Shuttle's SS40G Mini Barebones System

Shuttle's SS40G Mini Barebones System - Page 2

Shuttle's SS40G XPC Mini Barebones System!
A Big Package with a Small Footprint

By, Jeff Bouton
August 13, 2002


Setup & Quality of the Shuttle SS40G XPC Mini Barebones System
Tight quarters

Compared to the original SV24, the SS40G brings an entirely new look with its clear Plexiglass face and aluminum construction.  At the core of the SS40G is the Shuttle FS40 Flex ATX motherboard.  Equipped with a SiS740 North Bridge and SiS961 South Bridge, the mini barebones system brings a slew of onboard features to the table.  With its fully integrated design, the FS40 offers the most bang for the buck in a small footprint.  The front of the case sports a SPDIF, Earphone and Microphone jacks for access to the onboard audio features.  Two USB 1 and one FireWire ports are also located at the front of the system as well as a Power switch, Reset button, HDD and power LEDs. 


When we turn the system around, we find a plethora of various connections on the rear of the unit.  There are two additional USB and FireWire ports available along with an onboard Ethernet connector.  The unit has two serial ports, a single VGA and RCA connection for video and TV-Out, and two P/S2 ports for a keyboard and mouse.  Three audio outputs are also provided to take advantage of the 6-channel audio, driven by the CMI 8738 audio processor.


Once we removed the cover to the unit, things got really interesting.  One of the major complaints about earlier mini barebones models was that the chassis fan was too loud.  Thankfully, Shuttle heard this complaint and took it seriously, coming up with an effective solution.  The end result was a one piece copper-core heat-pipe assembly that cools the processor and case with a single, quieter chassis fan.  This is by far the most innovative feature we've seen to date with the XPC product line and it appears to do its job effectively.


The CD-ROM, Floppy and Hard Drive are all housed in a single chassis that is easily removed with two screws.  Once we had the processor mounted and the heat-pipe assembly in place, we installed our memory, and secured the drive chassis into position.  Within a few minutes, we had all of the cabling easily routed and we were up and running in no time at all.  As with the original SV24, we loved the look of the face of the unit; however, once we installed our beige drives, the "wow" effect was greatly diminished.  Fortunately, with a little creativity, we were able to maintain the appearance, proving a little silver spray paint can go a long way. 

Thankfully, Shuttle included and excellent step by step guide that displays a picture for every step of the assembly process.  We must warn you, though, the written instructions are in multiple languages and it appears that the English instructions have been translated.  This doesn't make the process any harder, but some of the written instructions are tough to understand.

The Hot Hardware Test Systems
Shuttle SS40G Barebones System
VisionTek Xstasy GeForce4 MX420

Athlon "Thunderbird" 1.2GHz. (1200MHz.)
256MB Crucial PC2100 DDR RAM
Maxtor 20GB UDMA/100 5400 RPM Hard Drive
Pioneer DVD 115 16X ATAPI DVD-ROM Drive
Standard 3.5" Floppy
On-Board NIC
On-Board Sound

Microsoft Windows XP Professional
(With all current Critical Updates)
SiS Video Drivers (v2.07) - From SiS Website
SiS AGP Drivers (v1.10) - From SiS Website

All other drivers installed from included CD.

Setting Up:
The first thing we did was enter the system BIOS and set the board to its "Optimized Default" settings and the Memory CAS Latency was set to 2T.  The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional was installed. We went to Windows Update site and downloaded all of the available updates, with the exception of Windows Messenger. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers, removed Windows Messenger, disabled Auto-Updating, disabled System Restore and set a 768MB permanent swap file. Lastly, we set the Visual Effects to "best performance", installed all of the benchmarking software and defragged the hard drive.

The Testing:
The beauty of the SS40G is that it is perfect for a second system.  Although the system supports the latest AthlonXP processors, we felt there were a good number of users who would plan on using it with an older T'bird they had lying around from when they upgraded to a new XP processor.  Since the SS40G isn't geared toward the high-performance market, we thought we would drop our 1.2GHz. T'bird into the socket and let the benchmarks ride.  To demonstrate the various effects adding a PCI graphics card would have on the system, we ran a number of the scores with both graphics options to show where the system benefited most.


Performance With SiSoft Sandra 2002
I Have a Sister Named Sandra!  Coincidence? Perhaps!

SiSoftware's SANDRA (the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a very popular benchmarking, information and diagnostic utility.  We ran the four most common tests with both graphics options to show what the effects of adding a video card to the system has.  Since virtually every feature of the system is integrated, alleviating the load by adding something as simple as a PCI video card should show some positive effects.  Some tests will show no change while others experienced a marked improvement.

CPU @ 1.2GHz. w/AGP              CPU @ 1.2GHz. w/PCI


Multimedia @ 1.2GHz. w/AGP   Multimedia @ 1.2GHz. w/PCI

With both the CPU and Multimedia tests, we were not surprised at how the scores varied ever so slightly.  Taking the video load off the motherboard and allowing it to be handled by a separate PCI video card yielded no measurable gains in processor potential.  Fortunately, this all changed with the remaining two tests.

MEM @ 1.2GHz. w/AGP            MEM @ 1.2GHz. w/PCI

HARD DRIVE w/AGP                  HARD DRIVE w/PCI

With a system that has so many feature integrated onto the motherboard, the memory bandwidth is the area that would be most affected by disabling components.  Since all components are reliant on the memory system, and the onboard video reserves 32MB of system memory for video functions, we expected to see some gains by adding the Xtasy MX420 from Visontek.  The first test that showed improvement was memory performance.  With the upgraded graphics, the SS40G saw a nice little increase in the Integer test and also posted nominal gains in the Floating point test.  This also became evident when we ran tests on the hard drive as well.  With the increased amount of memory and bandwidth available to the system, we measured a gain of over 1300 points with the file system benchmark.  So overall, it seems that the file system had the most to gain when adding a secondary video solution to the SS40G.


More Performance With PC Mark 2002
CPU, Memory and HD...

One of the newest benchmarks around for gauging a system's overall capability is PCMark2002.  This is MadOnion's latest creation that completes its assessment of a system by testing the three most important components:  CPU, Memory and Hard Drive performance.  We ran this test with both onboard AGP graphics and with the Xtasy MX420 installed and the difference in scores was negligible.  So with this test we've opted to report the scores obtained with the AGP graphics enabled.

Overall, the CPU and Memory scores were what we would have expected out of the SS40G in its current configuration.  Granted, this system isn't going to break any speed records anytime soon, but as we've mentioned, the SS40G wasn't designed to be a high-performance system.  What this test does show is that the system is more than adequate to perform a wide range of tasks.

Now we'll throw a few gaming benchmarks at the SS40G and compare the performance of the onboard AGP graphics to the Visiontek Xtasy GeForce4 MX420.

More Benchmarking and The Wrap Up


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