Armari – XPC 2530 review

compact, powerful cube PC
Photo of Armari – XPC 2530
£1,599 + VAT (promotional price - confirm with vendor)

The concept of the small format PC has been around for quite a while, but until recently they were a mis-match of notebook and desktop technologies, with performance that lagged behind even modestly powered notebooks.

Shuttle has been one of the very few companies to keep faith with the concept, and the result is the astonishing XPC platform. Using a Shuttle SS51 motherboard with the SIS 651 NorthBridge, the XPC can use either Intel’s 533MHz or 400MHz FSB Pentium 4 processors, backing them with a choice of PC2700/PC2100/PC1600 DDR memory support. The SIS 962L Southbridge provides ATA/133 support and USB2.0 ports. Also integrated are 5.1 sound courtesy of a Realtek ALC 650, while a Realtek 10/100 chip provides the Ethernet connection.

If that all means nothing to you, don’t worry. Basically, despite the fact that this is a tiny PC, it has all the functionality of a full-sized machine, at least in terms of motherboard, memory, audio, networking and processor.

One of the major problems with this kind of format is the lack of expansion possibilities; not so bad with the SS51, for not only is there a PCI slot, there is also an AGP slot, providing an upgrade path to future graphics technologies.

As for connectivity to the outside world, the XPC has more ports than most full-sized desktop PCs, all housed on the motherboard. There are two serial ports, two USB and two PS/2 ports, VGA, FireWire, the afore-mentioned LAN, SP/DIF and three audio ports. If this weren’t enough there are two further USB ports, a brace of audio ports, FireWire and a second SP/DIF port on the front fascia.

All of this comes in a case that measures just 200mm wide by 185mm high by 300mm deep. Amari has chosen the very attractive blue Perspex facia model of the brushed aluminium case for the XPC 2530 and fitted it with its own 200W power supply, which is remarkably quiet. This, added to the heat-pipe cooled CPU and the passive Northbridge cooling, makes the XPC 2530 a quiet system when in use.

The performance of the XPC 2530 is quite simply stunning for its size. Our review model was equipped with a 2.53GHz, 533MHz FSB Pentium 4 backed by 512MB of PC2700 (DDR333) memory. Added to this was one of the fastest IDE drives currently available, Western Digital’s WD800J, which is an 80GB ATA/100 drive with an 8MB buffer.

Optical storage and backup is provided by a Plextor PlexCOMBO PX-320A drive that combines 20/10/40-speed CD/CD-RW with 12-speed DVD. For graphics, Amari provides the XPC2530 with a Chaintech Geforce4 Ti 4200 Special Edition, with 128MB of DDR memory. This is one small PC that even the most hardened gamer may look twice at.

Completing the package are a 17-inch Samsung SM171P TFT monitor, VideoLogic ZXR-200 2.1 Speaker System, Logitech Cordless Desktop Optical keyboard and mouse and Windows XP Home pre-installed. There’s also a one-year on-site warranty.

Company: Armari

Contact: 020 8993 4111


Verdict
The XPC 2530 shows just how far it is possible to push the small form-factor PC. Its stunning performance belies its small size, and it's a step in the right direction towards making smaller PCs more usable to the wider computer-using population.