The Shuttle mini X 200 is the replacement for the mini X 100, a tiny, well designed desktop PC aimed at multimedia junkies. The new version comes in three flavours: the entry-level 200BA, the customisable 200M and the 200MA, reviewed here. Unlike its predecessor, the £850 mini x 200MA packs Windows XP Media Center edition, a larger hard drive and more memory, but it has a slower CPU and graphics card.
The XPC mini X 200 is aesthetically identical to the mini X 100, which is a good thing. It's a flat, rectangular shape that's only slightly bigger than a large hardback book. We were impressed by the recessed brushed-silver strip on top of the unit, particularly as it extends halfway down the front of the chassis, where you'll find the power button and a blue power indicator light. Between these is a cleverly positioned and very discreet memory card reader.
The sleek design of the case is helped by a slot-loading DVD drive at the front. This, unlike many similar drives, doesn't make the noise of a cat being strangled when a disc is inserted or ejected. There's a single USB port at the front of the unit with four more at the rear -- two at the far right and two more in the middle below a single LAN port. Here you can also find S-Video, SPDIF, FireWire and audio ports, plus a DVI graphics port and AC power inlet. Power is fed to the PC via a fanless external power brick.
The mini X 200 can be positioned flat on its belly or propped upright on its side. Shuttle has included a curved silver stand to keep the unit relatively stable when stood upright.
At the heart of the system, Shuttle has chosen a 1.6GHz Intel Core Duo T2050 processor instead of the 1.6GHz Core Duo T2300 in the mini X 100. Both run at the same clock speed, but the T2050 has a slower front-side bus (FSB) speed of 533MHz, whereas the T2300's FSB is 667MHz. This makes the mini X 200 marginally slower than its predecessor, despite it having 1GB of RAM (the mini X 100 had 512MB).
Another difference is the mini X 200's use of an integrated Intel graphics adaptor. This is a shame since the mini X 100 used a far superior ATI Mobility Radeon X1400. It's fine for playing hi-def video and showing images, but don't expect it to run games.
Audio is fairly well-catered for. The Intel 945PM chipset includes a high-definition audio controller that can spew sound to up to eight separate channels. Connecting your surround-sound speakers is easy thanks to three discreet audio jacks and an optical digital SPDIF port at the rear.
Shuttle has shied away from any next-generation optical disc formats, so there's no sign of any Blu-ray or HD DVD drive in the mini X 200. Instead you get a good old-fashioned Matshita UJ-845S slot-loading DVD rewriter. It's fairly slow, maxing out at 8x for DVD ROM reading or 2.4x for dual-layer (8.5GB) DVD+R writing, but it's fine for creating backups as long as you have patience.
One of our gripes with the mini X 100 was its 200GB hard drive -- which wasn't large enough for our liking. The mini X 200 comes with a more capacious 320GB drive, which should please anyone with an extensive digital file collection. The PC ships with a hybrid digital/analogue TV tuner, but this won't let you simultaneously record one channel while you watch another.
The mini X 200 has a gigabit Ethernet controller, so it can transfer data to compatible NAS devices at up to 1,000Mbps, and the unit has optional Wi-Fi so you can connect it to your home network and share an Internet connection without using cables.
There's not a great deal of software included in the package. You get a demo of Nero 6, NeroVision Express 3 and PowerDVD for movie playback, but that's about it. Our review sample used Windows XP Media Center Edition, but future versions will use Windows Vista Home Premium Edition.
The mini X 200 is a solid machine for everyday use, but it's slower than the mini X 100. It scored 2,538 in PCMark 2005, whereas the Mini X 100 scored 3,336. This we attribute to the T2050 CPU having a slower FSB than the T2300 in the mini X 100. Gaming performance is also worse than the mini X 100. It scored 298 in 3DMark 2006, which again is lower than the mini X 100's effort of 798.
Arguably the best aspect of the mini X 200's performance is its quiet operation. It's barely audible when idling and doesn't get much louder when running demanding applications.
This is one of the better Media Center PCs -- it's small enough to fit under your TV and has most of the features you'll need. Providing you're not looking for a gaming machine and aren't fussed by its limited upgradeability, it's a solid choice.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide