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Appeared on: Monday, July 06, 2009
Shuttle SP-45H7


1. Features, specifications

Today we have in our labs one of the latest Small form factor PC by Shuttle, based on the P45 Intel chipset. The SP45H7 promises to deliver high performance, stability and quiet operation for users who need more than a standard PC case.

The Shuttle Prima SP45H7 is based on the company's new H7 chassis design. It is designed to provide quality and flexibility to gamers who chase for high end gaming station. The SP45H7 supports the newest Intel Core2 Quad Processors, DDR2 1066(OC), PCI Express Gen 2.0 architecture, 1600Mhz FSB, Serial ATA 3 Gb/s, 80 plus low power consumption . The platform produces less than 28dBs when runs heavy software applications, according to the official specifications.

- Features

Supports Intel Core2 Quad / Core2 Duo/ Dual-Core/Celeron 400 series

With four execution cores, the Intel Core2 Quad processor blows through processor-intensive tasks in demanding multitasking environments and makes the most of highly threaded applications.

Intel P45 Express Chipset

Desktop PC platforms based on the Intel P45 Express Chipset, combined with either the Intel Core2 Quad processor or Intel Core2 Duo processor, drive performance and state-of-the-art technology to mainstream and performance platforms.

New Chassis Design

The new Shuttle H7 aluminum chassis structure is designed for light weight and rust proof. The large interior space allows full length graphic card and availability for upgrade. The new H7 chassis enlarges a fan of PSU up to 5cm, which encourages better thermal efficiency for the complete system. The front panel includes a built-in eSATA connector for easy access to a variety of media content and facilitate the connection.

PCI-E 2.0 Interface

PCI Express 2.0 provides greater flexibility and reliability in design and can dynamically manage power and performance through software controls. The improved bandwidth capability enables much higher levels of performance on graphics-intensive applications such as high-end gaming and video rendering.

Dynamic Over-clocking Technology

User friendly Dynamic Over-clocking feature enabling an easy way to over-clock your system to BIOS presets (3%, 5%, 7% and 10%). For more advanced users wanting more options additional voltage and frequency settings are available including the tuning of FSB, NB core, SB core and PCI-E.

Integrated Cooling Engine (ICE)

Integrated Cooling Engine (ICE) uses convection cooling to dissipate heat away from and around the CPU up to 140W. Copper tubes coated in nickel enhances tube hardness and rust-proof protection are filled with distilled water, effectively channels heat away, providing high efficiency processor and chassis cooling.

All Solid Capacitors Motherboard Design

All solid capacitors design is the new trend for Shuttle's motherboard and guaranteed to deliver maximum stability, reliability and longer system lifetime for the ultimate PC gaming and entertainment experience.

80 PLUS Certified Power Supply

The 80 PLUS performance specification is a standard which requires power supplies in computers and servers to be 80% or greater energy-efficient. This makes an 80 PLUS certified power supply at least 33% more efficient than current power supplies. The SP45H7 is guaranteed by 80 PLUS BRONZE certification.

Energy Star 4.0 Labeled

 

- Specifications

*) Overclocking Warning
Please note there is a certain risk involved with overclocking, including adjusting the setting in the BIOS or using third-party overclocking tools. Overclocking may affect your system stability or even cause damage of the components and devices of your system. It is done at your own risk and expense. Shuttle cannot be held responsible for possible damage caused by overclocking.
**) Dynamic Overclocking Technology (D.O.C.)
This is the overclocking function in the BIOS Setup, which is designed to detect the load balance of CPU while running programs, and to adjust the best CPU frequency automatically. When the mainboard detects CPU is running programs, it will speed up CPU automatically to make the program run smoothly and faster. When the CPU is temporarily suspending or staying in the low load balance, it will restore the default settings instead.
***) Dynamic Energy Saving (D.E.S.)
The Dynamic Energy Saving (D.E.S.) technology helps to improve power efficiency significantly and reduces heat inside the case. A special chip monitors the CPU load by the CPU's Power State Indicator (PSI) signal and switches on/off 3 out of 4 of the MOS power phases depending on stress and load of the system. This hardware-based technology helps to eliminate wasted energy. Lower power consumption also means less noise from cooling systems as a consequence.


