Shuttle NC01U7 and XVB01 review: Mini-PC with external graphics card

Mini PCs remain a suggestive subject: ‘adult’ performance in a very small box. The practice is, of course, some stubborn, because this class of devices is predominantly based on laptop components. Another limitation is the expansion possibilities: there are practically no. Shuttle leaves the module XVB01 see how you can still add a more powerful graphics card to NC01U mini-PCs and barebones brand. We were naturally very curious and went with them to work, in combination with a NC01U7.

Modular PCs are the logical next step after mini-PCs and been a recurring dream in IT enthusiasts and manufacturers. The idea of a system that you can take a longer time to use only occasionally replacing modules or to place is of course not unusual for a little hardware expert: we do for years with desktop PCs. For a wider audience and remains open a chassis (let alone a laptop) still a strange idea and will remain so. For that group is a modular PC still interesting, if only from the viewpoint of durability and cost, if you can selectively upgrade components, the releases in any case be lower than if you have to replace an entire machine at once. Asus showed at Computex not without a modular concept (Project Avalon), and earlier we saw at IFA already a model of Acer Revo Build.

However, it was our first shuttle could deliver a working sample of a type of modular mini PC. For NC01U models of the brand developed a number of modules, including one with additional connections (the XCB01), one with extra storage (XLB01) and an external graphics card – which XVB01 module, sent it to us to join once the to get started.

The NC01U we already know, although we discussed it earlier in another incarnation, namely the entry-level model with an Intel Celeron 3205U processor. The NC01U7 is the name betrays a little bit, equipped with a Core i7 and does have the ability to connect these modules. It can be connected to the otherwise only one module: “stacking”, such as Revo Build, is not there. In our price comparison we find otherwise only at the time of writing the XVB01 to, in a very small number of shops.

Above you see the bottom of the NC01U7 and the top of the XVB01 – the small external PCI Express x4 connector (which you also encounter only servers) provides the connection. Once XVB01 is connected, therein graphics card takes over the work – and uses moreover the connectors available on the NC01U7.

Furthermore NC01U7 is a familiar story in terms of connections: in front twice USB 3.0 and an SD memory card reader, on one side an RS232 serial connector – Shuttle sells these boxes also like to installers of large-format screens, which often need to be managed through this interface .

Shuttle NC01U7 and XVB 01 review: Mini-PC with external graphics card

Sitting behind a mini DisplayPort and an HDMI port, two USB 2.0 times, the power jack and a headphone jack, plus a Gigabit Ethernet port.

The NC01U7 is not what you’d call cheap, with an average price of 549 euros (and that does not include memory, storage, and operating system), but he also has a strong power source on board.

Internal

The Shuttle NC01U7 is a barebone, which means (in this case) you have to add memory and storage. Shuttle delivers next to cabinet and power a motherboard with integrated processor; a network card is present in M.2-2230 AE format. It is a Realtek RTL8821AE specimen with two antennas and a maximum throughput of 150Mbps (2.4GHz) or 433 Mbps (5 GHz). That’s a fairly simple card so, but you can replace it.

What is not simple is the embedded processor: the Intel Core i7 5500U is certainly not the last generation (but the latter, Broadwell), but it’s still a pretty potent unit, to just a word from the prehistory of the PC to borrow. He turns standard at 2.4GHz and a Turbo at 3GHz, has two real cores that may arise due to HyperThreading as four cores, has 4MB L3 cache and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 5500 graphics card with 24 Execution Units . The TDP of this CPU is a 15 watt luttlele.

Memory expansion can be done with the two SO-DIMM slots (one underneath the motherboard), up to 16GB of DDR3-1600 – which decides the low voltage must be type, so 1,35V. Also underneath the motherboard we find the M.2 connector for PCIe SSD (M.2-2242-M) with a maximum length of 4.2 cm. Unfortunately, “real” PCIe SSDs are not supported, only specimens with a SATA interface. In addition, there is room to build a conventional 2.5 “SSD or disk with a maximum height of 7 mm. So you can do quite a bit of storage lost in this less than 3 cm high cabinet.

The XVB01 expansion unit is about as high as the NC01U7 and has only one connector, the PCI-e connector with which it connects to the barebone.

Shuttle NC01U7 and XVB 01 review: Mini-PC with external graphics card

Internally there is an AMD Radeon R7 M370 graphics card with 2GB of dedicated memory. A bios update to version 1.09 is required on the NC01U models to work with it. Also requires a separate power adapter 90W. By default, the NC01U7 has a 65W adapter, but not providing sufficient jab to operate both devices under load stable.

