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Shuttle's SB51G XPC
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Date: Nov 21, 2002
Section:Systems
Author: HH Editor
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Shuttle's SB51G XPC - Page 1

Shuttle's SB51G XPC Mini Barebones
The i845GE Based Mini-PC That Feels Full Sized

By Dave Altavilla
11/20/2002

Alright, it's quiz time (and you thought you were getting off easy!).  What is perhaps the prominent technological advancement in Personal Computing, beyond high clock speeds with more processing power?  Come on now... use your noggin.  Well, for the detectives in our midst, we're sure you're thinking along the lines of the Shuttle product we're taking a look at today.  If you guessed the word "integration", you win the prize!  If there is one leading indicator of next generation technology for electronics and semiconductors, it's feature size.  As things are getting faster, they are also getting smaller and with that comes the ability to pack more features in a square millimeter of PCB real estate.

Shuttle has certainly been making a name for themselves with their new line of mini PCs or "XPCs", as they would call them.  What is more impressive about the recent round of XPCs from Shuttle, are the new capabilities they are now integrating, which allow them to deliver performance and features on par with a full sized unit.  In Jeff's recent review of the Shuttle SS51G, we saw the advent of the AGP slot in these units, a critical component for the graphics subsystem in these designs.  Let's face it, integrated graphics or PCI slots, just weren't cutting it.

Now, in addition to the AGP slot, which opens a whole new world of 3D horsepower, Shuttle is incorporating the latest Pentium 4 chipset for DDR SDRAM, the i845GE.  The "GE" variant of the i845 has integrated graphics from Intel, but also supports Hyperthreading technology for the recently released Pentium 3GHz processor.  Now, perhaps it would make sense to throw a 3GHz chip in a mini PC like this.  However, as we've learned recently, Intel is going to drive Hyperthreading across its entire product line eventually.  So, more importantly, users will have that migration path to HT enabled CPUs moving forward, with the i845GE chipset that Shuttle chose for the SB51G XPC.  Let's take a look at the rest of the unit, in more detail.

Specifications / Features of the Shuttle SB51G XPC Mini Barebones System
Intel through and through
 

Chipset
North Bridge Intel i845GE
South Bridge Intel ICH4
Chipset Detail Spec

CPU
Socket 478
Intel Pentium 4/Celeron
478 pin package with 400/533MHz Data Bus Speed
Soft configuration FSB from 100Mhz to 166MHz
Intel "Hyperthreading" capable

Form Factor
Flex ATX

Memory
2 x 184pin DDR DIMM
Support DDR200/266 un-buffer DDR SDRAM
up to 2GB capacity

Expansion Capability
AGP Slot X 1 Supports 2X / 4X AGP Device
PCI Slot x 1
USB port x 4
IEEE1394 x 3
5.25? Reserved Bay x 1
3.5? Reserved Bay x 2
(Two HDs or Single Floppy + Single HD)

Onboard Graphic
Integrated Intel 256-bit 3D engine  
  
VGA Memory cache up to 64MB

Audio
Realtek ALC 650
AC '97 v2.2 (supports 5.1 channel) compliant CODEC on board
Support Digital SPDIF In/Out
Audio Driver

Onboard LAN
Realtek RTL8139 Family PCI/Cardbus Fast Ethernet
10/100Mb Fast Ethernet LAN
Support Wake on LAN, Boot to LAN, PXE 2.0
LAN driver

USB 2.0
Integrated Intel USB 2.0

Onboard 1394
VIA VT6306
Complies with 1394 OHCI specification revision 1.0
Support 400Mb/s, 200Mb/s, 100Mb/s data transfer rate

IDE interface
2 x UltraDMA/100 IDE Channels Master from SiS962
80-pin Cable Backward Compatible Legacy ATAPI Devices
ATAPI IDE CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, and LS-120 Supports

Case
Aluminum chassis 200(w) x 181(h) x 280(d)mm
Power supply 200Watts 110 / 230V
1 x 3.5? bay
1 x 5.25? bay
1 x 3.5" bay (Hidden)

Front Panel
2 x USB ports
1 x 1394 ports
1 x 1 x 5.25" bay
1 x 3.5" bay (Hidden)
SPDIF Out
1 x Mic-In
1 x Speaker-Out
Power-On
Reset

