In an ideal world, we would have as much time as we needed in any given day to get all of our tasks done. Our intention was to have finished several SFF roundups by now. Unfortunately, the old cliché about the road to hell being paved with good intentions certainly applies. We've done our best to include all the currently shipping socket 939 SFFs, and that ended up delaying this article several times. We have them all now, until the next batch shows up.

The enthusiast community is currently very pro-Athlon 64, and with good reason. Looking at the feature set and performance, not to mention the frequently lower price, AMD is currently beating Intel in most areas. Some people mistakenly assume that this means that AMD is currently ahead of Intel, but they're really only ahead in one area: performance. Intel still sells more CPUs total - many going to the business sector - and Intel is ahead in the manufacturing and production areas, particularly in terms of total fabrication capacity. For better or for worse, Intel is certainly not out of the picture yet, and the total number of Athlon 64 SFFs is far less than what is available for socket 775. We'll be covering that segment in the future, but if we were personally to go out and buy a SFF right now, it would be an Athlon 64 based system, preferably with socket 939.

That means that this roundup features our preferred platform, so we're looking for the best option of what we have available. When we first started work on this roundup, we only had two shipping products (the Shuttle SN95G5 and the Soltek QBIC 3901-300P). We've now added a couple more Shuttle units, the SN25P and the ST20G5, along with the recently launched Biostar IDEQ 330P. We've already taken an in-depth look at the SN95P, and we'll include updated information and performance benchmarks for it in this roundup.

For those who have lost count, that makes this current article a roundup of three Shuttle SFFs, one Biostar, and one Soltek (though there are six or so variants of the Soltek model). Trust us; we're not trying to play favorites with Shuttle. The fact of the matter is that they basically started the whole SFF market back in 2001, and they've continued to focus on it more than anyone else. Shuttle had a prototype SLI setup at the recent Computex, and they probably have a few more AMD designs on the way. Other companies are working on socket 939 systems as well, and we would invite any of them to contact us if they would like to have us review their product.

Reviewing a Small Form Factor System
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  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 12, 2005 - link

    I'll hit the KLOSS as soon as I can. (I have it already.) So unless someone else votes, I guess I'll get the KLOSS reviewed next.
  • Sokolum - Thursday, August 11, 2005 - link

    For the last 2 months now i have a ST20G5 using as a MCE system. There are a few problems what i have encounbtered, one of them is that the system behaviour changes when i change a setting within the BIOS. Those aren't dramatic changes. But with every change, it looks like that the graphics runs muchmore slower, you can see this with dragging a windows screen over your desktop, you get trails from that window...
    The system only runs smooth when i *don't* touch those setting. Happily the things keep running smoothly when i enlarge the shared video memory.

    For the MCE side, i failed to make the Hauppauge 500MCE run compleetly as it should, i am only able to run TV 'Tunner 1' without problems when i *disable* TV 'Tunner 2' within windows Device Manager. Shuttle or Hauppauge couldn't help me with this case.
    As the review documented, this is one of the cases that RAID is causing the problem in this story. In my MCE setup, i don't use RAID (there is *no* room for a seccond drive when you installed a floppy drive). Why RAID is the problem, what i have been told is that RAID wants to use al of the PCI bandwith. It seems the nature of RAID in this kind of systems, just een told, i am not for 100% sure, but it seems plausible to mee.

    , a nice looking machine. I solved the problem for the flash cards with buying a floppy disk what come with a integrated card readed, see link:">

  • mino - Thursday, August 11, 2005 - link

    Jared I must confes, this is the _first_ time i see everclocking test done as it should have been. I really appreciate the comments for newbies (it makes easier to me to explain to them if you could reference somthing :). Also finally use of correct term oo A64 base freq./FSB issue. I think this way is it should be done for _all_ A64 motherboard review.
    1) do a maximum base freq. check (by keeping memfreq. around DDR400 + CPU not overclocked
    2) do a max memclock test at 1T (with some proven components, just to check quality of CPU to MEM routing on the MB)
    3) do some max. overclock test (actually this may be optional since it depend mostly CPU chosen)

    Keep at this route and many readers may finaly undestand the basics of A64's OCing.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 11, 2005 - link

    I'm working on some detailed overclocking articles right now. Glad you enjoyed the section, and I'll be going into a LOT more detail (with benchmarks) on some future OC articles.
  • dropadrop - Thursday, August 11, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the nice review,

    If you are considering a followup I would love to see you test usb. While the usb on my sn95g5 v2 works for casual things like a mouse, digital camera and memory card reader, it does not work for an ipod shuffle, external soundcard (hercules dj console), or external hardisk.

    There have been alot of people with similar experiences. It wold be great if you could find a way to test the sff's with a few "demanding" usb devices, and even measure the voltage (and stability of it) supplied via usb.

    I also second the request for you to test the sn95g5 with an X2. The new bios surely supports them, as people in north america have been getting their current rigs modded by shuttle for support. I would love to see how your's supports it (and maby even venice / san diego) without being modded. I believe you would have the chance to help alot of confused SN95G5 users by trying out a few cpu's in it.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 11, 2005 - link

    I will definitely give it a shot. At present, my intention is to purchase an external IDE HDD enclosure with USB2.0 and 1394A support and do some file transfers and such between that and the system. The problem with that approach is that the enclosures all have an external power source. Can anyone recommend an inexpensive USB/Firewire HDD enclosure that gets the power over the USB port?">I found this one, but I'm not really keen on spending $160 for something I don't personally need.
  • dev0lution - Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - link

    How come the SN25P details don't mention the update from nforce4 standard to nForce4 Ultra? I'm thinking of getting one so I went to the previous review and it lists chipset in the specs as the nForce 4 standard, but if you go to Shuttle's current product page for the SN25P it lists the chipset as the Nforce4 Ultra. Who's correct?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 11, 2005 - link

    I think I may have just been lazy or neglectful in the original SN25P article. I'm pretty sure it was always nForce4 Ultra. Then again, regular nf4 vs. nF4U only adds SATA-II support IIRC. I don't see anything about SN25P supporting SATA-II which is sort of odd.
  • Cookie Crusher - Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - link

    I know it may be a "dated" or more "Entry Oriented" socket, but I have found that the socket 754 SFF systems are great for gaming and general use. Was there ever a roundup for them? If not, I'd like to see maybe a limited look at them to remind everyone that they are viable alternatives to, and about $75-$100+ cheaper than, these socket 939 options.

    I think it's important to point this out because of the note in the article that a SFF option incurs a premium....maybe so, but there are still cost effective options in that market. thanks.
  • Cookie Crusher - Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - link

    Nevermind.....i found the roundup I was hoping for.....still, would be nice to make that reference to the older socket types as legitimate choices for SFF hopefuls on a budget. :-)

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