Shuttle is a pioneer of small-form-factor computers, and the company is often among the first to incorporate the latest platform developments into barebones cube PCs. This trend continues with the new XPC SB81P system, one of the first to be built on the Intel 915G chipset and to support new LGA775-socket processors.
But the new chipset and processor support are not the only tricks up Shuttles sleeve. The system brings a cool implementation of tool-less drive installation, an innovative CPU thermal solution, and a sharp case design. To find out if all this justifies its premium price of $299 for you, read on.
Fit and Finish
This is an extremely slick-looking system. An inch or so taller and a half inch longer and wider than typical cube PCs, its still compact and easily fits on your desktop. The black finish with glossy front veneer is quite handsome, and the doors covering those eyesore floppy and optical drives keep it that way.
The front panel reveals two push-open covers, one to hide an external 3.5″-inch drive bay and the other to hide the mic and headphone jacks, two USB ports, and one FireWire port. You could put a card reader in that 3.5″-inch bay, but theres a nice card reader built right into the very top of the system, above the optical drive bay. That optical drive bay has been improved, too, with an open/close button up on top of the bay, making it easy to press even when the tray is out.
The inside of the system differs a bit from earlier XPC systems. Gone are the centrally located CPU socket and its heat pipe leading up to a large fan in the back. Now, the big 350W power supply occupies most of the back of the case. Thats more juice than weve seen in these little cube systems up to now, but the high power drain of the new LGA775 CPUs and PCI-Express graphics cards will demand it.
The CPU sits up front, with a large heat sink/fan assembly on top that draws air through a plastic shroud from the right side of the case and then out through a ventilation fan on the left side. This creates a sort of horizontally flowing air channel just for the CPU, while the rest of the system draws air in through the sides of the case and blows it out the back. Two small, quiet fans at the top rear of the system will vent hot air from any hard drives you may put up there.
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