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Appeared on: Monday, May 21, 2007
Shuttle SN27P2


1. Introduction

Small factor PCs have become very popular, either as media centres or simply as workstations/gaming rings. Shuttle offers many solutions for end users and their proposal for the AM2 platform comes in the form of the "SN27P2". This little box includes all options for gamers and enthusiast users wanting superb performance and features in small dimensions. But how well does it performance when compared with a normal desktop PC?

- Shuttle SN27P2

The Shuttle XPC Barebone SN27P2 is housed in the new P2 chassis. Based on the leading-edge nVIDIA nForce 570 Ultra MCP chipset, it supports AMDs new generation Socket AM2 CPUs with Quad DDR2-800 support. AMD Athlon 64 enthusiasts have been begging for this implementation and they are about to be blown away by the performance and the new style of this SFF incarnation.

P2 Chassis

The Shuttle P2 chassis will be the basis of Shuttle's latest high-performance XPC models. Similar in size to the original P chassis, the P2 features improved cooling and airflow, a redesigned drive cage assembly, and a sleek brushed metal front fascia.

Stealthed port, drive bays: P2's clean fascia is thanks to three well-integrated stealth bay covers. The optical drive, floppy drive and front media ports can all be hidden from view when not in use, providing superior style and visual appeal.

Media Connectivity: The integrated media ports on the XPC P2's front panel have been designed for excellent functionality. The space between the USB ports has been increased to make room for devices such as digital camera and thumb drives to be installed at the same time. Also the line in jack has been moved to the back panel, providing a neat and functional finish.

Integrated Cable Management: All XPCs will ship with integrated cable management to ease installation. IDE and/or SATA cables are pre-installed, and power leads are wrapped and clipped to the chassis.

AM2 socket Processor Support

The XPC SN27P2 supports the new AM2 socket CPU range from AMD. From high-value Sempron CPUs to the premium FX series, the XPC SN27P2 gives you complete freedom to choose the processor that matches your budget and performance needs.

Athlon 64

high performance 64 and 32-bit features for mainstream users

Athlon 64 X2

advanced dual core technology for multitasking and digital media

Athlon 64 FX

extreme performance and overclocking for gaming

NVIDIA nForce 570 Ultra MCP

NVIDIA nForce 570 Ultra media and communications processors (MCPs) are designed for demanding users who want safe and easy access to all their media files and the system performance to easily create, edit, and share their creations.

- Other features

PCI Express interface

The PCI Express architecture enables increased bi-directional bandwidth to the graphics and I/O interfaces. With theoretical bandwidth up to 4 GB/s per direction, the PCI Express x16 graphics port can provide more than three and a half times the graphics bandwidth over previous high-performance discrete graphics solutions.
Designed to support cutting-edge PCI Express graphics, the XPC SN27P2 has been tested compatible with the latest high-performance graphics cards.

NVIDIA Native Gigabit Ethernet

The industry's fastest Gigabit Ethernet performance eliminates network bottlenecks and improves overall system efficiency and performance.

NVIDIA FirstPacket technology

Be the 'King of Ping' with NVIDIA FirstPacket technology. Get the crystal-clear phone conversations and online gaming performance you expect. NVIDIA FirstPacket technology assures your game data, VoIP conversations, and large file transfers are delivered according to preferences set by you in an intuitive wizard.

NVIDIA MediaShield Storage

Suite of features that safeguards your most important digital media assets; always reliable, scalable, and accessible. Includes RAID and SATA drive support.

Multiple Disk Setup

Through a simple wizard-based interface, you can effortlessly set up your drives for better data protection, faster disk access or maximum storage capacity. MediaShield automatically selects RAID 0, 1, 0+1 or 5 configurations according to your needs. Advanced users can access RAID options directly.

DiskAlert System

The event of a disk failure, MediaShield users see an image that highlights which disk has failed to make it easier to identify, replace, and recover.

RAID Morphing

MediaShield allows users to change their current RAID set-up to another configuration in a one-step process called morphing. This eliminates the need to back up data and follow multiple steps in the process.

Bootable Multidisk Array

MediaShield storage fully supports the use of multi-disk array for loading the operating system at power-up.

SATA 3Gb/s RAID

Combine up to 4 SATA drives into one volume for bigger, faster RAID. More drives mean more configuration options such as RAID 0 (striped) for maximum throughput, or RAID 1 or RAID 5 for data security. Take advantage of the latest SATA 3Gb/s hard disk drives with full support for native command queuing and hot plug. Native command queuing provides higher disk performance in a multi-threaded environment by performing out-of-order disk accesses.

