Shuttle AN51R Motherboard Review

Admin - 2007-02-18 22:31:37 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: August 31, 2004
Shuttle
Shuttle
Price: N/A
Introduction:
With their XPC line, Shuttle has grown immensely over the last few years. However, they have been around as an OEM main board builder for a long time. Today we are going to look at Shuttles latest main board; the AN51R, which is based around Nvidia’s newest chipset the NF3 250. Shuttle had arguably one of the most popular NF3 150 boards with the AN50R, for the price you got great overclocking ability for an NF3 150 board at a bargain price. Can Shuttle repeat the success they had with the AN50R with the AN51R? Let’s take a closer look and find out.




About Shuttle:
Established in 1983, Shuttle Inc. is an industry-leading producer of mainboards and small form-factor computers (XPC). Headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, with an extensive worldwide network of subsidiaries, re-sellers, partners and suppliers, Shuttle is recognized as a premier manufacturer of mainboards and barebones systems. Widely acclaimed, Shuttle has received numerous awards and accolades from independent media and analysts, affirming the superior quality of Shuttle products and services. Shuttle services a nationwide network of distributors and re-sellers with superior Marketing and Sales, Technical Support, RMA, Product Servicing, and Accounting and Inventory services. A commitment to customer satisfaction has made Shuttle the first choice of many system integrators, VARs, OEMs and ODMs.

About the NF3 250 Chipset:
There are a few variants of the NF3 250 Chipset. First you have the NF3 250Gb; for a board to be labeled with Gb at the end it must have the built in Nvidia hardware firewall, and Gigabit Ethernet using the hyper transport bus, also the Nvidia cross raid must be utilized as well. This feature gives you the ability to run a raid array across both PATA, and SATA drives supporting RAID 1, 0, 1+0, or JBOD (just a bunch of drives). If a board is missing any of these features it can’t be labeled as a 250Gb. Not every user will need all the features offered by the 250Gb, and the price is slightly higher for a 250Gb based board.

Boards labeled NF3 250 can have a combination of features found on the 250Gb, but will also be missing some features. The board we are looking at today only has the cross RAID feature, missing is the native Gigabit Ethernet which is being replaced by a Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet. Also there is no hardware firewall found on a 250Gb board. The only downfall to the Broadcom Ethernet is the increased latency. Where the Broadcom utilizes the PCI bus, the Native Gigabit Ethernet of the 250Gb uses the hyper transport bus. This offers low latencies as well as low CPU usage; Thus giving Vendors more flexibility in the board layout to make certain price points.

Specifications:

Processor

AMD Socket 754 Athlon™ 64

Chipset

NVIDIA nForce™3 250

System Buss

1600 MHz system bus with HyperTransport™

Memory

(4) DDR 266/333/400 DIMM slots (2GB max)

Graphics

8X AGP slot
Audio

 

6-channel audio
Digital (SPDIF) audio ports
Analog audio ports

Network

Gigabit LAN

Storage

(2) ATA133 headers
(4) Serial ATA 150
RAID (0,1, 0+1, JBOD) capable

BIOS

Award/ Phoenix in 4MB flash memory

Expansion

(5) 32-bit PCI slots

Back Panel I/O

 

PS/2 Keyboard socket
PS/2 Mouse socket
(4) USB 2.0 ports
FireWire® 400 port
Gigabit LAN (RJ45)
6-channel audio out
SPDIF I/O ports
Serial port
Parallel port
Clear CMOS button

Onboard I/O

(2) 2 x 5 pin USB 2.0 headers
(1) 2 x 5 pin FireWire®400 header
(2) 2 x 3 pin IrDA headers
(1)   FDD header (1)   Front audio headers
CD in AUX header
Dimensions (L x W mm)

305 x 244 (ATX)

Closer Look:
Packed in a flashy retail box the AN51R will surely stand out on retail shelves. A quick glance across the bottom gives the buyer some key features of the board.



