Shuttle XPC - IntroductionIntroduction
Small Form Factor PCs or SFF as its becoming known as of today is making a huge breakthrough in the enthusiast and hobbyist PC markets. Mini PC's were started by end users who didn't want to have their PCs in "crappy old" PC cases and avid LAN goers. After all, it hard to lug around tower and Midi tower cases all across the city and even the state.Designed in Perspex and wooden boxes in extremely small designs this hobby became a marketing idea for a few companies, amongst them Shuttle. Shuttle has always been in for innovative designs, and pushing the limits of personal computing,Shuttle first introduced the commercially available SFF based PC, dubbed the XPC line with the SV25 model as the base. Designed AMD Athlon and Duron CPUs. VIA's KN133 chipset was used to power the system with onboard Savage XP graphics, the performance was less than stellar, but launched Shuttle into the SFF market.Shuttle needed a new model in with to build the XPC on. Shuttle dumped VIA in favour of SiS, who's integrated solutions were more appealing, supported DDR SDRAM and proved much faster than any VIA based integrated chipset. The next Athlon based XPC was the SS40G. This baby included the SiS 740 chipset, Firewire and all the other goodies the SV25 brought to the table. Video performance of this model was 40% better than the SV25 with no extra price over the SV25, making it a much more appealing system.Market demand started to push on an AGP slot on the SFF systems, with SiS unable to provide a AGP slot with the 740 chipset, Shuttle moved back to VIA with the KM266 chipset for the SK41G. This allowed for onboard graphics to be used or an optional AGP 4x video card to be installed into an AGP slot inside the system.With introduction of the nForce2 IGP chipset with all the latest features, Shuttle just couldn't resist bringing out a XPC based on this chipset. Today we are fortunate enough to get a look at the XPC SN41G2.
Shuttle XPC - SpecificationsChassis
Dimension (L)300*(W)200*(H)185 2.85Kg (N.W.) 4.65Kg (G.W.) Front Panel USB * 2 Line-out/Headphone * 1 MIC * 1 1394 * 1 SPDIF * 1 Back Panel Serial Port * 1 1394 * 2 USB * 2 LAN * 1 VGA * 2 S-video*1 Extension Bay 5.25" * 1 3.5" * 2 Mainboard
Model FN41 Form Factor Small Form Factor CPU
Socket A 333/266/200MHz FSB Chipsets
North bridge: nVidia nForce2 South bridge: nVidia MCP-T Memory
DDR 200/266/333/400 2 Channel Support VGA
Geforce4 MX 128 MB VGA share memory Audio
Realtek ALC650 6 Ch Support Digital SPDIF Output Expansion Slots
1x PCI 1z AGP 8x IDE Interface
ATA-133 Power Supply
200W (PFC) Accessories
TV-Out SupportUSB 2.0Aluminum Chassis Athlon XP CPU burn-proof, Hot Features
Athlon XP 333 MHz FSB CPU supportShuttle Form FactorShuttle I.C.E. heat-pipe technology.
Shuttle XPC - FeaturesFeatures of the SN41G2
The Shuttle XPC comes in a cool retail packaging which some with a plastic carry handle on the top. This in very convenient as it can double as a carry bag for the system if you want to transport it to and from LAN parties. Upon opening the package, we find the system to be neatly packed in foam spacers to prevent transport damage along with a few accessories. These accessories include a Standard Floppy disk cable, 1 IDE cable, TV Out cable, CPU shim, screws and 2 user manuals.
First off we take a look at the top and front of the XPC. Gone are the days of using plastic faceplates like with the original XPC. Shuttle has now gone with full aluminium plating, making the case look much better. Like the front of the original XPCs, the front panel ports have remained the same. Located on the front. These ports include a SPDIF Out, Microphone, Headphones, 2 USB 2.0 ports and 1 Firewire port. The LEDs one the case have been moved to directly above the front access ports, as have the buttons for the power and reset functions.