8GB DDR2 RAM support

The XPC SN27P2 features 4 DDR2 memory slots and supports an incredible 8GB of RAM. Up to 4 times the capacity of previous generation XPCs, the XPC SN27P2 is optimized for future high-memory-demand applications such as 64-bit software, high definition video, and games.

Realtek ALC882 HD Audio

The ALC882 series 7.1+2 Channel High Definition Audio codecs with UAA (Universal Audio Architecture), featuring five 24-bit stereo DACs and three 20-bit stereo ADCs, are designed for high performance multimedia PC systems. The ALC882 series incorporates proprietary converter technology to achieve over 100dB Signal-to-Noise ratio playback quality; easily meeting PC2001 requirements and also bringing PC sound quality closer to consumer electronic devices.

Advanced I/O

The XPC SN27P2 is ready to connect to all your modern digital devices. Cameras, music players, VoIP phones, printers, USB flash drives, and more can all be attached directly thanks to the easy to reach USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 ports at the front of the system.

The XPC SN27P2's feature-rich front panel is perfectly complemented by an equally rich back panel. With USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and external SATA (eSATA), the XPC SN27P2 provides more connections and ease of use over regular ATX forced to sit on the floor and out of reach.

Silent X Technology:

Integrated Silent X cooling and noise reduction technologies deliver optimized cooling for exceptional stability, comfort and reliability. Optimized cooling features, including programmable smart fans and best-of-class airflow, make the XPC ideal for use in any setting - home, office, dorm - because it's "Super Quiet, Super Cool."

The Silent X concept is embodied in a number of discreet Shuttle technologies, including; Silent X PSU, Integrated Cooling Engine (ICE); intelligently-engineered airflow mechanics and mechanical dampening.

Integrated Cooling Engine (ICE) Module

The Integrated Cooling Engine (ICE) uses convection cooling to transfer heat away from the processor and other critical system components. Copper tubing — coated in nickel and filled with distilled water — efficiently channels heat away, providing highly-effective processor and case cooling.

Smart Fan

Smart Fan incorporates linear control metrics to provide optimal cooling. Under normal conditions, Smart Fan keeps fan speeds low, minimizing acoustic noise. When the load increases, Smart Fan increases fan speeds to provide optimal cooling. Users can customize Shuttle's Smart Fan settings to precisely match their desired temperature and fan speed metrics.

XPC Tools

Shuttle XPC Tools is a straightforward thermal and acoustic management application for your XPC. Including several XPC only features, such as "Smart Fan" management, XPC Tools is the only all-round system management application available for the XPC. With XPC Tools, you can automatically load pre-saved performance configurations for swift switching between maxed-out performance settings for gaming and "Super Quiet, Super Cool" settings for general multimedia entertainment or office productivity. XPC Tools is available for download at http://global.shuttle.com/XPCTools/download.asp


2. Full specifications

 

Chassis
P2-type aluminum chassis, color: black
storage bays: 1 x 5.25", 3 x 3.5" (2 hidden)
stealthed drive doors
Power and Reset buttons at the front and Clear CMOS button at the backpanel
dimensions: 32.5 x 22 x 21 cm (LWH)

Mainboard
Shuttle FN27, Shuttle form factor, proprietary design for SN27P2
chipset: NVIDIA nForce 570 Ultra MCP (Codename: MCP55-Ultra)
Dimensions: 20.5 x 28 cm
Power supply
SilentX 400 Watt mini PSU with switch, supports 100~240 VAC, PFC
connectors: ATX Main Power and 12V Power
EMI Certified: CE, FCC, C-Tick, BSMI
Safety Certified: UL, TÜV, CB, BSMI


Processor support
Socket AM2 supports
AMD Athlon™ 64, Athlon™ 64 FX, Athlon™ 64 X2 and Sempron
Single- and Dual-Core processors (Rev. F) with DDR2 interface
1 GHz system bus with 2000MT/s Hyper-Transport link

Processor cooling
Shuttle I.C.E. (Integrated Cooling Engine)
advanced Heatpipe technology
three cooling zones, linear fan control, 4-pin fan connector

Memory support
4 x 240 pin slots supports DDR2-800/667 memory modules
max. 2 GB per DIMM up to a total size of 8 GB
Dual Channel memory controller, supports unbuffered RAM

Power Management
compatible with ACPI Revision 2.0 and PCI PMI 1.1
Power On Suspend (POS) or ACPI S1 support
Supend to RAM (STR) or ACPI S3 support
Suspend to Disk (STD) or ACPI S4/S5 support
Supports C0, C1, C2 and C3 states

