Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1142

Shuttle invented the Small Form Factor computer, and each new generation of the Shuttle SFF seems to improve on the already capable design. When we last visited SFF systems about 6 months ago, we were intrigued by Shuttle’s design for a Corporate SFF. This time around, Shuttle delivered an SFF that seems to be targeted at the Intel Computer Enthusiast, much like the nForce2 version tested in January was targeted at the Athlon Enthusiast.

Everyone seems to love the cute little SFF machines that seem to take such a small amount of space and actually pay attention to what quiet means. However, most would assume that there are compromises in performance with these machines. It looks as if Shuttle is out to prove that you don’t have to give up anything to have a small, quiet computer.

What we have is a small SB65G2 based on the latest Intel 865 chipset with support for any current Intel processor, including the 800FSB C series. Add to that: Dual-Channel memory support, an 8X AGP slot instead of on-board graphics, 8 USB 2.0 ports, 2 Firewire, Serial ATA, and CMedia 5.1 audio. With all these up-to-the-minute features, you have a machine that makes no apologies to anyone in the current marketplace. It just happens to also be very small and very quiet. All of this is built into the elegant Aluminum G2 chassis that makes this tiny computer resemble a jewel more than a computer.

 System Specifications
   Shuttle SB65G2
Expansion Bays (5.25"/3.5"/Hidden) 1/1/1
Front USB Ports 2
Rear USB Ports 4
Internal USB Ports 2
Front Firewire Ports 1 Mini
Rear Firewire Ports 1 Standard
On-Board Parallel Port N
SPDIF Rear Optical SPDIF In & Out
Front Audio Jacks 3 Mini
Rear Audio Jacks 3 Mini
Number of Fans (including CPU/chipset 1
Power Supply Enhance 200W

UPDATE 9/10/2003: Shuttle has advised AnandTech that the specs of the SB65G2 have been improved with the release version of the SB65G2. The final SB65G2 has these changes:

220W PSU (instead of 200W)
Black anodized chassis
Integrated Wireless (802.11b) Module

The MSRP is around $350.

Shuttle SB65G2: G2 Chassis

The SB65G2 chassis front is finished in the brushed aluminum used for the case shell. The G2 design is very familiar, as we’ve seen it in our last 2 reviews of Shuttle SFF systems in January and March. In this incarnation, we find just about every port you could ever want on the front of the system — 2 USB, mini Firewire, and duplicate audio jacks. The Blue System ON and Orange hard disk activity lights are very easy to see and distinguish in this design.

The rear of the chassis is much like other Shuttle XPC designs. We were pleased to see both SPDIF optical in and out ports included for hook-up to a Dolby Digital setup. Shuttle was wise to include a full set of audio connectors on both the front and rear panels. Different configurations work best with different arrangements, and this SB65G2 design is very flexible and easily adapted to your needs.

The brushed aluminum shell include air inlet grills low on both sides of the chassis. These do help in improving cooling.

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As you can see in our open view of the chassis, we have loaded the system with a CD Recorder/DVD combo, floppy, and 120Gb hard drive.

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Even with all of these peripherals installed, the interior is still well-organized and reasonably uncluttered, especially considering the small size of the system.

The rear fan that you see in the picture above is a temperature-controlled variable speed unit, with two modes that are selectable in the BIOS. It is part of the familiar and very effective Shuttle I.C.E. heatpipe/rear fan arrangement.

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If you would like to know more about how the Shuttle cooling system works, check out our earlier Shuttle Review.

One of the more notable points of the Shuttle design is the ability to access both the AGP and PCI slot even when the system is fully loaded.

Most of the installation steps on the SB65G2 are familiar and well-described in the Shuttle manuals. Mounting an AGP or PCI card, however, is a bit unique unless you have used a Shuttle SFF before. As you can see in the above photo, 2 screws secure the slots. You must remove both screws and flip up the hinged top cover by pushing out from the inside of the case, just above the slots. You can then easily add or remove a PCI or AGP card. While this is not the most intuitive arrangement we have seen, it is actually a very clever solution to the problem of space in a SFF design.

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No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you, because that is our top-line ATI Radeon 9800 PRO mounted in the 8X AGP slot with a Molex power connector. With a 200 watt power supply, we were more than a little concerned about whether the Shuttle could handle a loaded system with a 3.0 GHz CPU and the ATI card. The answer is: “yes, it can”.

