Design, Layout and Installation
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then behold, the SB77G5, up close and personal. Design wise, the SB77G5 is about as efficient as any small form factor PC we've ever had in the lab here. Esthetically, we're also smitten with this XPC's obvious good looks. In our opinion the SB77G5 is sort of like the "Angelina Jolie" of SFF PCs. The first time you see her, she captures you attention and turns your head. As you get closer though, that's when bold-faced sex appeal hits you like a round-house kick upside your head... strictly speaking from a Tech geek's perspective of course.
The SB77G5's two drive bays and front I/O panel, are shrouded by retractable face plates. We installed a black Lite-On DVD-RW drive and a black 3.5" floppy (not that we really needed the floppy, we just wanted to complete the full build-out for you). The optical drive bay has chrome coated pushbutton that lines up inside the case with the eject button on most all standard CD or DVD ROM drives. In fact, we had to install the longer throw actuator pad, on the backside of this button mechanism, in order to properly reach the Lite-On DVD drive's button. Once we swapped out that plastic push pad, the drive tray slid out like a charm, pushing the bay door open and shutting it upon hitting the button for a second time.
The backside I/O panel of the SB77G5 is fairly standard issue and it is color coded based on the connection types, as you can see in the shots above. However, drop that second serial port and give us a couple more USB ports on this I/O panel instead, any day.
Dropping down inside the chassis, we see the SB77G5 has a larger, redesigned heat pipe cooler that has spring loaded thumb screws that provide excellent retention force down on the CPU socket area. The CPU block itself has a large copper slug in the mid section which definitely helps the thermal transfer coefficient of the entire "ICE" cooling system, as Shuttle likes to call it. The Northbridge has a fairly stout heatsink installed on it, as does the MOSFET power array on the backside of the board, which you can see if you look closely in one of the shots above. The power supply is a 250 Watt model that has a PFC circuit (Power Factor Correction). While its power output rating may seems a bit underwhelming, as you'll see in the pages ahead, it seems it can stand up to the heavy loads put forth by today's high end graphics cards.
Finally, at the motherboard I/O chipset level, Broadcom's 5788 chip provides the Gig-E support, VIA's VT6703 provides IEEE 1394 (Firewire) support, and Realtek's ALC658 provides AC'97 5.1 Channel Surround Sound output. Incidentally, we tested the quality of this Realtek audio solution and while it certainly is not going to compete with the likes of an Audigy 2 or Envy24 chipset, it provides respectable quality surround sound for both gaming and digital video applications, with relatively low CPU utilization. A quick check with Right Mark's Audio Analyzer showed dynamic range, THD (total harmonic distortion) and frequency response to be in the "Good" to "Very Good" range, which is competitive with many discrete audio solutions on the market.