Shuttle's SS40G Mini Barebones System - HotHardware

Shuttle's SS40G Mini Barebones System

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Shuttle's SS40G XPC Mini Barebones System!
A Big Package with a Small Footprint

By, Jeff Bouton
August 13, 2002

 

Ever since our initial introduction to the first mini barebones PC from Shuttle, we were intrigued not only with its ground breaking design, but with the prospects of future "mini" machines as well.  The SV24 was the first in a rapidly growing line of mini barebones systems to be released by Shuttle, each bringing new features and improvements to the previous design.  The Pentium III based unit wasn't the most powerful system in the market, but it offered such features as USB, FireWire, onboard Ethernet, and TV-Out, making it very rich in features.  The system was truly an exciting piece to work with, giving us a glimpse of something had not seen before.  Today we have one of the latest additions to Shuttle's mini PC product line, the SS40G XPC Mini Barebones System.  With a hot new look and new features not seen in previous models, the SS40G is poised to steal the show once again.

Up until the release of the Pentium 4 based SS51G, all of Shuttle's mini barebones units lacked an AGP slot.  This was a common complaint with some folks who wanted more power than the onboard graphics could offer.  To make things interesting, we thought we would get our hands on a PCI graphics card and see how well an improved graphics solution would affect the SS40G's performance.  So we contacted the folks at Visiontek and they were kind enough to provide us with a brand new GeForce 4 MX420.  The MX420 is a cost effective 64MB PCI video card that should have a positive effect on the systems overall performance.  Naturally, this card is not going to compare to any of the AGP video cards we've reviewed in the recent past, however, it is going to allow us the option to give the graphics on the SS40G a little boost.  So let's take a look at what each component has to offer, then we'll get busy to see how well these two units complemented each other in the benchmarking arena.

Specifications / Features of the Shuttle SS40G XPC Mini Barebones System
Err...Maybe Size Doesn't Matter?!?

 

 
CPU
AMD Socket A 462
Athlon XP/Athlon/Duron with 200/266MHz FSB
Support AMD XP processors up to 2200+
Support AMD Morgan/Duron processor up to 1.3GHz+


Form Factor
Flex ATX

Memory
2 x 184pin DDR DIMMs
200/266 SDRAM
crucial
Mushkin
OCZ
Corsair
Geil


Chipset
SiS740 North Bridge
SiS961 South Bridge

Expansion Capability
PCI Slot x 2
USB port x 4
IEEE1394 port x2
5.25? Reserved Bay x 1
3.5? Reserved Bay x 2
(Two HDs or Single Floppy + Single HD)


Case
Aluminum chassis 200(w) x 181(h) x 280(d) mm

Front Panel
2 x USB ports
1 x 1394 ports
1 x Mic-In
1 x Speaker-Out
Power-On
Reset
1 x 3.5? bay
1 x 5.25? bay
Back Panel Ports and Connectors
2 x PCI slot panel
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x VGA port
2 x Serial Port
2 x 1394 ports
1 x Composite connector
2 x USB ports
1 x RJ45 port
1 x line-in connector
1 x line-out connector
1 x Center/Bass connector


Audio
CMI 8738
5.1 Channel Hardware Audio
Audio Driver

Onboard
Realtek 8100B
10/100Mb Fast Ethernet LAN
Support Wake on LAN, Boot to LAN, PXE 2.0
LAN driver


IDE interface
2 x UltraDMA/100 IDE Channels Master from SiS961
80-pin Cable Backward Compatible Legacy ATAPI Devices
ATAPI IDE CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, and LS-120 Supports


Accessory
CPU Cooler
SS40 Install Guide
FS40 User manual
FS40 CD-ROM Disk:
SIS IDE Driver
SIS AGP driver
cCMEDIA Audio driver
CMEDIA Audio Utility
ITE Smart Guardian Utility
User manuals in PDF format
Accessory Box

The SS40G comes with a complete collection of items to complement an equally complete mini barebones system.  Not only does the unit come with the necessary cabling and software to get it up and running, but Shuttle also opted to put one of the PCI slots to good use by adding a USB 2.0 expansion card to the package.  The complete feature set of the Shuttle SS40G makes for an excellent start to a system laden with potential.


 

Before we go any further, let's take a quick moment to inspect the Visiontek Xtasy GeForce4 MX420...

Specifications / Features of the Visiontek Xstasy GeForce4 420
Functional...

