When it comes to PC form factors, you can go big with massive water-cooled rigs, or go small with slim mini-PCs. The problem with larger rigs is that they take up quite a lot of space, while mini-PCs offer limited upgrade options. Thankfully you’re able to meet in the middle with Shuttle’s XPC Cube PCs, which offer plenty of customization with a relatively small footprint.
Build quality & design
The SZ170R8 is one of Shuttle’s newer offerings, but continues a fairly no-frills design that we’ve seen in previous models. A simple black cube hides some very compact innards, which are easily accessible by removing three thumbscrews at the back. A panel in the front hides two USB 3.0 ports as well as audio connections, and there’s a small power button located at the top right.
Around the back you’ll find the meat of your connectivity options – six USB 3.0 ports, eSATA, LAN, and more audio connections. There’s no optical out, which is puzzling as I’ve seen previous Shuttle models that feature this port for more complex audio setups. For video you’ll find two DisplayPort and one HDMI connection, meaning in theory you can have a pretty sweet three-monitor setup if you need it, or two monitors running at 4K. This is of course running off the integrated GPU, which is best for simple tasks on your PC. Anything more intensive and you’re going to need to slot in a dedicated graphics card.
Speaking of which, you’ll be happy to know that despite its small size, the SZ170R8 is actually able to fit some pretty standard dual-slot graphic cards. I had a ZOTAC GeForce GTX 950 lying around, and this slotted into the case with no issues at all. The max dimensions you can install is 280 x 120 x 40 mm, so a GTX 1060 or even a GTX 1070 would fit into this case. The power supply is an 80 Plus Sliver 500W, so based on this and what CPU you’re installing, you’ll be able to use an adequately powered graphics card.
Inside the SZ170R8 there’s some pretty decent cable management, though you will have to remove the HDD bracket to safely reach some of the components. Cooling is provided by Shuttle’s “Integrated Cooling Engine 2”, which features water-filled copper tubes coated in nickel that carry heat away from the CPU. There’s a fan at the end of the heatsink that draws warm air out of the case, and a smaller fan on the opposite side in front of the HDD bay.
The SZ170R8 sports the new LGA 1151 socket, and supports Intel 6th Generation processors. You can also go up to 64GB of RAM, and there’s one M.2 2280 type M slot and one half-size Mini PCIe slot for you to install an SSD or WiFi module.
Storage-wise the SZ170R8’s hard drive bay supports four 3.5” HDDs. That’s all well and good, but it’s surprising that there’s no native support for 2.5” SSDs. You’ll have to get an additional caddy that will then let you mount the SSD into the SZ170R8’s HDD enclosure. I feel like this is a bit of an oversight on Shuttle’s part, as previous models that I’ve looked at would support both HDD and SSDs. In theory you could mount up to eight SSDs in, but with only four SATA ports available, that would be a bit pointless.
Our review unit came with an Intel i7-6700 processor, a 1TB HDD, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and Windows 7 Professional. As mentioned before, we installed a ZOTAC GeForce GTX 950 graphics card rather than relying on the integrated GPU.
Performance-wise, the SZ170R8 will run as best as it can with whatever you kit it out with. The power supply does somewhat restrict the combination of components you can install, but our review unit performed quite well with no problems at all. Heavier apps such as Premiere Pro had no problems running and rendering videos, and games as well ran without a hitch with High settings. Boot-up time was a fraction slower than I’d like, but installing an SSD will pretty much eliminate this entirely.
My only comment is keeping the graphics card cool. Since there’s no heatsink or fan near the graphics card, you have to rely solely on the fans that are on your graphics card, which will need to intake cool air from the side of the machine through the ventilation holes in the case. During a particularly intense session of Titanfall 2 I clocked the GPU temperature hitting close to 90C, which means that the graphics card wasn’t getting enough air to stay cool. This is something you’ll want to keep an eye on, just so you’re not overheating any components, especially the graphics card.
The Shuttle XPC SZ170R8 is a great solution if you’re looking to build a mid-range PC that’s small enough to go unnoticed wherever you set it up. Whether it’s perched on your desk or tucked away in a TV console, it can be built to fill a number of roles – from gaming PC to network file storage. You’ll be able to fit in some pretty decent components as well, and the ability to slot in certain full-sized graphic cards is a huge bonus. The only thing you’ll want to keep an eye on is the cooling for your graphics cards – while Shuttle’s ICE 2 cooling system works wonders for the CPU, the GPU is a little less fortunate, so wherever you’re setting it up, make sure it’s in a well ventilated area that can provide plenty of cool air through the side vents. Priced at AED 1,575 the SZ170R8 is a decent starting point for building your own PC. You can of course splurge a bit more and get a mini-PC for much less overall, but you’re then going to be stuck with something that you can’t properly upgrade as the years go by. If you’re looking to build your own PC and you’re short on space, then the Shuttle XPC SZ170R8 is the way to go.