The back of the case is pretty well standard for the XPC line. Located on the right hand side is a small 40mm port for the vent fan for the 200w PSU. Just off to the left is a 80mm vent for the I.C.E cooling system to vent hot air from the inside the system. Just to the right of that are 2 full-sized expansion slots, 1 for a PCI card and 1 for an AGP card, this will be shown later on.The interface ports are quite different compared to standard ATX layout. First you have two CRT monitor ports, that's right, two. Thanks to the Geforce4 MX video controller built into the Northbridge you get yourself nView support for two monitors simultaneously. Shuttle has taken full advantage of this and given two monitor ports, we don't see 2 CRT ports on video cards or other onboard video based board, well done Shuttle. Next you get a standard serial port for connection of external modems and other serial devices like mice. Below the serial port is a TV out port for NTSC or PAL video output to TV. Next to the TV out ports are 2 Firewire ports. Thanks to the use of the nForce2 chipset Firewire is a standard feature of the Southbridge.LAN and USB ports line up next to the Firewire ports. Again the nForce2 Southbridge comes with USB 2.0 ports and 10/100 network controller. Shuttle has not spared any expense in adding all that comes from the nForce2.2 PS/2 Ports come next. Colour coded for the Keyboard and Mouse operations helps you located which port is which. While the push is to remove legacy ports from motherboards of the future it is good to see that PS/2 is still holding its ground.Finally 3 Audio ports are provided for up to 6 channel speaker systems via the Soundstorm utility provided by nVidia.
Here we see the XPC with the lid removed. We see from the top image the access side of the XPC where you can get access to the PCI and AGP slots. The bottom image shows the opposite side. This shows the power supply mounted to the chassis.
Looking at the drive tray assembly we see that its design has several purposes. Its first and foremost duty is holding all drives. Secondly, the drive tray is also responsible for retaining any faceplates, which are used when a drive is not present. Given the fact that a number of cables would be passing alongside this part, a rubber stopper was provided to divert the cables away from the rough-edged corner of the tray. This unit has to be removed in order to gain access to the CPU socket and cooling system.
The Power supply for the XPC is a mere 200-Watt power supply. Now I know what a lot of you are thinking, AMD recommends a minimum of 300 or 350 watt PSU, how can this little demon do what some 300-watt PSUs can't? Taking a look at the specification for the model, we see that the power supply is made by a company called ACHME, the power supply proved to be ample enough and provided a strong signal throughout testing. No BSOD or random resets occurred even with heavy hardware installed and under extreme load.The unit provides a standard 20 pin ATX connector as well as a 4-pin AUX12v connector. This is to provide the CPU with more amps than the 5v and 3.3v lines can give. 2 FDD connectors are provided, 1 for the obvious, a Floppy disk drive and 1 for a possible Radeon 9xxx classed video cards. 3 HDD power connectors are provided, 1 for a HDD, 1 for a CD drive and 1 spare for possibly GF FX video cards.
Shuttle XPC - Features ContinuedFeatures (Continued)The Board
The board itself is a Shuttle FN41 SFF based board. This board is based on a SFF propriety factor that is designed and manufactured by Shuttle. So this board is designed to only work with Shuttle XPC cases, so unless you plan to make your own case for this board, you won't be able to buy any other case for this unit.The board comes equipped with 2 IDE connectors, 1 FDD connector, 2 DIMM sockets and 1x 20pin ATX and 1x 4pin AUX12V connector onboard. Layout wise this board is rather cramped, though considering what this unit is built for does explain this, with very limited space and a lot of features to pack onboard, everything had to go somewhere.
