Setup & Quality
Now We're Talkin'
is the second of the mini PC product line to don a new
and improved look. This time around, Shuttle
took the same face as we first saw in our SS40G review
and gave it a powder blue hue. The face plate is
cut from a tinted piece of Plexiglas
material that is then anchored to the front of the case.
Built around a SiS 651 North Bridge and a 962L South
Bridge, SS51G is the most versatile and powerful XPC
Shuttle has offered to date. With support for USB
2.0, IEEE 1394, ATA 133 and PC2700 DDRRAM, the SS51G
is a culmination of the best features available in a
single, compact system. This system is also the
first of its kind to incorporate an AGP expansion slot
onto the system board. This is a major change
not found in any of the previous minis and something
reviewers and users alike have been asking for since
the first mini PC was introduced. While the
SS51G had a similar feature set to the SS40G, we
turned the unit around and found that something was
the AGP slot, the most
noticeable difference was the lack of a TV-Out option,
an item found on each previous model of mini PC.
With this version of the XPC, Shuttle opted to
incorporate the TV-Out function into an add-on AGP
card, making it an optional component. At first
we were less than thrilled with this decision,
thinking that the user may have to sacrifice one
feature if they were planning to add on an AGP
Graphics card to the SS51G. Then we thought
about it a
little more and realized just how common a
TV-Out feature has become with a wide range of new
video cards. In the end, the likelihood of losing the
with a video card upgrade is remote. The
included AGP adapter also provides a digital out
connection as well as a DVI port for a flat panel display,
two items frequently found on newer video cards as
So what seemed to be a strike against the SS51G at
first, is now looking like a well thought out decision
to offload some onboard features that would easily be
replaced with a video upgrade.
of the SS51G is a familiar scene if you've seen the
last few models of mini PC we've reviewed. One
thing that Shuttle began to address with the SS40G is
the common complaint that the units were a bit too
noisy. The first step they took was to develop
a new heat pipe cooling system for the CPU.
Dubbed the I.C.E Technology CPU heat-pipe, this system allowed
Shuttle to reduce the fan count of the SS40G and SS51G
respectively, from two to one, greatly reducing system
noise. While this process made a marked
improvement on the system noise, there was still room
for improvement. So Shuttle took some extra
steps to continue the battle against ambient noise by
upgrading the system fan and giving the unit a BIOS
that had greater control over fan speed. Now the
BIOS monitors the system and CPU temperature of the
SS51G and throttles the fan speed based on these
conditions. The end result is a system that is
so quiet that the first time we ran the unit we
thought that the fan wasn't working.
first addressed in the SS40G review, although we like
the custom face that Shuttle has been applying to the XPC line, we found that the "wow effect" was greatly
diminished once we installed our beige colored drives.
We soon found that this could easily be taken care of
with a little spray paint and about 30 minutes of our
time. To wrap things up, we thought we'd try to
match the drive color a little closer to the color of
the unit to give the system a more balanced appearance.
Like the SS40G, we were pleased by the end result.
Although not an exact match, the system has a much
more appealing appearance than if we left things
give you a run down on how we set up the SS51G before
we put the system to work in the benchmark arena.
The Hot Hardware Test Systems
Little but mean!
Shuttle SS51G XPC Mini Barebones System
eVGA GeForce4 Ti4600
Intel Pentium 4 "Northwood" 2.26GHz. (533MHz.
256MB Corsair XMS PC2700 DDR RAM CAS 2.5
Western Digital 30GB UDMA/100 7200 RPM Hard Drive
Sony 52X CD-ROM Drive
Standard 3.5" Floppy
Microsoft Windows XP Professional
(With all current
SiS Video Drives (v2.07)
SiS AGP Drivers (v1.10)
The first thing we did was enter the
system BIOS and set the board to its "Optimized
Default" settings and the Memory CAS Latency to 2T.
We set the CPU:DRAM Clock Ratio to 4:5, allowing the
memory to run at full 333MHz. (166MHz. DDR). 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 the ones for 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.
