It's been a while since we have heard from Shuttle, and for pretty good reason. Many years ago if you wanted a small form factor PC that could pack a punch your only real option was Shuttle. It came to the point where some of the biggest manufacturers in the world decided to enter the game, Gigabyte had a crack at it along with Epox and ASUS but no one was ever able to stand out like Shuttle.
Shuttle became so well known as a brand that people didn't call these "Small Form Factor PCs", rather just Shuttles. You would think that it was going to be a company like ASUS or Gigabyte that would place the most competition, but instead it quickly turned around and became companies like Antec who started to release SFF housing, from there people were picking up more well known motherboards to suit the case and Shuttle seemed to slowly die away.
At the peak of SFF computing Shuttle was great because the global LAN scene was huge, people didn't want to cart around big cases and Shuttle gave you the opportunity to have something that could fit under one arm and be transported with very little effort. As broadband internet has become cheaper though, LANs have slowly died off and the internet gaming revolution really kicked. This basically meant that having a big case wasn't a big deal anymore since you had no intentions of lugging it around to the local LAN event.
All these contributing factors seemed to make Shuttle nothing more than a distant memory, the good news is though that they have decided to release a new line-up under the "Glamor" series name which we hope can revive the love of our Shuttle again.
The particular model we are looking at today is the Shuttle SG33G5 Pro using the latest onboard graphics chipset from Intel, the G33. Where does Shuttle best fit in the market these days? We'll have a look at the SG33G5 Pro and see where in our house its best suited for.
Shuttle have opted for a black colour scheme with the Glamor line-up of XPCs. The pack doesn't give you a whole lot of information though; we actually can't even see the model number anywhere. We highly doubt that this would be the case when the units are shipped out to Shuttle's local distributors around the world otherwise it would be a bit of a lucky dip scenario.
One side of the box has the most information with a number of logos that mention Vista, DDR2, Overclocking, 7.1 Audio, Smart Fan and ICE technology, though apart from that there are no other details on what the particular model is capable of. Clearly the just mentioned features are seen across the board on the Glamor series, instead of making a number of boxes for each different model Shuttle have just chosen to create the one type and then simply place the model number on it.
Outside of the box there isn't much more to the package, when you dive inside you have a quick guide setup manual that gives you a run down on all the buttons and ports along with a little guide to installing the CPU. We have the usual driver CD that lets you get up and running as soon as possible, a black floppy disk cable and also a connector that converts HDMI to DVI.
There doesn't really need to be a huge amount of extras included in a Shuttle XPC as a lot of the regular motherboard extras are already included in the actual unit itself, such as the SATA and IDE cables.
The Unit - Outside
It's been a while since we've seen an XPC in the flesh and this particular unit that is at the TweakTown labs at the moment follows a very cool Dusk and Dawn theme. The SG33G5 out of the box looks pretty elegant, it doesn't have anything that's an eye sore and generally just looks pretty good.
The front of the unit has some logos like DTS, HDMI, Glamor XPC and Shuttle along with the usual line-up of buttons that help us power on our system and reset it. The top right corner has a button that lets you eject the ROM drive behind the stealth cover.
Down the bottom at the front we have a little flap that can be opened which reveals some handy ports. Behind the cover we find a headphone and microphone jack for audio, two USB ports and a mini Firewire port. Really these are the only connectors you need at the front for that ready to go gamer, two USB ports for the keyboard and mouse and the audio jacks for your headphones.
Moving around the case the sides and top don't offer us anything out of the ordinary at all, we have some vents on the side of the case along with the Shuttle logo embedded into it.
Moving to the back we are greeted with the normal lay out that we have become so used to, but with a few extra connectors. The top right corner gives us an optical-out port for people who want to make use of digital audio.
Heading downwards a large portion of the rear is taken up by a number of holes for the fan which helps push the hot air out of the case. The left of here has our little power supply and the right two brackets for some extra cards.
