Shuttle SB86i BTX SFF system

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As is standard in the SFF market, the SB86i came pre-wired and ready to go. Some unfortunate experimentation with IDE cables gave us good reason to appreciate this convenience; the single IDE header is located in the center of the board behind a vertically mounted CMOS battery and is very hard to reach without removing the power supply. We recommend not tinkering with the existing wiring!

Apart from this minor inconvenience, the rest of the layout is quite good. Hard drives lie across the top of the case in individual cages that come off with a single thumbscrew. The optical drive cage is only tall enough to hold a single drive, which makes maneuvering the drive cage into place easier than usual. Once this drive bay is removed, the thermal module unscrews easily without obstructions around the screw holes.

A refined layout keeps all the commonly installed components near the edge of the case.

The two hard drive cages lie side by side at the top of the system. Convection says that heat rises, and because little direct airflow is provided, there is some question about the adequacy of the hard drive cooling.

In stock form, both bays are configured for use with SATA drives. The only PATA cable provided is pre-installed next to the optical drive bay, monopolizing the single IDE header on the motherboard. The separation between the optical and the hard drives makes this system SATA only for practical purposes.

Individual hard drive cages lie across the top of the system.

An effort has obviously been made to deal with the issue of hard drive noise, as the drives are mounted in their cages with rubber grommets similar to those used in the Antec Sonata case. The noise characteristics of this mounting system are fairly well known in the SPCR community: It helps, but not a lot.

There is also a strip of hard rubber on the bottom the each cage that seems to be intended to prevent metal on metal contact between the cage and the power supply (in the back of the case) or the optical drive (in the front). Because this strip runs across the cage rather than lengthwise, its usefulness may be limited. Ultimately, its effectiveness depends on the amount of vibration in the devices that are installed.

Hard drives are grommet mounted.

The reason for the shallow optical bay is obvious when you look underneath it: The Thermal Module that cools the CPU takes up about half the height of the case. With the CPU at the front of the case, there is simply no room for more than one drive, which means floppy disk die-hards are out of luck.

There is only room for a single drive above the Thermal Module.

One of the advantages of a BTX-based design is the orientation of the VGA card. The top side of the VGA card faces the interior of the case, which means it should be fairly well cooled by the existing case airflow. Unusually for a SFF system, the graphics expansion slot is the inner slot. There is enough empty space on both sides of the slot that many aftermarket VGA coolers can be expected to fit.

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