In relatively little time, computer electronics multiply in speed and shrink in size. Especially in the last few years, chipsets have begun to include everything from audio to video, high speed serial connections to network connections. Yet, my machine is still a few feet tall and beige. Considering how the commodity PC market is based around completely interchangeable components, this isn't much of a surprise. Most users don't have to consider the color of their case or even the size of their drive bay when they buy a new CD burner. This is a good thing.

Occasionally a company shakes things up with a design that discards some expandability in exchange for aesthetics, but the ever practical consumer usually sends them back to the cookie-cutter world of big beige cases. Most recently, this happened with Apple's G4 Cube, although there were quite a few other factors in its demise. It seems the consumer demands a delicate balance between standard components and innovative design.

The Spacewalker makes this small mid-tower ATX case look huge

Enter Shuttle's SV24 bare-bones system, which adds quite a bit to spice up that boring beige PC. The machine is about the size of a toaster and the aluminum case is quite snazzy. Although the FV24 motherboard it is built on is highly reminiscent of VIA's mini-ITX standard, it is Shuttle's own custom design. The board features VIA's PL133 chipset for Socket-370 processors and like the majority of their best sellers, the PL133 is a highly integrated solution. This review will not focus on the specifics of the chipset as the performance characteristics are largely similar to the Apollo Pro 133A except with integrated S3 Savage4 video; for more information you can read up on the chipset at VIA's website. With nearly everything onboard and only a single PCI slot, there's very little room for upgrade / expansion. Still, one can't help but dream up cool uses.

Our plan was to turn this into an Internet terminal / light work computer. We needed something small enough to fit in the cabinet/entertainment center, quiet enough to go unnoticed, cool enough to work in a somewhat confined space and good looking enough to appease the lady of the house. For input, we'll be using a black USB wireless keyboard/trackball combo from GlobLink. For output, we'll be using a Panasonic TH-42PWD4 gas-plasma display with VGA input. Note that this project would also work with a more average TV; the FV24 motherboard also has both S-Video and composite outputs.

First Impressions

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