Review Price free/subscription
In terms of connectivity, the X50 is best described as adequate - well, assuming you don't mind it having no optical drive and don't use such archaic connections as PS2 and parallel. On the left side are two USB ports that sit above the DC power input, while to their right are a set of slim silver buttons. These adjust the underlighting, screen backlight, and system volume, and are controlled by pressing the top silver button, which cycles through the three options (lighting up a corresponding LED inset in the speaker grill), then using the rocker switch to adjust the setting. It's a neat and effective system that saves on space and clutter yet gives up nothing in the way of functionality.
Back to those connections and on the right edge is, from top to bottom, a multiformat (MMC, SD, SDHC, XD) card reader, three more USB ports, microphone, line-out and line-in audio jacks, and a gigabit Ethernet port. Finishing things off is a VGA port on the back for hooking the X50 up to a larger monitor or projector. Sadly there's no video inputs so you can't, for instance, plug in a TV tuner to turn this into a small all-in-one entertainment system.
Turn the X50 on and you're immediately hit by how dull the screen looks. Whether this is due to the touchscreen elements or simply because it's a poor quality panel in the first place, is difficult to know. What we can say for sure, though, is that colours look washed out, brightness is poor, viewing angles are unimpressive, and dithering is clearly visible. It's still perfectly useable for short periods but it's not a display you'd want to sit in front of for the entire working day.
One thing that slightly compensates for these downfalls is the screen's surface. Basically, it's tougher than that of many similar devices so should easily handle the repeated prod of your finger. Still, we would have preferred if Shuttle had used a glass screen with capacitive touch sensing technology, like the HP TouchSmart range. Especially as the toughness of the touchscreen has made it somewhat unresponsive, whereby it can take about 15 tries before successfully registering a 'double click' on an icon.
The speakers hidden behind that speaker grille are adequate for basic tasks such as providing the accompanying audio for YouTube videos and will even stretch to playing music if you're really desperate and don't mind the muffled, narrow soundstage and rather low maximum volume level.
Tucked away inside the X50's svelte chassis is a dual-core Atom 330 processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 160GB hard drive. The latter two can be upgraded to 2GB and 600GB respectively but the processor is your one and only choice. Not that there is currently a faster Atom processor of course but, as Ardjuna found when looking at the Novatech Ion Fusion, the dual-core Atom doesn't necessarily bring the advantage you might expect over the single-core version, as intensive tasks like gaming and video editing would still be severely hampered on systems like these. So, in actual fact, there's an argument for having a downgrade option.