Specifications
? Controller: NVIDIA GeForce4 MX 420
? Bus Type AGP
? Memory 64MB SDR
? Core Clock 250MHz
? Memory Clock 166MHz memory
? RAMDAC 350MHz RAMDAC
? API Support Direct-X®, Open GL ICD®
for Windows
? Connectors VGA, S-Video
(VGA only on PCI version)
? 1 Billion texel fill rate
? 31 Million vertices/sec setup
? 2.7GB/second memory bandwidth

System Requirements
? 250W power supply or greater
? IBM PC or 100% Compatible
? 266 MHz or higher CPU (AMD K6-2
or Intel Pentium II or higher)
? AGP 2.0 Compliant Socket
? CD ROM drive
? Windows 95 OSR2, 98, ME,
NT 4.0, 2000, XP
? 64MB of RAM

? 256-bit Graphics Accelerator
? VGA and S-Video
? 1 Billion Texels/sec. Fill Rate
? 350MHz RAMDAC processor
? Lifetime Warranty

Features at a Glance
? AGP 4x compatible with fast writes
? 256-bit 3D and 2D graphics accelerator
? NVIDIA nView? display technologies
? Lightspeed Memory Architecture? II
? Integrated 350MHz DACs
? Accuview Antialiasing?
? High Definition Video Processing Engine
? MX memory Crossbar
? Integrated TV encoder

Package Contains
? Geforce4 MX 420? Graphics Accelerator
? Installation Guide
? Installation CD
* Install Guide .pdf
* Demos
* Adobe Acrobat Reader?
* NVIDIA® Unified Driver Architecture
? Cyberlink PowerDVD?

Lightspeed Memory Architecture? II
Accuview? Antialiasing Engine

Integrated TV Encoder
Video Processing Engine

Available in Both AGP and PCI

The Visiontek Xtasy GeForce4 MX420 is a fairly basic video card that should offer a marked improvement over the standard onboard graphics of the SS40G.  We felt that a lot of potential users of the SS40G might want to give the graphics power of the mini system a boost and the Xstasy MX420 fit the bill.  At a cost of around $70, this video card is the perfect candidate for Shuttle's mini system.  The package of the MX420 was nothing too extravagant, with the video card, installation CD and a copy of Cyberlink's PowerDVD XP being the sum of the bundle.  Nonetheless, the card brings enough to the table that it should have some positive effects on certain aspects of the SS40G's performance.

So let's take a look and see what makes the SS40G tick, then we'll get going and see the PCI card's effect on the benchmarks.

 

The BIOS & Setup of the Shuttle SS40G XPC Mini Barebones System
Just The Basics...

Since the SS40G is not geared toward the performance market, the BIOS of the system lacked a number of the key features often seen with other hardware.  The BIOS was as basic a BIOS as we've seen, although the system does provide some adjustments worth looking at.  To start off, the system memory CAS latency can be adjusted to 2T, 2.5T or 3T.  The Frequency/Voltage Control screen provides options for adjusting the CPU Host/SDRAM/PCI Clock ratio, DIMM/PCI clock and Spread Spectrum.  The PC Health Status window allows for monitoring of the system's key voltages and temperatures as well as a safety in case the system fan fails.

     

     

Rather than wanting to point out what features are available with the BIOS of the SS40G, we found ourselves more focused on what features are not equipped in the BIOS of the system.  The SS40G doesn't have any voltage adjustments, nor does it have any overclocking settings either.  The system had no Multiplier setting and the Bus speed could not be increased beyond 133MHz.  If one thing is for certain, the Shuttle SS40G was not designed with overclocking in mind.  While this wasn't all too surprising to see, we were a little disappointed.  With so many integrated items included on the system, it makes sense that there was no option to increase the bus speed beyond 133MHz.  The chances of a system like this becoming unstable with even the slightest increase in bus speed is quite high.  However, with the ability to unlock an Athlon processor's multiplier being so commonplace these days, we feel that there is little excuse for not including a multiplier setting in the BIOS.  Since the processor is isolated when adjusting the multiplier, the chances of gaining a little extra horsepower are much better than with an increase in bus speed.  Overall, although rather basic, the BIOS of the SS40G comes with the settings required to configure the system optimally. 

Next we'll take a closer look at the SS40G's physical characteristics and see what Shuttle has brought to us this time around.

 

The "Mini" Up Close and Benchmarking

 

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