Shuttle SB65G2: FB65 Motherboard

 Motherboard Specifications
CPU Interface Socket-478
Chipset Intel 82865PE MCH (North Bridge)
Intel ICH5 (South Bridge)
Bus Speeds 100 to 355 MHz (in 1MHz increments)
AGP/PCI Speeds Auto and Fixed 66/33, 77/36, 80/40
Core Voltages Supported 1.10V to 1.85V (in 0.0125V increments)
AGP Voltages Supported Auto, 1.55, 1.60, 1.65
DRAM Voltages Supported Auto, 2.65, 2.70, 2.75
Memory Slots 2 x 184-pin Dual-Channel DDR DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 1 AGP 8X Slot
1 PCI Slot
Onboard RAID None
Onboard USB 2.0/IEEE-1394 Eight USB 2.0 supported through South Bridge
VIA VT6307 FireWire Controller
Onboard LAN Realtek 8100B 10/100
Onboard Audio CMedia 9397A 5.1 Digital Audio
With SPDIF Optical In & Out
Onboard Serial ATA Two Standard SATA connectors via Intel ICH5 Southbridge

As in any computer system, the motherboard controls the features and options available on the system. Comparing the SFF Shuttle FB65 motherboard to any recently reviewed Springdale, you will see that the SB65G2 provides all the contemporary features you will find on a full-size board. The only exception here is that Shuttle did not enable any of the undocumented PAT features that we have seen used on some full-size boards. Perhaps that is part of the reason why the Shuttle is such an incredibly stable system. As you will also see in our Performance tests, the missing PAT schemes also do not affect performance nearly as much as you might think.

The only concession we see to the small motherboard size is the 2-dimm limit, but the 2-dimm slots are dual-channel to make the most of the 865PE chipset. While memory is limited to a maximum of 2GB, it is doubtful you would want to use more memory in this small, quiet system.

Here is another inside view of the SB65G2.

You can clearly see the dimm slots on the left and the 4 coils used in the 3-phase power design. Certainly, Shuttle has not skimped in any way on the power regulation on the FB65 motherboard. This is part of the reason why the SB65G2 seemed to handle anything we installed in the system despite the tiny 200-watt power supply.

The biggest surprises on the motherboard were the overclocking options. The vCore, vDimm, and vAGP ranges are what you expect on a good full-size motherboard, and not on a SFF board.

Shuttle SB65G2: BIOS and Overclocking

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Shuttle uses the familiar Phoenix-Award Bios in the SB65G2 system. Most will be very comfortable with the menu/submenu arrangement that has been used for many years.

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Most of the submenus and options are familiar, including a full PC Health submenu with Smart Fan adjustments and a complete readout of fan speeds, temperatures, and power levels. As you can see in the screen capture above, Shuttle also provides much better help for setting these options than you usually find.

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You might not expect full control of memory timings on a SFF system, but Shuttle has provided excellent options for tweaking your memory for best performance.

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Overclocking controls were a surprise in the SB65G2 BIOS. The very complete ranges would do justice to any Intel 865PE motherboard, and include FSB to 355, vCore, vDimm, and vAGP.

FSB Overclocking Results

The last system you would ever think about overclocking would be a Small Form Factor system like the Shuttle. You buy this type of system for the small size and quiet unobtrusive operation. Since Shuttle appears determined to prove you don’t have to give up anything in a SFF system, we decided to take them at their word. The following setup was used on the Shuttle SB65G2 SFF for FSB overclocking:

Front Side Bus Overclocking Testbed
Processor: Intel 3.0 800FSB Pentium 4
CPU Voltage: 1.525V (default)
Cooling: Shuttle I.C.E. heatpipe/fan
Memory: 2x512MB Mushkin PC3500 Level II DS
Power Supply: Enhance SFF 200W

While we could boot into Windows XP at overclocked speeds as high as 240 FSB at default voltage, the highest stable FSB overclocking we could achieve at default voltage was 228 (912FSB). This translates into an astounding 3.4+ GHz speed in this little system with a 200-watt power supply. This 3.0 CPU is known to perform as high as 245 on other Intel motherboards, but keep in mind that our Intel testbed has a 470W power supply. The limitation is clearly the power supply, as we would expect, but the fact we could overclock to 228 on this loaded SFF box is a testament to the solid Shuttle design.

