It seems like $180 can't take you too far in the upgrade market these days, although the prices of Pentium II and Celeron A processors are at an extremely affordable price point, however once you add the cost of a decent AGP video accelerator and a sound card, that wonderful price turns into something much more monotonous.  The price of most BX motherboards lies just under that $180 marker...most that is.  The exception to the rule?  Shuttle's new HOT-679.  Packing much more than Intel BX chipset, the HOT-679 adds two incredibly desired features to the standard BX motherboard design...all at a price around that $180 mark.


New AnandTech Report Card Rating
85/B-

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440BX & i740
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 75 / 83 / 100 / 103 / 112 / 124 / 133MHz
Clock Multipliers 2.0x - 5.0x
Voltages Supported Auto Detect
Memory Slots 3 168pin DIMM Slots (EDO/SDRAM)
Expansion Slots 3 PCI Slots
1 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 1 Full Length)
BIOS Award BIOS

The Good

Remember how much we all "oooh-ed" and "ahhh-ed" when we first saw a heatsink on an Intel chipset?  Whether it was with the old SiS 5571, Intel LX, or more recently, the Intel BX chipset, the key marker for any chipset on a motherboard was the distinctive heatsink present on the square chip...but what is this?  Two equally sized heatsinks on the HOT-679?  Which one is the BX and what in the world is the other one for?  Well, this is what sets the HOT-679 apart from the competition, the lack of an AGP slot on the motherboard itself is made up for by the presence of an integrated i740 graphics chipset on the motherboard itself; and as if that weren't enough, the presence of the i740 is accented by the Creative Labs ES1371 AC97 digital audio controller which makes up the second feature added to that 679 that sets it apart from the competition.  With that said and out of the way, let's take a look at the individual specs of the motherboard.

The MicroATX layout of the 679 only measures in at 24 cm x 20 cm, and provides enough room for the single Pentium II slot, 3 DIMM slots, 3 PCI slots, and a single ISA slot.  Before you jump the gun on ditching this board, remember that you already have an above average (definitely not one of the el-cheapo $10 sound cards, but not a SB-Live! either) sound controller, and an i740 accelerator built on to the motherboard.  In the worst case scenario, you'll have to use two PCI slots, one for an Ethernet card, the remaining for a modem or a SCSI controller.  While the expansion configuration of the 679 doesn't encourage expansion too incredibly, it does offer enough for the intended market of the product to satisfy the needs of a large portion of consumers.  Keep in mind that the 679 isn't a high end product, rather a mainboard solution intended to compete with the higher end of the socket-7 spectrum in terms of price and performance.

The board itself was designed quite well, although it is obvious that Shuttle didn't go all out in terms of quality for the HOT-679, they did make it one of their top priorities.  The test system did crash ever so often with the system setup as documented in the test disclosure below, however for the most part, the system remained quite stable and fully operational.

The installation of the motherboard went without a hitch, the auto-configuration features of the motherboard were greatly revered as the 679 didn't require even the slightest movement of a finger to get the Pentium II or Celeron test processors configured properly and optimally.  All of the jumper settings can be controlled via a BIOS menu properly labeled as CPU settings, from within the menu you can select the proper FSB and clock multiplier settings for your processor from a predefined list.  If you feel more comfortable handling this the old fashioned way, Shuttle allows for the "jumperless" 679 to be configured entirely by jumpers in case of an emergency where the BIOS either doesn't detect your processor properly or you're having problems with your BIOS.

Once in Windows 98, the driver installation for the motherboard wasn't too great of an ordeal as Shuttle kindly packaged the HOT-679 with, among other things, a copy of Intel's latest i740 drivers with Intel's own OpenGL ICD as well as the Creative Labs reference drivers for the sound controller.  The i740 aboard the test system featured a fixed 4MB of RAM, so be warned, if you plan on having your system grow with you over time, don't expect to find Shuttle's HOT-679 at the heart of it any time soon.  The targeted market for this product is either for those who can't afford a full fledged Pentium II system (or don't wish to spend that much money on a computer) or for those that are looking to setup a cost effective second system.   Pop in a $30 network card and and for under $200 you've got yourself a motherboard, video card, sound card, and network support...not too shabby. 

The OpenGL ICD packaged by Shuttle with the motherboard is a fairly speedy release from Intel and does allow for full functionality in most of the older/newer OpenGL games.  Complementing the driver bundle Shuttle included with the card, is their trademark Installations Guide which tells you, in great detail, how to setup your first system down to every last bit. 

The performance of the HOT-679 is highly competitive with the rest of the market, especially considering its limiting 4MB i740 video accelerator.  Even against AnandTech's Matrox G200 based ABIT BH6 test system, the HOT-679 held its chin high as its Winstone and Quake 2 scores ranked in on par with if not slightly better than that of the G200/BH6 combo (slightly worse in the case of Quake 2).  While the i740 isn't the world's fastest 3D accelerator, it does the job, and it does it well, providing excellent image quality and average performance for the cost, especially in this case.