Expansion Slots
1x PCI-Express 16X, supports Dual-Slot graphics cards
1x PCI (32 Bit)
8-channel audio
7.1 + 2 HD channel Audio Codec (Realtek ALC882)
High-performance 103dB playback SNR quality
Playback sampling rates up to 192 kHz
Analog: line-out (8-ch), line-in, microphone, CD-in, AUX
Digital: optical SPDIF-in/out, coaxial SPDIF-out
Gigabit LAN Controller
Integrated Gigabit Ethernet network controller with Marvell® 88E1116 PHY
With NVIDIA Hardware Firewall (supports IPv4 and IPv6)
Supports 10 / 100 / 1.000 MBit/s opteration
Supports power saving mode

Firewire Controller
IEEE1394 Firewire controller VIA VT6307
With 2 Firewire connectors (front and rear)
Supports 400Mb/s, 200Mb/s, 100Mb/s data transfer rate
Compliant with 1394 OHCI specification revision 1.0

Drive connectors
4 x Serial-ATA 3Gb/s (300 MB/s, 3 GBit/s)
3 internal and 1 external port connectors
Supports MediaShield™ RAID with support for Raid 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD
Supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) and Tagged Command Queuing (TCQ)
1 x IDE ATA 133 drives
1 x floppy disk drive
Front Panel connectors
Microphone
Headphone (Line-out)
2x USB 2.0
IEEE1394a Firewire (Mini port, 4 pol.)
Power and Reset buttons
Back Panel connectors
6x USB 2.0
IEEE1394a Firewire (6 pin)
Serial-ATA 3 GBit/s (eSATA connector for external storage device)
Gigabit LAN (RJ45)
8-ch Audio line-out (2x rear/front, bass/center, surround/back)
Line-in
SPDIF: optical in/out, coaxial out
CMOS button
Optional Wireless LAN module
Other onboard connectors
2 x USB 2.0, 1x5 pins each (total 10x)
1 x AUX audio in
4 x fan connectors (4 pins each)
Accessories
Multilanguage XPC User Guide
XPC driver CDROMs for 32bit and 64bit operating system
Shuttle Extras CDROM (Software)
RAID Installation Guide and RAID driver floppy disk
I.C.E. Technology CPU heat-pipe
Cables for FDD, IDE ATA133, Serial-ATA
Power cord
Screws pack and heatsink compound

3. The Package

The Shuttle SN27P2 costs around €490 (+shipping) as found at several online stores. The retail box is plain looking on at the outside:

There is a photo and the main features on the side:

The box is well packaged and secure, no problems during transportation:

The retail package includes:

Let's now have a closer look. The case, without any HDD or optical drives installed is light, thanks to the aluminium, but at the same time the case feels very solid.

On the front, there are two buttons for power and optical drive eject. There is an IDE activity indicator present. The bottom panel hides the front inputs connections:

On the left and right, there are ventilation holes, providing adequate air flow inside the case to keep temperatures down:

On the back we find the usual array of inputs/outputs. All screws can be hand loosened/tightened, which is very good. There are two expansion slots for PCI and PCI-E cards.

Zooming in on the back panel, we find:

So what's missing from that box? Well, how about PS2 connectors for mouse and keyboard? Yes, you can only use USB devices (keyboard/mouse). This is somewhat uncommon, so keep this in mind before purchasing. There is no on-board VGA card and the only module that is offered is a Wireless LAN module, and of course memory card expansion bay, at additional cost.


4. A Look Inside

Opening the case is very easy, (four screws on the back). However, after that, you need to use a philips screwdriver, since there are so many screws to remove in order to install CPU, memory and HDDs.

There are two HDD cases. The material is made out of aluminium, however, there are no special measures taken to absorb noise and vibrations (for example rubber mounts). You need to remove the four screws for each bay in order to proceed further into the interior of the case.

Moving south, we can see that SATA and power cables are already pre-installed, so you don't have to worry about cabling. Good move from Shuttle.

Zooming on to the board, we can see the four memory banks (8GB maximum capacity).

While on the right, you can see the three (3) SATA connectors (+ one external SATA) and the PCI/PCI-E slots:

On the left, there is a big fan to cool down the CPU

There are also two 60mm fans to remove heat from the interior of the case, while the PSU is rated at 400Watts and is quiet enough:

After removing the two HDD bays, we can see another bay, this time for am optical storage device and of course Floppy drive or perhaps another HDD. Again, IDE cables are pre-installed as well as power cables:

Removing the storage bay, we can get a top view of the board


5. Installation

How about removing the CPU cooler?