Back Panel Ports and Connectors
Power code/AC
1 x PCI slot
1 x AGP slot
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x VGA port
2 x Serial Port
2 x 1394 ports
1 x SPDIF In
2 x USB ports
1 x RJ45 port
1 x Front out connector
1 x Rear out connector
1 x Center/Bass connector

Accessory:
Mainboard User manual
Mainboard CD-Driver
XPC Installation Guide
I.C.E Technology CPU heat-pipe
Cables:
FDD Cable
HDD Cable
CD-ROM Cable
Power cord
Screws
Twin Adhesive
Friendly Front Feet



   

   

The SB51G is very much like its cousin we showcased here not long ago, the SS51G.  The only real difference here would be that this time, Shuttle was working with the i845GE chipset, versus the SiS651 that was used in the SS51G XPC.  Other than that, the feature list is nearly identical.  Integrated Firewire, the same Realtek chipset for Ethernet and 5.1 channel sound, USB 2.0, it's all in there.  Again, what is perhaps the most impressive aspect of these little PCs from Shuttle, is how much functionality and connectivity they pack into such a small foot print.  Take a look at the connection diagram on the box shot (right side snapshot above) that we took.  As you can see, this little computer does everything a full sized PC can perform, with all the latest technologies, save perhaps the yet to be fully exploited AGP8X interface.  However, with the introduction of Intel's Granite Bay chipset, it may be that we'll be looking at an AGP8X implementation, along with Dual Channel DDR, sooner than you think!  

 

Setup and Initial Benchmarking

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Shuttle's SB51G XPC - Page 2

Shuttle's SB51G XPC Mini Barebones
The i845GE Based Mini-PC That Feels Full Sized

By Dave Altavilla
11/20/2002

There's a of ground to cover, in these XPCs.  It is a true mechanical wonder, to see how much Shuttle can pack so much technology  into a chassis this size.  Things certainly are tight in there however, and good cable layout is essential for proper airflow and cooling.

Setup & Quality
Munchkin Land

   

   

There is a "card cage" of sorts, to help retain the  PCI and AGP cards in their respective slots.  The back-plate of the system has color coded connectors, with Dual Firewire, Dual USB, Ethernet and the appropriate sound, keyboard and mouse ports.  There are additional Firewire, USB and sound jacks, on the front of the case as well.  In actuality, this little system has more connectivity options than some full sized motherboard setups we've seen.  The power supply is an adequate 200 WATT model that is Pentium 4 compatible with the standard ATX12V power plugs.

   

     

 

Then of course there is Shuttle's Heat Pipe solution for cooling the power hungry and heat radiant Pentium 4 processor.  Our test system was configured with a 2.26GHz Northwood CPU, so you can imagine there was a fair amount of heat to expel from the case.  There are 4 pipes rising up from the core of the copper based aluminum hybrid heat sink.  They connect up to a radiator section with dozens of fins that spread the heat out over a large surface area.  Then a fairly quiet 80mm fan, blows cool air through the radiator fins and pushes all that heat out the back side of the case.  All told, the system works very well and kept our CPU at a comfortable temperature, as you'll see in the following BIOS screenshots.  Finally, as you can see, a somewhat stout GeForce 4 Ti 4400 AGP card fits comfortably sitting in the AGP slot along the side of the chassis. 

The BIOS
Spartan but adequate

 

 

The BIOS in the SB51G is somewhat light duty but that is to be expected in a system of this type.  There are FSB speed adjustments (in 1MHz increments) in the BIOS but you certainly aren't going to be doing a lot of oveclocking with a rig this size.  Overclocking means heat and any additional heat inside a small setup like this is not good.  There are no voltage adjustments in the BIOS, so your results would be limited regardless.  We were somewhat impressed however, that the SB51G was able to overclock our 2.26GHz P4 to 2.45GHz with an FSB of 145MHz.  However, with a 2.26GHz Northwood under the hood, even at stock clock speeds, you should have plenty of horsepower and even keep a few pennies in your pocket, since prices for a Pentium 4 chip in this range are becoming significantly more attractive.  We should note, that although the system is capable of supporting an HT enabled Pentium 4, that CPU wasn't available at the time of testing for this article.  Keep in mind however, that the i845GE chipset that powers the motherboard in this unit, does in fact work with  this great new feature for the 3GHz Pentium 4.  Now all we need is HT enabled mainstream CPUs like a 2.26GHz P4.

