The XPC P 2500G doesn't subscribe to the belief that gaming PCs have to live in enormous, gaudy cases. It is housed in the SN25P Barebones chassis, a unit approximately the size of a large toaster and promises performance in line with the fastest, largest gaming desktops. Its innocuous looks may deter some hardcore gamers, but it provides a refreshing alternative to the rash of boy-racer desktops that litter the desktop PC market.
The XPC P 2500G is built around Shuttle's XPC SN25P Barebones chassis. It's very compact at 325 by 220 by 210mm (WHD), which is about the size of four phone books stacked vertically. It's also very pretty thanks to its reflective anthracite front panel, but we personally prefer the look of Shuttle's white or silver SFF boxes.
The front panel of the unit plays host to an 8-in-1 memory card reader, which is conveniently located at the top for easy access. Below this, there are two flaps for concealing DVD rewriter drives, although one of the optical drive bays is vacant. The lower flap conceals a pair of USB ports and a FireWire port, along with headphone and microphone ports.
Unlike other SFF boxes in the Shuttle range, the XPC P 2500G does not use an external power brick. Instead, a miniature 350W power supply unit (PSU) whirrs away inside the unit. It's a welcome sight, as it reduces the amount of clutter outside the PC, but it raises possible cooling issues and limits the amount of space inside the machine. Its relatively limited power rating is also slightly concerning for upgraders, as additional components may lead to crashing and general instability as a result of the limited power.
Despite the P 2500G 's use of an internal power supply, and its use of so many high-performance components, the PC's temperature and power was well regulated and it was reliable in use. There's a vent to the left of the unit, through which the main CPU heatsink expels hot air generated by the processor, and three further fans at the rear (one for the integrated PSU and two smaller exhaust fans at the rear), all of which help the P 2500G stay cool.
At the rear of the PC, Shuttle has supplied a wealth of input/output ports. You'll find six discrete audio ports, including optical and digital SPDIF input and output. These make it easy to connect a set of surround-sound speakers to the PC's onboard 8-channel (7.1) audio system. Also at the rear are a further four USB ports, a FireWire port and a single Gigabit (1,000Mbps) Ethernet port. We were also happy to see PS/2 ports, the inclusion of which saves you wasting USB ports on a mouse and keyboard.
The port collection is rounded off with a serial port, which will come in handy for any ageing peripherals, and a pair of DVI graphics ports courtesy of the ATI Radeon X1900 XTX graphics card. At the time of writing, this is the fastest ATI graphics card available thanks to its abundance of pixel shading units, high graphics processing unit (GPU) clock speed and advanced memory architecture.
The card is paired with the awesome AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU, and 2GB of DDR400 RAM. Like the graphics card, the FX-60 CPU is the fastest component of its type available today. It's the first dual-core CPU designed with gaming in mind, and is capable of running circles around the current competition from Intel where gaming is concerned.
All components are connected to a Shuttle FN25 motherboard, which sports an Nvidia nForce4 Ultra chipset. It lends the PC 8-channel audio capabilities, as mentioned earlier, one traditional IDE port and four Serial ATA (SATA) ports with support for Native Command Queuing (NCQ) -- a technology that speeds up the rate at which data is processed on compatible hard drives.