Shuttle's SB81P XPC
Summary & Conclusion
Benchmark Summary: The Shuttle SB81P XPC performed well in our entire battery of benchmarks, despite of the fact that it wasn't able to claim the top spot any particular test. These results stem from the fact that the FB81 motherboard installed in the Shuttle SB81P XPC, which is powered by Intel's 915 chipset, is configured to work with standard DDR memory, rather than the higher clocked DDR2 memory used on the Abit AA8 DuraMAX. What is important to note, however, is that the SB81P was able to compete with, or outperform, the similarly equipped i875 / Prescott / DDR1 powered system, and hung tough with the i925x throughout. When compared to similar i915 / DDR1 powered solutions, the SB81P XPC performed exactly as it should.
Our feelings on the Shuttle SB81P XPC are mixed. The new "P Series" chassis is definitely a move in the right direction. From an aesthetic standpoint, we feel the Shuttle SB81P XPC is a real winner. The hide-away, folding drive bay and port covers are a definite plus, and look great no matter what color drives are used with the system. Finding a drive that perfectly matched older XPCs was tough at times, and I for one am thankful that I'll no longer have to pull out the silver spray paint to be happy with an XPC's look. Please note that the CD eject button may not align perfectly with some drives, however. We tried two different drives from Lite-On and Sony and weren't able to align the eject button perfectly on either. The internals of the P Series chassis are also another plus. The pre-wired case and the easy to use drive mounting rails make assembling the SB81P XPC a breeze, and the ability to have three hard drives in the system is a huge upgrade over most other small form factor systems.
The potential thermal problems we mentioned earlier, and the minor issues with the cooling we outlined leave us with some doubts though. Care must be taken the ensure that excessive pressure isn't placed on the motherboard PCB when mounting the CPU cooler, and we would have liked to have seen active cooling on the Northbridge, especially considering that there are two unused fan headers already available on the FB81 motherboard. And the Shuttle SB81P is relatively expensive for an XPC, at over $425 at many on-line retailers. In the end though, for the majority of potential XPC buyers, the Shuttle SB81P with suit their needs very well, and the gripes we mentioned can easily be remedied with a BIOS update and some relatively simple mods. Couple this system with a mid-range LGA775 Pentium 4, a fast hard drive, some quality ram and a PCI Express video card like the Radeon X700 or GeForce 6600 and you've got yourself a solid system, that'll be equally useful for work and play. Based on it's aesthetic appeal, feature set, ease-of-installation, and innovative design, we're giving the Shuttle SB81P XPC an 8 on the Heat Meter...