When we hit the bottom we have all those important connectors, since the G33 has onboard video we have a standard D-SUB VGA port and below that the ever growing popular HDMI port. If you're on a DVI monitor you can use the HDMI to DVI connector that is included in the package. Four USB ports are found on the back bringing the grand total to six, a single standard Firewire port, gigabit network port, our standard audio plugs for surround sound along with two eSATA ports.
In the connectivity department we have everything we need and a little bit more thanks to the added option of HDMI. The good news is if you plug the device directly into your TV using HDMI but have a separate AMP for audio you can use the optical out port.
Overall the outside of the whole case looks and feels great and continues to have the feel of a high quality unit.
The Unit - Inside
With three thumbscrews coming off without any effort we remove the case cover and begin to dive inside the whole unit. If you've used a Shuttle before the new SG33G5 won't be anything out of the ordinary and follows the same standard design that we have become accustomed to.
In the world of expansion we have both a PCI E x16 slot alongside a PCI slot. These are no doubt the two most important slots when it comes down to it, and when you're in a position where you can only have two slots this is what you would be choosing. What we would have liked to have seen though was the PCI Express slot go on the inside as opposed to the outside, this would have given us the opportunity to use a video card that takes up dual slots.
Hard drive connectivity is pretty good, packing a single IDE that gives us up to two devices we also have three SATA ports alongside our floppy disc connector. Out of the box the XPC comes already equipped with a single SATA and IDE cable plugged in and neatly routed throughout the case. Here we also see a decent sized passive cooler to help keep the northbridge temperatures down.
Squeezed down the back corner on either side of our two RAM slots which offer support for up to 4GB of DDR2 667/800MHz are the two power connectors for the motherboard. While it looks like it may get in the way of installing the ram, going in from the top of the case makes RAM installation an absolute breeze.
When it comes down to the cooling setup the ICE rig consists of two main parts. We have a single plate is mounted straight over the top of the CPU via four screws which give us a very strong and even mount. From there we have three pipes that shoot out the back and go up to a radiator like grill. A single 92mm fan is used to cool this while the air is pushed out the rear of the case.
This particular design has been used for as long as we can remember and generally seems to work great for Shuttle.
The whole system is powered with a little 250Watt power supply that has a single 16A 12V rail. It's clear that you're not going to be putting any power house video card in the system.
One of the better features of the XPC was that it was never a drama to get your system in and have everything up and running. The latest SG33G5 continues to have the same benefit with the installation taking a lot less time than it would to build a whole system up.
The best method we found was to open up the case and remove the cradle that holds the hard drive. From there we remove the ICE cooling solution and insert our lovely Core 2 Duo e6600 in with very little effort.
Once that's done we install the memory into the two slots, and with the hard drive now mounted into the cradle we install that back into the case.
If you want a bit more grunt over what the integrated graphics solution offers, you can install a video card and we found that the HD 2600 PRO Sonic from Palit was a beautiful fit and continues to give us HDMI thanks to it being on the video card.
The worst part about the installation was the fact that you have to set a jumper depending on whether you use the onboard video or a separate PCI Express card. Jumpers are so pre-2000 and Shuttle should have thought about this. It's not all that difficult, just frustrating.
With the Dell 30" being occupied by our normal test system it was time to install on our other available monitor at the time. :)
Overall the setup of the whole system was an absolute breeze and this is one of the best features of Shuttle. There is just no stuffing around, you can set up and be in windows in no time.
Test System Setup and 3DMark05
Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Duo e6600 @ 2.4GHz
Video Card(s): Palit HD 2600 PRO Sonic and Palit HD 2600 XT Sonic(Supplied by Palit)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston DDR-2 800MHz 3-3-4-12 (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Samsung 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2
Drivers: Catalyst 7.8 and DX9c
As a gaming machine your video card options aren't fantastic, you're limited to at best a mid-range graphics card from AMD or NVIDIA. If you still want to have HDMI your cards are even more limited. Your best choice is the HD 2600 PRO Sonic from Palit, it offers a little bit of punch thanks to it coming pre-overclocked and also carries a native HDMI port; the other benefit to it being a single slot card is that it helps keep air flow restriction to a minimum.
