Review: An afternoon with Shuttle's Nano-powered XS29

Shuttle's XS29 barebone PC has a 1.6GHz processor, up to 4GB of RAM, gigabit ethernet, DVI, VGA and standard audio jacks, 6 USB ports and Via Chrome9 HC3 video. It's a Via Nano version of the X27, an otherwise identical machine equipped with an Intel chipset and Atom CPU. Thoughts follow.• I haven't tried the X27, but in principle, the difference would be slightly superior performance but greater power consumption. There's also the XS29F, a slower fanless version. • Equipped with 2GB of RAM and a 150GB toshiba hard drive, desktop performance was fine, but it's not up to (modern) gaming. It just doesn't have the grunt.
• 1080p HD movies worked great, not a spot of chop. The chipset supports MPEG-4, VC1 and WMV hardware accelleration. But there's no HDMI! • If you're OK with DVI and put in Blu, it would make a great home theater PC. • Price is TBD, but it'll liekly be $450-ish for a complete system with the basics and $200-ish for just the case, motherboard and CPU.
• All said, it's bigger than a Mac Mini and a Dell Studio Hybrid, but not any better. Unless you like the Shuttle's basic black look, a little more money gets you a smaller and more stylish system in both cases. it's a real PC and you can tinker with it to your heart's content. • However, what it does have over rivals is upgradeability: the case comes apart in moments without the use of tools. Upgrading RAM or the drives would be a snap. There's even an unused PCIe slot, should you manage to find something that'll fit in there. • The review unit came with Windows 7 beta build 7057, and it was a little glitchy. So build a system with XP, Vista or Ubuntu until someone verifies all is well with Microsoft's latest. Web store [Shuttle]

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13 Responses to Review: An afternoon with Shuttle's Nano-powered XS29

  1. theawesomerobot says:

    How well does it run Hulu?

  2. Chris Goldsmith says:

    Where did you buy this?

  3. obo says:

    @Aaron: The X2700 Rob links to as the price estimate is an Atom Dual-Core 330, but from what I’ve read, 1080p is just out of its reach – that GMA 950 cripples it for video.

    You could, maybe, stick this $58 Broadcom HD accelerator into the PCIe slot. No guarantees there.

    Instead, check out the AspireRevo, about $400 for a full Vista Home Premium system, or ASRock Ion 330 for about $370 OS-less. Both have the NVIDIA Ion chipset for 1080p HD video acceleration and HDMI – the AspireRevo is a single-core Atom, the ASRock dual-core.

  4. Rob Beschizza says:

    I didn’t try hulu, but it was fine with full-screened HD youtubes.

  5. Rob Beschizza says:

    It was a review unit. It’s not out, yet; you can get the atom one here:

  6. Stefan Jones says:

    You could put a Hauppauge HVR-2250 video tuner card in the PCIe slot, and turn this into a cute little MythTV PVR.

  7. Aaron says:

    Really? Full-screen HD YouTube ran OK? I think that’s a first for an Atom machine. Is it running the new dual-core 330? Final shipping specs seem to be hard to find on the intertubes.

    I’ve been waiting for a cheap SFF box to use as a Hulu and video front end. The Eee Box 206 was promising, but apparently choked on Hulu and full-screen YouTube HD.

    Rob, in the future, I think lots of people (myself included) would be grateful if you let us know how full-screen Hulu (and/or Hulu Desktop) runs on boxes like this that are clearly aimed at the living room.

  8. Artthurko says:

    Great review :o)

    Four Mobile Processors Compared

    VIA Nano v teste „jednašestiek“ (update 01.06.2009)

    Recenzia (Review): Lenovo IdeaPad S12 s VIA Nano U2250 1.3+GHz

  9. Rob Beschizza says:

    Underwhelmer, you know what? I think this model actually does all of that:

  10. underwhelmer says:

    No HDMI kills it for me. I’m currently rocking an AppleTV running Boxee, and it’s painfully slow. So I ask: Any recommendations for an HTPC that fits this spec list?

    – Enough power to handle HD video/Hulu/Boxee
    – Windows or OS X (No linux)
    – HDMI out
    – IR remote functionality
    – Small and quiet
    – WiFi
    – 250GB or bigger HDD
    – Preferably $500-600

    Or is that just wishful thinking? I can get a Dell Studio Hybrid in at $675 or so. (Who charges $70 for a wifi card!?)

    I’d consider rolling my own, but would hate to do all the work and find out it coughs and sputters on Hulu, or somesuch.

  11. DefMech says:

    @Underwhelmer: I’m right there with you. I’m trying to find reasons NOT to buy a Mini soon. I spent a while at Newegg trying to piece one out on my own, but I had a surprisingly difficult time getting anywhere near the form factor while keeping similar performance. I could go super small, but I’d be dipping into Ion boards and lose the great C2D and fast-ish Nvidia chip. That might not be a big deal to people who just need it to display video, though. I need to be able to do some mid-range 3D as well.

    Shoot, I’d be happy to go up to a VCR form factor if it meant I could OSX86 it.

  12. Rob Beschizza says:

    Not an Atom.

    Will be sure to check Hulu, Boxee and the like on any future models.

  13. north says:

    “…If you’re OK with DVI and put in Blu, it would make a great home theater PC…”
    Now I’m not 100% sure, but unless the Via Chrome9 HC3 is HDCP compliant you’ll have problems running the Blu over DVI.
    (Not 100% sure that chipset is HDCP compliant, but very sure you will have problems with Blu if it’s not.)

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