PC manufacturers and Microsoft are desperate for Windows Media Center to take off in the living room, however with such a slow take up it seems we aren’t quiet ready for that tower next to our television. Can a Shuttle PC manufacturer change all that?
The Shuttle G5 8300 is the company’s hope at dominating the media centre PC market and the living room. While it has big ideas, the PC is actually very small and the initial impression is how can something the size of a couple of shoeboxes promise so much.
The aluminium-covered box is small (30 x 20 x 18.5 cm) but long and the front poses a polished mirror effect. Behind the mirrors are the DVD drive, memory card reader (more later) and a VFD Media Display (Vacuum fluorescent display) that to you and me means green on black, to let you know what is going on. When it’s not telling you, the date is displayed, giving it that instant consumer electronics feel.
So it’s small and square, but what’s inside? The crux of the machine is an Intel Pentium 4 / 3.0 GHz processor that zips along with happily with most things you can throw at it. Likewise, the Serial-ATA 200 GB hard drive is likely to not have you worrying about space requirements as you fill the player up with television recordings, music and images.
Considering the high spec of everything else in the machine - a DVD writer 16x with Dual Layer support, 512Mb of DDR SDRAM we were expecting a better graphics card than the ATI X300SE (128MB) PCI-Express with VGA and DVI output bundled in the box. Meaning hardcore gaming is pretty much out of the equation.
Media credentials are offered in the guise of a disappointing analogue TV tuner PCI card that supports PAL-BG, PAL-DK, PAL-I, and SECAM-L but not digital or Freeview and for the lazy there’s always the included remote control. Audio however is more than enough to keep you happy and the Shuttle comes with a 6-channel audio controller with SPDIF in/out as standard.
Getting data in and out of the machine is a breeze thanks mostly to the inclusion of a 6-in-1 USB 2.0 Card Reader on the front of the device that is cunningly hidden away but the front mirrored panels.
Failing that there are two USB 2.0 and a Firewire socket on the front alongside a mic in and headphones out socket. Around the back there is a Monitor connector, TV out socket, a further Firewire socket, PS/2 for mouse and keyboard, LAN connectors, another two USB 2.0, the connectors for the 6-channel Audio line-out, Line-in and SPDIF: optical in/out, and finally the coaxial out for the tv tuner.
As a media centre PC, the system spec is very much on the nose. That’s not to say it’s perfect however, the graphics card is enough to get you out of trouble and cope with most things, but a gaming machine this isn’t. Likewise for the machine goes against the number one rule of any Media Center model - that is to be seen and not heard. At times this is one noisy bugger.
So should you be throwing your DVD player, video recorder and everything else for that matter out from under the PC and replace it with this. Probably not. It’s an admirable PC, but certainly not one to replace your home entertainment system with.