What we have done today is test the SG33G5 Pro with the standard on-board G33 video and also with the HD 2600 PRO installed. If the PRO isn't enough punch and HDMI isn't important to you we have also seen how the HD 2600 XT Sonic from Palit goes which is one of the best mid-range cards available on the market at the moment.
Version and / or Patch Used: Build 130
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/
Buy It Here
3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and above.
For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here
Straight away we can see that the onboard G33 graphics isn't capable of much compared to that of the HD 2600 PRO and HD 2600 XT.
Benchmarks - 3DMark06
Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.
3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.
The SG33G5 Pro has no troubles with the HD 2600 cards and we can see that it gives a big boost in performance when compared to the G33 onboard graphics.
Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)
Half Life 2 (Lost Coast)
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here
By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Lost Coast opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.
We benchmark Half Life 2 Lost Coast with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.
The G33 wasn't even able to run Lost Coast, as it got towards the end of the demo it simply just exited out. We tried a few times yet when we stuck in the HD 2600 card it ran beautifully.
Benchmarks - Prey
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here
Prey is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.
Prey painted a similar picture with it not being able to complete the tests. We can see that the HD 2600 cards though are able to help low-res gamers.
Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.
After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).
With the extra video card installed the increase in sound was very minimal.
Power Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
With 250 watts of power on tap we have plenty of room, even with the HD 2600 XT. What stops us from moving to something like the 8800GTS is the slot design inside the case. It's a pity as we feel that there is more headroom for a better video card.
The SG33G5 Pro is nice but it's not revolutionary or anything like that. The bottom line is it's the same XPC from three years ago with a slightly different exterior design and a new motherboard installed. The biggest problem is working out where exactly this particular XPC fits into the market, not just as a whole but also as far as Shuttle's line-up goes.
Prior to testing the unit for video card performance I was using the SG33G5 Pro as my own little home theatre PC in my bedroom hooked up to a Samsung 32" LCD TV. It was a very capable HTPC but when you price it up it's not that cheap, you then throw in the fact that the odd shape means that it might not always fit into your cabinet. It doesn't feature an IR port or anything fancy like that so if you don't want cables running around you need to get a wireless keyboard/mouse. The fact that it didn't have a PS/2 port was a bit of a pain as well as I had to grab the more expensive Logitech G15 USB keyboard to use it.
The other end of the stick is a gaming PC and the single slot design really prevents it from being anything too serious. Sure if you're a casual gamer and use a maximum res of 1280 x 1024 you would be fine but if you wanted a nice little PC that lets you game on that 24" monitor you're going to run into troubles.
As a gamer you might find yourself venturing into overclocking and the SG33G5 Pro didn't have any trouble getting our E6600 to 3GHz; the problem is though that we're not limited by our processor, we can easily stick in a E6850 and have 3GHz Dual Core with a 1333MHz FSB, the problem is the video card. All the CPU power in the world isn't going to let you game at 1920 x 1200.
There is of course your general office PC/workstation but the cost of one means that it's out of reach for most people. The work horse PC isn't really about looks but more about functionality and costs, while this does the first fine the latter isn't done so well.
You're not going to have any dramas getting a hold of one and as for value for money compared to other XPCs it's pretty good, unfortunately with a little bit of work you could build yourself something better performance wise for the same cost. $500 AUD gets you a pretty good case/power supply and motherboard these days, and generally a lot more expansion too.
The SG33G5 Pro is a good quality product, though there are cheaper ways to get a small form factor PC up and running, Shuttle really need to revolutionize SFF computing again like when they first entered the market, how they can do this? Well no one really knows - otherwise it would've been done.
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