Shuttle SN85G4 XPC Review

Admin - 2007-01-16 17:48:05 in Prebuilts
Category: Prebuilts
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: February 26, 2004
Price: $300 USD
Introduction


One of the fastest growing markets in home computing is the SFF (Small Form Factor) PC; this is due largely in thanks to HTPC (Home Theater PC) designs that have recently become popular. Shuttle is one of the most recognized names in SFF systems because of their innovative designs and use of today’s fastest chipsets. Shuttle was established in 1983, mainly supplying mainboards to OEM and system integrators. Recently shuttle has gained in popularity with their line of XPC barebones systems. One of Shuttles latest creation the SN85G4 is one of the fastest XPC’s to date. The system is based around NVIDIA’s nForce3 150 chipset that offers support for AMD’s new 64Bit CPU’s. For more information on AMD’s 64bit line of processors you can read our overview here. The size and weight of the SN85G4 makes it a very attractive package for LAN parties and HTPC rigs. Will the size of the system impact performance? Read on to find out.




Specifications
Dimensions (L)295*(W)200*(H)180, 2.85Kg(N.W.), 4.65Kg(G.W.)
Front Panel 2 USB, 1 1394a, 1 MIC, 1 Line in, Built-in USB 2.0 6 in 1 Card Reader
Back Panel PS/2 KB & Mouse, 1 Serial, 1 LAN, 1 USB, 2 1394a, 1 Parallel Port
Extension Bay (1) 5.25" & (2) 3.5"
Form Factor Shuttle Form Factor
CPU Socket AMD Socket 754, supports Athlon 64
Chipsets nVidia nForce 150 North Bridge
Memory Socket (2) DDR 266/333/400 DIMM
On Board VGA None
On Board Audio Realtek ALC 650 6 Channel
Expansion Slot (1) PCI & (1) 8x AGP

IDE interface

ATA-133 / Serial ATA RAID




What's Included


  • Installation Guide
  • Motherboard Guide
  • Drivers CD
  • Bags of Screws
  • Thermal Paste
  • (2) IDE Cables
  • Serial ATA Cable
  • (2) Chrome Feet
  • AC Power Cable


    In-Depth Look
     

     

    The Shuttle came packaged well with plastic covering the entire Shuttle XPC and the front mirror finish. The back of the box illustrates all of the useful features of the Shuttle XPC. On one side of the box illustrates the Shuttle XPC I.C.E (Integrated Cooling Engine) device. The other side of the box shows optional accessories such as, wireless LAN module, remote control, black DVD-ROM, and a backpack designed to carry the Shuttle XPC.



    Shuttle decked out the SN85G4 in all black. Sporting a black front bezel with a beveled mirror plate insert. The side panel is made of black brushed aluminum with circular holes along the bottom on both sides to help intake cool air for the system. The design and sleek looks makes for a very appealing external package. One thing you may notice is the 3.5” floppy drive is missing it is replaced by a 6-in-1 card reader.



    The aluminum power and reset buttons add to the sleek looks. I really liked the front I/O panel you have quick access to audio, USB 2.0, IEEE 1394a ports. With the front ports you won’t have to worry about fumbling around the back of the case to connect USB or Firewire devices.



    Again, we see small holes in the bottom panel to help aid in cooling the system. This was needed since the Shuttle is a single fan solution to handle both system and CPU cooling.



    In-Depth Look


    For the back panel Shuttle took advantage of the small real estate they had to work with. Right above the power cable connector is the intake for the PSU more on that later. You will also see the exhaust for the Single fan solution. To the right of that you have your AGP, and PCI slots. The back I/O panel is located on the bottom with connections for Parallel, Com, LAN, USB2.0, PS/2 and 1394 ports. You also have SPDIF in/out connections, and six channel analog inputs. Shuttle also offers an optional wireless 802.11b WLAN, and remote control if you choose to make the SN85G4 a HTPC.

     

    Shuttle did a great job on the internal layout considering there’s not much room to begin with. The picture above shows the internal layout from a birds eye view. On the right, you have the 6-in-1 card reader. Directly behind the 6-in-1 PCB is a 3.5” drive bay, and above the 3.5” bay is a 5.25” bay. The only down side to this design is to access the 3.5” bay, the 5.25” bay has to be empty.

    From the side we can see the PCI, and AGP slots on the left. Over to the right we have the primary and secondary IDE connectors. Located beside the IDE connector is the CMOS jumper, once the AGP card is installed there is very little room to reach the jumper. This makes accessing the jumper a real pain when you overclock too far and the system won’t post requiring you to reset the CMOS.



