The $4,165 Shuttle XPC P 2600g joins the pantheon of high-priced, high-powered, small-form-factor game systems currently occupied by the likes of Alienware's Area-51 5300 series and Falcon's FragBox 2. So what sets this toaster-size PC apart from the competition? In an acronym: SLI. Shuttle has managed to squeeze a pair of Nvidia GeForce 7800 GT cards into a totable case, resulting in the kind of blazing graphics performance normally reserved for big, beefy towers. Though it's a bit noisy, the XPC P 2600g delivers the necessary muscle for today's latest games in a stylish, portable package.
Indeed, from the AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 processor to the high-end audio system, the XPC P 2600g is a serious gaming powerhouse, despite its diminutive size. Although it lacks the FragBox 2's convenient carrying handle, the 2600g is smaller, measuring 8.3 inches high by 12.6 inches wide by 8.7 inches deep. The glossy drive-bay panels on the front give the black, small-form-factor box a slightly upscale look, and its compactness makes it very easy to tote back and forth to LAN parties.
The small size also makes for a pretty crowded interior. The Shuttle XPC P 2600g has no standard PCI slots and only two RAM sockets (occupied in our test system by two 1GB sticks). On the plus side, the case has room (and cabling) for a third hard drive, just in case the two supplied 400GB drives don't meet your storage needs. The XPC P 2600g also offers plenty of ports for external expansion, including six for USB 2.0 (two in front), two for FireWire (one in front), and even ones for serial and PS/2. It also provides a convenient 8-in-1 media reader and front-accessible headphone and microphone jacks.
The only real problem with the design is noise. The fans on the two video cards combine to make quite a racket. Admittedly, they're necessary to keep those hot cards cool, especially in such cramped quarters, and after a few long minutes, they do idle down to a quieter level. In the meantime, you'll have to turn up the volume to compensate.
Our test system included a number of upgrades that added more than $1,500 to the system's $2,499 base price, but neither monitor nor speakers were among them. If you don't already have these items, one-stop shopping is available: the company sells a selection of Shuttle and Samsung LCDs and Logitech speaker systems on its Web site.
Other than that, the Shuttle XPC P 2600g is supremely equipped for gaming and high-powered computing. Shuttle has stocked it with a 2.8GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 processor, 2GB of PC3200 SDRAM, two hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration, and a double-layer DVD burner. The Via Envy24PT onboard audio system delivers 7.1-channel sound and provides both analog and digital (S/PDIF) ports. We hooked it up to some surround-sound speakers and enjoyed seriously booming audio.
We particularly appreciate the Shuttle's built-in 802.11b/g wireless adapter, the antenna for which screws onto the back of the case. Shuttle also supplied a Logitech UltraX mouse and keyboard; both are solid components, and hard-core gamers will appreciate that they're wired rather than wireless. As a bonus, the system comes with a Logitech gaming headset for online multiplayer chatting.