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Shuttle XPC SZ170R8 V2 review: Small but powerful

Quick read:

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Compact, efficient and incredibly powerful if you spring for the right parts, the Shuttle XPS SZ170R8 V2 has a lot going for it. The small form factor of the motherboard does not take away from its power. Even better is its capability as a portable machine. Buying a unit in Singapore is made easier by the local distributors with three years of local (Singapore) manufacturer warranty.
Online Shop: http://bit.ly/ShuttleShop
Local Shop(SG): http://www.cybermind.com.sg/contact-us/

Build and Design

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Shuttle have gone for simple elegance in their design of this XPC. While not as small and adorable as the XPC Nano, this machine fits neatly under a desk, or even on it. The black finish is tried and tested, but by no means played out. It gives the impression of chic and secrecy, something you would find in the office of a secret service worker. More practically, it means that the wires coming out the back are not too difficult to plug in and don’t look too messy.

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As with the Nano, however, some internal work is needed. The demo unit I received needed a few internal parts. I kitted it out with an Intel i5-6600k CPU, a GTX 1080 GPU, two sticks of overclocked DDR4 memory and a Samsung M2 SSD at 512 GB. This meant that the machine worked like a dream (more information below), but required a lot of self-assembly. However, if you buy this machine from a Shuttle distributor in Singapore (like Beyond Geek), they will assemble the computer for you with the parts you want. Otherwise, if you are confident in your PC-building skills, you can do it yourself. Just make sure that you read up on the compatible components first.

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One unfortunate side-effect of using the parts I did was that the frame for additional HDD drives could no longer fit. While the chassis is roomier than you would think, make sure that you are sticking to smaller form-factors to maximise efficiency. This is not your standard ATX motherboard after all. This also means that I was not able to test out the main selling point of the XPC, which is high-level storage to act as a mini-server.

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Ports:

The ports are both excellent and frustrating with this machine. It’s Excellent because there are plenty of port options. Frustrating because while there are front-end USB ports (two 3.0 as well as a headphone and microphone jack), they’re hidden by a panel. So if you rely on the use of thumb drives for work, this might be a detracting factor for you. Same for anyone wanting to use an external hard drive, as the hidden ports look slightly untidy when open. Otherwise, Shuttle has done a good job with ports.

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Otherwise, Shuttle has done a good job with ports. No less than 6 USB 3.0 ports are on offer, as well as a full suite of surround-sound jacks. There are also display ports, but you are better off using the ports from the GPU you choose to install for your display port. What is surprising is the lack of any USB C ports, which hasn’t reached wide adoption rates yet but are useful for future-proofing your device.

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One other interesting feature of the Shuttle is the two LAN ports. The best use for this feature is for an office or home office setup where you can daisy chain your PC’s together. Combine this with the high number of HDD slots, and you have quite the powerful mini-server.

Cooling:

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The XPC has an efficient cooling system thanks to its separated HDD cooling system. In fact, most of the noise came from the fans of the GTX 1080 rather than the machine itself. With the case attached, there is little to no noise that originates from the XPC, even during the higher-intensity benchmarks that I ran. If you plan to use the PC for high-intensity graphical use, such as video editing or gaming, rest assured that the whir of the fan won’t be too much of a distraction.

Performance:

As mentioned, choosing higher-end internal components made the XPC run like a dream. The SSD, powerhouse GPU and stable CPU made navigation and loading an absolute cakewalk on the computer. However, users who opt for lower end, cheaper internals will probably not see anything as good as what I managed. Even with my setup, I noticed some issues with the CPU not being able to process fast enough. This is not the fault of the XPC in the slightest, however, just keep in mind that the performance you receive will equate to what you choose to use it for.

Video streaming proved not to be a concern at all at the very least, with Netflix loading up with the minimum amount of effort needed. Likewise, YouTube was cooperative. As a server, I was unable to test the XPC’s capabilities, but considering the performance it gave I have no doubt that it would perform admirably for small-scale businesses or home servers.

Benchmarks:

I put the PC through its paces with 3Dmark’s suite of benchmarks for PCs. Here is the result for use as a home computer:

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Of course, it was never going to match up to a PC that was VR ready, but that is not the benchmark here. The high framerate and small loading times prove that as a home PC or even in an office setting, the XPC works well. Here is how it performed as a tool for creative work:

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As can be seen, you can equip the shuttle to be a powerful device for just about any use. It even holds up as a gaming PC, which can be seen by checking the analytics of the online tool by PC Requirements Lab:

Final Thoughts:

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The modular nature of the XPC means that you can really kit the PC out to be a true powerhouse. Although its form factor is small, there is plenty of room to house big beefy graphics cards, and the result is simply outstanding. However, certain features could do with a bit of updating (lack of USB-C 3.1). Otherwise, this is a truly wonderful piece of technology that can suit a variety of roles.

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There is no CD-Drive, which can be a problem for some you still prefer installing things the old-fashioned way. Or if you need to install your OS. In our digital world however, this is less of a concern, although it would have been good to have a wireless adaptor added. As it currently stands, you need to have a LAN cable handy to access the internet.

Conclusion:

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Whether you need a powerful home PC, a gaming rig on a budget, the XPC SZ170R8 V2 delivers. It delivers powerhouse performances without taking up large amounts of space. Not on par with the supercomputers currently on the market, but punching well above its weight. The XPC is a definite choice for many.

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