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  • henan - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    I liked your article, even if it is something I would not buy unless I had lots of money to spare and wanted an extra toy. I like having the possibilities and as many of us I often install or just play around with a device, wich would not be as easy with an SFF.

    About that LPT port, as some suggest shuttle offers the addons. Another option would simply be to use a USB to LPT converter. About 20 dollars here in sweden. Why not a printserver? Many do have a home network setup. Of course you could spend that on a new printer, but why not use a printer that works? The converter will make it last until it finally brakes down (the enviroment issue...). Call me old fashioned, but I still use one!

    /Henrik of Stockholm
  • willndowed - Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - link

    I've got a shuttle SN45G system w/ a Athlon2800+, 1G of Ram... it was one with the 8X AGP port and I've got a 128M ATI 9600 video card in it.

    It's getting a little on the aged side, about a year old or so, but I've had nothing but good luck with it. It's been a great little machine. It's pretty good on overclocking, it' lets me OC the CPU to 3200+. It's got the ICE heat pipes that does a pretty darned good job of keep it cool.

    I've done a few things to it, put a couple small 12v headlight tinting lights into it for case l ights and put a clear acrylic case on it. I've also put Battlefield on the front behind the acrylic front which gives it a little of a 3d look to it.

    The real plus to this system is LAN parties. It's got a bag that fits it, so instead of making 3 or 4 trips hauling a 20 pound case huge monitor and a ton of other stuff... I load it into a bag, strap the keyboard and mouse to it, grab my monitor and go.

    For the last year it's been a great machine...

    ... though I am going to build me a huge monster, this little system I'm going to keep it around.
  • RedWolf - Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - link

    Nice article, Jarred. I completely understand about the little ones and the need to put the pc on the desk. I acquired an Antec Aria a month ago (traded a lanboy/mobo on the forums for it) and have been trying to make it better for high-end gaming.

    After lots of modding I got a BFG 6800 OC. Well, the 6800 was pretty loud, even at 50% speed. I bought an Artic Cooling VGA Silencer and it doesn't quite fit.

    So, I gave up on the Aria as a high-end gaming case and will be moving my wifes component's into it.

    I am looking into smaller atx cases now that have 120mm fans AND have a locking door on the front. That should keep little fingers away from the reset and power buttons. I guess I should have just taken my Lanboy and put it on my desk.

    Anyway, I look forward to the SFF roundup you guys are doing. Don't forget to include the Aria and maybe even the Hornet.
  • flachschippe - Monday, December 13, 2004 - link

    Talking about trends going to and fro:
    The Apple II of about 1978 *had* expansion slots. There was an enormous number of different cards available. It was said that the IBM PC's design
    copied this aspect. Surprisingly, the first Apple Macintosh, of about 1984, was not user-upgradeable at all.
  • Phantronius - Monday, December 13, 2004 - link

    As nice as SFF are, they simply just won't work for me. As frequently as I upgrade my equipment, my overhead costs and assache to upgrade using SFF would be a nightmare.

    I use Shuttle as workstations at work and build them for clients but for my gaming stations, I'll stick with ATX for a good long time.
  • flachschippe - Monday, December 13, 2004 - link

    Talking about trends going to and fro:
    The Apple II of about 1978 *had* expansion slots. There was an enormous number of different cards available. It was said that the IBM PC's design
    copied this aspect. Surprisingly, the first Apple Macintosh, of about 1984, was not user-upgradeable at all.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, December 12, 2004 - link

    Gioron - I just didn't want to be too hard on Shuttle when I haven't tried all of the other cases. The ASUS didn't give me any trouble, but maybe that was just luck, as I was using a different drive in that unit. I figure that many of the models with the drive covers are going to have some issues, and while Lian Li may have gotten it right, I haven't ever used one of their cases so I can't speak from personal experience.

    Anyway, it was about 10 minutes of work to get the drive positioned where it needed to be, so while annoying at the time it isn't a problem after assembly. Frequent upgraders would really have issues with most of the SFFs I've tried.
  • Gioron - Sunday, December 12, 2004 - link

    err, correction: "adjusting the screws with the case open _and the computer turned on_" Reply
  • Gioron - Sunday, December 12, 2004 - link

    Since I have an sn95g5 the one thing I was looking for (and found) in your article was mention of that dang CD drive button. I had the same problems getting the drive properly aligned, and personally feel that the tolerance is actually much less than 1/16" (though that might vary with the model of drive that you're installing). I eventually resorted to adjusting the screws with the case open, which is not exactly a good thing.

