Like we mentioned before, the Shuttle XPC X100 and now the X200 reminded us of consoles, though we're talking about the 80s heyday incarnations instead of the shiny black PlayStations now. For sure, not everyone will warm immediately to its appearance, but it will bring back pangs of nostalgia to some. We certainly didn't mind that Shuttle has persisted with this design. If you can remember, the original X100 can be placed either standing or lying flat. The design of the heat pipe cooler used internally means that there is only one correct upright orientation for the X100 and that is also the case for the X200. Of course, this direction is clearly marked at the bottom of the unit.
The front panel of the XPC X200 looks almost exactly the same too. We have the slim slot loaded DVD writer (Matsushita UJ-85JS) capable of writing to all existing formats like dual layer DVDs or even DVD-RAM at fairly decent speeds. Shuttle's website indicates that there is a choice between this Super Multi drive and the usual combo drive (which is unable to read/write DVD-RAM) so users should configure accordingly. Above the 4-in-1 card reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro) there is a small black dot. That is the infrared receiver, one of the new additions to the X200. It works together with the included remote control, customized for Windows XP Media Center edition. While Shuttle has stated that the X200 is ready for Windows Vista, we only have their word for it, since we only tested it with Windows XP and with all the custom applications and devices, proper drivers are a must for everything to work. However, with Shuttle's usual efficiency when it comes to releasing drivers, we are not unduly worried about Windows Vista support.
While the X100 was characteristic of Shuttle's alacrity in adopting newer interfaces and protocols, the rear I/O panel seems to hint that the company may have had a change of mind. Or the consumers have made a point about the older ports. In any case, the legacy PS/2 ports are back for both keyboard and mouse. The good news is that there are still four USB 2.0 ports on the X200 like before so users have effectively 'gained' at least two USB ports with this decision.
New to the series however is the addition of FM and TV tuner coaxial outputs (along with the necessary tuner), making the X200 more of a dedicated 'media center' than the previous version. Unfortunately, video out has been reduced to just a single DVI output, with the S-Video port removed. A HDMI port would have been perfect but Shuttle's choice of using the Intel GMA950 graphics smashed any possibility of that. The addition of the hybrid TV/FM tuner and wireless LAN has certainly taken a toll on the possibility of squeezing in discrete graphics processor. Alternatively, Shuttle could have waited out a little longer for Intel's 965GM platform and take advantage of the updated GMA 3000 graphics engine that does support HDCP, hence enabling the use of a HDMI port. That would have made playing high-definition content on a big screen more feasible. However, even the GMA 3000 isn't a truly capable of playing all HD video content - that would require the GMA X3000 or a discrete GPU, which is a real loss for the Shuttle XPC X200. Video concerns aside, the new X200 have an electrical coaxial audio output instead of the optical S/PDIF output found on the X100. This could be inconvenient for some users since we believe that the optical version is more prevalent.
Just like a notebook, the Shuttle X200 relies on an external power adaptor for its energy needs. This 80W power brick is quite a standard affair and ensures that Shuttle is able to cramp all its components into the ultra small form factor of the X200 without compromise. It weighs around the same as a typical notebook power adaptor and overall, we found the Shuttle X200 to be very quiet, just what we expected from Shuttle.