Nice CPU. So why the poor chipset?
The finished PC is small and smart with two USB ports and jacks for a head set concealed behind a flap on the front of the case, with a second flap covering the DVD drive. There are more audio jacks on the back of the Shuttle as well as four more USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, video outputs, two PS/2 ports and, strangely, a serial port.
Performance is perfectly decent for a desktop PC but the benefit of the dual-core Atom is that Windows keeps chugging along when you open browser windows and movie players where Atom 230 struggled.
Good media centre? Er... no
The real success of the X27D is the near absence of noise. The external power brick is smaller than the unit you get with most laptops and the only moving part inside the case is the 40mm fan on the chipset cooler.
This brings us, once again to the Achilles Heel of Atom, at least on the desktop. We’re all in favour of small, cheap, low, cool and quiet processors for people who have no need of a 3GHz quad-core PC. The problem for Atom is chipset support. The Intel 945GC is past its sell-by date, and the GMA950 graphics are a serious restriction for all manner of tasks. A move to a modern chipset, such as G45, would boost performance across the board and would very likely do away with the need for an active cooler.
That sounds like a win-win-win to us, so the news that Nvidia may add support for Atom to its GeForce 9400M chipset is welcome.
In the meantime., we have warmed to Atom with the 330 update but fervently hope that Intel gives its baby CPU the chipset support that it deserves.
Shuttle has done its best with Atom 330 and has left prices unchanged but it is severely hampered by the Intel 945GC chipset. As things stand, we're neutral on Atom for the desktop but we look forward to the next chapter in this story.
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