    In regards to your "there is no perfect solution" line about this, go find a lian-li case and one of its universal drive covers. The button is _under_ the drive plate, giving direct pressure to the CD's button and a much longer travel length and tolerance for misajustment. I see no reason (well, aside from possible patents or something) that Shuttle couldn't have coppied the same basic layout and put the drive button below and eliminated the funky lever system thats eating up most of the button travel distance and making the drive placement so difficult.

    Of course, aside from that one minor pet peeve I'm happy with my SFF case, and feel the advantages are more than worth the limitations.
  • IceWindius - Saturday, December 11, 2004 - link


    You gain some, and you loose some. Either use the onboard sound or stick with ATX.
  • archcommus87 - Friday, December 10, 2004 - link

    Sounds good to me, looking forward to the review!

    My main issue is two expansion slots, does not allow for sound card and TV tuner.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 10, 2004 - link

    You'll have to pardon a few errors and omissions on my part. As I stated in the article, this is my first time using such a system. Combo floppy/flash drives are a possibility, as are external devices. There are *numerous* add-on parts available for the Shuttle XPC line, including WiFi and LPT. The main point that you simply can't fit as much stuff in a SFF case as you can in an ATX case still stands, but you have to take that point with the general tone of my article: you don't *NEED* to have that much stuff inside your case - at least, most of us don't.

    The upcoming SFF roundup will try to address such concerns as the integrated audio solutions, heat output, noise output (measured with an actual dB SPL device), case temperatures, upgradeability and optional components, etc.; and of course, price will also play a role. This was a first look/first encounter article and not a formal review. This is more of a "why should *anyone* consider an SFF in the first place" article. In two words: noise, size.

    Comments in this thread are certainly noted and I will do my best to take them into account in the formal reviews. Thanks!
  • darkrequiem - Friday, December 10, 2004 - link

    Contrary to the author's statement, you CAN have a flash card reader, floppy, LPT, wireless, etc. in the Shuttle system. I have an SN45GV2, and I bought Shuttle's 802.11G module, which uses a USB header on the motherboard, and I got a Mitsumi floppy drive, flash card reader combo drive that uses the external 3.5" bay, and the card reader connects to the motherboard's other USB header. The motherboard has a header for an LPT port, and Shuttle sells a ribbon cable to connect it to a punch-out on the back of the case. This leaves me room for my NEC 2510A DVD burner, a 120GB ATA133 Maxtor drive, a Radeon 9800Pro 256MB AGP card, and a currently free PCI slot that will eventually be home to an ATI HDTV Wonder. For the curious, I'm running an Athlon XP 3200+ and 1GB of Corsair TwinX DDR400 with 2-2-2-5 timings. Reply
  • Phantronius - Friday, December 10, 2004 - link


    Depends on peoples need. In my case, I use my Audigy 2 as onboard sound for the Shuttles still takes up to many CPU cycles.

    You cannot use any other PSU except Shuttles mini PSU and no other party makes PSU's that will fit inside shuttles case. You COULD hook up an ATX PSU to the outside, but then its gonna look like hell. Shuttles do not need large PSU's as you can only put in so much into them.

    Floppies are only really needed for BIOS flashing , RAID installations and other applications, again, it boils down to users needs.

    If you need pics of the inside of the SN95G go here and look at the pictures to the left
  • archcommus87 - Friday, December 10, 2004 - link

    Thing is with Shuttles, since there are only two slots in the back, and since we'd all have AGP or PCI-E video cards, we can only have one PCI card. Many of us have a TV tuner. So...what to do with sound? Must you use an onboard solution?

    How cramped is it inside exactly? I'm sure some pics will help with that when the review comes around.

    Can you use any PSU? Of course not. Can you buy ones individually that are the right size?

    And, back to the floppy drive issue, you can use a jump drive for transferring small files from place to place, and a bootable CD for Memtest. What about flashing BIOSes? Can that be done without a floppy? And, if so, do we need our floppies at all?
  • nostriluu - Friday, December 10, 2004 - link

    Jarred, thanks for your comment. Anandtech is a pretty influential site, perhaps they could pick up a serious green edge before we are drowning in all the hardware you made us buy. ;) Lessee.. performance in games, databases, heat, noise, and company environmental committment, yes I think that works. Difficult at first but leading edge.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 09, 2004 - link

    My personal take is that most people that buy a SFF are going to get rid of the entire system when they're ready to upgrade rather than just replacing components. In fact, I think a lot more people do that with ATX systems than most frequent upgraders think. About the only time I swap motherboards within a case is when a motherboard dies an early death; otherwise, I'm more likely to just buy a new case and sell the existing system. Granted, SFF cases cost a lot more than an ATX case, but when you really look at what's included it isn't such a terrible price to pay.