The rest of the BIOS is fairly straight forward.  There is a DDR266/333 setting, various memory timing adjustments and integrated peripheral settings that can also be enabled of disabled.  As you can see in the Health Monitoring screenshot, our 2.26GHz Pentium 4 was running at a fairly tepid 34C.  This was with the case closed and at idle.

The Hot Hardware Test Systems
It's got it all


HARDWARE:

Shuttle SB51G XPC Mini Barebones System
GeForce4 Ti4400
Intel Pentium 4 "Northwood" 2.26GHz. (533MHz. Bus)
256MB Corsair XMS PC2700 DDR RAM CAS 2.5
Western Digital 30GB UDMA/100 7200 RPM Hard Drive
On-Board NIC
On-Board Sound

SOFTWARE:
Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1
Intel Chipset Drivers Version 4.07
NVIDIA 40.72 WHQL Drivers
 

Performance With SiSoft Sandra 2002
A quick take of the numbers

SiSoftware's SANDRA (the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a very popular benchmarking, information and diagnostic utility.  We began our testing with four of the built-in sub-system tests that are part of SiSoftware's Sandra 2003 benchmarking suite:  CPU, Multimedia, Memory and File System. 

CPU 2.26GHz
 
 

Mem DDR333 CAS2

 

MM 2.26GHz
 

Hard Disk ATA100

The SB51G, as you can see in the above tests, has the performance metrics of it's full sized counterparts, clock for clock.  Our 2.26GHz setup had no problem keeping time with the Athlon 2200+ reference system in the CPU test and handily beat out the 2GHz Pentium 4.  In Memory Bandwidth, the SB51G is neck and neck with other PC2700 scores in the chart.  Finally, we were able to realize a respectable hard disk score in the somewhat nebulous Sandra Hard Disk test.  Let's look at more strenuous benchmarks and take it from there.
 

More Benchmarking

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Shuttle's SB51G XPC - Page 3

Shuttle's SB51G XPC Mini Barebones
The i845GE Based Mini-PC That Feels Full Sized

By Dave Altavilla
11/20/2002

We'll finish up the benchmarks with the latest and greatest in First Person Shooters, at least until Doom 3 arrives.  Unreal Tournament 2003 showcases high polygon count Direct X 8 performance and it's also an excellent CPU benchmark.

Benchmarks With The Shuttle XPC SB51G
UT2003 Fly By

 

Turning up Anisotropic Filtering and Anti-Aliasing, definitely takes a toll on performance but this is mostly a limitation of the graphics subsystem, with the GeForce 4 Ti4400 we used in testing.  However, with over 48 fps, the game is completely playable and looks terrific, with sharp textures and clean edges throughout the scenery.  Again, our Aniso settings were in 64 Tap or 8X mode.  This setting however, may be a little too much for a Bot Match test, which is also more realistic with respect to normal game play.  On the other hand, again your limiting factor with the Bot Match test, at high res with AA and Aniso, is fill rate and the graphics card.  We're more interested in CPU performance, so we opted or the lighter duty Fly By demo.

 

The Shuttle SB51G is as near perfect as any mini PC in this class, that we've seen to date.  There are a couple of features we would have liked to see, that would have allowed a perfect 10 score, namely AGP8X compliance and CPU Voltage modification in the BIOS.  The lack of support for AGP8X is a limitation of the Intel i845 chipset that was used in this implementation.  We're hopeful that Shuttle has a Granite Bay based version coming soon.  Although AGP8X is far from mature, in terms of real-world performance advantages, it's a checklist item that is going to become more of a real performance feature, as more graphics cards are released, along with games that can take advantage of the extra bus bandwidth.

What has to be the most impressive aspect of the SB51G from Shuttle, is the fact that in every situation, this tiny cube computer performs on par with its full sized counterparts, based on the similar configurations.  Add to the mix, its 3 Firewire, 4 USB 2.0 ports, on board 10/100 Ethernet and 5.1 AC '97 Sound, and you've got a great little system that packs the punch and features of something more than three times its size.

We're giving the Shuttle SB51G XPC a HotHardware Heat Meter Rating of

 

And once again, Shuttle pulls down the EC Award for Innovation and Excellence.

 

Discuss this or any other Hot Hardware Review in the PC Hardware Forum!

 

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