When deciding how we were going to test the SS51G,
there were two things we needed to consider.
For one, we thought that the main reason someone would
buy the SS51G was because of the added AGP slot, giving
the system excellent graphics potential. Then
there is the crowd that insists on seeing overclocking
scores with any piece of hardware we review. So
we felt we should run the benchmarks not
only with onboard graphics but also with a quality AGP
video card installed to show the system's gaming
abilities. Next we considered doing some overclocking benchmarks, but as you'll see below, this
wasn't meant to be.
Overclocking the SS51G XPC
Not What We
When it came to
overclocking the SS51G, we ran into a few problems.
Normally when we are overclocking a system, a good
gauge to show we've gone too far is that we encounter
errors when WindowsXP begins to load. Often times
we'll see a BSOD with some cryptic information on it
or a message that a file is
corrupt and we need to run the Recovery Console.
These are not unusual things to see when pushing
hardware beyond its intended limits. In the
end, we normally drop the settings in the BIOS back a
little and the errors go away. With the SS51G,
however, things were a little more difficult.
As we increased the
system's bus speed to around 142MHz., we encountered
the aforementioned error regarding a corrupt file
and the Recovery Console. However, when we
reduced the system's settings or returned them to their
defaults, we continued to receive the same
message. Normally the Recovery Console can be
used for extracting files from the installation CD to
replace a corrupt file, but the error would reference
the entire WindowsSystem directory. So we went
ahead and did another fresh installation of WindowsXP,
set up the system with the latest drivers and BIOS, and gave the overclocking one more attempt.
This time we were able to increase the Bus to 140MHz.
and complete a round of scores in SiSoft Sandra, but
when we rebooted the system, the error reappeared.
At this point we're not
sure why the system is so sensitive to overclocking,
but when we factor in how low the bus speed was set
when it did fail, it didn't make much sense to
continue. Perhaps this is an isolated issue with
the SS51G, or an issue with the hard drive or SiS
chipset, we're not sure. However, it's
difficult to conclude
that the fault lies solely with the SS51G. We
can't help but wonder if the outcome may have been
different if voltage adjustments were available in the
we're going to forego any more overclocking attempts
and focus on the system's stock performance using the
onboard AGP graphics and with a GeForce4 Ti4600
Performance With SiSoft Sandra 2002
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. We ran each
test using both onboard AGP graphics and the GeForce4
Ti4600. There are two major effects to consider
installed the Ti4600. First, the SS51G reserves 32MB of onboard memory for video
when using the onboard AGP, so adding a video card to
the system has the same effect as adding 32MB of
memory to the motherboard. Second, with less
graphics data being sent to the system memory, more
bandwidth is available for for other processes,
increasing overall memory performance. Lets see what the
SS51G has to offer with both configurations...
With both the CPU and Multimedia tests, we saw no
noticeable difference in performance. Where we
really expected to see a difference was with the
remaining two tests.
With the File System benchmark, we saw a decent
increase of roughly 400 points with the Ti4600.
This may be considered too close to call by some, but
if it is a true gain resulting from the addition 32MB
of memory, we're looking at a 2.3% increase.
In the Memory benchmark, however, the increased
bandwidth made for a nice increase in the system's
memory performance. With the Ti4600 installed,
we saw a 4.5% boost in the Integer test, while the
Floating Point test posted a gain of 4.6%.
Clearly the effects of adding a video card to the
SS51G are significant, and this is only the
start. Once we get to the gaming tests, the difference
should become much more apparent.
More Performance With PC Mark 2002
CPU, MEM and
Next up we
have MadOnion's new PCMark2002
benchmarking suite. This program runs a series
of 62 separate tests to score a system's performance
in three key areas: CPU, Memory and Hard Drive.
is shaping up to be the first mini barebones system
that has the potential to compete with full-sized
high-performance systems. The system also posted
nominal gains across the board with the Ti4600 video
card installed. Clearly the memory bandwidth
walked away with the most improvement, tipping the
scales with a 5% increase.
Some More Benchmarking and Final Thoughts