    As far as heat is concerned, we will be attempting to address that in our SFF roundup by including a more modern graphics card and running some system stress tests. I've played quite a few games and have not noticed any heat issues yet, but when paired with a 6800 GT or X800 Pro (or faster) graphics card, it may cause the fans to run at a higher RPM.

    Nostriluu, the environment certainly can use some protection. I can assure you, however, that my introduction had nothing to do with clearing a guilty conscience. It was just an itroductory paragraph - when you're experiencing writer's block and trying to get an article written, you never know what will come out. :)
  • Andyvan - Thursday, December 09, 2004 - link

    Note that micro-ATX based SFF have 1 AGP and 3 PCI slots.

    -- Andyvan
  • archcommus87 - Thursday, December 09, 2004 - link

    Also, with an SFF, how likely are you to be able to buy a new mainboard but keep the current case if you ever want to upgrade?

    And how much of an issue is heat really when gaming?
  • archcommus87 - Thursday, December 09, 2004 - link

    Bootable ISO CD images. Sounds good, but is it as convenient as a floppy? What about flashing a BIOS?

    Who here doesn't have one?
  • nostriluu - Thursday, December 09, 2004 - link

    OK, I realize this is going to get erased as a troll, but its not meant to be one.

    The first paragraph on this article seems to be trying to clear people's conscience on the issue of e-waste.

    Its undeniable that there are huge cycles that are our of our control, but there is also an impact from e-waste that creates minor disasters and disease for people around the world.

    Anandtech could try to be a responsible site by acknowledging this factor and encouraging efforts, such as "cradle to grave" enviromental consideration for hazardous(!) material, recyling for needy organizations, encourage vendors to "green" their products (which is already happening) and so on.

    Ignoring this issue, or trying to dismiss it, puts Anandtech into a category of conscienceless consumerism that makes the world a worse place to live.

    Tech enthusiasm and responsible living can go hand in hand, otherwise you can only consider yourself greedy, and tech enthusiasm becomes a form of putting ones head in the sand.

    And yes, individuals are responsible for messes that are created.
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, December 09, 2004 - link

    #18- "We all run Memtest, of course, so how can we escape the floppy?"

    They provide bootable ISO CD images you can download and burn, so you don't need a floppy.
  • Saist - Thursday, December 09, 2004 - link

    Just wanted to state that I picked up Solteks EQ3801 and have been quite pleased by the case...

    What concerns me about SFF units is the power supply... or rather, lackthere of.
  • archcommus87 - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    Not here.

    My computer's loud, because I run all four of my fans at top speed to keep temps okay with my 467 MHz overclock. But after awhile you just get used to it and it really doesn't bother me anymore.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    20 - Are you listening to them on a Windows machine? I've tried them on three computers (a 1.13 GHz P3, a 2.8C P4, and my own Athlon 64 3200+) and didn't have any issues. They should be relatively quiet, and the quality isn't great but should be sufficient. Anyone else having issues with the WAV files? Reply
  • Avalon - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    All the sound wavs sound extremely distorted, like bombs going off in WW2 :D Reply
  • snowman - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I just posted the following Review on New Egg's site this week. Looks like we're on the same page.

    Snowman,12/4/2004 7:22:20 AM

    I'm a 55 year old Extreme Gamer. I've been building gaming rigs since before it was cool. I build a new box every year and, with my experience, I try to beat Max PC's Dream Machine. My wife gets my old rig. She was OK with it, but she always said they were too big, noisy, lit-up, and intimidating. So I built her one of these for Christmas.

    I was concerned that it might be very difficult because I wear a XXL glove size and still can palm a basketball. All I can say is "WOW". The quality is first rate, instructions are easy to understand and the design is superior. I really took my time and had it up and runing with XP Pro w/SP2 installed in under 3 hours. Everything is well thought out and, if you take your time, goes together in a logical manner. The onboard sound is even good for all but gamers. Nothing got scratched during assembly, because I took my time and used my head. This was by far the most trouble free build ever.

    What impressed me the most was the quiet. You can hardly hear it. The heatsink and fan that comes with it is high quality (TT) and quiet too. Sure, I put an Antec slot fan in for more air flow but it is still very quiet. Boot time is quick. This is a dream and she just loves it. That was the goal.

    AMD Athlon 64 3400+
    1 Gig Kingston Hyper-X 3200
    eVGA 6800 GT
    Lite-On 52x32x52x16 Combo drive
    Samsung FDD
    200 gb Seagate HD SATA
    Antec slot fan

    A quick note. I tried installing 2 WD Raptors in Raid 0. It worked fine, but the noise from the drives was distracting and louder than anything in the case. 1 SATA 200 GB Seagate did the trick and preserved the quiet.