The SN41G2 is based on the nForce2 IGP with the MCP-T Southbridge. This chipset provides 200/266/333Mhz FSB support for the latest AMD Athlon XP CPU's. Dual Channel memory support is also provided by two DIMM slots onboard. 400Mhz memory modules are supported and up to 6.4GB/s memory bandwidth is achievable for extreme memory performance for the CPU and onboard video system the nForce2 IGP also provides for a built-in Geforce4 MX video controller. This controller runs at the same core speed as the MX440 classed video chip with a internal AGP4x interface. Memory for the video card is shared between the System memory. Up to 128MB of memory can be allocated to the video system so it is no slouch when it comes to available memory. Though you can assign this amount, you will what to have over 512MB of memory onboard to do this. To get the best available speed using onboard video you will want to use the system in Dual Channel memory mode to allow for the increased memory bandwidth to be diverted to the onboard graphics. Due to the heat generated by the IGP with integrated video graphics, the Northbridge is cooled by an active fan assemblyThe MCP-T Southbridge supports all of the latest features including USB 2.0, Dual Network controllers (though only one is used on this system) and Firewire support. The Dolby Digital Certified APU is also provided onboard, so the enhanced sound of the nForce2 systems are provided with the SN41G2 XPC. The Southbridge of the SN41G2 is cooled by an passive Southbridge heatsink due to the fact the MCP-T heats up quite a bit.
The nForce2 MCP-T comes with a built in 3 port Firewire controller. Shuttle uses the Realtek RTL8801B PHY for interface between the onboard Firewire controller and the Codec. This is the first time we have seen this particular chip used.
The MCP-T Southbridge supplied the Network interface system. Shuttle has selected the Realtek RTL8201BL PHY interface. This has proven to be a winner on nForce2 based boards from many other companies using the nForce2 network controller.
Shuttle uses a standard I.C.E Cooling technology on the SN41G2 XPC. I.C.E stands for Integrated Cooling Engine. This consists of a heatpipe assembly with a large fan. A large alloy baseplate sits a top of the CPU, Screwed down to the chassis with 4 screws and base holes. This unit removed the heat generated by the die of the CPU. This heat is then transferred along 4 pipes to a radiator fin assembly. This assembly has a 80mm fan drawing air across the fins to cool the pipes transferring the heat. The hot air is vented out the back of the case.
Shuttle XPC - Benchmarks - Test Setup and SandraXPC SystemCPU
: AMD Athlon XP 3000+Memory
: OCZ DDR-400 EL Dual Channel DDR SDRAMHard Disk
: Western Digital WD120Video Card
: Onboard Geforce4 MX440, ATI Radeon 9700 ProReference SystemCPU
: AMD Athlon XP 3000+Motherboard
: Chaintech 7JNS Zenith (nForce2 SPP)Memory
: OCS DDR-400 Dual Channel DDR SDRAMHard Disk
: Western Digital WD120Video Card
: Radeon 9700 ProSisoft Sandra 2003 Pro
SiSoft Sandra (the S
iagnostic and R
ssistant) 2003 is a synthetic windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
CPU optimizations are equal all across the board. When moving to memory scores differ only when the onboard graphics system is used, and even then it isn't that much of a drop in performance.
Shuttle XPC - Benchmarks - System ProductivityReal World System ProductivitySysmark 2002
Sysmark2002 incorporates the following Internet Content Creation and Office Productivity applications:Office Productivity
: Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Microsoft Access 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred v.5, WinZip 8.0, and McAfee Virus Scan 5.13.Internet Content Creation
: Adobe Photoshop 6.01, Adobe Premiere 6.0, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 7.1, Macromedia Dreamweaver 4, and Macromedia Flash 5.
Shuttles XPC keeps up on Radeon 9700 Pro graphics as well as a custom built System using nVidia nForce2.
Shuttle XPC - Benchmarks - Synthetic 3D and PCSynthetic 3D and PC Benchmarks3DMark2001SE
3DMark2001 SE is the latest installment in the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 8.1 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce4), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments. Build 330 adds support for video cards that have Vertex Shaders but no Pixel Shaders, such as the SiS Xabre Video card.
