Space Shuttle

Question: what do you do when your “main” machine is a powerful gaming rig, but all you want to do is check your email? For me, the answer until very recently had been to use an early edition of the Acer Aspire Revo, a minimalist Small Form Factor PC. To give mine a fighting chance, performance-wise, I quickly upgraded to 4Gb of RAM, and put in a larger HDD than the original. A copy of ubuntu Linux (9.04 in this case) and it did a pretty good job of the basics.

Just two drawbacks: first, the primitive GPU was maxed out at 1600×1200, and under even moderate loads the laptop-sourced CPU fan would spin up with  horrendous noise levels.

Enter the Shuttle X35. As the third image below shows, it relies entirely on passive cooling [no fans, no moving parts] and a well ventilated case to provide CPU cooling. Add a solid state disc and the result is a 100% silent machine, with reasonably snappy performance. Drop on a copy of ubuntu Precise Pangolin and you’ve got a tiny machine that is perfect for most things short of gaming. The Intel Atom CPU might not look like much, but it’s more than a match for all basic office chores.

If you’ve got any form of network storage at home (Apple Time Capsule, NAS or RAID box) then getting extra disc storage is a doddle, and it’s perfectly capable of playing your iTunes library while you work. The latest nVidia ION GPU gives a crisp, clear 1920×1200 resolution and the efficient Linux kernel means it’s far more responsive than if it ran Windows 7…

What’s not to like?

For the curious, the above images were taken with a Canon EOS 7D, 24-70mm f2.8L lens and a specialist lighting kit. The results are generally excellent, although the “white” container/diffuser is prone to wrinkling in storage…