Topping off the incredible feature set, Shuttle managed to produce a reliable, generally desirable, sub-$1000 computer platform with an Intel Pentium II class processor at its heart.  Once again we have another success from Shuttle...but let's not jump to conclusions too quickly

The Bad

Unfortunately that $180 price tag we boasted about from above does have its drawbacks, starting with the 4MB memory limit of the AGP i740 accelerator included with the motherboard.  Since there are no physical AGP slots on the motherboard, just the i740 running on the AGP bus, you're pretty much stuck with the way things are with your system if you buy this motherboard from a video standpoint. 

The jumperless CPU setup in the BIOS does auto-detect whether you have a 66MHz or a 100MHz FSB Pentium II processor and adjusts the available FSB settings accordingly, this can be a problem if you don't wish to modify your CPU to get a silly 100MHz FSB setting.  You can always choose from 75 or 83MHz if it comes to that, otherwise, have fun toying around with nail polish remover as you attempt to cover up the proper pins to fool the motherboard into thinking you really have a 100MHz FSB processor. 

Other than that annoying fact, and the obvious presence of very few expansion slots, the HOT-679 isn't an overall bad motherboard, it definitely gives most of the 440EX based motherboards out there a run for their money.

 


USB Compatibility

  • Number of Universal Serial Bus Root Ports: 2

  • USB IRQ Enable/Disable in BIOS: Yes

  • USB Keyboard Support in BIOS: Yes

 


Recommended SDRAM

Recommended SDRAM: Mushkin SEC -GH PC100 SDRAM; Memory Man SEC -GH PC100 SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 1 x 64MB Mushkin PC100 SDRAM; 1 x 64MB Memory-Man PC100 SDRAM

Manufacturer: The Memory Man
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.memory-man.com

Manufacturer: Mushkin
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.mushkin.com

 


The Test

In recent times, choosing a motherboard cannot be completely determined by a Winstone score. Now, many boards come within one Winstone point of each other and therefore the need to benchmark boards against each other falls. Therefore you shouldn't base your decision entirely on the benchmarks you see here, but also on the technical features and advantages of this particular board, seeing as that will probably make the greatest difference in your overall experience.

How I Tested

  • Each benchmark was run a minimum of 2 times and a maximum of 5 times, if the motherboard failed to complete a single test within the 5 allocated test runs the OS/Software was re-installed on a freshly formatted Hard Drive and the BIOS settings were adjusted to prevent the test from failing again.  All such encounters were noted at the exact time of their occurrence.

  • Business Winstone 98 & 3D Winbench 98 was run at each individually tested clock speed, if reliable scores were achieved with the first two test runs of the suite an average of the two was taken and recorded as the final score at that clock speed.  If the test system displayed erratic behavior while the tests were running or the results were incredibly low/high the tests were re-run up to 5 times and an average of all the test runs was taken and recorded at the final score at that clock speed

  • All video tests were conducted using an AGP video accelerator

  • No foreign drivers were present in the test system other than those required for the system to function to the best of its ability

  • All foreign installation files were moved to a separate partition during the test as to prevent them from effecting the test results

  • All tests were conducted at 1024 x 768 x 16-bit color

  • 3D Winbench 98 tests were double buffered and conducted at 800 x 600 x 16-bit color

Test Configuration

Processor(s): Pentium II - 400 OEM
Celeron 300A OEM
RAM: 1 - 64MB Mushkin PC100 SDRAM DIMM
1 - 64MB Memory Man PC100 SDRAM DIMM
Hard Drive(s): Western Digital Caviar AC35100 - UltraATA
Video Card(s): on-board i740
Bus Master Drivers: Microsoft Win98 DMA Drivers
Video Drivers: Intel i740 Reference Drivers
Operation System(s): Windows 98

 

Ziff Davis Winstone - Windows 98 Performance

Business Winstone 98
Intel Celeron 300A (66 x 4.5) 22.9
Intel Pentium II - 300 (66 x 4.5) 23.3
Intel Pentium II Deschutes - 350 (100 x 3.5) 26.1
Intel Pentium II Deschutes - 372 (124 x 3.0 26.8
Intel Pentium II Deschutes - 400 (100 x 4.0) 27.8

 

Gaming Performance - Quake 2 - 800 x 600

demo1.dm2
Shuttle HOT-679 Test System @ 300MHz 25.4 fps
nVidia Riva TNT Test System @ 300MHz 48.6 fps
Matrox G200 Test System* @ 300MHz 27.9 fps

* System Used a Direct3D Wrapper

 


The Final Decision

For the user that has it all but needs a secondary system, or if you're looking to spend as little as possible on a system that is as fast as possible, the $180 price tag of the Shuttle HOT-679 shouldn't detract you from it at all.  The inclusion of an excellent on-board sound controller and the i740 graphics accelerator make the HOT-679 more than just a bargain at $180.  Be warned, this motherboard isn't for the hard core gamer nor the hard core tweaker, if your personality fits either of those categories you had better start saving your money because this contender is too weak for the job you're looking for.  If you're anyone else...give it a try ;)

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