Shuttle's SS50 Mini Barebones System

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Shuttle's SS50 Mini Barebones System - Page 2

Shuttle's SS50 Mini Barebones System!
Good Things DO Come in Small Packages!

By, Marco Chiappetta
May 30, 2002

Setup & Quality
Tight quarters

Getting the Shuttle SS50 up and running was quick and "almost" painless.  The beauty of a barebones system like this one, is that mounting your drives and inserting your CPU and memory is all that needs to be done, to build a semi-functional system.  The last step is obviously installing your operating system, but if you're not capable of doing that, it's not Shuttle's job to help you!  I say the installation was "almost" painless because, with my large hands, I found it a bit difficult to install the CPU, cooler and memory.  Also, to keep air circulating throughout the tiny case, and to not have cables rubbing against the CPU cooler, you'll have to master the art of origami with the IDE and Floppy drive cables!  To make installing the CPU and memory easier, I completely removed the power supply and drive rack, but even then there were some contortions involved.  Routing cables was another chore, but they were just the right length to fit cleanly around the internal edges of the system.

   

Obviously, once the operating system is configured, there are some drivers that need to be installed for optimal performance as well.  The included CD-ROM has all the software you'll need to get the complete assortment of the on-board components working under Windows.  We were initially disappointed with the video and AGP drivers that came with the SS50 though.  The video drivers are very "plain vanilla", offering no tweaking options whatsoever. The included AGP drivers were also a bit outdated, and Shuttle's site didn't offer anything newer.  Luckily the Taiwanese SiS website had some updated video and AGP drivers, that improved performance significantly and gives users the ability to tweak gamma and some other basic options.

 

Some really compulsive people (like myself!), will love the silver look of the SS50, but will dislike the way standard beige or black drives clash with the finish.  As you can see I decided to do something about it, and painted our DVD and Floppy drives with metallic spray paint!  The colors don't match perfectly, but its close enough for me!  One other aspect of the case worth mentioning is the extremely bright LEDs used.  The power and IDE activity LEDs on the SS50 were so bright, they could LITERALLY act as a night light in a dark room.  The overall construction of the case screams of quality.  The tight tolerances and well thought out header placement prove Shuttle put serious thought into the design and construction of this product.  We wish they would have used quieter fans though.  The SS50 is not as loud as the SV24, but it is still a bit more obtrusive than we would have liked.

TESTING METHODOLOGY:

We have seen significant variations in benchmark scores from one site to the next.  Due to these variations, we feel it is necessary to explain exactly how we configure each test system before we run any benchmarks. The first thing we did was enter the system BIOS and set the board to it's "Optimized Default" settings. Then we set the Memory CAS Latency to 2 with a 1T command rate at a speed of 133MHz.  The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional was installed. After that we hit the 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, defragged the hard drive and ran all of the tests at both the CPU's default and overclocked speeds. Now, for our results...
 

The Hot Hardware Test Systems
Little but mean!

HARDWARE:
Shuttle SS50 Barebones System
Intel Pentium 4 "Northwood" 2.2GHz. (2200MHz.)
256MB Corsair XMS PC2400 DDR RAM
Maxtor 20GB UDMA/100 7200 RPM Hard Drive
NEC 16X ATAPI DVD-ROM Drive
Standard 3.5" Floppy
On-Board NIC
On-Board Sound

SOFTWARE:
Microsoft Windows XP Professional (With all current Critical Updates)
SiS Video Drives (v2.05) - Included on Shuttle CD
SiS AGP Drivers  (v1.08d) - Included on Shuttle CD

SiS Video Drivers (v2.05a) - From SiS Website
SiS AGP Drivers (v1.09f) - From SiS Website

All other drivers installed from included CD.
 

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 began our testing with four of the built-in sub-system tests that are part of SiSoftware's Sandra 2002 benchmarking suite, CPU, Multimedia, Memory and File System, running at the CPU's default clockspeed of 2200MHz. (22x100) and an overclocked speed of 2420MHz. (22x110).

CPU @ 2.2GHz.                       CPU @ 2.42GHz.
           

Clearly, the SiS650 chipset motherboard used in the Shuttle SS50 doesn't hold back CPU performance at all.  At both the default and overclocked speeds, the SS50 beat out all of SANDRA's reference systems. 

Multimedia @ 2.2GHz.              Multimedia @ 2.42GHz.
           

We saw more of the same as we moved onto the Multimedia tests.  Nothing in SANDRA's database was able to keep up with the SS50.  This is probably because the fastest reference system was "only" a 2GHz. Pentium 4!

HARD DRIVE

As Dave has pointed out in a few of his Pentium 4 motherboard reviews, performance with SiS IDE controllers seems to fall a little short of competing solutions.  A score of about 20K, like we see above, isn't necessarily bad, but this same Maxtor drive is capable of much more.  We haven't used this particular drive in any other reviews, so we don't have any baseline performance scores for it just yet, but as an experiment I connected it to a High-Point HPT374 controller (on an Abit IT7 with the same CPU) and broke 22K in this same test.

MEM @ 2.2GHz.                       MEM @ 2.42GHz.
           

SANDRA's memory bandwidth test shows the SS50 performing in-line with an Intel i845 board, using CL2 PC2100 RAM.  We should mention that we were running with the memory set to 133MHz. (143MHz. when overclocked), using a 3:4 CPU to RAM speed ratio.  Although not officially supported, the BIOS does offer a 3:5 ratio which would run the memory at 166MHz (DDR 333).  Unfortunately, at the time of testing, we did not have any quality PC2700 DDR RAM in the lab that would run reliably with the most aggressive memory timings at 166MHz.  With "faster" memory installed, running at a higher clockspeed, you could expect significantly higher scores than the ones we have posted here.
 

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

Next up we have MadOnion's relatively new PCMark 2002 benchmarking suite.  We ran PC Mark 2002's CPU, Memory and Hard Drive performance modules, which incorporate the following tests:

CPU Test:

  • JPEG decompression

  • Zlib compression & decompression

  • Text search

  • MP3 Audio Conversion

  • 3D Vector Calculation

Memory Test Technical details: (Quoted)

Raw read, write, and read-modify-write operations are performed starting from a 3072 kilobytes array decreasing in size to 1536 KB, 384 KB, 48 KB and finally 6 KB. Each size of block is tested two second and the amount of accessed data is given as result. In the STL container test a list of 116 byte elements is constructed and sorted by an integer pseudo-random key. The list is then iterated through as many times as possible for 2 seconds and the total size of the accessed elements is given as result. There are 6 runs of this test, with 24576 items in the largest run corresponding to a total data amount of 1536 KB, decreasing in size to 12288 items (768 KB), 6144 items (384 KB), 1536 items (96 KB), 768 items (48 KB) and 96 items in the smallest run corresponding to 6 KB of total data.

Scores in PC Mark 2002 are competitive with other systems configured with similar components, with the exception once again being Hard Drive performance.  The SiS650 chipset is proving to be quite a decent performer.

Some More Benchmarking and Final Thoughts

 

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