At 3.42GHZ, we ran the machine overnight, stress-tested, ran benchmarks, and still could not get the system to fail or the automatic setup of the fan to kick into high speed. With a loaded SB65G2, 1 GB of memory, 120GB hard drive, CD burner, and an ATI Radeon 9800 PRO all drawing power, consider these excellent results to be the worst overclocking that you are likely to see on this machine. A card drawing less current or a slower CPU will make fewer demands on the system and allow an even higher overclock.

Shuttle SB65G2: The Test

Since the SB65G2 even does away with on-board video, we were able to run our full suite of benchmarks with our standard ATI Radeon 9800 PRO video card. Yes, this is the card that supposedly requires a large power supply for best performance; and yes, this is a card that requires auxiliary power. However, even with a loaded system, there was still a spare Molex connector for the video card, and the system ran cool and stable even with our standard 3.0GHz Pentium 4 as our CPU.

 Performance Test Configuration
Processor(s): Intel 3.0 800FSB Pentium 4
RAM: 2 x 512MB Mushkin PC3500 Level II DS
2 x 256MB Corsair 3200LL SS
Hard Drive(s): Maxtor 120GB 7200 RPM (8MB Buffer)
Western Digital 120GB 7200 RPM (8MB Buffer)
Bus Master Drivers: Intel INF Update v5.00.1012
Intel IAA for 875P RAID not installed for consistency of Test Results
Video Card(s): ATI Radeon 9800 PRO 128MB (AGP 8X)
Video Drivers: ATI Catalyst 3.6
Operating System(s): Windows XP Professional SP1
Motherboards: Shuttle XPC SB65G2 (865PE) @ 200.5 MHz
Asus P4C800-E (875P) @ 200.5 MHz
ABIT IS7-G (865PE)
ABIT IC7-G (875P)
Gigabyte 8KNXP (875P)

Recent performance tests on Intel 875/865 boards used 2x512MB Mushkin PC3500 Level II Double-bank memory. Previous tests of Intel motherboards used 2x256MB Corsair 3200LL Ver. 1.1.

All performance tests were run with the ATI 9800 PRO 128MB video card with AGP Aperture set to 128MB with Fast Write enabled. Resolution in all benchmarks is 1024x768x32.

Additions to Performance Tests

We have standardized on ZD Labs Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2003 and ZD Labs Business Winstone 2002 for system benchmarking. We are no longer reporting SysMark2002 results as part of our standard benchmark suite.

Game Benchmarks

We have added Gun Metal DirectX Benchmark 2 from Yeti Labs as a standard game benchmark. We are also evaluating the new X2 Benchmark, which includes Transform and Lighting effects as part of the standard benchmarks. Results are reported here for reference. Jedi Knight II has been dropped form our standard Benchmark Suite. We were forced to use different patches for operation on Athlon and Intel Pentium 4, which made cross-platform comparison difficult, if not impossible. In addition, Opteron/Athlon64 requires a 3rd patching variation for benchmarking. JK2 uses a Quake engine, and we are continuing to use Quake3 as a standard benchmark for the time being.

Gaming and Media Encoding Performance

High End Workstation Performance - SPECviewperf 7.0

Content Creation and General Usage Performance

The Shuttle SB65G2 looks on paper like a regular Intel Springdale system with no compromises due to its small size. In test results, it behaves the same way. Our benchmarks here are comparing the SB65G2 to the fastest 865 and 875 motherboards that we have tested. Despite that and the fact that all the other systems use PAT, the Shuttle is completely competitive with the best 865/875 motherboards we have tested.

There were a few surprises in our benchmarks, like the SB65G2 setting the new high score for Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2003, and the excellent performance in the newer Gun Metal 2 and X2 benchmarks. Overall, the Benchmark performance of the Shuttle XPC SB65G2 varied from the same in the best cases to 6% less in the worst cases.

Shuttle SB65G2: Noise Level

With the large performance leaps in Shuttle’s SB65G2 come more heat, and the need for more cooling. Does this mean that Shuttle had to give up some of their famous quiet operation as a trade-off to performance?

