The era of the bulky and power-hungry desktop computer has long since passed, but it has taken a few years for a replacement to appear. Pint-sized PCs, like Shuttle’s NC02U can match its predecessors task for task, but take up less space and uses a lot less power. It may not be the best performing PC around, but at $150, the Shuttle’s price can’t be beat for a variety of classroom uses.
At 1.7- by 5.6- by 5.6-inches, the Shuttle PC is among the smallest full computers around and occupies roughly 0.8-liters of space. It weighs in at 1.5-pounds, meaning that you can Velcro it in place or use the included VESA mounting hardware to put it on the back of a monitor turning any display into a DIY all-in-one PC. It has rubber feet and includes a two-legged stand for stand-alone use.
In addition to a power button and SD card slot, the Shuttle has USB-C and USB 3.0 ports up-front for quick access. The back has connections for video with HDMI and Displayport plugs, but the system’s power input requires the included AC adapter. There’re connections for a pair of USB 2.0 devices and an audio jack as well as a gigabit wired LAN port and 802.11n WiFi.
Oddly, it does without Bluetooth wireless capabilities. In other words, you might have trouble using a wireless keyboard, mouse or speakers with the Shuttle, but I used a USB Bluetooth adapter without any problems with it.
If you use older STEM hardware, you’ll like the inclusion of an RS-232 serial port. On the downside, if you want to use the stand, you’ll need to get a right-angle adapter or run the risk that the serial port plug won’t fit.
Basic in the extreme, the Shuttle is powered by a 1.6GHz Celeron 3855U processor that is far from state of the art. In addition to not having things like Turbo Boost speed control and Hyperthreading, the processor does without Intel’s vPro manageability extensions.
The system I looked at is a bare bones unit that doesn't include RAM or storage. Happily, despite its diminutive dimensions, there’s room inside the Shuttle’s case to fit an extra 2.5-inch hard drive if you need more storage space.
Under the skin, it uses Intel’s HD Graphics 510 with 128MB of dedicated video memory that is augmented by the system RAM that raises the amount of usable video memory to 2.1GB. For a budget computer, it does surprisingly well with the ability to put 3,840 by 2,160 resolution video onto a screen and can drive two displays at once. On the downside, when it’s working hard, the Shuttle blows hot air upwards if you use the stand.
A jack of all trades, the Shuttle comes as a bare bones unit without an operating system, but can work anything from Windows 7 through the current Windows 10 as well as Linux software. My test system used Windows 10 Pro. With 4GB of RAM and 32GB of SSD storage space, the system mustered a passable 1,254.1 on the Passmark 8 benchmark suite of performance tests, which puts it on a par with many current mid-range tablets or notebooks available. It can’t touch a high-performance PC but that’s not the point of the Shuttle, which can go where more powerful desktops can only dream of.
Along these lines, the Shuttle systems is a power miser that uses only 15.4 watts of power while working full blast. That drops to 0.4-watts when it’s in sleep mode. If it’s used for 10 hours every school day, expect that the Shuttle will cost only $4 per year to operate if electricity costs 12 cents per kilowatt hour, the national average.
It has two more power tricks up its sleeve that can cut energy bills further. It can be set up to wake up on a network command so it can be dormant until needed. The Shuttle can also be set to turn itself off at the end of the school day and then start itself up before anyone arrives in the morning.
Unlike so many of its peers, Shuttle stands by the NC02U with a three-year warranty that makes the standard one year of coverage seem second rate by comparison. It promises lifetime support as well.
In other words, the Shuttle NC02U is not only one of the smallest and lightest desktop PCs around, but it’s one of the most economical to get and use.
+ Windows 7 through 10 and Linux
+ 3-year warranty
+ Includes mounting hardware
+ Tiny and economical
- Mediocre performance
- No Bluetooth