Shuttle Computer Group Inc., of City of Industry, Calif., started making PCs in odd-shaped cases in 1990, back when the standard choices were a too-large desktop or a too-large tower. The company’s shoebox-size cube computer fascinated many, especially gamers transporting systems to LAN parties (Google that term, youngsters).
Now Shuttle offers cases called the Cube (much like the original case), in product families known as Slim and Nano, plus an all-in-one model. New to the Slim family is the model DH110, based on Intel’s newest chipset. While the DH110 isn’t as small as Intel’s own 4.53- x 4.37- x 1.92-inch NUC (Next Unit of Computing), it’s still darn small at 7.48 x 6.5 x 1.69 inches. Plus there’s no odd acronym attached.
The DH110 includes VESA mounting brackets so the unit can hang from the back of a monitor. Since one of the big markets for the DH110 is digital signage, the brackets make sense. Along the same lines, Shuttle offers an optional cable to extend the on-off switch away from the unit, making it much easier to mount the box invisibly behind monitors or digital signage installations yet still keep the power button within reach.
The barebones DH110 came populated with 8GB of DDR3L SODIM RAM (there’s room for 16GB), a Kingston Technology 60GB SSDNow disk, the aforementioned VESA mounting hardware, and a screw-on antenna to improve Wi-Fi performance. No keyboard, mouse, or (thankfully) bloatware. There’s room in the DH110 housing to use a 2.5-inch spinning hard disk rather than the SSD if you prefer.
Included with the DH110 was a big color sheet explaining the motherboard jumper setting options along with CPU installation help, just like you get when you buy a bare motherboard. People who miss getting their hands inside a chassis can rejoice, because those days are here again. Well, the box is too small to get your hands inside, but tinker and customize is the name of the DH110’s favorite game.
To help drive digital signs there are two display connections that work concurrently: HDMI and DisplayPort. We used the HDMI port, and the sound automatically routed through the speakers inside our monitor. If sound is important, you’ll be glad Shuttle opted for a board equipped with Realtek’s ALC662 audio chip, which provides clear, high-definition audio.
For signage and many other uses, audio falls a distant second, far behind video. Shuttle puts the DH110’s ability to drive 4K displays in big bright letters on its advertising. We didn’t have a 4K screen in the test lab while reviewing the Shuttle, so we used the graphics control panel and input our default 2650 x 1440 2K display. Even on this relatively inexpensive monitor text and images looked great, with deep blacks and bright, even whites. And fast-action movie clips displayed with nary a smear. Since we’ve tested 4K monitors before with the earlier version of Intel’s HD graphics engine inside the DH110, we’re sure your 4K screens will shine bright and clear.
Heat control is always an issue in industrial PC situations, and the DH110 handles heat well. We looped videos for hours in full-screen mode and the unit never warmed up appreciably. The two very quiet fans and multiple vents keep the inside cool.
Shuttle at Work
As a general PC, the diminutive DH110 works as well as any office PC. Our test unit sported an Intel Core i5-660 CPU running at 3.30 GHz, along with the 8GB of RAM and the small SSD mentioned earlier. The combination of the newest i5 processor and SSD made the system seem as fast as or faster than a comparable i7 with spinning media. Any company looking for a PC refresh that can benefit from a truly small form factor would be happy with the DH110.
One advantage of making a bigger unit than the Intel NUC? More room for ports. The DH110 has four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, one PS/2 I/O port, the aforementioned display ports, and two Gigabit Ethernet LAN plugs. Not atypical today, right? Our unit had the optional Wi-Fi module and an antenna connector not shown in the photo of the back of the DH110. But what is really unusual today are the two serial ports labeled COM1 and COM2.
Remember how serial ports were mandatory for office machines back in the day? If you work with embedded systems, industrial applications, or attach odd devices like thermal printers, barcode scanners, scales, or multiple other devices that require a serial interface, you should take a closer look at the DH110.
Wrapping It Up
If you want a fancy gamer hardware case, the DH110 isn’t for you. In fact, Shuttle has a new tag line: Not Just Playing Games Anymore. But when the case size matters because it needs to fit into unusual places, or on the backs of monitors and TVs for digital signage, the Shuttle DH110’s small size will come in handy. You can add your own CPU, RAM, and storage (including plugging an SD card into the reader on the front of the unit) to make the Shuttle DH110 match your customer’s needs exactly. Then put it in place, let it run constantly, and don’t worry about it. That’s the best praise you can give a hard-working, blue-collar computer like the Shuttle DH110.