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Shuttle ST61G4 XPC
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Date: Jan 25, 2004
Section:Systems
Author: HH Editor
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The Shuttle ST61G4 XPC - Page 1

The Shuttle ST61G4 XPC
ATi's Radeon 9100 IGP In Action...

By, Marco Chiappetta
January 26, 2004
 

A quick glance and Shuttle's XPC feature comparison table hints at one of the reasons why they have been so successful with their line of small form factor systems.  Browse over to that page and you'll see that they have consistently and quickly released new XPCs based on virtually all popular mainstream chipsets.  With such a wide variety of choices, and with feature sets that cater to buyers in nearly every market segment from the business user to the performance enthusiast, it's no wonder Shuttle's XPCs have been so dominant in the SFF PC arena.

Shuttle continues the tradition with the new ST61G4 XPC we'll be looking at today on HotHardware.Com.  This XPC is packed with features like SATA RAID and a new super-quiet 250W power supply.  In addition, courtesy of ATi's RS300 chipset, it sports the best integrated graphics on the market.  At the center of the RS300 chipset is ATi's Radeon 9100 IGP, a DirectX 8.1 compliant integrated graphics processor clocked at 300MHz (Details Here).  The RS300 is also equipped with a 128-bit dual-DDR memory controller and is compatible with all of Intel's socket 478 CPUs, including the P4 Extreme Edition.  The IXP150 Southbridge used on the ST61G4 lacks any integrated LAN or Firewire support, but those features are available thanks to on-board controllers from Broadcom and VIA.  On paper, the ST61G4 is a winner, but we all know good specs don't always equate to high-performance in the real world.  So, let's plug her in and find out what the ST61G4 is really made of...

Specifications & Features of the ST61G4
Shiny, SFF Goodness

CLICK ANY IMAGE FOR AN ENLARGED VIEW
           
SPECIFICATIONS TAKEN DIRECTLY FROM SPACEWALKER.COM

Processor
  • Intel Pentium 4 / Celeron in the 478 pin package with 400/533/800MHz FSB

Chipsets

  • ATI RS300 + IXP150
  • Support dual channel DDR200/266/333/400 DDR SDRAM interface

Memory

  • 2 x 184 pin DDR SDRAM DIMM slots
  • Support PC1600/2100/2700/3200 compliant DDR SDRAM compliant SDRAM - Up to 2GB capacity

VGA

  • Integrated high performance ATI Radeon 9100 graphic core

TV-out

  • Support NTSC and PAL format in S-video / composite terminal support maximum input active resolution up to 1024x768

Onboard headers

  • 2 x UDMA100 IDE Ports
  • 1 x FDD Port
  • 2 x 150MB/s S-ATA ports with RAID function
  • CD_in & Aux CD_in headers
  • 20-pin ATX and 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
  • 3 x fan connectors, Parallel port, IrDA header

IEEE1394a

  • VIA VT6307, compliant with 1394 OHCI specification version 1.0, up to 400Mb/s data transfer rate

AGP

  • Support AGP 4X/8x mode

PCI slot

  • 1 x 32bit/33MHz PCI slots

Audio
  • On board Realtek 650F six channel audio

Fast Ethernet

  • Onboard Broadcom 4401
  • Supports 10/100/1000 LAN operation

Serial ATA

  • Silicon Image 3512 supports two Serial ATA ports
  • Supports RAID 0,1 & Hot-spare & on-line Mirror rebuilding

Extension Bay

  • 1 x 3.5? bay (for built in Card reader)
  • 1 x 5.25? bay

Dimension

  • 300(L)x200(W)x185(H)mm, 2.85Kg(N.W.), 4.65Kg(G.W.)

Material

  • Aluminum

Power

  • Dimension: 82(W)x43(H)x190(D)mm (Max)
  • Input: 110/230V AC
  • Output: 250W (PFC)
  • EMI Certified: FCC, CE, BSMI
  • Power Cord: Depends on specific region demand

Accessories

  • 1 x Mainboard User manual
  • 1 x Mainboard CD-driver
  • 1 x XPC Installation Guide
  • 1 x I.C.E. Technology CPU heat-pipe
  • 1 x FDD Cable
  • 1 x HDD Cable
  • 1 x CD-ROM Cable
  • 1 x SATA cable
  • Screws, Twin Adhesive & Friendly Front Feet


