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Breaking into the Intel SFF Market with Shuttle, Soltek and ABIT - Shuttle ST61G4 XPC

In the first of our looks at the increasingly popular Small Form Factor (SFF) systems, we focus our attention on Intel Pentium 4 based platform systems from Shuttle, Soltek and ABIT.

| SFF PCs in Computer Systems | Posted: Feb 29, 2004 5:00 am

Shuttle ST61G4 XPC

 

- External

 

 

Editor's Note - We think for this effort the Coke company should send us a few cartons of Coke!

 

It wasn't until recent Shuttle decided to change the design slightly of their popular XPC systems. For quite a while now they simply had a box that was very similar and just continued to add a new motherboard as more recent chipsets were released. Shuttle has now chosen to do a little something different by releasing more and more models now with an internal card reader and have recently added what can be described as a mirror to the front of the case.

 

Shuttle had their thinking caps on when putting together the bundle of this system. Included is a fine quality cloth which is used to clean the mirror to polish it and bring back the shipping shine.

 

 

Shuttle has also decided to move the buttons and change the type of button on the latest generation of Small Form Factor PCs. They now use a smaller button for both the power and reset which blend into the mirror finished front very well.

 

The back of the unit offers all the usual goodies: onboard video, LAN, USB and so forth. It offers you just about as much as any normal full size PC does.

 

 

- Internal

 

Shuttle has set the standard in the design of SFF and as far as the internals of this system go, it is fantastic. Everything is able to be installed with ease and once you have set it up you can easily get to everything without any bother. Considering how small these cases are you can move around inside them with a fair bit of ease which is the main thing. You don't have to have super skinny long fingers to get places - even our big stumpy hands can move around in them.

 

 

Shuttle has had a good design going for a while now and we think that they feel they have no reason to change it as it works perfectly for them. Working in a Shuttle XPC is something you get used to and recently some of the motherboards have given us better placement of the memory. The team over at Shuttle in Taiwan has worked on minor changes over the past year but at the end of the day they are all very similar in one shape, way or form. Considering the size of the unit when compared to the other two we have here, this machine is quite nice to work with.

 

- Cooling

 

Shuttle has been using the same cooling system for a long time now. Since day one Shuttle really hit the spot with their heat pipe technology. The heatsink is heated by the processor and from there the heat travels up the pipes. The 80mm fan included on the cooling solution then cools down the pipes. Heat Pipe technology has become quite popular thanks to its efficiency and low noise levels. The fan included adjusts its speed according to the temperature, at full speed its quite loud but it doesn't take long to cool down thanks to the effectiveness of heat pipes.

 

 

One thing that people look out for is the addition of multiple hard drives. While it is possible to add more the one drive in these small systems, the heat generated from the drives can be quite dangerous. Some drives run hotter then others and in turn this can course data corruption or the failure of a hard drive. While you can fit multiple hard drives we would recommend going for a bigger drive overall and partitioning it. This would be your safest move.

 

The overall cooling solution is excellent and word on the grapevine is that Shuttle are trying to implement water cooling into some of there future systems. If this is true, we hope that Shuttle has us down for trying one out - overclocking is one main aspect keeping people away from the system, as you are quite limited in the cooling department. While the temperatures are okay for running at default voltage, as soon as we have to raise them we start running into stability problems.

 

- Chipset and Features

 

This particular unit uses ATI's desktop chipset, the 9100 IGP (or RS300 - reviewed here) which was released last year and was designed to compete with Intel's Dual Channel solutions (865 and 875). The RS300 isn't a bad chipset, unfortunately as far as performance goes it didn't really offer anything more then Intel's solution, and people prefer to stick with something they know. The only real thing that the RS300 offered was upgraded onboard video. In the past Intel's Extreme Graphics have never been anything exciting and the RS300 board helps bring the graphics level of a Radeon 9200 to your system.

 

 

The ATI RS300 chipset brings all the creature comforts that we have become used too, including: USB 2.0, Firewire 400, onboard LAN, Serial ATA raid as well as support for 800MHz FSB Pentium 4 processors.

 

It's not the fastest chipset on the market since it is ATI's first attempt but we intend to see how it goes against the two other units here today in just a little while.

 

 

 

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