Pros: Small form is handy for living rooms; Good performance
Cons: Blu-ray adds a significant cost
Bottomline: A good home entertainment computer for those with high-definition televisions
Vista compatibility: Yes
Shuttle used to be known for making what are known as barebones computers – the company would supply the case and the most basic innards, and the buyer would pick up their own cheap processor, memory and hard disk to put in it.
While it still does that, the company is now producing more and more computers with full sets of components inside.
For instance, the XPC G5 6801M includes a Blu-ray writer and an ATI Radeon HD3450 graphics card with 256MB of its own memory, among other things.
The one we looked at included an AMD Athlon X2 6000+ processor running at 3GHz, with 2GB of memory and a 500GB hard disk. That lot is immensely capable for general web browsing and for music and video playback, although some of the more recent games might run slowly if you push up the quality levels. There is also a Freeview TV tuner and wired and wireless networking, along with more expansion ports than you can shake a stick at.
One thing to note is that although it includes a Media Center remote for controlling your viewing from the sofa, it doesn't come with a keyboard, mouse or screen. The latter isn't too big a deal – most people buying a Blu-ray computer will already have a flat-screen with a PC input to which they can connect it, but you may need to factor a keyboard and mouse into your price calculations.
The model we reviewed comes in at around £830 (once you convert from Euros) – to examine or buy, go to the Shuttle configuration website and follow through to the 6801M's page. From there you'll be able to fill in your details and one of the company's UK resellers will get back to you with a quote. Slightly odd purchase method aside, the 6801M is a capable entertainment computer, albeit one that places a price premium on its Blu-ray capabilities.