     
ACCESSORIES INCLUDED WITH THE SHUTTLE ST61G4

The ST61G4's bundle includes the same set of accessories found with other Shuttle XPCs. The ST61G4 came with three manuals, one User's Manual for the FT61 motherboard used in the system, an installation guide that explains how to properly build-up the machine, and a manual that explains how to configure the Silicon Image 3512 SATA RAID controller.  Four cables were also included with the system - one SATA cable, two custom 80-Wire IDE cables and a single floppy cable. We also found the obligatory driver CD, as well as two small baggies containing some double-sided adhesive tape, screws, zip ties and two metal "friendly front feet" which are used to slightly elevate the front of the system for better air intake. Rounding out the bundle is an S-Video to Composite video adapter and a lint free cloth used for cleaning the ST61G4's mirrored front bezel.  The ST61G4 also ships with Shuttle's custom I.C.E Technology CPU heat-pipe with a copper core.  We've found Shuttle's heat-pipe coolers to perform very well in the past.  In fact, our 3.2GHz Pentium 4's temperature hovered around 40°C when installed into the ST61G4.  Not a bad temperature, especially considering how small the system is.

"ClearView" From OutsideLoop.Com:

     

Another XPC accessory that we'd like to show you today isn't included with the ST61G4, but it's something many of you will surely be interested in.  It's the "ClearView" case cover developed by OutsideLoop.Com.  The ClearView panels replace the stock aluminum covers that ship with Shuttle's XPCs.  It consists of three individual pieces that mount to the top and sides of the case.  The two side panels are vented at the bottom, and have knockouts in the center that can accommodate 80mm fan grilles.  With the knockouts removed, the ClearView cover allows for increased airflow into the case, which in-turn lowers the system's internal temperature.  It can be personalized with custom fan grilles and adds a bit of style to an already attractive enclosure.  If you want to add some flair to your XPC, check the ClearView cover out.  Ours will definitely be put to good use!
 


A Closer Look at the ST61G4

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The Shuttle ST61G4 XPC - Page 2

The Shuttle ST61G4 XPC
ATi's Radeon 9100 IGP In Action...

By, Marco Chiappetta
January 26, 2004
 

Setting up the Shuttle ST61G4 was very simple and straightforward. The drive tray is removable, which made it easy to mount the drives, so once we inserted our memory and CPU, it was only matter of connecting a few cables and powering up the system.  Having been spoiled by the wiring job in Biostar's iDEQ 200T, we found the ST61G4's wiring to be a mess in comparison.  Reportedly, retail versions of the ST61G4 come pre-wired, so should you pick up one of these systems at your favorite retailer, the wiring should be much cleaner than what we're showing you hear today...

Setup & Quality
Top Notch Hardware

     

Front Panel
  • 2 x USB ports
  • 1 x Mini 1394 port
  • 1 x Line-in
  • 1 x Mic-in
  • 1 x Line-out
  • 1 x Power-on button
  • 1 x Reset button
  • 1 x USB 2.0 6 in 1 card reader (CF I/II,MMC,MS,SD,SM)
     
Back panel
  • 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
  • 1 x IEEE 1394 connector
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
  • 1 x Rear out
  • 1 x Front out
  • 1 x Center/Bass connectors
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN port
  • 1 x Serial Port
  • 1 x VGA Port
  • 1 x SPDIF in & out ports
  • 1 x TV-out Port

On the front of the system, a 6-in-1 card reader replaces the external 3.5" drive bay found on the older G2 based XPCs.  Two USB 2.0 ports, one mini-1394 port, three 1/8" audio connectors (Line-In, Mic-In and Line-Out) and power and reset switches are mounted to the flashy, mirrored bezel adorning the front of the system as well.  The rear of the system is equipped with three more 1/8" audio connectors (Front, Rear and Center / Bass Out), S/PDIF in and out, two USB 2.0 ports, a powered IEE1394 connector, a serial port, a DB15 VGA out connector, S-Video out, PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports and an RJ45 LAN port.

