Shuttle XPC ST61G4: Noise Level

Most people choose the SFF systems for their small size, but they also want the almost contradictory quiet operation that comes with the best of the SFF computers. For that reason, we have been testing noise levels of all SFF systems in our recent reviews. With the new G4 chassis, Shuttle claims that they have reached new levels of quiet. Since Shuttle is famous for their quiet SFF systems, we were particularly interested in how the ST61G4 stacks up in quietness to recent SFF systems that we have reviewed.

Like our other SFF sound level tests, measurements of the Shuttle ST61G4 were taken with the unit on a desk. To be consistent with earlier data, Sound Level was measured on all 4 sides, in the center of the side, 4" from the chassis. Our Sound Level meter can measure as low as 35db, using either A or C weighting with Fast or Slow Dynamic Response. We use A weighting and Fast response because they are most comparable to how we actually experience sound as humans.

As we have done on other SFF tests, the ST61G4 was loaded just as a user would likely set up their SFF system. We installed a 3.0 P4, 1 GB DDR400 memory, a combo CD burner/DVD, and a 120GB Seagate Hard Drive. This is no provision for a floppy drive with the bootable flash reader. Since users will likely use the on-board 9100IGP, we did not use our ATI Radeon 9800 PRO video card in the system for sound level measurements. This is exactly the same setup used in all past SFF Noise Level measurements, except for the missing floppy drive. Since we have not operated the floppy drive during noise measurements, this should have no impact on our measurements.

The ST61G4 certainly matches Shuttle's claims. It is the new champion of quiet. The redesign of the ICE cooling system and the new Silent X power supply clearly work very well in keeping normal operation to very quiet levels. Compared to the earlier Shuttle design, the G4 chassis is 4 to 10db quieter. This means that the new features for quieter operation are working very well indeed. In fairness, once you get to average levels below 50db on the SFF systems we have tested, the system can be considered quiet and the noise will generally fade into background noise.

The otherwise silent ST61G4 does become very noisy when booting, however. We measured noise levels as high as 59db during early boot - until the smart fan controls kick in. This may be important to those who have their computers in bedrooms, since a boot up is pretty noisy. Keep the Shuttle on if you plan to use it while others are sleeping and you will find it as silent as you can get with any current SFF.

Shuttle XPC ST61G4: ATI 9100IGP Memory Performance Final Words
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  • marvinpa - Wednesday, March 8, 2006 - link

    From all of the reviews I got the impression this box would be very quiet, but
    this was not the case. With expectations given by these reviews I must say the machine
    keeps quite a loud humming sound. It has 4 fans in it, but the loudest is the one
    connected to the cpu heatpipe in the back. The metal casing is also sensitive to resonance
    sounds which are quite annoying.

    Installing the sata drive was also quite an annoyance.

    Apart from that the machine does perform quite well, and is optically pleasing.
  • Johnmcl7 - Sunday, April 4, 2004 - link

    I see recommendations to go with an 865G system, but no actual SFF recommendations - would anyone care to provide some? I'm looking to rehome my 533Mhz P4, not bothered about overclocking and I like the look of the G4 case, as it's quieter and temps are lower. However, I do wish to use a 9800 pro graphics card, so I've been also looking at the Soltek EQ3401, however, this has no card reader and the temperatures are higher although it is slightly cheaper.

  • sprockkets - Friday, January 30, 2004 - link

    The ICE exhaust fan has always been 80mm on Shuttle systems. I use a Panaflo fan to make my system quiet. The picture of the rear of this unit seems dated because the new power supply has a new grill with less restrictions. Unless they changed that. The power supply in my Shuttle ss40G sounds ok to me, with a 2400+ Thorton installed and a Hitachi 120GB drive with Linux and Distributed Folding running it goes around 41C internal and 51c for the processor.
  • SupermanCK - Thursday, January 29, 2004 - link

    why no temperature readings...i can make a very quiet case too if there are no fans inside...i think that whenever you have a review with sound measured, you should always measure the temperature of the case too...
  • artifex - Tuesday, January 27, 2004 - link

    Well, from what I've been reading on the manufacturer website, there actually is a floppy connector on the mobo, and a cable, so you could install with an open case and leave the floppy hanging out in order to have the drivers for the SATA RAID when it asks for them.

    Still, in the future it'd be nice if actual useability issues like this were addressed a bit more. I'm not asking you to imagine all possible configurations, or anything, but if it says it supports something, a quick test to see if it's practically useable might be nice :)
  • SUOrangeman - Monday, January 26, 2004 - link

    Just as an aside, there is apparently a way to embed drivers (for such things like RAID controllers) into you Win2K/XP/2K3 discs. I don't think that method was used in this case.

    In my free time, I'll have to see if this method actually works.

  • vedin - Monday, January 26, 2004 - link

    ::doesn't know jack about setting up RAID:: Um, use a bootable CD?
  • artifex - Sunday, January 25, 2004 - link

    still wondering about the RAID/installation issue :)
  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, January 25, 2004 - link

    PrinceGaz -

    Thanks for catching the typo - corrected.
  • PrinceGaz - Sunday, January 25, 2004 - link

    Looks like a nice small and quiet box for a caravan, dorm-room or the like, but it could never replace my main box.

    Its nice to see Intel have a sense of humour with their "Extreme" graphics, or is it meant to stand for "extremely slow"?

    One slight typo on page 11- "As we have done on other SFF tests, the ST61G4 was loaded just as a user would likely set up their SFF system. We installed a 3.0 P4, 1 Mb DDR400 memory..." - personally I'd install slightly more memory in my SFF system ;)

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