3DMark2001SE shows a very little advantage to custom built system over the XPC.PCMark2002 Pro
PCMark2002 is a completely new, multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark2002 consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark2002 also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
Memory and CPU scores are almost identical across the board.Vulpine GLMark 1.1
Vulpine GL mark is a Windows based OpenGL API designed to stress the OpenGL systems of a 3D Accelerator. Patch 1.1 adds in support for ATI Radeon 9700's fast 256bit memory interface optimisations and early support for the NVIDIA NV30 GPU
Vulpine shows a light lead to the custom system.
Shuttle XPC - Benchmarks - OpenGLReal World OpenGL BenchmarksQuake 3 Arena
Quake 3 Arena is a real-world OpenGL benchmark that we have been using here at TweakTown for quite a while now because it has proven itself to be one of the best gaming benchmarks around to compare a range of different products.
Quake 3 gives the SN41G2 an equal run with the Custom System. When running onboard graphics there is some performance hit but still a great score for an integrated platform.Star Trek Voyager
Star Trek Voyager is a real-world OpenGL benchmark. Based on the Quake 3 Arena engine, this game is a OpenGL master utilising DirectX 8. We also apply the new Opt3D patch to allow for the use of Hardware T&L's use as well as new optimisations for AMD Athlon XP and Pentium 4 SSE2.
While being an aging benchmark, Voyager is more up-to-date then Quake 3 Arena. This benchmark shows the Custom system just ahead of the XPC.Jedi Knight II
Jedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast is a newly released OpenGL game that many have been waiting for. It has much improved graphics over its predecessor. It fully supports advanced shaders, as well as very high texture resolutions and effects. There is one demo included in the multi-player section that is good for benchmarking use. In order to enable the benchmarking mode, you have to make a shortcut to the jk2mp.exe program located in the GameData folder of Jedi Knight 2. You have to put the switch "+set sv_cheats1" (no quotes) at the end of the line in the Target Area so that it looks like this: "C:Star Wars JK II Jedi OutcastGameDatajk2mp.exe" +set sv_cheats 1. The demo file used is jk2ffa.
Jedi Knight gives the Custom System a slightly higher lead than previous benchmarks.
Shuttle XPC - Benchmarks - Direct3DReal World D3D BenchmarksMax Payne
Max Payne is a new generation DirectX 7/8 game. This game is based on Hardware T&L advancements as well as many other features of the Intel Pentium 4 and Athlon XP
Max Payne gives equal scores to the Custom System and the XPC.Aquanox
Aquanox is the latest instalment of our benchmark software. This game is based heavily on DirectX 8 and 8.1 advancements and is designed to stress video cards to their ultimate limit, in all the best D3D benchmark to date.
Aquanox gives the Custom System a slight lead.UT 2003
Unreal Tournament 2003 continues the success that Unreal Tournament generated as an online game and benchmark. UT2003 pulls all of its weight on to the 3D and Memory subsystems, pushing graphics reality to the maximum is its game, and you need some serious power to pull this one off
UT 2003 gives another win to the Custom System.
Shuttle XPC - ConclusionConclusion
Well this has been our first every Shuttle XPC system we have personally been privileged to test and I must say I was beyond impressed. I have seen many reviews of this unit and thought that it was a good contender, but having it in your hands to test gives you a better prospective.While cramped, Shuttle has allowed plenty of space for CPU cooler, memory modules, Hard Disk, Floppy Disk and optical drives with enough room for easy placement of cables. While you may not want to have this little a space in an overclocking rig, this is defiantly not an overclocker contenderOverclocking options as stated are extremely limited. You can change the FSB from 200MHz up to 400MHz. Your can also change DRAM ratio for use on with many different memory speeds. There are no voltage options, so you can't change DRAM voltage, CPU voltages or AGP voltages, overclockers it's a no-noPerformance wise with onboard graphics, fantastic compared to original nForce systems, with external graphics, just as good as a custom built system.In all, this is one PC that is beyond words that I can express to give my praise for this unit.- Pros
FastStableExtremely potableOnboard FirewireOnboard Soundstorm- Cons
No overclockingRating - 10/10 and TweakTown's Editors Choice Award