That hulking PC you've got hooked up to your TV really isn't doing your stylish living room justice is it? What you need is a quiet, good-looking little machine to cater for all your media centre needs. Enter Shuttle's latest XPC mini media centre PC, the X200M. It's a fully functioning PC stuffed to the gills with performance mobile components, and will really tie your living room together.
Aesthetically, it shares a lot of similarities with Nintendo's Wii, or maybe even a shrunken NES flipped on its side. Its chassis is practically the game as that of its little brother, the X100, making it an incredibly dinky machine. There are differences, though. Shuttle has done away with the Firewire port and added PS/2 ports for both mouse and keyboard, making it far easier if your USB drivers decide to fall over.
The infrared receiver on the front of the chassis is also new, allowing armchair functionality straight out of the box (so long as you leave Vista in standby mode).
The X200 is also incredibly quiet, as all good media centre PCs should be. After all, you don't want to have your PC drowning out the latest episode of Heroes with its incessant whining. This lack of noise is probably down to the fact that the PSU is situated outside the chassis in the same way that laptop PSUs are separate. This can make it a little untidy around the back of your entertainment system, but that probably won't bother you too much.
Another factor contributing to its mouse-like decibel level is that Shuttle has opted out of installing the X1400 mobility graphics card that came built into the X100. Realistically, you're unlikely to be using this machine for 3D gaming, so the 3DMark06 score of 157 isn't quite so damning as it would be to a non-media centre PC.
That said, it does struggle on screen resolutions higher than 1280 x 1024, so you're not going to experience Vista's tasty Aero effects on your high-definition television. PCMark 05 even told us that the graphics chipset didn't meet the requirements for Vista. Playback of high-def video is a trifle shaky too, but that's probably more to do with the CoreDuo mobile processor than the onboard graphics.
One of the other major downsides of the loss of the X1400 is the fact that with it went the S-Video output. This means that if your TV hasn't got a VGA or DVI input on it then you won't be able to connect the X200 up to it.
There are positives here though, particularly in the form of the standard desktop SATA hard drive. The version we're reviewing comes with a fairly substantial 320GB drive, but slotting in a higher capacity drive in the future is easier than it would be on most desktops. All you have to do is unscrew the under panel and you have direct access to the drive. There are also five USB 2.0 ports - four on the back and one up front - so fitting external storage to the X200 is no problem at all.
The wireless network adapter is another bonus, making Internet connection and streaming from other networked computers in your home a joyously wireless experience. The included 2GB RAM also keeps the X200's head above water, especially when you've got the memory-hungry monster that is the Vista OS sitting predator-like on the hard drive.
The X200 is quite a mixed bag. The £1,000 price tag means that we really expect quite a lot from this system, including solid high-def playback. Realistically, you're going to want the Core 2 Duo upgrade if you've got a large screen high-def TV, not the limping T2050 that this machine comes with. The inclusion of a Conroe processor would then push the X200 way above the £1,000 bracket, and that may just be a little too much to ask for this slinky mini media centre.
And slinky it most definitely is. We love the appearance of Shuttle's latest mini media centre and having this fully functional PC sitting alongside your swanky living room entertainment system is unlikely to ruin the feng shui. Unfortunately, the pleasingly stylish aesthetics just aren't matched by the thoroughly average performance.