Shuttle Spacewalker AE23 i815EP Motherboard

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The Shuttle Spacewalker AE23 i815EP Motherboard
A Diamond in the Rough...

By Jeff Bouton
March 22, 2001


 

Quality
This Thing is Pretty...

When I first opened the package of the AE23 I was immediately taken by it's layout.  We have seen many boards come through our labs, and we have to say the AE23 stands out when it comes to the neat layout of its components.  Usually we report on how the capacitors were so close to the socket that we need to bend them a little to get a large cooler installed.  This was not the case with the AE23.  There should be little concern about installing even the largest of coolers with this board.

Shuttle outfitted the AE23 with 1 AGP slot, 6 PCI slots, and a CNR slot, allowing for maximum upgradeability.  This is particularly nice when you figure that if you install an AGP card and  a CNR card, you'll still have 5 usable PCI slots for your other peripherals.  The AE23 also comes with three fan headers for a CPU cooler, a Chassis fan and one additional component, whether it be another chassis fan or card cooler.  We were a little curious of the placement of these headers though.  We are unsure why, but Shuttle chose to place one of the fan headers between the 4th and 5th PCI slot.  It is not uncommon for new boards to provide a fan header close to the AGP slot to allow for powering the videocards cooler off-board, however the placement of this fan header makes it a stretch if this was what you wanted to do.  Although three fan headers is adequate, the placement of these headers is crucial and we feel that Shuttle could have placed the third header in a more convenient location.

In general we were impressed with its overall design, but the one thing that drives me crazy is having to remove your video card to change your RAM because the retention clip hits the video card.  This was the case with the AE23.  This may not be an issue with a shorter card, but with our GeForce 2 Ultra there was no changing the RAM without taking the video card out.  This isn't a huge inconvenience, but with the extra room on this board, shifting the DIMM slots over 1/4th of an inch would have been a welcomed touch.

Aside from a few minor layout issues, the AE23 has an excellent design overall and has been well constructed.
 

Installation and Setup 
Easy as pie...

Installation

We it comes to the installation of the AE23, there is very little to report.  This board fit in our ATX case perfectly.  When it came to the installation of Windows ME, the process also went smoothly with no errors or erratic behavior.  The Shuttle Spacewalker AE23 motherboard is a breeze to install.  Although there were several jumper banks on this model board, the AE23 comes preconfigured for easy installation.


The Bios

The bios of the Shuttle AE23 Motherboard is based on the standard Award Version 6.00PG.  There are features of this bios that we really liked and a few that we didn't.

The hardware monitoring capability of this board is excellent.  When we enter the PC Health Status screen we can get an easy glimpse of key temperature and voltage readings.  If we chose to, we could even set a maximum CPU temperature alarm that would automatically shut the system down if the limit was exceeded.  This feature is particularly handy when overclocking the system, the last thing anyone wants to do is fry their new board or CPU.  Surprisingly, Shuttle didn't include any monitoring utility that runs within Windows though.  This type of utility has become quite common among motherboard manufacturers these days and was a definite disappointment to see that one wasn't included on the CD that came with the board.  There is an older utility available for download at the Shuttle site, but its features didn't impress.  However, Winbond's Hardware Doctor worked like a charm with the AE23. 

       

Another area that we found to be a bit weak is the Frequency/Voltage Control.  First off, the Front side bus frequencies are not adjustable in 1 MHz. increments, a feature that is very helpful when fine tuning an overclock.  Instead, the board is adjustable in increments of roughly 4 or 5 MHz. depending on the speed.  The manual for this board listed the bus speed options ranging from 66MHz. to 166MHz. , but we found our options stopped at 145MHz.  There was also a lack of voltage adjustments with the AE23, therefore limiting our maximum overclock. 

The key features that make any board a good over clocking candidate are bus speed adjustments in 1 MHz. increments and voltage adjustments.  We were truly sorry to see that these were not present with the AE23.  Let's step on down to the Overclocking section to see if these features were sorely missed in our quest for more MHz...

On To Some Overclocking

 
Tags:  Shuttle, Motherboard, space, board, AC, AR, K

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