor gaming PC, which is ideal for LAN gamers who regularly need to move their PC around. It's a far cry from the typical towering case with the flashing lights design we're used to in gaming cases, which certainly adds some advantages, but it definitely has its flaws, too.
On the up side this is one of the best options for fans of LAN gaming, as the smaller form factor makes it much easier to transport around. It's also a good form factor to use as a shared media centre PC. Cables permitting, it wouldn't be too hard to move into the lounge room and hook up to the TV and sound system.
The shuttle uses an AM2 socket motherboard with a dual-core AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ 3GHz CPU. It allows for a total of one optical drive, one external 3.5in drive, two hard drives, four RAM slots and one full-sized PCI express 16x graphics card. A Galaxy GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB has been installed, as has 2GB of Corsair 800MHz DDR2 RAM.
Naturally with such high-end hardware and such little space to breathe there's a fair bit of cooling involved. The CPU gets a nifty twin fan cooling system, with one small fan blowing air over the fins of the heat sink, while a second larger fan extracts air from the other side, doubling the effort to maintain strong airflow over the CPU.
At the rear of the case there are three more fans. Two tiny fans blow cool air over the 320GB Samsung hard drive, which resides at the top rear of the case, while another slightly larger fan built into the power supply extracts air from the case.
Overall, the case has been designed well to accommodate some serious hardware in such a small enclosure, and we're impressed by how powerful this system is with so little room to move. However, on the down side, there's little room to upgrade, a key requirement for many gaming machines. The games industry develops at such a rate that hardware can struggle to keep up. In many cases it's better to upgrade your hardware before laying out another load of cash for a whole new system, but this PC has little to offer in this regard.
There's no room for a dual-graphics card configuration, there's only room for one more hard drive and optical drive. Our only other gripes are that, as a gaming system an Intel CPU might have been a better choice.
Also, Altech has installed Windows XP. While many gamers still believe, and rightly so, that games run better under XP, the 8800 GTS graphics card is a DirectX 10 card and XP can't run DirectX 10. Although this card will run DirectX 9 games and run them well, it's a shame to lose the DirectX 10 content now available in many games.
In WorldBench 5, our Windows XP benchmark (not comparable to WorldBench 6 scores), the Altech Shuttle XPC Prima scored 137, a solid score for anything from gaming to video encoding. In the MP3 encoding tests it took 72 seconds to convert 53 minutes worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files using iTunes and 86 seconds using Cdex (using one core only). In 3DMark 2006 we saw a solid score of 8735 and in 3DMark 2001 SE it dominated, scoring 34,672.
This system uses the motherboard's own Realtek audio, which can be hooked up via the analogue or digital outputs. One nice feature of this PC is the inclusion of an e-SATA port at the rear of the case.
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