Shuttle SB86i BTX SFF system

Complete|Mobile Systems
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Our first impression of the SB86i was positive. As mentioned, the chassis is manufactured from steel, which should help reduce vibration and resonance. Other features that should benefit noise levels include a power supply with an 80mm fan, generous venting throughout the case, and front vents that do not directly face the front of the case.

The fascia is very cleanly designed; only an optical drive cover with a sedate XPC logo and a long recessed impression that glows with the power and HDD LEDs mar the smooth white finish. Other features that usually show up on the bezel, including the power button and front USB ports, have been moved to the front edge of the side panels where they are less visible from a distance.

The SB86i looks more like a haute culture kitchen appliance than a computer.

USB, Firewire and Audio ports are located on the left side of the fascia...

...while the power button and an 8-in-1 memory card reader occupy the right side.

Shuttle has also hidden a surprising amount of intake area behind the fascia. One each side of the bezel, a long intake vent about a centimeter wide extends the height of the case. Although the vents are more than 50% restricted, their sheer size should benefit case airflow. In addition to these intakes, there are further vents on the side panels that also provide some intake airflow. The intakes are not large, about 2 x 8 cm, but they do provide additional airflow.

Behind the front vents, air is ducted towards the front of the case.

Each of the front intakes is ducted in towards the front of the case to direct the airflow towards the fan in the Thermal Module. Because this fan is expected to be the primary source of airflow in the system, it is important that it is not starved for air.

The bottom of the case is also well vented.

Examining the bottom of the case (where there are no aesthetic concerns) reveals that the side intakes are not the primary source of airflow; a much larger, much more open vent runs much of the width of the case. This intake risks being limited by the low profile of the rubber feet, especially if the system is placed on a surface with some give in it, like a carpet. Hoever, like the other Shuttle SFFs, the system ships with a pair of aluminum cone feet that raise the case about 3/4 of an inch at the front.

There are also several small vents along the length of the case that are designed to exhaust a small amount of airflow from under the motherboard. This under-the-motherboard airflow is a feature of the unit's BTX design.

The rear panel sports a power supply with an 80mm fan and copious exhaust venting.

At the rear of the system, airflow is equally unrestricted. An 80mm fan in the power supply provides some exhaust, but much of the air blown into the case by the Thermal Module is allowed to find its own route out of the case. To serve this end, the entire back panel is generously vented. The vents near the PCIe slot should help exhaust heat produced by the VGA card.

In comparison to most of the other SFF systems that we've reviewed, the SB86i is a behemoth; its total volume is almost 18 liters — twice the size of the Shuttle Zen. Much of this size is found in the extra width and depth of the system. As mentioned, BTX motherboards can be as narrow as 200mm, so it is unclear why this extra width — almost 4cm — is necessary.

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