After removing the system from its packaging, we were presented with the familiar G5 chassis we have grown to know and love over the last few years. At first glance, there seems to be nothing out of the ordinary, though closer inspection reveals some key new features which make this one of the most unique SFF systems Shuttle has ever produced.
When viewed from either side, we see the usual assortment of ventilation holes running the length of the system which are accompanied by the embossed Shuttle logo. However, when viewed from the front we glimpse the stylish mirrored finish on the SD36G5M. Although tasteful and aesthetically pleasing, it will take more than a shiny finish to appease the vast majority of consumers looking to build the ultimate HTPC or Media Center. It is not until you plug the system in that you can view a key feature which differentiates this model from all others. Here, Shuttle has seen fit to incorporate a Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD) into the front of the system to provide users with various information.
The flat and uncluttered face of the SD36G5M is somewhat deceiving in that it effectively hides a number of different ports, buttons, and inputs. Beyond the clean layout and organization of buttons and status LED's, Shuttle has also used stealth bay covers to conceal the innards of the system. Upon pressing the appropriate button or corner of the bay panel, full access is provided to the optical drive and all front panel inputs.
Despite the presence of a multitude of inputs and outputs residing on the back panel of the system, the overall layout is clean and organized. Fortunately for a home theater PC, the user has audio options that extend beyond the standard 8-channel analog connection. Here, we see a an optical SPDIF input and output along with a digital coaxial output. Regardless of what home theater components the user intends to integrate with the SD36G5M, there are more than enough connectivity options.
Directly above the exhaust port for the system's heatpipe cooling solution, we find a small area which has been pre-stamped for removal. This specific area is the mounting solution for Shuttle's optional PN15G wireless LAN module which is illustrated above. The lack of a need for a hard-wired connection to the LAN gives the SD36G5M the additional flexibility to be located nearly anywhere within the home without sacrificing functionality.