What's Inside
  • Shuttle AN51R Motherboard
  • Shuttle Motherboard Manual
  • NVIDIA RAID Manual
  • Steel I/O Back Plate
  • 2x USB 2.0 PCI Bracket
  • 2x IEE1394 5-Pin PCI Bracket
  • Floppy Cable
  • ATA 133 IDE Cable
  • Serial ATA Cable
Looking in the manual I had a few pieces missing; the manual stated 2X SATA cables, and 2X SATA power converters. I only received one SATA cable and no SATA converters. I am sure this does not represent what the end user will receive as this is only a review sample. Surely if any parts are missing, Shuttle will accommodate the end user.



Upon taking the AN51R out of the anti static bag, we find the trade mark blue and rounded corners that Shuttle main boards are known for. The layout of the board is pretty straight forward and nothing stands out. Along the top we have the 24 Pin ATX power connecter, two IDE ports, and one Floppy port grouped together. You also have a beefy five phase power source to ensure total system stability under the most demanding conditions. About the only thing that stands out is the NF3 250 chipset placement; trying to add better chipset cooling could be hindered by the size of the cooling on the video card. I would have at least liked to have seen active cooling. Seeing as upgrading the cooling is going to be a major pain, depending of course on the video card used. The Chipset placement is not uncommon for NF3 250 boards; I just can not stand the fact that I am unable to upgrade my chipset cooling.



Shuttle kindly color coded the front panel connectors for us geeks who don’t like to read the manual. If you look closely at the picture you will see that Shuttle also included two buttons, for power-on and reset. This is really great for modders and someone like a reviewer, Those of whom usually test mother boards out side of the case. There is no need to jump off the two power-on pins to boot the system.



The back I/O panel has a slightly different layout than what I am used to seeing on a motherboard. What struck me as odd was a button located next to the SPDIF/in. After searching thru the manual, I found that this button is used to clear the CMOS. This is probably one of the most exciting features found on the AN51R. Now you do not have to crack open the side panel if you OC too far. Just use a paper clip or something similar to reset the CMOS if the system does not post after overclocking. Other than the sweet CMOS reset button, you have your standard I/O panel with 2x PS2, serial, parallel, 4xUSb, 1x IEE 1394 (FireWire), Gigabit Lan, SPDIF in/out, and analog connections for 6 channel audio. Closer Look:


As you can see, from the main BIOS screen, there are 8 sections that can be entered. They are:
  • Standard BIOS Features
  • Advanced BIOS Features
  • Advanced Chipset Features
  • Integrated Peripherals
  • Power Management Setup
  • PnP/PCI Configurations
  • PC Health Status
  • Ratio/Voltage Control

    In addition to those sections, you also have the options to:
  • Load Fail-Safe Defaults
  • Load Optimized Defaults
  • Set Supervisor Password
  • Set User Password
  • Save & Exit Setup
  • Exit Without Saving



    Most of you should already know your way around the basic functions of the bios, so ill just skip to the important parts needed for overclocking. To achieve our overclocking goals Shuttle has given the user the ability to raise the HTT bus up to 280 from the stock 200. The HTT bus acts much like a traditional FSB allowing 1MHZ increments on the systems bus speed.



    You also have the ability to change the memories timings to help dial in a stable overclock when running memory past its rated speeds. Couple this with AMD’s Cool N Quiet technology you can dial in a lower multiplier allowing you squeeze ever last bit of bandwidth possible thru HTT bus overclocking. Cool N Quiet, when enabled thru the bios, slows the computers speed down when at idling, this gives longer chip life, and can help your athlon 64 live a long and fruitfull life. Basically what it does is drop the multiplier and fan speeds in your system when full speed is not needed, a side effect of this allows us to lower multiplier below stock settings, and hopefully gain memory bandwidth by increasing the HTT bus. And we all know increased bandwidth is a good thing.



    I must say I wasn’t expecting this many voltage options on a Shuttle mainboard. Giving you the ability t control ever important aspect of system voltage below is a list of voltage options.

    CPU Voltage: 0.80v - 1.70v in .25 increments
    RAM Voltage: 2.70v - 2.90v in .10 increments
    AGP Voltage: 1.60v - 1.80v in .10 increments
    Chipset Voltage: 1.70v - 1.90v in .10 increments


    The only Problem I had was the ultra low settings for the CPU Vcore, some novie users might think that the lower number is what is added to the stock Vcore and this would result with a unstable if even bootable system, but there is plus to this; folks looking for a silent setup could lower the CPU Vcore to reduce heat giving the ability to use a Fan on the heatsink to help achive that silent dream. Not to many motherboards out there allow you the ability to go below stock voltages.



