Overall, Shuttle has managed to raise the bar once more for the SFF platform with the arrival of the SD36G5M. Despite being the company's first official entry into Intel's VIIV campaign, they have managed to create a rock solid system that excels as a desktop machine with multimedia functionality. If there were ever to be a Swiss Army Knife branded PC, the Shuttle SD36G5M would receive our nomination.
As we have come to expect from Shuttle, the SD36G5M provided an excellent balance of performance, functionality, and stability. Beyond the clean and intuitive layout and design, the Shuttle system also strikes a difficult balance between being flashy yet understated. And considering the support for dual-core processors, two hard drives, and up to 2GB of memory, we can easily see why this system would be a top choice for a powerful multimedia PC.
Equipped with a dual core processor, a discrete graphics card in the place of the onboard Intel IGP, and at least 1GB of memory the Shuttle SD36G5M should be able to tackle nearly any mainstream computing task with ease. We were pleasantly surprised by the audio quality produced by the onboard Realtek ALC882 7.1 audio codec and would not deem a discrete audio card necessary for the vast majority of users. Whether fragging in the latest games or taking advantage of the full Media Center support by watching movies or listening to music, this XPC does not disappoint.
Like nearly any piece of hardware, there are areas where we believe Shuttle could further improve the overall performance and functionality. With regards to the system's acoustic profile, we would have liked to have seen a passive heatsink assembly for the chipset to eliminate the high frequency noise emitted from the small cooling fan. Similarly, we would have been a bit more comfortable with slightly lower CPU temperatures. Granted, we did not experience any stability issues whatsoever throughout testing. However, we would prefer to not have to worry about temperatures at all and would rather have a slightly higher performance cooling solution that would keep temperatures well under 60'C under load. Our final gripe could be seen as the Achilles heel of the SD36G5M, as it is the only characteristic which limits the user's freedom to choose components. Here, the placement of the PCI-E x16 graphics slot on the outer edge of the board prevents the use of any graphics card with a dual-slot heatsink assembly. Were the PCI-E slot to switch positions with the PCI slot, this problem would be eliminated in some cases where a PCI card was not being used.
In the end, we cannot help but be impressed by the Shuttle SD36G5M. The overall flexibility of this system and its prowess in nearly any application make it an ideal choice for anyone looking for a small, yet powerful, system. As Shuttle's first system to be qualified as an Intel VIIV product, we are thoroughly pleased with the performance and functionality of the SD36G5. It is no surprise that Shuttle has hit yet another home-run with their latest product. As the pioneer of the SFF platform, it seems fitting to see that Shuttle is leading the SFF industry into the living room with an exceptional Media Center solution. Overall, we give the Shuttle SD36G5M a Hot Hardware Heat Meter rating of 9 and enthusiastically recommend this product.
._Support for Dual-Core CPU's
._Excellent VFD Display
._Exceptional fit and finish
._Stellar performance and stability
._Convenient XPC Tools and OC Ability
._Flashy yet understated aesthetic
._No dual-slot graphics card options
._Somewhat limited 250W PSU
._Could be slightly cooler and quieter