Shuttle has been known for producing both excellent and lackluster Socket-7 motherboards based on chipsets ranging from Intel's VX and TX series to the AMD640 chipset.  However, when armed with the newly introduced LX AGPSet from Intel Shuttle manages to accomplish something most manufacturers haven't been able to yet.  The Shuttle HOT-631 combines performance, quality, stability, expandability, and reliability with the recognition and success of the Shuttle name.   When looking for the absolute best LX based motherboard we sometimes turn to the big brand names like ASUS or AOpen, however sometimes the answer to commonly asked questions can be found in the most interesting places...in this case?  www.spacewalker.com


Motherboard Specifications

Socket Style: Slot - 1
Chipset: i82440LX
Cache: N/A (On Chip)
Form Factor: ATX
BUS Speeds: 50 / 60 / 66 / 68 / 75 / 83 MHz
Clock Multipliers: 2.0x / 2.5x / 3.0x / 3.5x / 4.0x / 4.5x
Voltages Supported: 1.5v - 3.5v (Auto Detect)
RAM Slots: 4 168pin DIMM Slots (SDRAM)
AGP/PCI/ISA Slots: 1 AGP Slot
4 PCI Slots
3 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 2 Full Length)
BIOS: AWARD PnP BIOS
PCI EIDE Controller: GiG I/O
2 EIDE Channels
1 FDD Channel
2 Serial /1 EPP

 


The Good

When looking at the layout of the HOT-631, you quickly notice one thing...the HOT-631, for the most part, is a waste of space!  Although in many cases this is a downside to a product, with motherboards, it isn't (to some extent that is).  The layout of the HOT-631 is stunning when compared to most other manufacturer's approach to producing a motherboard.  You never get the feeling that the area you have to work with is too cramped or crowded, especially when initially installing/configuring the motherboard.  The 631's 4 PCI, 3 ISA, and 1 AGP slot are pretty standard for a LX board, couple that with the 4 SDRAM DIMM slots and you instantly get a motherboard capable of being a "high-end" product.  Shuttle pushed every single aspect of the common ATX form factor to the fullest extent possible.  The onboard EIDE connectors are placed in the proper position according to the ATX 2.1 specification, and are placed far away from any obstructions which would cause the installation of extra hard drives (etc...) to become even more of a chore.  The SDRAM DIMM slots don't block the installation of any components, including an AGP Video card which is a problem in many newer LX motherboards.  The latches which secure the SDRAM in place on the HOT-631 are very low profile and aren't in the path of any installed cards, this however isn't the case in quite a few competing products, although it isn't a huge problem it is nice to know that Shuttle had the engineering foresight to eliminate the flaw.  All of the external switches and LED connectors are clearly labeled on the motherboard, and with the aid of Shuttle's classic Quick Reference Card, make installing the HOT-631 a breeze.   

Not only is the HOT-631 a very well laid out ATX motherboard, but it is also equipped with excellent documentation to help the user in the process of installing the motherboard.  Found in all newer Shuttle motherboards, the HOT-631 features an easy to read Quick Reference Card which completely documents all of the settings necessary to make sure your computer is fully operational.  Details such as how to install an EIDE connector or RAM are left out of the Reference Card because of size constraints, however if you have even the smallest  background in computer hardware (i.e. you know what a HDD connector looks like and can easily plug one into a board) this oversight on Shuttle's part shouldn't pose a major problem for you.  Of course, Shuttle doesn't expect you to know everything by heart, so once you get your system up and running you can simply pop in the enclosed CDROM which features complete user manuals for ALL Shuttle products (including but not only the HOT-631), patches, drivers, BIOS updates, and much more. 

Like most Shuttle products, with the exception of a few, the HOT-631 is packed full of capacitors: 10 mid sized Sanyo capacitors and 16 smaller capacitors spread out on the motherboard with the highest concentrations closer to the Slot-1 IC, the ATX Power Connector/DIMM Slots, and the AGP slot.  The sparing use of the 26 capacitors on the HOT-631 account for its rock solid stability at most clock/bus speeds.  Paired up with Advanced Megatrends SDRAM, and a genuine Pentium II - 300, the HOT-631 truly began to shine in one of its biggest strongpoints, performance...not to mention stability while achieving that performance. 

The Shuttle HOT-631 falls a little behind the leaders in the market such as ASUS, AOpen, Chaintech, and FIC.  However for the most part, the performance difference between the HOT-631 and its peers cannot be seen since it falls between 0.1 - 0.9 Winstone Points away from its competitors.  Overall the Shuttle HOT-631 is probably the best overall LX motherboard  on the market, of course it doesn't have any outstanding features like some of its competitors however you can rest assured that when you buy a HOT-631 it will most likely work with the Power Supply you have, the SDRAM you're using, and the system configuration you desire.  Shuttle went back to the basics with the HOT-631, focusing their attention on quality instead of simply releasing a motherboard.

The Bad

The Shuttle HOT-631 does have its share of problems that absolutely must be mentioned in order for this to be a complete review.  First of all, the 631's stability at the 83.3MHz bus speed is quite erratic.  This means that taking your Pentium II - 300 up to 375MHz (83.3 x 4.5) is quite an ordeal, the test system used wouldn't boot further than the memory test when clocked at 375MHz or 333MHz for that matter (83.3 x 4.0).  The second and final problem the HOT-631 plagues users with is the unfortunate lack of a jumperless CPU setup utility as found in many other Pentium II LX motherboards.  This may not be a problem for most people, however it should be noted that you shouldn't be expecting to get away from the jumper-full setup of most boards with the HOT-631. 

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