    The SATA ports are camouflaged by the plastic housing for the CPU cooler. If you look above the PCI slot right next to the plastic heat sink housing, you’ll see the two SATA ports. In this picture, you can also see the Silicon Image SATA RAID controller.

     

    One of the most interesting features of Shuttle’s XPC line is its I.C.E (Integrated Cooling Engine) CPU cooler. The base of the heat sink is connected to four heat pipes that carry the heat from the CPU up to the aluminum radiator. The housing holds a single Sunon fan. The I.C.E cooling system does a decent job of keeping the CPU cool with the fan speed set to smart fan. At 59°c the CPU temps were a little high, but I found that there was no system instabilities.



    The SN85G4 gets its power from an Enhance 240W PSU. Now a lot of you are probably thinking a 240-watt PSU will not be able to handle much. Well in this case, you're dead wrong. This little PSU handled everything I threw at it with out a hiccup. I had no stability problems at all during my testing. One gripe I do have is that the PSU exhaust fan is blowing all the warm air into the case to be taken away with the systems single exhaust fan. This is unavoidable to keep the small footprint of the system.



    Bios




    The popular Phoenix AwardBIOS is used for the SN85G4. Shuttle has done a few modifications to the BIOS for us overclockers out there.



    There are a few different options under advance chipset features. The most noticeable of those changes are the LDT (Lightning Data Transport) downstream width, and LDT speed. The LDT options controls the speed and data width of the Hyper Transport buss lowering the LDT speed can have adverse effects on system performance. There is the option for 4X LDT speed, but even at stock speeds setting it to 4x will result in the system not posting. The only down fall to this is it sets the Hyper Transports speed to 600mhz (DDR1200MHZ).



    Under pc health status, you have the ability to monitor voltages and select fan speeds. Thru the bios you have a few options for fan speed Smart Fan, Ultra-Low, Low, Mid, and Full. The smart fan option worked very well and the system was quiet, but on full speed, the fan can get a little annoying.



    The SN85G4 BIOS allows control over memory speed, and CAS latency’s. Inexperienced user might find the max Memclock setting confusing when it comes to overclocking. It only allows you to select a max of 200mhz which might make you think that the memory cant be overclocked past 200MHZ, but the 200MHZ setting acts the same as a 1/1 ratio or synced.



    I really liked the voltage options Shuttle include in the SN85G4’s BIOS. For the cpu you have the options of .80 to 1.70 volts. This allows a .20V max increase in Vcore voltage form the stock 1.50V of the Athlon 64, which is adequate for some overclocking. The only thing I didn’t like was the low voltage settings some inexperienced users might unknowingly set this to low. You also have plenty of Vdimm voltage ranging from 2.70V to 2.90V in .10V increments. Chipset voltage ranges from 1.70V to 1.90V in .10 increments. The bios also included voltage options for the LDT buss from 1.30V to 1.50V in .10 increments. AGP voltage is also controllable too. For such a small system, I was amazed at the voltage options offered.



    The CPU overclock option controls the speed of the CPU acting as a FSB, and allowing you to change the speed in 1 MHZ increments. You have the ability to go as high as 280MHZ way more than enough to satisfy your overclocking adventures.



    Installation
    The included manual makes putting the system together a cinch. The manual is so detailed a first time computer builder should not feel intimidated at all. You have big clear pictures detailing each step needed to get the system up and running.



    To install the CPU you will need to first need to remove the fan housing. After removing the fan housing, unclip the retention mechanism. You can now remove the I.C.E cooling system in insert the CPU into the socket. Then just simply snap the retention mechanism back into place, and replace the fan housing and plug the fan up to the motherboard header.



    After the installing the CPU the next step in the manual is Memory. Since I decided to use Corsairs PRO series of memory, this required removing the PSU since the PRO series has rather large Heat spreaders. Standard size memory does not require the removal of the PSU.

     

    Simply remove the hard drive cage, and install the hard drive. Then attach the IDE connector to the hard drive and slide it back in securing it with a screw. Also install the secondary IDE cable and route it thru the top

     

    I ran into a slight problem installing the video card because I have a double slot Zaleman ZM80A-hp. This will also affect owners of the Geforce FX cards with Double slot cooling. The larger profile of the Zaleman prevents you from installing the case cover. Single slot cooling cards will no have clearance issues with the case cover. While looking around our case gallery I found a cool mod by one of our members, Will Smith you can see the mod here.



