Shuttle SB86i BTX SFF system

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BIOS Flexibility

The BIOS in the SB86i is fairly similar to the other Shuttles we've seen recently. Most of the usual enthusiast options are there, but there were no surprises. The important features for silencing, undervolting and underclocking, are supported. There is also an option to control the CPU fan, although the controls are a little more rudimentary that some of the others we've looked at.

  • FSB: 100-355 MHz, in 1MHz increments
  • CPU Voltage: 0.8250V - 1.5875V in 0.0125V increments
  • Chipset Voltage: Auto, 1.60V, 1.70V, 1.80V
  • DDR Voltage: Auto, 2.70V, 2.80V, 2.90V


A full range of FSB adjustment.


The low end of the voltage scale is pretty low.

One option that might be of interest to those who wish to reign back the performance of an exceptionally hot CPU is something called "CPU Ratio Fixed 14x", which sets the CPU multiplier on the higher powered Prescotts to the minimum supported by TM2: 14x. Since our test CPU runs at 14x by default, we could not test how effective this option was.

This feature seems to be designed for emergencies when someone has bought too warm a CPU and wants to run a stable system without buying a new CPU. It could also be used to reduce the total heat going into the system, which could be useful if a minor reduction in case temperature is necessary to cool a burning hot VGA card.

In both of these situations, a better option would be to use cool components in the first place, so the option may be more of a failsafe than a genuinely useful feature.

FAN CONTROL

Controlling the fan is very simple. There is one option to tinker with: "Advanced CPU Fan Setting". This is the same setting that is available in the Shuttle SN95G5, and provides the same selections for fan speed. Missing is the "Temp Tag" option that let you set the temperature at which the "Smart" setting kicks in.


This screen shows the extent of the fan control that is possible in BIOS.


The fan control screen has a lot of information but only a single user-configurable option.

BIOS CPU Fan Settings
Setting
Speed (RPM)
SPL (dBA/1m)
Full
2600
49
Mid
1650
32
Low
1200
30
Ultra-Low
1100
29
Smart (idle)
1050
29

The lack of options in the fan control department is not necessarily a bad thing. Shuttle's Smart Fan feature has worked well for us in the past with little tinkering. If Shuttle can provide the quietest possible machine without burning the CPU out of the box, we're all for it. Hopefully, the internal Tag Temp at which the fan begins to increase has been set well enough that no tweaking is needed.

SYSTEM SETUP

The following components were installed in the Shuttle SB86i:

  • Intel 520 processor (P4-2.8 Prescott, 1Mb cache, 800 MHz FSB in 775 casing), review loan from Newegg.com
  • OCZ DDR400 512MBx2 EL DDR Platinum Dual Channel SDRAM Memory (2 sticks)
  • 40 GB Seagate Barracuda IV 7200 RPM HDD, model ST340015A. One of our favorite quiet reference drives.
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2 was installed, along with the multi-megs of updates ad nauseum.

The Intel 520 processor is the same one used for the last few Socket T SFF reviews. Its TPD as rated by Intel is 84W, and its calculated Maximum Power is 100W.

No VGA card was tested; instead, the integrated GMA900 graphics was used.

The hard drive was installed using the stock grommets in the rear bay above the power supply. We noticed that the drive ran almost 10°C warmer than it typically does on our open air test bench, which suggests that airflow across the drives is less than stellar.

Astute readers will notice that our test hard drive uses PATA, even though the case is not properly wired for it. This is where the aforementioned experimentation with IDE cables comes in. Because we were not using an internal optical drive, we were able to free up the single IDE header for our hard drive. With a little careful cable routing we were able to adapt the case to our needs, although our cable routing efforts could not be as neat as Shuttle's.

Our usual slew of testing software was installed with little fuss:

At the time of testing, we were unable to find a tool that could correctly read the thermal chip used on the FB86 motherboard. No working utilities were available on the driver CD or on Shuttle's website, so we were unable to measure either temperatures or fan speed under load. Idle measurements were done in the BIOS, and may be higher than equivalent readings in Windows because of differences in CPU load.

Powering up the system for the first time was quite a sight to behold. The blue power "LED" illuminates a long cavity in the fascia with a soft diffuse glow. HDD seeks are punctuated by orange flashes in the center of the "light". The whole effect is quite subtle. The LEDs can be dimmed or turned off completely in the BIOS, but even at full intensity the light is not particularly intrusive.


The orange blip in the middle is the HDD LED.



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