I’ve always felt that the Shuttle XPC form factor is perfect for a Home Theatre PC, or "HTPC", because the small size makes it convenient to store under the TV. Even though it's not flat like a DVD player or A/V amp; the clean, elegant design means it fits in well next to the rest of your kit.
In this respect, the SN68PTG5 is no different – it's relatively inexpensive, making it far better value for its simple task of audio/video playback, storage server etc; it has a small 250W PSU so it won't rack up a huge energy bill and it's still potentially powerful enough to handle High-Definition content. But is its size too restrictive; is it noisy and what's its upgrade potential? So, we grabbed the old dog 'n' bone and called Shuttle to get one for review to see if it really had created the ultimate HTPC.
Just the other week we covered a more performance-orientated model from Shuttle’s range—the SP35P2 Pro, which uses the bigger P2 chassis. The SN68PTG5 is based on the older G5 design which, despite its age, still looks great. In fact, the design is so old that there is actually an updated G6 chassis now, which its newer and more expensive cousin—the SN68PTG6 Deluxe—is based on. This has quite a few more features than the XPC we’ve got here today, but it is also £60 dearer.
Both of these fall into the new Glamour series that does what it says on the tin, although thankfully Shuttle dropped the fake crystals that had previously been a part of the fascia’s design.
SN68PTG5 Feature List
G5 Glamour series aluminium chassis with one 5.25" optical bay and one 3.5" external bay, with room for two 3.5" SATA hard drives
SilentX 250W PSU with one 6-pin PCI-Express plug and 80Plus efficiency certification
AMD AM2 socket for Athlon 64, X2, FX and Sempron processors
Two DDR2 DIMM slots supporting up to 4GB of DDR2-800MHz memory
NVIDIA GeForce 7050PV IGP and nForce 630a (Codename: MCP 68PVNT)
Two SATA 3Gbps, two eSATA 3Gbps and one IDE port
One PCI-Express x16 slot that supports single-slot graphics cards
One PCI slot
VIA VT6308P IEEE1394a Firewire
Realtek ALC888DD 7.1 channel High-Definition audio codec with Dolby and DTS features
One Marvell 88E1116 Ethernet network controller (Gigabit Physical Layer)
Shuttle I.C.E. CPU cooling systems
Since everything you need is already in the XPC, there's very little else in the box to accompany it. You get a few screws and sticky bits to make sure everything fits, along with the usual manuals and driver disks.
In addition there's a singled ended IDE cable, left in the box as an extra, which you'll have to use if you want to use two internal hard drives as well as an optical. It's unfortunately not rounded to minimise its impact on the internal airflow, but it doesn't take too much effort to split the cables and tie them together.
Finally there's a HDMI to DVI adapter for the integrated video – a perfect inclusion which means the system is not only perfect for a high definition TV with an HDMI port, but also an LCD or CRT with the inclusion of D-sub and DVI as well.