While we were getting ready for these tests, Shuttle added a similar model based on GeForce 8200. A pity it wasn't based on AMD 780G, which would have reduced CPU requirements for HD Video playback. This replacement still won't let you do with a weak processor. However, considering the unhurried modus operandi of Shuttle's partners, we are not late. On the contrary, our price monitoring hasn't returned any traces of this barebone kit in retail stores.
It would be wrong to blame distributors for reluctance. The reason is apparently inflated MSRP, so that models featuring new PC enclosures and based on updated chipsets (or not so new, as it often happens) are more expensive than similarly configured full-size PCs already bundled with good CPUs, memory, and graphics cards. Even our German colleagues criticize the existing inadequacy of prices (mind it, compact computers had become all the rage much earlier there, and it had nothing to do with the appearance of special weak components for netbooks and nettops. That is consumers are ready to pay extra money for a full-featured system in a compact enclosure). As for Russian distributors, they usually refuse to import the latest full-featured models, rightly expecting low demand.
There is another factor, which explains why the latest models are not very popular. In fact, users who choose such computers are not concerned much with maximum performance. Shuttle offers systems, which can accommodate two graphics cards and the most powerful CPU, but users understand that such computers will either be too noisy or get overheated, no matter how advanced their cooling systems are.
On the other hand, it's quite possible to find components for a typical multimedia/home/office computer to provide low-noise cooling in a compact PC enclosure without expensive tricks. At least there are plenty of inexpensive processors for the AMD platform, e.g. Athlon X2 Energy Efficient with 65 W TDP launched several year ago; now you can even get a processor with 45 W TDP. However, compatibility list includes processors with TDP of 89 W (one of those we have used in our tests). It's a bit more complicated with graphics cards. But you can find an economical model even among the most powerful cards of the latest generation (again, we have installed the reasonable maximum -- Radeon HD4850).
Let's name another model to complete the picture: SN68PTG5. It offers practically the same functionality in the familiar G5 enclosure. And it's already available in stores. All right, now we are going to take a look at Shuttle G6.
With such a glamorous name, the enclosure looks rather chaste, probably even stricter than some models from the non-glamorous series. The front panel is made of black brushed aluminum, quite conservative among all those lacquered plastic solutions. However, glamor was initially opposed to kitsch, as something elite (expensive, stylish, but low-key, for aesthetes and connoisseurs). Glamor has little to do with garish attires.
However, let's return to our barebone kit. G6 enclosure is only one centimeter longer than G5. The other dimensions are the same -- 200x310x185 mm (WxDxH).
Front panel bays (for an optical drive and a card reader) and peripheral connectors are expectedly closed with covers. The 5-inch bay cover is spring-loaded so that it opens when the CD/DVD-drive tray ejects and automatically closes after a disc is loaded. I like that the 3.5-inch bay cover opens softly without the typical clatter. Plastic hinges are restricted with rubber stops.
Connectors on the front panel include two USB 2.0 ports, FireWire400 (4-pin, no power), headphones and mike outputs. The outermost USB port supports SpeedLink mode -- press the neighboring button to switch this port to a LAN adapter mode, which allows to exchange files with any computer via a direct USB link. In fact, unlike Ethernet crossover, this solution is much easier to configure. The second computer detects this connection as a regular USB storage drive. For the same reason, exchanged files must be written to the USB Speed-Link folder, which appears automatically in the list of drives in "My Computer" (no additional software required). BIOS apparently imitates a virtual drive in this case. As there are only two USB ports on the front panel, the button to switch one of them to the standard mode is very useful.
A fingerprint scanner is installed on the folding-out bottom lid. You can use this device instead of the password procedure. Don't forget that system security depends on what's locked by this device. In other words, using this scanner instead of a long password only makes the system more convenient to use (as you don't have to remember the password). It's just as efficient, if a secure data encryption method is used, so that there is no way to read your data without passing the security system.
This product offers VGA and HDMI as video outputs, but the bundle includes a DVI adapter. Unfortunately, there are no PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard (there is a corresponding on-board connector, but no brackets in the bundle), so keep it in mind when you choose a keyboard. The product offers two eSATA ports. The other features are quite standard: 4 x USB (2.0), FireWire-400 (6-pin), Gigabit Ethernet, 5 analog audio jacks for 7.1-channel audio and Line-In, S/PDIF-Out. There is also a removable Wi-Fi antenna on the rear panel.
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