    One of the new features offered up by the NF3 chipset the ability to run a raid array across both SATA and PATA drives. This is great as we finally have affordable PATA raid solution. User’s that have a lot of PATA drives will certainly appreciate this as it give them the ability the run there beloved raid setups with out having to purchase SATA drives of a controller card. This also gives you the ability to use a PATA drive as a mirror drvie in your SATA raid setup. The cross raid function offers up the ability to run RAID 1 , 0 ,0+1, or JBOD. Testing:
    The AN51R will be going up against a tough competitor, the MSI K8N NEO Platinum. For each motherboard, a clean install of Windows XP Pro SP1a is used with DriectX 9.0b. The services have been optimized so that only the system essential services are running. For tests other than the Futuremark test, we will be using the Catalyst 4.7 Drivers from ATI.

    The same components will be used in each system other than the motherboard, and those components are:

  • AMD Athlon64 3200+
  • ATI Radeon 9800Pro
  • 1024M Corsair XMS3200XL Pro PC3200 Single Channel CAS2 2-2-6
  • Maxtor 80GIG SATA Hard Drive
  • LiteOn 32x12x40

    Benchmark: Applications
    PCMark04 is an application-based benchmark and a premium tool for measuring overall PC performance. It uses portions of real applications instead of including very large applications or using specifically created code. This allows PCMark04 to be a smaller installation as well as to report very accurate results. As far as possible, PCMark04 uses public domain applications whose source code can be freely examined by any user.




    Passmark Performance Test is an award winning PC hardware benchmark utility that allows everybody to quickly assess the performance of their computer and compare it to a number of standard 'baseline' computer systems. I was amazed when I saw how many different things this little program could test.



    Testing (Cont.)
    3DMark 01 SE was one of (if not the) the most popular DX8 test. Even though it was not originally designed for DX9 benchmarking, it is still commonly used today.



    Aquamark 3 is an great tool for comparisons since it uses a real game engine and utilizes DirectX 9, and has many advance techniques that can really take a toll on your video card.



    Testing (Cont.)
    The Codecreatures benchmark is written with Microsoft's DirectX 8.1 API and incorporates the use of Vertex and Pixel Shaders popular on next generation 3D accelerators. The benchmark plays a photo-realistic nature scene and calculates the performance of the graphics adapter by measuring the fps that it can display at 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions. The score is a geometric mean of those three resolutions called the Codecreatures number or score.



    The Gunmetal Benchmark incorporates functions like 2.0 Vertex Shaders and 1.1 Pixel Shaders and demands a high-end card for acceptable frame-rates with Anti-Aliasing & Anisotropic Filtering turned on.



    Overclocking:





    As with most NF3 250 boards I have tested, overclocking is not a simple task. I would like to think that I achieved a stable overclock; but upon cold booting, the system would not post. I have had that problem on both the AN51R and the K8N. After a good bit of frustration, I finally found a stable speed of 240FSB. However, I did get the system prime 95 stable at 245FSb; but then had cold booting issues.


    Conclusion:
    This board is really geared towards the enthusiast, with the built in CMOS clear in the I/O panel, and the excellent selection of voltages in the Bios this is almost a perfect board, with the exception the low CPU and VDIMM max voltage. This was also the first time I was able to run a 5X HTT frequency at stock speeds and have complete system stability, this was no doubt indo to the boards ability to set a higher Chipset voltage. Knowing Shuttle usually has a lower point while offering the same features as others at a higher price, this with out a doubt will make the AN51R a worthy successor to the immensely popular AN50R. With AMD recently announcing the value based Sempron processors, the AN51R coupled with a 3100+ (Sempron) would make a hell of a fast system for not to much dough.

    Pros

    • Stability
    • Overclocking Features
    • Performance


    Cons
    • No Native Gigabit Ethernet & Hardware Firewall