      

     

     

When we were first exposed to Shuttle's relatively new G4 enclosure during our review of the black and grey SN85G4, we found it to be very attractive and a welcome change from their G2 case.  The ST61G4 is also available in the same black and grey color scheme, but we think the silver finish seen here is far more attractive.  The brushed aluminum case, with the mirrored front bezel looks great (the pictures don't do it justice).  It is fairly easy to scratch though, so be careful.  Removing the aluminum case cover reveals the FT61 motherboard powering the system.  The FT61's layout is similar to most other XPCs, with a few notable exceptions.  In a very smart move, Shuttle moved the CMOS jumper to the edge of the board, which makes it easily accessible in situations where it needs to be used.  The SATA RAID connectors are intermingled with the board's fan headers, which is a bit messy, but SATA cables are easy to connect, so we don't think this is that big of a deal.  The Radeon 9100 IGP / Northbridge is actively cooled by a relatively large aluminum heatsink / fan combo.  The active cooler is necessary because the Radeon 9100 IGP puts out quite a bit of heat.  By default the graphics core is clocked at 300MHz (2x1 architecture - 600MPixels/s | 600MTexels/s), and it runs fairly hot.  According to the PC Health section of the BIOS, the 9100 IGP's temperature hovered around 75-80°C at idle.  Interestingly enough, inserting a video card into the AGP slot automatically disabled the integrated Radeon 9100 graphics, but the Northbridge's operating temperature stayed at the same level. (For a comprehensive look at the RS300 chipset, click here)  Also making its debut in the ST61G4 is Shuttle's new SilentX 250 watt PSU.  This new PSU puts out more power than any previous XPC, yet it generates less heat.  As the name implies, it's also much quieter than other XPCs.  In a side-by-side comparison with the SN85G4, the ST61G4 was noticeably quieter.

The ST61G4's BIOS
It's Good - If You Don't Plan to Overclock Much

     

   

Shuttle has equipped the ST61G4 with a fairly complete Phoenix / Award BIOS, that should please all but the most discriminating power users.  The BIOS on this system has a full compliment of options for tweaking the RAM and all of the on-board peripherals. The system's fan speeds can also be altered for maximum airflow, or minimum noise, and they can be set to spin-up or down at a specified temperature.  We did run into a problem when tweaking our memory though.  We tested the ST61G4 with Corsair and Kingston low-latency memory modules, that have consistently run with 2-2-2-5 memory timing on some other test system.  When installed in the ST61G4, we couldn't get the system to boot with any timings that were more aggressive than 2-3-3-8.  If we set the memory to run at 2-2-3-8, the system would POST, but it wouldn't boot Completely into Windows.  With the timings set to 2-2-2-8, the system would POST, but the BIOS would automatically revert to the "Auto" setting, overriding any manual adjustments we had made.  Hopefully, this can be fixed with a new rev of the BIOS, but considering there have been four BIOS revisions released already, we don't expect Shuttle can do much about this.

     

 

The overclocking options available in the ST61G4's BIOS are represented in the six screen shots above.  All of the options you'd expect are available, but with somewhat limited thresholds.  The memory voltage can be set to 2.6v, 2.7v, or 2.8v, and the AGP voltage can be set to 1.6v, 1.65v, or 1.7v.  The CPU core voltage can also be altered, but the peak selectable voltage is only 1.5875v.  Changing the Front Side Bus (FSB) is done by choosing a frequency from +1MHz to +15MHz, but things aren't exactly as they seem.  The +1MHz to +15MHz options are literal speeds, only when using a CPU with a 133MHz FSB.  When a processor with an 800MHz FSB is installed, however, the options equate to 1.4x their actual value.  For example, selecting the +10MHz option sets raised the FSB by 14MHz.

Overclocking Experience:

            
SANDRA CPU BENCHMARK                SANDRA CPU BENCHMARK

CPU @ 3.20GHZ                                    CPU @ 3.49GHZ

We set out to find our CPU's maximum stable operating speed with the ST61G4, and had fairly good results.  We raised the CPU's core voltage to the maximum 1.585v, and raised our memory voltage to the maximum 2.8v.  Then we raised the FSB slowly until we found our peak.  In the end, we maxed out with the FSB at the +13MHz setting, which equated to a 218MHz FSB, for a top speed of 3.49GHz.  At any setting higher than this, the ST61G4 would not POST and if we lowered the CPU voltage, we couldn't complete any benchmarks with the +13MHz FSB option selected.  This particular CPU has hit 3.6GHz+ on some other motherboards, so while a 3.49GHz peak wasn't bad, we were expecting a bit more.

Let's Get Down to Business

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The Shuttle ST61G4 XPC - Page 3

kThe Shuttle ST61G4 XPC
ATi's Radeon 9100 IGP In Action...

