The day of the BX chipset has come and is on its way out, in the upcoming months Intel's newest chipsets, including the unreleased Camino, and a major investment into the production of a high end BX board now would be on the futile level of a manufacturing decision. At the same time, there is a fine line between rushing to get yet another product out on the market that will be obsolete in a matter of months, and rushing to get a more improved product out on the market to satisfy a company's faithful users.

Determining Shuttle's motives behind the creation of their latest BX based motherboard, the HOT-663, is up to you, but in the end the quality, and effort that went into producing yet another Shuttle mainboard remains obvious.

If you're looking to buy a new BX board, does the HOT-663 really offer any advantages over the current leaders of the pack? Let's find out...


New Anand Tech Report Card Rating
83/C+
Do not compare newer ratings to older ones, the newer ratings are much more aggressive

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 75 / 83 / 95
100 / 103 / 112 / 133
Clock Multipliers 2.0x - 8.0x
Voltages Supported Auto Detect
Memory Slots 4 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
4 PCI Slots (4 Full Length)
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 3 Full Length)
BIOS Award BIOS

The Good

A little under two years ago, the hottest topic among hardware enthusiasts looking to upgrade their motherboards was the new jumperless CPU setup offered by a fairly unknown company named ABIT. Since then, it seems like just about every manufacturer has their own version of ABIT's SoftMenu Jumpess CPU Setup, Shuttle included. Shuttle's HOT-663 starts off with the ability to auto-detect the CPU installed in your system, as well as a tweakable semi-jumperless setup. By setting a jumper block to Auto, you can configure the clock multipliers and FSB settings within the Award BIOS Setup. By default, the motherboard will auto-detect whether or not you have a 100MHz FSB processor installed (P2 350/400/450), however this can be overridden through the use of the jumpered setup of the 663.

Shuttle's HOT-663 comes documented in the usual Shuttle style, with a quick installation guide shipping on the standard Shuttle manual pamphlet, and the usual set of drivers and installation tools present on the bundled CD-ROM. The board's documentation, and the ease of its jumperless setup should make the 663's installation a breeze for even the most novice of users.

The layout of the HOT-663 is classic Shuttle, the 4/3/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) expansion slot configuration leaves enough room for the single AGP slot to be complemented by the 4 SDRAM DIMM slots, as well as a few other features including a temperature monitor, a must have for just about any motherboard today. Running parallel to the DIMM slots are the HDD/FDD interface ports, and wedged between them is the ATX power connector. Overall, the layout is a bit crowded, however it allows for everything to be accessible for the most part.

The board features a total of 4 - 3 pin on-board fan connectors, to keep even the most powerful of Glacier cooling fans running just fine off of the motherboard itself. Towards the right edge of the board is the front panel connector block which is as crowded as you'll find, however the overly crowded nature of the board comes courtesy of the on-board Yamaha PCI audio chip and wavetable synthesizer. The I/O ports on the rear of the motherboard include the MIDI/Game port, as well as the audio in/out ports courtesy of that on-board Yamaha chip.

For system integrators that aren't looking to provide their users with the absolute best in audio quality, yet are looking for a cost effective and high performance solution with on-board audio, the HOT-663 is the answer to quite a few of your prayers. With most Pentium II boards that are coming out with on-board audio geared towards the low cost/low performance market (i.e. a 2 PCI/2 ISA based EX board) it is a welcome change to see average on-board sound tossed onto an already solid, fully capable BX motherboard design.

The performance of the HOT-663 is up to par with Shuttle's previous releases, however as the BX motherboard market has already showed us, performance is the last consideration you need to make when purchasing a motherboard.

The 24 hour burn in stability test proved the Shuttle HOT-663 to be worthy of a commendation, however there is much room for improvement as the HOT-663 did pose quite a few bones this reviewer could help but pick with Shuttle about.

The Bad

It seemed like Shuttle couldn't help but include that fourth fan connector, and they placed it in the most difficult to reach place on the motherboard, between the last PCI slot and the AGP slot, making plugging in a fan in a crowded case a bit of a pain. The rest of the fan connectors are in equally populated areas, and reaching them is a bit of a problem.

The Yamaha PCI audio does occupy its own set of IRQ/DMA channels, and taking advantage of all of the available PCI/ISA slots and leaving the on-board audio disabled can provide for an interesting experience, and in this respect, the HOT-663 isn't intended for many novice users. Over time, as you add more and more components to your HOT-663 based system, the installation procedure for future components may become a bit more difficult as conflicts arise.

Speaking on the expansion slots, in a world dominated by 5 PCI slot based motherboards, Shuttle's constant choice to opt for a 4 PCI/3 ISA slot configuration eliminates a large portion of their potential market, however the inclusion of the on-board PCI audio does detract from this oversight somewhat.

The stability of the HOT-663 could be improved in comparison to other motherboards, a problem some high end users may run into is a capacitance problem when making use of all four DIMM slots, especially with the lack of any memory buffer, but for the normal user, the board was about as stable as you'll need it to be.

Features & the Test

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