WE CAN ARGUE whether the traditional “desktop” PC, in either a tower or mini-tower case, is likely to hold a worthwhile piece of the market going forward. Shuttle Inc., however, simply declines to participate in that dispute. The Taiwanese hardware maker puts big power into a range of small boxes. Its new DQ170, built around Intel’s 6th Generation Core (aka Skylake) processors, is the latest tool that provides a starting point for installations where either space is a concern or your customer needs flexibility that a mini-tower can’t accommodate.
If your personal deep dish pizza came in a box this small you’d feel cheated. But when you realize how much performance can be stuffed into this compact case, you’ll think of customers with stubborn digital signage, kiosk, or countertop needs that can be helped by this slender device.
Small but Speedy
When you see the box for the DQ170, which is smaller than a box o’ wine, you may wonder if the performance is as small as the packaging. The answer is no, unless you want it to be small. These barebone kits can hold Intel CPUs ranging from Celerons to Pentiums to 6th Generation Core i3s, i5s, and i7s.
Two 204-pin DDR3L SODIMM slots can hold up to 32GB of fast RAM (dual-channel at 1,600 MHz). A SATA 6.0 Gb/s interface connects internal drives of both the spinning and solid-state varieties. Trusted Platform Module 2.0 support is built in, as is an SD card reader useful for digital signage.
Our test system came with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. Starting it up for the first time, we thought maybe Shuttle had sent us a Core i7 by mistake. Booting completed in a blink (OK, a few seconds), and apps loaded almost before we clicked the icons. Once we were online and the SSD wasn’t providing files, the Shuttle DQ170 became a Core i5 knowledge worker system with snappy performance.
Using the Shuttle as a standard PC seems almost a waste though. The chassis can bolt to the back of monitors and signage and VESA mounts of all kinds, so you can use it as the foundation of a homegrown all-in-one. In fact, when you look to plug in your display, you’ll find three, yes three, working video ports: two display ports and one full-size HDMI port. That’s an upgrade from the last Shuttle we reviewed, the DH110, which only supported two video screens.
All three video ports work at the same time, and when paired with Intel Skylake-generation processors, provide 4K Ultra High Definition resolution (3840 x 2160). While output doesn’t throw shade on a dedicated GPU costing hundreds of dollars extra, anyone using the DQ170 in a general office situation will find the video more than adequate, especially when driving a standard 1920 x 1080 monitor, or even two or three of them.
Connecting a new HD monitor to your DQ170 will make your eyes happy. Gamers and video production folks won’t get weak-kneed with desire, but the quality embedded graphics will tempt those doing Microsoft Office–type work to upgrade their monitors or add a second screen.
Speaking of Microsoft and other software, this box has the cleanest software bundle and the least bloatware we’ve seen in forever. The only icons on the desktop when we first booted were the Recycle Bin, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and Google Chrome. All the normal Windows “Play and Explore” tiles and apps were there, but we can’t blame Shuttle for those.
If you need audio in or out, the ports are on the front of the box. Sound output is more than acceptable, clear enough to hear the nuance of a Mozart string quartet and powerful enough to blast your neighbors with psycho trance beats.
Also upgraded? The number of ports on this new version. Eight USB ports are spread evenly across the front and back, two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 on each. Those still working with industrial customers and RS-232 connections will smile at the two ports on the back. One is pure RS-232 and the other can be configured as RS-232, 422, or 485.
Need to go smaller or bigger with your systems? The Shuttle line includes the XPC nano series with cases that are 5.6 x 5.6 x 1.6 inches. You’ll get fewer ports, or course, but you can still pack the box with a member of the Core i3/i5/i7 processor family and 32GB of RAM. Shuttle’s XPC cube cases, meanwhile, are almost but not quite the size of shoe boxes yet work well as servers.
Many Installation Options
You can get cases for less for your barebone systems, but they will be huge compared with the Shuttle DQ170, and size matters in many situations. You can’t get cases offering more flexibility of deployment or USB and video ports that will operate more quietly. And you certainly can’t hang a big box from the back of a monitor or hide it behind digital signage like you can with this system.
The Shuttle DQ170 fits a range of applications. PC refresh? Small and quiet yet powerful always pleases. Digital signage? Designed for exactly that. Industrial environments? All the USB and RS-232 ports you might need, along with dual gigabit LAN ports. Support for a range of Windows and Linux operating systems? Included.
Next time you look at a project and wonder about fitting a PC in the space allowed, remember the Shuttle DQ170.