To test this, we measured sound levels of the SB65G2 on a typical computer desk. Sound Level was measured on all 4 sides, 4" from the chassis. Our new Sound Level meter is capable of measuring as low as 35db, using either A or C weighting with Fast or Slow Dynamic Response. Since A weighting and Fast response are most comparable to how we actually hear, these settings were used for measuring Sound Level. Results from the Sound Level meter are reported in 0.1db increments.

The SB65G2 was loaded as you might equip a top-level system with space-saving in mind. We had installed a 3.0 P4, 1 GB DDR400 memory, Liteon combo CD burner/DVD, a floppy drive, 120GB Maxtor hard drive, and a fanless ATI Radeon 9600 video card. Since we will be comparing these Noise measurements with other SFF systems, it would not be fair to compare the SB65G2 with a 9800 PRO to systems that will likely have on-board video and no fans. The video card substitute was our only change to the system as tested.

We measured noise from the middle of each one of the four sides, 4" from the chassis.

With the fan on its low setting, the noise level from the SB65G2 is as low or lower than anything we measured in our SFF Roundup in March. This is very good news, considering the increased performance in this SB65G2 system. LOW level is the normal operation setting even with the 3.0 Pentium 4, a loaded system, and overclocking. At no point did the Shuttle get warm enough to kick in the high speed fan setting.

The SB65G2 is noticeably louder at the high speed setting, but it is still quieter than the same measurements in our last SFF Roundup. Shuttle has done a wonderful job of moving to the highest performance levels with the SB65G2 while still maintaining quiet operation. It’s a tribute to the excellent design of the I.C.E. “heat pipe” cooling system that the system remains cool and quiet, even with our 3.0 800FSB CPU, and even when it’s overclocked to 3.4+ GHz.

Final Words

The evolution of the Small Form Factor systems has been interesting to watch since AnandTech first looked at a Shuttle SFF in late 2001. That early system was a Shuttle Socket 370, and was as different in performance from the XPC SB65G2 as you can imagine. The early reviews talked about how cute, handy and quiet the SFF systems were, and we forgave the less than stellar performance as a necessary compromise for the small size.

That’s quite a change to the SB65G2 we are evaluating today. This system is being compared to the very best 865/875 systems recently reviewed, and it is holding its own against them. We even evaluated overclocking a system that’s barely larger than a toaster — a system already running a 3.0 800FSB CPU with 1GB of dual-channel memory and the current power hungry top-of-the line ATI Radeon 9800 PRO. Our toaster-size SFF overclocked just fine. In every test we ran, it was as stable, cool, and quiet as you could want in a computer.

We have now reached the point where we will compare the SFF to any PC we test, which means you will have to forget thinking about the SFF as a cute compromise. As we have clearly shown in the benchmarks, the SB65G2 is a great system compared to any 865/875 system. It is still cute, maybe even elegant, but we can no longer consider it compromised.

The other area where Shuttle has done a stellar job is increasing the performance to completely competitive levels while maintaining, or even improving, the quietness we have come to enjoy with the better SFF systems. Our Noise Level measurements show the Shuttle remains one of the quietest machines available when running on the low setting for the ICE cooling fan. In all our tests and overclocking, the fan never once needed to kick into higher cool, so you can comfortably expect quiet operation from the SB65G2.

This brings us to a new twist on the SFF machines, and that is value. With the barebone SB65G2 selling for less than $300, you will need to compare the cost and convenience of the SFF XPC box to the cost of conventional components when building a system. The price for a balanced Aluminum chassis PC, power supply, top-performing Springdale motherboard, and effective and very quiet heatpipe cooling system seems a very good value. If you would prefer the same system with integrated graphics, the Shuttle XPC SB61G2 is also available at about the same price. It also has the 8X AGP slot, so there is room for that future graphics upgrade.

Consider the Shuttle XPC SB65G2, a full-featured, top-performing Springdale in a very small and quiet system at a very good price. If that appeals to you, then the Shuttle XPC SB65G2 or the SB61G2 will definitely please you.

If you are looking for a capable SFF system, then continue checking our reviews at AnandTech. There are several other interesting SFF system reviews that are in the works.

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