Shuttle's Smallest Yet: XPC X100

Complete|Mobile Systems
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UNDER THE HOOD

The X100 is a complete system, and it's obvious as soon as the cover is removed that it's not really intended to be upgraded or tinkered with. With the exception of the hard drive, only mobile parts are used. The CPU and GPU are cooled by the same low-profile heatpipe-based cooler — the sort that is found in laptops.


The cooling system is designed for use in a laptop.

The one exception to the use of mobile parts is the hard drive, which is a full size model from Seagate. This is important, especially if the X100 is intended as a media center, since the current high water mark for desktop drives (750 GB) is about four times the maximum for notebook drives (160~200 GB).

Shuttle has chosen to use Seagate's DB35 7200.2 line of drives instead of the more mainstream Barracuda series. The DB35 is designed for use in consumer electronics (read: PVRs) and is optimized for sequential access and reliability over random access and speed. In terms of usability, this is likely to mean that the system will feel slower if it is used as a PC instead of a media center. On the other hand, it should also mean that it is less likely to drop frames during playback — at least when the drive is unfragmented.

Editor's Note: SPCR Reviewer Russ Kinder believes that...

"The reason for using the DB35 drive probably has more to do with reliability and warranty issues than performance. Seagate says that the modified firmware in the DB35's will lead to longer lifespans in continuous simultaneous read/write situations like DVR's than a conventional desktop drive would. At least that's how the Seagate guys explained it to me. His exact line was, "just wait 2 or 3 years until you start hearing about all the dying DVR machines people bought with desktop drives in them." If its true, I could see where they would push their system integrators towards the DB35 drives. Most users don't realize that anytime you're watching TV through your HTPC, you are continuously writing and reading from the HDD, even if you're not actively recording any shows. The DB models are also cheaper."

Seagate's Technology Paper, Deliver a Great Viewing Experience With the Seagate Technology DB35 Series Hard Drive in Your Digital Video Recording System (downloadable from this web page), gives some support to these comments:

"Hard drives designed for PC applications are optimized for data integrity through enhanced error detection and correction routines. Consumer video recording devices, however, need to be optimized for stream integrity to avoid problems caused by over-execution of error checking, which can cause problems in consumer video recording devices. The Seagate DB35 series drives offer timelimited commands, which allow manufacturers to adjust error detection and correction in favor of a consistent, smooth video stream. In the rare instance that an error in the video data is detected, the consumer would likely experience a virtually imperceptible drop of a video frame, but would continue to enjoy an uninterrupted stream of entertainment content."


Shuttled uses one of Seagate's "stream integrity optimized" consumer electronics drive.

Power for the X100 is provided by a 120W power brick that supplies 20V directly to the motherboard. It also has active power factor correction, and accepts a full range of input voltages. It is large but fanless, and remained inaudible during normal operation. However, when the system was in standby, the brick gave off a faint but high pitched squeal. Buried behind an entertainment center, this would probably not be heard, but it could be an issue if the brick is kept close to the user — on a desk, for example.


The power brick outputs 6A @ 20V — 120W max.



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