Shuttle SD36G5M XPC
By simply removing three thumb screws, the outer casing of the system can be removed and we can view the internals which comprise the SD36G5M. As usual, the layout of the components is surprisingly clean and orderly despite the obvious lack of PCB real estate. A significant amount of thought went into the layout of this platform and that time is immediately evident after one looks at the amount of hardware hidden within this diminutive package.
One of the most surprising aspects of the Shuttle system is the relative ease with which you can access components. Unlike some other SFF systems, you do not need to bribe any younger siblings or children of your own to help remove a particular part or properly screw down a component because your hands are too big. Rather, everything is easily within reach and can be accessed using standard tools.
Directing our attention towards the left side of the motherboard, we see the standard PCI slot as well as the PCI-E x16 graphics card slot. For whatever reason the PCI-E was placed on the outermost portion of the board which prevents the user from using anything other than a single-slot discrete graphics card. Unfortunately, that prohibits the use of the vast majority of flagship GPU's, though a handful of single slot models do exist. As we move towards the two memory DIMM slots, we see the small active heatsink assembly for the chipset. Although necessary given the confined space and limited airflow, it would have been nice if Shuttle was able to eliminate this fan entirely with a passive cooling solution to keep noise levels low.
The rightmost portion of the system is largely occupied by the 250W switching power supply. However, in the same vicinity we see the passively cooled power logic for the motherboard as well as an easily accessible 12V power connector.
One of the key components to the SD36G5M's cooling system is the proprietary heatsink with heatpipes developed by Shuttle. The "ICE" cooling solution is essentially a copper-based heatsink with four heatpipes being channeled to a small radiator positioned at the back of the system. With a 92mm fan blowing air out of the back of the system and across the radiator, Shuttle is able to claim a thermal resistance of 0.16*C/W at maximum fan speed.
Easily one of the most unique and enthusiast-friendly features of the system is the active CMOS reset button positioned at the rear of the motherboard. Located near the Realtek audio chipset, this CMOS clearing button is easy to access and allows the user to clear CMOS without having to open the case and remove the drive bay. Those who are familiar with overclocking will certainly welcome this feature with open arms as clearing the CMOS is an almost guaranteed step along the way.
Found in nearly every Shuttle SFF system made, we have an aluminum drive bay which houses up to two hard drives and a single optical drive. Installation of the drives could not be simpler with the only unconventional step being the need to position the small tab for activating the tray release button on the optical drive. This button position varies between drive vendors so a few seconds of customizing will lead to issue-free operation of the stealth drive cover.
Although one of the most obvious limitations of the SFF platform, the SD36G5M's power supply is a remarkably strong unit. With dozens of generic PSU's offering power above 500W struggling with system loads, it is almost comical to see this bullish 250W model handle the same load with relative ease. Here, all but the most extreme hardware options can be chosen with no adverse effects on stability.