    Testing
    System 1 System 2
    AMD 2500+ @ 3200+ Speeds (11x200FSB) AMD Athlon 64 3200+
    Abit NF7-S REV2.0 Dual Channel Shuttle SN85G4 Single Channel
    Corsair TWINX1024-3200LLPro Corsair TWINX1024-3200LLPro
    WD 120GB 8MB Cache Hard Drive WD 120GB 8MB Cache Hard Drive
    Windows XP w/ SP1 Windows XP w/ SP1





    Note: The Athlon XP 3200+ shown in the graph is an Athlon 2500+ Barton overclocked to 3200+


    Note: The Athlon XP 3200+ shown in the graph is an Athlon 2500+ Barton overclocked to 3200+

    We can see above that the SN85G4 performed slightly faster in the systems test. In the memory test we can see that the on die memory controller of the Athlon 64 bit CPU takes the lead by almost a 1,000 Points


    Note: The Athlon XP 3200+ shown in the graph is an Athlon 2500+ Barton overclocked to 3200+

    Again we see the single channel NF3 chipset taking the lead. The NF7-S in dual channel mode just couldn’t keep up with the Athlon 64's on die memory controller.



    Testing


    3DMark01 is a DX8 benchmark that it is now relatively CPU dependant with today’s video cards and chipsets. There is a 13.6% increase in score on the SN85G4 over the NF7-S. Getting close to 20K stock is very impressive.


    Note: The Athlon XP 3200+ shown in the graph is an Athlon 2500+ Barton overclocked to 3200+

    I really don’t care for 3DMark03 as a benchmark as it is too video card dependant, but it’s a popular benchmark so I figured I would include it. For the SN85G4 to gain 168 points in such a video card dependant benchmark is impressive.


    Note: The Athlon XP 3200+ shown in the graph is an Athlon 2500+ Barton overclocked to 3200+

    Aquamark03 is a relatively new dx9 benchmark. being more video card dependant I was surprised by the 2,000+ point increase


    Note: The Athlon XP 3200+ shown in the graph is an Athlon 2500+ Barton overclocked to 3200+

    X2 is a DX8 first person space simulation has gained popularity recently. This benchmark is known to put a demanding strain on all systems components. We see here that the SN85G4 again surpasses the 3200+XP and NF2 motherboard.


    Note: The Athlon XP 3200+ shown in the graph is an Athlon 2500+ Barton overclocked to 3200+

    Yet again, the SN85G4 really shows its speed in the UT2K3 benchmark.


    Note: The Athlon XP 3200+ shown in the graph is an Athlon 2500+ Barton overclocked to 3200+

    I decided to include the recently released UT2K4 demo bot match scores. Rankin is a visually stunning map, and puts a good amount of stress on the system. We see a gain of 17 FPS with the SN85G4



    Overclocking
    After seeing the performance punch the Shuttle delivered at stock speeds, I was excited to see what the Shuttle could do overclocked. The Corsair memory used for the stock testing was replaced with one 512MB stick of Kingston HyperX PC3500. The corsair was limited to a Speed of 217MHz and wasn’t fast enough to find the limit of the system. With the HyperX I was able to overclock the system to 232 MHz system buss for a speed 2320MHz. I had to drop the LDT speed to 2X to achieve system stability, and I also raised the CPU voltage to 1.60 and the LDT voltage to 1.50. Fan speed had to be set to full or prime95 crashed after a few hours. I was very impressed with the overclock achieved considering the small size of the SN85G4.






    Conclusion
    Shuttle really has a hit on their hands with the XPC line of SFF PC’s. I now see why Shuttle is the leader in the SFF market. Shuttle has done a great job in the layout of the whole system considering the small amount of room to work with. Not only do you get Stylish looks for such a small system, but you also get blazing fast performance to boot.

    The SN85G4 would make an awesome LAN box. Paired up with a 9800pro the SN85G4 will handle any current and future games very well. The lightweight and performance of the SN85G4 makes this a great choice for a people who frequent LAN’s. The SN85G4 will also make powerful HTPC with the optional remote and 802.11b wireless LAN.

    Overclocking was very easy and I was surprised at how well the SN85G4 overclocked considering its size and single fan. The performance of the Athlon64 and SN85G4 will surely put a smile on the face of any hardcore gamer, even at stock speeds. If your tired of carrying that heavy full size tower to LAN’s and looking to upgrade I highly suggest you take a look at the SN85G4.




    Pros

    • Performance
    • Size
    • Detailed instructions
    • Cooling System
    • Sleek and Stylish

    Cons

    • PSU exhaust
    • The fan is loud on higher settings


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