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Shuttle XPC Barebone SH55J2 review

by Parm Mann on 3 August 2010, 09:14 3.0

Tags: SH55J2, Shuttle

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qazeg

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If you're a manufacturer of computer systems, nothing reinvigorates your range quite like a new wave of Intel CPUs and chipsets.

Take for example Shuttle. The Taiwanese manufacturer, famed among other things for its small-form-factor PCs, has been quick to jump on Intel's Core 2010 bandwagon and now has a revamped range of top-to-bottom solutions.

Catering for the entry-level consumer, there's the Core 2-based SG41J1 in a new "J1" chassis. And, at the opposite end of the scale, the award-winning SX58J3 provides all the performance of Intel's best Core i7 processors in the new "J3" chassis.

There's an obvious gap in between, and it's being filled by the SH55J2 - a Ā£250 mid-range system that hopes to provide the perfect home for your next Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processor.

Measuring 330mm x 215mm x 190mm, the steel-and-aluminium "J2" chassis is as you might expect practically identical to the high-end SX58J3 save for a few minor tweaks.

The silver trim featuring the backlit XPC logo is a little wider and the optical tray eject button is now black as opposed to silver.

The end result is clean, smart, well finished, and small enough to blend nicely into most environments - be it the living room, the bedroom or the office.

Like the J3 chassis, the J2 features a small hard-drive activity LED that shines through the glossy front face, and a flip-down panel that reveals easy access to regularly-used I/O ports.

The front-facing array includes a multi-card reader (MMC/SD/MS), a USB 2.0 port, audio jacks and a combo USB 2.0/eSATA port. USB 3.0 and FireWire aren't invited, but the standard assortment is likely to be ample for the target mainstream market.

Detracting from the overall design, however, the SH55J2's dull grey rear simply isn't visually appealing.

With a streamlined set of connectivity options, the back panel provides 7.1 analogue audio outputs (courtesy of a Realtek ALC888 chip), Gigabit Ethernet, a further four USB 2.0 ports, a clear CMOS button, and both VGA and HDMI output.

It's one of the most minimal Shuttle I/O panels we've seen, and considering that there's no optical output, no eSATA and no FireWire connectivity to the rear, the SH55J2 is a step backward compared to last-generation designs such as the SG45H7.

Furthermore, while the display outputs - used in conjunction with an IGP-equipped Intel processor - do provide support for dual displays, the lack of DVI connectivity could be a real frustration for many consumers.

Rounding off the noteworthy items, you get a kettle plug connector for the internal 300W 80PLUS Bronze power supply - though there's no PSU on/off switch - as well as a a kensington lock and two PCIe expansion slots.

The outer shell doesn't exactly push the boat out, but what's in store when the cover comes off is what's really of interest here.