The R7 M370 is the fastest mobile graphics card in the range of AMD, so the question is what the rate increase compared to the Intel HD Graphics 5500. We have chosen course.

The XVB01 incidentally is not cheap, at the two stores where we see offered him one asks anything over 200 euros.

Benchmarks

We compare the Shuttle NC01U7 with the previously similarly tested barebones. Later, we also look at the performance of the XVB01. This is clearly seen in the Cinebench R15 and 10 benchmarks. By comparison, it’s nice to know that the Shuttle barebone XH97V has been tested with a fourth-generation Core i3 processor – this mobile i7 is still somewhat slower.

The Core i7 5500U of NC01U7 is quite powerful, the performance is fine for a mini PC. They just fall under some of the Intel NUC5I7RYHR which has a faster (and more expensive) i7 5557U.

In terms of GPU performance, the HD 5500 integrated into the processor once again more powerful than the i3 iGPU said, but he lags behind that in the Intel i7 5557U of the NUC from this manufacturer. Iris Graphics 6100 is clearly more powerful. The iGPU of NC01U7 is a lot faster than the Celeron in NC01U. The XVB01 and therein Radeon R7 M370 we record 11301 points in 3DMark06, about 3,000 more than the integrated GPU.

Of course, we also looked at the performance in a few real games on the combination of the barebone and external video card. Which you can see below.

Shuttle NC01U7 and XVB 01 review: Mini-PC with external graphics card

In short we can say that with the XVB01 ‘just to’ can play with medium settings in full hd the necessary games, but Far Cry Primal example also shows that this video card for demanding games really lacking in this resolution.

Finally we look more to the overall system performance, we see a decent PC Mark score of 5272 points.

Conclusion

Modular PCs, it remains an attractive concept. A compact box that you can take at will, turning it into a tablet, laptop, compact workstation or even powerful gaming computer. Whether it ever becomes reality, the question, but it is nice that the industry is still experimenting with products that go this way. While several other brands already showed earlier prototypes, the shuttle is a modest small-scale interpretation of how a stackable PC could look like.

For now we can only say that it works as a “proof of concept – if the heavier feedstock is used, it is a matter of plug in and it works. That seems a trifle, but it is not nothing: to switch to another card so seamlessly – Plug & Play (hello 1995) – to carry out is much needed technical innovation. You can use the same HDMI and DisplayPort connectors is a good example. It seems obvious, but anyone with an external graphics card that sometimes a monitor is connected to the ports integrated on the motherboard know it’s usually not really how it works.

We can XVB01 thus seen as a good first step, but not much more than that. The performance of the M370 are indeed clearly better than the HD Graphics 5500 of the CPU, but they do not really capture the imagination. The choice is understandable, because the module is with this GPU costly – 200 euros is a lot more than you need to count down for a desktop R7 370 with 2GB of memory, which would be in addition significantly faster. Laptop parts are once more expensive now, especially if you have to buy in small quantities, as no doubt for Shuttle for this product is the case. Another aspect that we miss the opportunity to connect several extensions together and as it were by loops “as Acer does have shown Revo Build.

Shuttle gives itself, therefore, that this is an experiment. The XVB01 only works with the NC01U line, the Computex already shown NC02U models have different sizes and an external connector for expansions. The NC01U, however, will still remain available for some time, according to Shuttle, the two models are fed together.

we look further into the NC01U7, we appreciate the flexible installation options (M.2 and 2.5 “, two SO-DIMM slots, but included removable WiFi adapter) and the connections (sd card reader, mini-DP and HDMI) . Less appreciation we have for the relatively high noise in idle mode.

Moreover, the price is at the solid side in comparison with the Intel NUC5I7RYHR, which is provided with a more powerful CPU and a (much) greater WiFi solution. On average, the shuttle still costs 50 euros more; The RS232 port is for home users not really interesting, but the cupboard is therefore primarily aimed at the business market and professional applications. Long availability and support for a major triad less standard operating systems there are probably worth the slightly higher price and those things then Shuttle also offers.

All in all, the NC01U7 – and perhaps even more models with i3 and i5 processor – especially interesting because of the expandability with the XVB01 and of course the other modules. Although we in this area a lot more to be desired, can not be denied that it just works well and Shuttle here is nice innovative, with a daring concept that deserves further development. For that reason we reward the combination also with an Innovation Award.

Shuttle NC01U7 and XVB01 review: Mini-PC with external graphics card was last modified: July 15th, 2016 by Tomas Shellby