Shuttle’s compact barebones systems have consistently impressed us.
They’re small, well-designed and easy to build. However, they’ve never been a particularly cost-effective way of putting together a new PC. This has changed with the K48, though. This budget model is around half the price of most Shuttle systems.
It uses an Intel 945 chipset, so you can fit any Intel Core 2 Duo based processor. We would choose one of the excellent-value Pentium Dual Core range. The K48’s small 100W power supply prevents you from using a quad-core processor – we have seen more expensive Shuttle models support these. Although it reduces the K48’s flexibility, those who are building a budget PC are unlikely to be concerned by this limitation.
The key advantage of a Shuttle case is its small size. This model is shorter and has a smaller footprint than most desktop cases. The cramped design limits the airflow inside the case, so many Shuttle models use a heatpipe to route hot air out of the chassis. The K48 doesn’t have this costly system. Instead you fit the standard Intel cooler provided with your processor, while a 92mm exhaust fan does the rest. Using two fans does increase the amount of noise produced and. Although it’s still reasonably quiet, it’s noisier than Asus’s Eee Box (reviewed in Labs, Shopper 253).
The motherboard has just two memory slots, which means that they will support modules only up to 1GB in size, limiting the K48’s total memory to 2GB. It’s enough for most tasks, but we’re still disappointed by this limitation. Another problem is the lack of expansion card slots. You can still add extra capabilities, such as wireless networking, by using USB devices, but this could quickly fill the four ports provided. Furthermore, there are no USB ports on the front, so you have to reach around the back to plug in external storage devices. We feel this makes a USB hub an essential peripheral for this PC.
The absence of front ports is compounded by the lack of an external 3?in drive bay, which means that you can’t fit an internal memory card reader. There are two internal 3?in hard disk bays and two SATA connectors on the motherboard. An external 5?in bay is provided for fitting a single optical drive, which should be sufficient for most needs.
The motherboard has onboard graphics and audio, but its GMA950 graphics chipset isn’t suitable for HD video playback or gaming. You can connect dual monitors, though, thanks to the DVI and VGA outputs. The DVI output is of the less common DVI-D variety, so you can’t use an adaptor to connect this output to a VGA-only monitor. The audio chipset provides 5.1 surround-sound audio, but there are no S/PDIF outputs, and no headphone or microphone ports on the front panel. Also on the rear is a serial port, two PS/2 ports plus Gigabit Ethernet. There’s no built-in wireless networking.
You could easily put together a PC using a K48 for under £250 including VAT. However, the price of a Windows Vista installation would add another £80 to this. It makes an interesting alternative to Asus’s Eee Box, as the Eee will struggle to run Vista and lacks an internal optical drive. The K48 performed respectably in our benchmarks, with decent scores in PCMark Vantage. The lack of a PCI-Express x16 slot meant we couldn’t fit our reference graphics card for running gaming benchmarks, though.
We managed to build a PC using the K48 in a matter of minutes. Our only recommendation is that, due to the limited space, you should avoid memory with large heatspreaders. The K48 does have limitations in terms of the components you can fit, and we’re particularly disappointed by the lack of front USB ports. Still, if you’re looking for an easy way to put together a compact and inexpensive PC then it’s a good choice.
|Processor support||Celeron dual core, Pentium dual core, Core 2 Duo|
|Processor heatsink supplied||no|
|Supported memory type||DDR2 533/667|
|Chipset north bridge||Intel 945GC|
|Chipset south bridge||Intel ICH7|
|Passively-cooled north bridge||yes|
|Graphics Processor||Intel GMA 950|
|Graphics memory type||shared|
|USB2 ports (front/rear)||0/4|
|Firewire ports (front/rear)||0/0|
|Legacy ports||2x PS/2, serial|
|Graphics/video ports||DVI-D, VGA|
|PCI-E x1 slots||0|
|PCI-E x4 slots||0|
|PCI-E x16 slots||0|
|Dual 3D architecture||N/A|
|Serial ATA ports||2|
|3.5in drive bays||2|
|5.25in drive bays||1|
|Wired network ports||10/100/1000|
|Sound outputs||5.1 line out|
|Supported memory cards||N/A|
|Power supply wattage||100W|
|Power consumption standby||6W|
|Power consumption idle||50W|
|Power consumption active||81W|