    I highly recommend this product. It won't take a 6800 Ultra and it does get hot during gaming sessions of more than 1 hour with Doom3, Far Cry, Impossible Creatures, etc. If your goal is to build a super fast, super quiet, high quality computer about the size of a 4 slice toaster this is definately for you.
  • archcommus87 - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I have looked at Shuttles and other SFFs in the past, however I noticed that, although they have two PCI slots, do they not only have TWO expansion slots in the back? So wouldn't that only allow for a video card and one PCI card? That automatically counts me out, as I must have my Audigy 2 and TV tuner. But that's just now, with my computer in my basement, where there's no space for a TV. In college, where I won't even have cable in my dorm, I won't need a TV tuner, and may even have onboard audio. In such a case I guess an SFF could fit me okay, as I only use one HDD, one optical, and one floppy.

    As far as companies not letting go of older tech, yes, that bothers me sometimes, as well. I really didn't think parallel ports have been necessary for awhile now for most users. For floppies, well, when I put together my current system this past summer, I DID at first try to not have one, but I ended up giving in and putting one in, because I needed it for BIOS flashes and for running Memtest. We all run Memtest, of course, so how can we escape the floppy?

    Still, I don't like the idea of hardly being able to fit a 6800 Ultra, and having a hotter computer, and it being harder to assemble the thing because of space. I always like a roomy interior. So, perhaps I will always prefer the roomier, more robust case for my main computer, even though I don't use a ton of extra features. However, for a kitchen, living room, or HTPC, an SFF sounds like a great idea.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I have noted the availability of a parallel port connection on the last page. This was not meant as a formal review of either product - just a first impression of use with the equipment that was included with the box. The roundup will include all the details about front and rear connections as well as expansion options, so have no fear.

    I haven't actually used a SFF before, as I mentioned, and I actually agree with the sentiments of Wernst (if that wasn't clear from reading the article). The whole point of the "history lesson" at the beginning was to show how large cases really *aren't* necessary these days.

    Regarding the heat issue, the fans in the SFF cases can actually spin up to very high RPMs if the case gets too hot, so I don't think it will be any more of a problem than with ATX cases. Unfortunately, since it's winter now, I don't have a good way to simulate 95+ F temperatures in my house. (Well, maybe not too unfortunate...)

    Finally, regarding the "patience" required to use an older P3 1.13 GHz: trust me, things have changed enough now that a 1.13 GHz really does struggle to keep up with certain common tasks these days. Many HTML sites use dozens of tables on each page, and rendering tables really taxes the CPU. There's a forum I frequent where page loads for longer threads (15+ posts) on the 1.13 GHz take 10 seconds or more to complete. You can live with it, but when you're just going back to a thread that has one new post, a 10 second delay is irritating. In comparison, an a P4 2.8 and an Athlon 64 3200+, threads all load and render in about 2 seconds. Playing DivX or Xvid movies on a P3 can also have problems - the audio will often get out of synch due to the processor being pegged at 100%. Anyway, as I said, you *can* live with a 1 GHz machine, but there are going to be some things that require patience.
  • wernst - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I've always built beige boxes, but my latest machine is an SFF from Soltek. It is small, quiet, easy to transport to LAN parties or gaming conventions (I can bring it on the airplane as a carry-on item too, complete with its own backback that came with the system), as fast as anything I see at a gaming convention, and it looks nice to boot.

    The "lack of expandability" statement always bothers me. Now that we have USB2 and Firewire, the vast majority of expansion can (and does) take place outside of the computer case. I mean, I have a high-end AGP video card, a SB Audigy PCI card, and room for three drives (1 HDD and 2 Optical, or 2HDD and 1 Optical), and a floppy drive in this little SFF case. What more do I need these days inside the box? I don't need a SCSI card any more, or a RAID controller, a silly tape-backup system wired into the floppy cables, or multiple parallel ports, since USB and FireWire handle all these things wonderfully. Networking is built-in too.

    The other argument against SFF that I always wonder about is the "I can just get a new mainboard and reuse the case for upgrades." OK, that's true, and I have done it many times in the past, but not lately. Lately, I'd rather spend a few extra dollars on a new case for the new maiboard so that I can have TWO comptuers that actually work at the same time. Instant LAN party! A test machine for troubleshooting! A spare box a friend can use while I'm on mine!

