Shuttle XPC SB81P: Loaded 775 BTX

Complete|Mobile Systems
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At first glance, the new position of the expansion slots looks like a relatively insignificant change, but it is more important than it seems. Locating the VGA slot on the right side of the case means that the top part of the expansion card now faces the interior of the case rather than the aluminum case wall. This is an improvement for two reasons:

  • The warm air exhausted by the heatsink fan is less likely to get trapped between the card and the case wall.
  • It is now possible to use some double-width VGA cards. Also, many aftermarket VGA heatsinks use the space for the adjacent PCI slot to cool effectively. As long as the bulk of the heatsink is on the top of the card, aftermarket heatsinks can now be used to reduce the noise from the graphics card.

Both of these are important features, as the inclusion of a PCI Express slot increases the temptation to install a high wattage GPU. The inward-facing configuration of the slot should allow both for better airflow and for more effective (and quieter) third party VGA coolers to be used.

The expansion slots have been moved to the right side of the case.

Like the majority of SFF systems we've seen, the hard drive cage has room for two drives: a full size 5.25" optical drive and a standard 3.5" hard drive. The 3.5" bay can also be used to house a floppy drive if needed. In a pinch, it might even be possible to custom mount both a 3.5" fan controller and a hard drive at once. There is one further bay on the drive cage: The 6-in-1 card reader is installed at the top of the bay, and must be unplugged from the motherboard before the drive cage can be removed.

The lower bay is slightly offset from the optical bay. This appears to be to accommodate the new position of the CPU, as the ICE cooling system extends upwards about half the height of the case.

The drive cage has room for an optical drive and either a floppy or a hard drive.

The 6-in-1 reader is mounted on the drive cage, and must be unplugged to remove the cage.

Metal pins hold the hard drive in place without screws.
Four small patches of hard rubber provide minimal isolation between the hard drive and the cage.

One of the selling points of the SB81P is screwless drive installation. As has become the trend in the tower case market, the drives are installed with plastic rails that clip into the screw holes of the drive. This is the case for both optical and floppy drives. Installing a hard drive is a slightly different matter. The drive cage is designed with four metal pins that utilize the bottom mounting holes to secure the hard drive. With this system, a drive can simply be pressed into place; it will be securely held in place by leaf springs that clamp the drive from either side. Strategically placed patches of hard rubber prevent direct metal-to-metal contact between the drive and the cage, which should prevent rattling but do very little to prevent the transmission of vibration.

Extra hard drives can be mounted at the top of the case over the power supply and the optical drive.

If you simply can't get by with a single hard drive, or if you need to use the 3.5" bay in the drive cage for a floppy drive, it is possible to mount two additional hard drives across the top of the case. You can even RAID them if you like.

As with the drive cage, installation is done via screwless rails that clip onto the frame of the case. The installation is secured with small plastic tabs that clip into place. Installed drives cannot easily be knocked out of place, but there is some slack that allows the drive rails to slide back and forth about a millimeter. Vibration noise could be an issue with this method of installation.

Auxiliary drives are mounted using these rails.

Twin 60 x 10mm fans draw air over the top of the power supply to provide cooling for any extra drives. They are fitted with wire grills to prevent accidental contact with the PSU wires. It is not clear why these wire grills were not also used on the exterior of the case.

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