Shuttle XPC SB81P: Loaded 775 BTX

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March 24, 2005 by Devon Cooke and Mike Chin

Product
Shuttle XPC SB81P
Manufacturer
Shuttle
Selling Price
~US$400

The Intel transition from Socket 478 to LGA775 is well underway, in conventional mid-tower systems as well as in Small Form Factor systems. For many SFF manufacturers the change in socket type means redesigning a whole product line because the proprietary motherboards that ship with these systems must be redesigned to accommodate the new style of CPU mounting. Shuttle, which owns at least half of the SFF market, began this process last year with the SB81P. It is a performance-oriented SFF that promises to keep even the hottest Prescott processors cool.

The FB81 motherboard that ships with this system is based on Intel's 915G and ICH6-R chipsets, so it can compete with the best in terms of features. This is a SFF system for the power user: PCI-express, SATA RAID, and 7.1 audio are all standard features among others too numerous to mention.

The SB81P may be aimed at the Media PC market; there is more than enough power here to support an advanced living-room setup. Of course, putting a system like this in a living room makes its sonic characteristics even more crucial than normal; nobody wants to hear the drone of a computer while trying to focus on the complexities of a Hitchcock classic. That said, the typical location of a Media PC — across the room from the user — should make the less directional lower frequencies, such as hard drive hum, less noticeable in this application.


The SB81P is a handsome box with a glossy black finish on the front. I like it.


The back end has peripheral slots opposite from Shuttle's previous systems; they are usually to the right.

The Intel 915G chipset has the advantage of support for the latest technologies — and the disadvantage of missing support for slightly older technology. The advantages are clear: PCI-Express is supported, as well as Intel's latest integrated graphics GMA900. Details of the features can be found in the specifications table below. One feature stands out because it is uncommon even on desktop machines: A 6-in-1 memory card reader.

An optional feature of the 915G chipset was noticeable by its absence: The SB81P does not support DDR2 memory, although standard DDR memory is supported up to PC3200.

The 915G chipset supports only one PATA channel, which means users of older drives will need to upgrade to SATA if they need more than a single hard disk and an optical drive. This is less of a disadvantage in a SFF system than in a full tower setup. Also missing is a parallel port, although an internal header does make it possible to install one in an expansion bay. The final drawback of using a 915G-based system is that AGP video cards are not supported.

SPECIFICATIONS & FEATURES

Shuttle SB81P Specifications

Processor

Intel Socket 775 Pentium 4 / Celeron

Memory

Dual-channel DDR 400/333
DIMM slots (1GB x 2)

Motherboard

FB81 (proprietary)

Intel 915G + ICH6-R chipset
800/533 MHz FSB
32-bit PCI slot x 1

Graphics

16X PCI Express slot

Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900
DVMT memory architecture

Audio

8-channel audio

Digital (SPDIF) audio ports
Analog audio ports

Network

Gigabit LAN

Storage

Serial ATA 150 headers x 4

FDD header
(1) IDE header
5.25" storage bay x 1
3.5" storage bays x 3

Front-panel I/O

6-in-1 card reader

USB 2.0 ports x 2
FireWire 400 port
Microphone port
Headphone port
Power button
Reset button

Rear-panel I/O

PS/2 Keyboard socket

PS/2 Mouse socket
USB 2.0 ports x 2
FireWire 400 port
VGA-out
Gigabit LAN (RJ-45)
8-channel audio out
SPDIF I/O ports
Coaxial Audio port
Serial port
CMOS Reset button

Silent X (system cooling)

Intelligently-engineered airflow mechanics

Power Supply

Silent X 350W

Dimensions (L x W x H, mm)

320 x 210 x 220

Weight (net / gross; kg, lbs)

4.25 (9.35) / 6.05 (13.31)

One useful feature that shows up with regularity on Shuttle SFF systems is a button to clear the CMOS that is accessible though a pinhole on the I/O shield. This is certainly a convenient feature to include on any system that allows a decent range of clock adjustments, as this one does.

The SB81P ships with a power supply rated for 350 watts, which is quite high for a SFF system, and probably reflects the capacity to power both a hungry Prescott processor and a PCI-Express VGA card. Cooling such a large power load in a SFF case could prove to be quite a challenge; our test setup will be much more modest in order to optimize the system for low noise.

Shuttle has begun to describe their cases in terms of thermal "zones". In the case of the SB81P, there are three thermal zones: One for the CPU, one for the hard drives, and a general zone that encompasses the rest of the case. This decision to separate the airflow that travels across the warmest components may be good for cooling, but it requires separate fans for each zone.

There are no less than five fans in the SB81P. The CPU zone contains an 80mm exhaust fan and a thin 70mm intake fan. The hard drive zone is cooled by twin 60mm fans that draw air along the top of the case. Any other heat that is generated in the case should theoretically be exhausted via the 80mm exhaust fan in the power supply. With the exception of the power supply fan, all fans are controllable in the BIOS by PWM control.



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