By, Marco Chiappetta
January 26, 2004
 

To isolate CPU performance, we ran some low-resolution tests with Novalogic's Comanche 4 and Epic's Unreal Tournament 2003. We occasionally use these tests in our evaluation of 3D Graphics cards, but they are well suited as processor / system bandwidth benchmarks when run at low-resolutions with a high-end graphics card. Frame rates in Comanche 4 and UT2003 generally scale upwards with increased processor and memory clock speeds. To further isolate CPU performance, we also disabled audio in the Comanche 4 test.

Gaming Benchmarks With The ST61G4
Full Powered Gaming in a Tiny Box

The ST61G4 performed well in both tests, but it couldn't quite catch our i875P powered test system, regardless of whether or not we used the integrated graphics or a Radeon 9800 Pro.  The Radeon 9100 IGP completed both tests without a hitch, and posted a nice frame rate in the Unreal Tournament benchmark, but we were using very low-quality settings and the test was run at only 640x480.  In a more realistic gaming scenario (i.e. 1024x768 - Max Detail), UT frame rates would be much lower.  The Comanche 4 test is a bit more graphically intensive and as a result the IGP could only crank out 27+ frames per second.  With a Radeon 9800 Pro installed, performance in both benchmarks was much better, but the ST61G4 still lagged behind our Canterwood test system by about 7%.

"Real World" Application Benchmarks
The 2004 Versions Have Arrived

To test "real world" application performance, we used the latest version of ZD's Content Creation and Business Winstone 2004 Benchmarks.  To give you an idea as to how these benchmarks work, here's what eTesting Labs has to say about their performance metrics.

"Business Winstone is a system-level, application-based benchmark that measures a PC's overall performance when running today's top-selling Windows-based applications on Windows 2000 (SP2 or higher) or Windows XP. Business Winstone doesn't mimic what these packages do; it runs real applications through a series of scripted activities and uses the time a PC takes to complete those activities to produce its performance scores. (The Content Creation benchmark uses the exact same process to derive a final score, but a different set of applications are tested.)"

Business Winstone Tests:
  • Microsoft Access 2002
  • Microsoft Excel 2002
  • Microsoft FrontPage 2002
  • Microsoft Outlook 2002
  • Microsoft PowerPoint 2002
  • Microsoft Project 2002
  • Microsoft Word 2002
  • Norton Antivirus Professional Edition 2003
  • WinZip 8.1
Content Creation Winstone Tests:
  • Adobe Photoshop 7.0.1
  • Adobe Premiere 6.50
  • Macromedia Director MX 9.0
  • Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 6.1
  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9 Version 9.00.00.2980
  • NewTek's LightWave 3D 7.5b
  • Steinberg WaveLab 4.0f

In the Business Winstone test, the ST61G4 finished about 5% behind the i875P system.  Switching from the Radeon 9100 IGP to a Radeon 9800 Pro, impacted performance slightly, but if you're looking for a SFF PC to run some basic "office type" applications, there's no need to upgrade your graphics - the 9100 IGP performs quite well.  The same scenario played out in the Content Creation benchmark, but the performance delta between the i875P and ST61G4 was slightly smaller.

We have somewhat mixed feelings towards the ST61G4.  At $359 US ($369 for the black version), the ST61G4 is relatively expensive when compared to other small form factor systems.  It does have one of the most complete feature sets though, and the Radeon 9100 IGP is the most powerful integrated graphics processor currently available.  We're also very fond of the silver / mirrored G4 enclosure, but we feel the ST61G4's appeal isn't as broad as some other SFF systems out there.  If you're in the market for one of these mini-PCs, and don't plan to overclock and want to save a few dollars by using the integrated graphics, the ST61G4 is a fine choice.  It would make an excellent home theater PC and it's perfectly suited for the mainstream user who doesn't plan to do any serious gaming.  Hardcore enthusiasts and overclockers however, would be better served by an XPC powered by a different chipset.  The ATi RS300 chipset was very stable and performance wasn't bad by any means. Conversely, we think it's a revision or two away from being considered a true alternative to the i875 or i865, at least in our humble opinion.  It's priced a little high and its chipset is a bit immature, but based on its aesthetics, excellent feature set and top-notch integrated graphics, we're giving the Shuttle ST61G4 XPC a 7.5 on the HotHardware Heat Meter.

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

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Shuttle ST61G4 XPC - Page 4
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