- Review Price: £534.75
Shuttle has long been associated with all things petite ever since it pretty much invented the small form factor (SFF) PC. Indeed, since pioneering its various diminutive and elegant cuboid PC cases it’s produced little else. However, with the arrival of the Intel Atom, Shuttle thought it might be time to branch out into other areas.
Enter, then, the Xvision X50. As evident from the picture below it’s an all-in-one PC but there are two things to note straight away. One, the screen is touch-sensitive and, two, unlike Shuttle’s other SFF PCs, the X50 isn’t a barebones system designed for you to pop in your own hardware; this is a fully fledged all-in-one PC that’s ready to go straight out of the box.
Where the X50 has stayed true to Shuttle’s roots, though, is with regards size. The screen is just 15.6 inches from corner to corner and boasts a modest resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels. This is more akin to a notebook than a desktop PC and prolonged work is not something you’ll want to be undertaking on this machine. However, as a casual PC for the kitchen, say, it could come in very useful.
Its potential in this sort of environment is helped immensely by the X50s very elegant chassis. The simple white and faux chrome combination is stylish yet understated and the full length speaker grille perfectly balances the look of the front. Build quality is also very impressive with nary a flex or squeak from the various panels and there’s a general robust feel to the whole thing, despite its mostly plastic external construction.
Under both the two front feet and the stand are thick rubber patches that do a good job of stopping the chassis slipping about. The stand also doubles as a carry handle, which is quite a neat trick – the stiff hinge simply rotates 180 degrees and bob’s your uncle. Though we must admit to being unable to think of any situations where this is particularly useful, as the X50 doesn’t have a built in battery to make it a truly portable machine.
Under the front edge is a strip of blue glowing light that further adds to the X50’s touch of class and, dare we say, it looks better than the similar lighting effect employed by the Asus Eee Top (review coming soon). It is of course entirely an aesthetic addition and some may even find it distracting but, fret not, as its intensity can be adjusted via a switch on the side (with ”off” being an option).
More useful an addition is the 1.3-megapixel webcam that sits above centre of the screen. It’s an unremarkable unit but it does include a microphone and is quite sufficient for the basics.
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.
Nonetheless, day-to-day multitasking (using a word processor, while simultaneously having a web browser with a YouTube video running, and a virus scanner running in the background etc.) was notably more manageable on this machine than the Asus Eee Top, which only uses a single core Atom processor. And that’s despite the X50 running Windows Vista, while the Eee Top runs Windows XP.
Ultimately, though, all other considerations fly out the window when we start to look at the Shuttle XVision X50 as a touchscreen device. Essentially, Shuttle has made no effort to tailor the X50 to be useable with just your fingers. There are no larger icons, custom onscreen keyboards, one-touch access to common programs, or, touch-based scrolling tools. Heck, there’s not even a shortcut to the default windows onscreen keyboard in the start menu or on the desktop.
A stylus hidden behind the power button makes the screen usable but frankly that’s still far from being enough. Quite simply, you need a keyboard and mouse to use this computer properly. In which case, we’d rather the X50 dropped the touchscreen altogether and just used a better quality normal screen. Even the Asus Eee Top, which does have a custom finger-friendly interface, still ships with a neat little keyboard and mouse.
So all told, the Shuttle XVision X50 does little to impress over its main rival, the Asus Eee Top, besides looking a little better and having a bit more performance that, arguably, is of no real world benefit. And that’s before we’ve even mentioned the X50’s disappointing price. The version we looked at here ships with an operating system (OS) and costs nearly £550, but even if you opt for one without an OS you’re still looking at around £460 – still more than an Asus Eee Top, which comes complete with a keyboard and mouse.
The Shuttle XVision X50 is arguably a better looking version of the Asus Eee Top all-in-one PC and it packs in a dual-core Atom processor to boot. However, the touchscreen itself is difficult to use and Shuttle hasn’t provided any finger-friendly optimisations for the Windows OS, making it nearly impossible to use without a keyboard and mouse, thus negating the touchscreen. It doesn’t help that the X50 is actually more expensive than the Eee Top, as well.
Score in detail
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