    The main reason you don't see more people clamoring for SFF boxes is because the average PC Consumer doesn't know about them. When clients see my SFF system, they tell me they want me to build them one the next time they need something new. When Dell starts selling such systems, I guarantee that people will start wanting them too.
  • fitten - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I have had two Shuttle SN41G2s for almost two years now and I like them a lot. However, for my next SFF build, I'm going to go with an Antec Aria case and a microATX motherboard because it gives more options than the barebones SFFs while being only a little larger (but still plenty small enough to carry to our frequent mini-LAN parties).

    As a sidenote, my wife really likes her SN41G2, even more than the A64 3000+ I built for her a few months ago (mid-tower case), just because the Shuttle is "cute" and small.
  • jediknight - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    Maybe it's just me, but personally I don't find the idea of spending more money for something that's less expandable appealing.

    Certainly, for some a SFF case is a godsend.. but for me, it's the big 'ol beige case or bust :->
  • Scott333 - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    For the roundup, please mention the number of front and back USB ports, not that Anandtech would leave it out ;)

    My only complaint about the article was the description of the lacking Parallel port (like ieya). It's practically a non issue for most people, and in a sense I have distaste for computer makers that insist on essentially useless legacy support. For example, I want my next PC to not have a 3.5 inch floppy drive nor a cd-rom, so even if they came free I wouldn't buy it.

    The option for people who need it is exactly what they should have. Besides, you can get USB printers for free (plus 50 dollars for ink of course :).

    Then again, I'm sure most readers wouldn't see your comment as a true fault of the Shuttle, just that I agree with Ieya, its very far from a deal killer.

    Good article, looking forward to the details.

  • nastyemu25 - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    jkostans, software has changed since 200mhz was top of the line... and it has also changed since 1.13ghz was top of the line. i use office suite 2003 apps at work on my p4 2ghz that run significantly faster than they do on my 1 ghz tb at home. Reply
  • jkostans - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I'm sorry but if you feel you need patience to use a 1.13Ghz P3 computer then you've got some problems. You must have been going out of your mind when the pentium pro 200Mhz was top of the line....... I use a 600Mhz SPARC processor at work everyday and it's no slower for browsing than my XP 3000+ back home. Reply
  • ieya - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    As to the lack of parallel port on the Shuttle SFF, it's almost certainly an option; I built my mum a Shuttle box recently, using the nForce2 based one with integrated graphics.

    It, too, lacks a parallel port (interestingly enough the newer and higher-end SN84G4, which I built my dad's XPC around, does have a parallel port), however there's a cutout at the top of the case for one, and it's a cheaply available option from the same suppliers as you get the Shuttle XPCs on. Basically a parallel port with a cable which plugs onto a header on the mobo ...

    So basically just to note that the lack of parallel port needn't be a 'deal killer' on the XPCs :)
  • athrap - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    One thing I want to be addressed in the next article on SFF is the heat issue. I live in a HOT area and my computer room does not have air-conditiong. Even with a normal case, heat builup becomes a problem here in summer. Therefore, I want to know how much difference is there between an ATX case and SFF case as far as cooling is concerned. Reply
  • bandrade - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I'm also looking forward to the roundup. Especially if it includes high end SFF with 939 sockets and the best mid-level ones according to price vs. performance. This will definitely help me decide what to get. Reply
  • IceWindius - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I really wish Shuttle would get with fixing the Cold boot, SATA and incorrect temp problems with the SN95G Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    Thanks for the comments! I believe the front image is now fixed - I missed the standard format size initially and had to tweak it.

    If this wasn't entirely clear, I *really* like the change from a large ATX case to a SFF. The Shuttle in particular is really sleek. Now I just need to get around to the actually replacing most of my furniture. Brown particle-board desks that have seen better days with a hodge-podge of couches and chairs - it's pretty bad. (And we won't even talk about all the computer boxes and parts around the house.) :)
  • carldon - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    Nice article, Jarred. I enjoyed it and it was a welcome change from the benchmarks we see regularly (which I enjoy too). I wish we see more articles like this and the earlier Mac experience article.

  • carldon - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

  • CasmirRadon - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I too am looking forward to building a sff system myself someday when I have the $$$ for it. I just built a new system a couple months back, so it will probably be a while before I can justify that kind of purchase. But that little shuttle is very attractive. Reply
  • klah - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I don't see the icon on the front page, just an empty box with the alt-text.
  • Andyvan - Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - link

    I'm really looking forward to the roundup, as I'm thinking of replacing my current computer with something smaller and quieter.

    I've also been looking at micro-ATX cases, such as the Antec Aria. That would allow replacing the motherboard but keeping the case.

    -- Andyvan

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