The CPU cooler is made out of aluminium, not the absolute best material to disipate heat, but possibly good enough for this system:

There are four screws that fasten the cooler to the board:

While at the bottom, there is the copper base:

Let's start our installation, CPU and memory are in their places:

HDD is placed in the storage bay:

Optical storage drive also:

The pre- attached cable clamps on the side of the PSU keep cables together and tidy:

Two more HDDs are installed in the top racks, notice the installed cables

Finally, we need to install a VGA card. There is a 6pin PCI-E power cable if required. For our tests, we selected a passive cooling solution, the MSI 7600GT.

Which however is too big to fit in the case, and you cannot close the box. Shuttle should have taken this into consideration, since most passive cooling solutions for VGA cards have such big copper heatsink:


6. bios

The BIOS is from Phoenix-Award. For most users, it should be very familiar:

Under the CPU feature, we can disable C1E (speedstep):

While we can set HT Speed and HT width in the Advanced Chipset Features.

And DRAM timings.

PC Health status is always useful for monitoring system voltages and CPU temperatures. Notice that you can also set the "LED Brightness" from 0~100%, very useful:

Lastly, the Frequency/Voltage control offers the possibility to "overclock" your box. Below you can see all the major settings that can be selected from the BIOS:

The FSB has a ceiling of 300MHz. We will see later on if that setting can be "reached":


7. Everest Ultimate Edition 2006 - SiSoft Sandra

Click for official website!EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC. The software has several tests for memory and CPU/FPU built-in.

From the memory tests, we can see that the Shuttle SN27P2 is very fast. With DDR2 at 800MHz, it can easily compete with desktop AM2 motherboards.

In the CPU tests, the Shuttle SN27P2 shows very good behaviour and is very close to the Asus and Foxconn motherboards.

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what's really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCIe, ODBC Connections, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc. Sisoft Sandra offers a variety of tests for Memory and CPU.

In Sisoft Sandra 2007 SP1, all motherboards are very close in performance, except for the Memory tests where the Foxconn lags a bit.


8. PCMARK - 3DMARK

Click for homepage!PCMark®05 is everything you need to reliably and easily measure the performance of your PC and determine its strengths and weaknesses. With PCMark05, you will be able to select the optimal upgrades for your existing PC, or choose the right new PC that fits your specific needs. This easy-to-use product gives you the same tools and knowledge that virtually every professional tester in the industry uses. Below you can see the available scores for memory and CPU.

In both tests, the Asus M2N32 WS Pro is the fastest motherboard.

 

Click for homepage!3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests. 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.

3D Mark06, tests both the CPU/RAM and VGA card. The Shuttle SN27P2 performed very well.


9. Science Mark - PovRay - Nero Digital

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, SM2 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias.  Science Mark 2.0 is comprised of 7 benchmarks, each of which measures a different aspect of real world system performance.

Pov-Ray s a high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The source code is available for those wanting to do their own ports. We used Pov-Ray 3.7beta15 for all tests, since it supports Dual Core CPUs. We used the built-in benchmark as suggested by the developers.

In both the ScienceMark and Pov-Ray benchmarks, there's very little between the three motherboards.

 

- Nero Digital

Nero Digital is one of the best known Digital formats, offering both ASP and AVC encoder profiles.

For our tests, we used the latest version of Nero Recode v2.3.1.8 as packaged with Nero Reloaded v7.5.0.1. As a source we used a VOB file of 5 mins duration. We encoded for each processor in two modes (ASP, AVC) with exactly the same preferences (Same bitrate and Dual pass). The encoding time displayed below is what Nero Recode reported. The lower the time taken, the better. All results are displayed in seconds.

All three tested motherboards had similar performance with Nero Recode...


10. CINEBENCH -SuperPI

CINEBENCH is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using CINEBENCH 9.5 carry significant weight when analyzing a computer’s performance in everyday use.

Especially a system’s CPU and the OpenGL capabilities of its graphics card are put through their paces (even multiprocessor systems with up to 16 dedicated CPUs or processor cores). During the testing procedure, all relevant data is ascertained with which the performance of different computers can subsequently be compared, regardless of operating system. All tests were done with the latest available build (R9.5), and the sum of all subtests is displayed in the following chart, except for OpenGL Software & Hardware Lighting tests, since both depend on the installed VGA card.

In CineBench, the Shuttle SN27P2 didn't performed as well as the other motherboards, but was not that far behind with a score of 1403.

