It is perhaps not a coincidence that the exterior of the Shuttle XPC X100 reminds us of a console, albeit one from a previous era. After all, with the boom in video gaming, consoles have certainly staked a place in the living room. So emulating the appearance of one allows the X100 to blend in. But unlike the slim elegance of the latest refined version of Sony's popular PlayStation 2 console, the thick chassis of the X100, along with its black and silver appearance is more old-school Nintendo than sophisticated Sony. Especially if you place the X100 lying flat instead of using the included stand.
If you do place it standing upright, Shuttle has a brightly marked warning label that the X100 should be placed upright according to the direction indicated. According to the warning, to do otherwise may damage the system. This is probably due to the way the heat pipe based cooler for the processor is orientated internally. The wrong orientation will likely lead to the cooler being less than efficient and the consequences could be fatal to the system.
A slim slot loaded DVD burner dominates the design of the front panel for the X100 together with an integrated 4-in-1 card reader. There is a prominent silver power button but no reset switch. Neither did we find any LED to indicate hard disk activity though there was a gentle blue glow to show that the system is powered on. Finally, a USB2.0 port is also conveniently located at the front but we felt that it would have been better to hide it behind a flap as the exposed port does disrupt the smooth facade.
Shuttle does seem to be going on a one-company crusade to end legacy devices and ports. Like a couple of their high-end and latest SFF systems, there is no support for PS/2 devices so if you're still using the old keyboard and mouse, it might be time to change to the USB version. There are four USB2.0 ports at the rear but other familiar and 'historic' ports like parallel or serial are all removed from this forward looking XPC. One of our favorite buttons on a Shuttle XPC, the BIOS reset switch is not to be seen. This is understandable since the casual audience expected for the X100 is probably very different from the SFF enthusiasts. Besides, we found the BIOS truly lacking in any kind of options that would require such a switch. Other useful ports include a S/PDIF digital audio output, as well as DVI and S-Video display outputs. However, if you plan to connect the X100 to your brand new HDTV via HDMI, you may need a DVI-to-HDMI converter. However, the Mobility Radeon X1400 graphics onboard does not have proper HDCP support so playing protected high definition content from the X100 on your HDTV is not feasible. Other traditional content can of course be enjoyed without restriction.
Similar to a notebook or the Apple Mac Mini, the Shuttle XPC X100 has shifted the power supply to an external power adaptor. This substantial power brick easily weighs half a kilogram and together with the estimated 3.41kg of the X100 itself, this Shuttle XPC is definitely not a notebook. The generous use of steel give the X100 a very solid and sturdy build, but the hefty weight incurred from the choice of materials and components however negates its 'portable' form factor. While some desktop replacement notebooks will end up heavier, they have the luxury of a LCD display to compensate. You won't get that with the X100 and frankly, we were quite taken aback by its weight initially. The small footprint of the chassis had us fooled into thinking that within its console like dimensions, it would be as handy and light as one. Instead, that did not seem to be the case, so what lies underneath its black exterior?