 

SuperPI has become an utility to benchmark modern systems. In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi and he collaborated with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center, the University of Tokyo. This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environments such as Windows NT and Windows 95 and called Super PI.

The software offers up to 32M calculations of PI numbers. We tested up to 8M calculations and summed them for a total score.

Due to different memory chips, the Shuttle SN27P2 had the lowest SuperPI calculation time, but the difference is not that great.


11. Overclocking

Shuttle doesn't advertise the SN27P2 as an overclocker champion. There aren't many options in the BIOS to set exact voltages, so we have to see what we can get from this little box. To start off our overclocking attempts, we used Shuttle's XPC Tools:

The installation process is easy, just follow the wizard. After the installer is finished, we can now see how this software works. The latest and our installed version is 1.50.

The main screen offers critical information about the temperatures and system voltages:

While we can also set the Fan functions:

Time has come to overclock our processor (AMD Athlon X2 4600+). Unfortunately, you cannot set any options from within XPC Tools:

Our next best option was to use nVidia's nTune application. This time we were able to change the major settings for the Shuttle SN27P2, such as memory timings, HT multiplier and of course FSB. Unfortunately, you cannot set the FSB higher than 250MHz, at least with the latest release nTune:

In order to get a stable system, we lowered the HT multiplier to 3x, as recommended from most users:

The system's stability was confirmed after running Orthos stability software for many hours. Of course, since the AMD Athlon X2 4600+ isn't exactly the best AMD processor to overclock, we lowered the CPU multiplier down to x8.0 and with the FSB at 250MHz, we reached 2.0GHz.

So far so good. Our next attempt was to go higher than 250FSB, something that at least with our PC setup, did not prove successful. Any setting above 250FSB resulted system failing the POST and needed a ClearCMOS (the back clear CMOS panel button came in very handy here). We have read reports that with other AM2 processors, the FSB can reach up to 300MHz (maximum BIOS setting), which indicates this box is very capable of overclocking.


12. Conclusion

Shuttle's SN27P2 follows the tradition of Shuttle's dedication to AMD processors. The recent retail price drop of AM2 platforms, does make them very appealing to users, especially since you can buy an AM2 X2 3600+ for only €67~70! Adding fast memory and VGA card, you can get a powerful, small box, able to play the latest demanding applications and of course games :-)

In all tests, the Shuttle SN27P2 was found to be as fast as standard desktop AM2 motherboards. That is a good sign. There are four memory banks, so there is no problem for upgrading to more memory (up to 8GB DDR2) and of course DDR2 800MHz setting is supported. Memory timings can be set down to 1T, as happens with all AMD chipsets, so with the proper selection of memory modules you can get extremely good memory performance.

Passing to the overall build quality, we have no complaints here. The black finish is very good looking. The internal arrangement for HDD and optical devices is much better than the already tested SD32G2. You can have up to three (3) 3.5" HDDs and one optical drive. All cables are pre-installed and at the correct length. This box isn't exactly what you can call tool-less, since there are quite a few philips screws to remove before reaching the motherboard. There is some free space around the CPU area and the integrated 400W PSU can handle most demanding VGA cards. For that purpose, there is a 6pin PCI-E power cable as well, but remember not to buy a long or bulky VGA card, otherwise you may find you can't close the case.

Four SATA2 connectors (three on board and one external) are probably enough for this type of system, especially since SATA Optical drives have now also become very popular among users. A Floppy connection is also present, but probably won't be used by most users. What is missing is the PS2 ports for the keyboard and mouse. This is the first time we've seen a board without the "classic" PS2 connections, so be careful as you can only use USB keyboard/mouse devices. WiFi should have been a default inclusion, but you can buy the module from Shuttle or simply buy a USB adapter.

In the overclocking arena, the SN27P2 can go up to 250MHz FSB. This is what we could get from our trials with the AMD Athlon X2 4600+ CPU. Other reviewers have reported frequencies up to 300MHz, which is also the ceiling available under the BIOS. If your overclocking attempts fail, the system may not POST, so the Clear CMOS button on the back, is very convenient.

Passing on to the all important noise levels, we can say that we were in the main satisfied. We expected however, that Shuttle would have adopted some kind of noise absorption system (e.g. rubber mounts) for drives, to keep noise to a minimum. The PSU seems silent enough, which is a good point.

Ending our presentation, we can see a clear market for the Shuttle SN27P2. The box is exactly what Shuttle advertises, performs well, can be overclocked and with some minor user modification, can become even quieter. The retail price of ~€490 is not all that low, so judge your needs and decide if the box is right for you.

- Pros

- Cons



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