2. The package

The Shuttle SP45H7 costs around $354 in the U.S. and much more in Europe (~€420) as found in several online stores.

Below you can see the retail box.

Everything inside is well packaged and secured:

The box includes:

Two SATA and one IDE cables are pre-installed. The motherboard has also one more spare SATA channel in case you need it. The total weight of the system is just 3.63Kg, without any HDD or optical drives installed. Shuttle has made a good job in the design and the materials used for the case, contributing to an overall stylish and solid look.

Shuttle has added an eSATA port on the front panel, among with two USB ports and the mic/headphone jacks. You will also find the power button, two bays for 3.5" optical disc drives and one floppy drive.

The reset button is small and cannot be accessed easily placed on the right side of the front panel.

Note that the available ports are hidden and the covering panel can be easily opened with a single touch.

At the rear side we find the usual input/outputs. The case has thumb type screws for easy handling. The Shuttle I.C.E. cooling system includes rubber at mounting screws to absorb shocks and noise. Two expansion slots for PCI and PCI-e cards are also available there.

The rear panel offers:

Both PS2 mouse/keyboard jacks are missing, meaning all your devices should be connected to the available USB ports - which could be more by the way, provided that the motherboard supports them. Other than that we don't find anything missing.

There are not options for WiFi or BT connections, but you can use the appropriate USB dongles for that purpose.


3. Opening the case

Opening the case is easy since Shuttle uses thumb type screws in the system:

Two (2) 3.5" devices (2x HDD or 1x HDD, 1x floppy) and a 5.25" optical device can easily fit inside. Two SATA cables have been pre-installed.

The usual I.C.E. cooling system is present here with two full copper heatsinks found on the north/southbridge chips:

Shuttle has also added a fan to solve any overheating issues. There are also four memory banks that can accept up to 16GB of memory (4x4GB modules).

Zooming at the bottom left we see the two IDE cables. Graphics cards can be installed on the PCI-e v2.0 slot, while any other PCI device can be attached to the other available PCI slot.

At the right you will see three extra sets of pins for USB connections. Shuttle hasn't included such cables, but you can probably find a spare one from your old motherboard.

The 80PLUS power supply unit offers a total power 300Watt and features the Active PFC technology.

The installed CPU cooler has a copper base with four mounting screws that keep the cooler in place right on the motherboard:

The cooler's main body is made out of aluminum with four heat pipes connecting the copper base with a big aluminum heatshink.

A 92mm fan blows the produced heat out of the PC case:


4. Installing the components

For our tests, we installed a 3.5" HDD and an optical drive. We used the pre-installed SATA and power cables, so everything is tidy and there is lot of room space under the storage bay and the CPU area. The first step is to install the memory modules and the CPU.

Getting the CPU cooler installed is very easy and is should take you no more than a few seconds. The 3.5" hard disk drive can be also easily secured in the drive bay.

The final step is to add the graphics card. We used the Asus 9600GT Top, which is compact enough to fit. Unfortunately, there is not enough space for adding a typical passively cooled graphics card.

The final step is to install a 5.25" optical drive.


5. BIOS settings

Most of you must be familiar with the Phoenix-Award BIOS:

Under 'CPU feature' we can disable the C1E (speedstep) and also enable/disable the Multi-core processors and the Virtualization Technology:

The 'PC Health status' is always useful for monitoring the system's voltages and the CPU temperature:

Under the 'Frequency/Voltage control' tab we can set various important elements like the CPU ratio, the FSB and the PCI-E clock. The CPU:DRAM clock ratio has many options to play with (Auto, 5:8, 5:6, 1:1, 1:2, 2:3, 4:5, 3:5.), but in our case we simply couldn't make the OCZ PC2-8500 memory work at 533MHz, despite the fact that we set CL5 and the DRAM voltage at 2.25V This will result to a lower performance compared with "normal" sized motherboards.

The 'Voltage control' options are rather limited. The CPU voltages are calculated with an offset of the default processor value:


6. Installation, testbed

We have everything up and running. The Everest Ultimate Edition provides the basic information about the system:

Let's now see how our CPU was identified using the CPU-Z utility:

- Test Configuration

In the following page we compare the performance of the Shuttle SP-45H7 with some other motherboards. For all the tests, we used the same components:

DDR2 Memory Testbed

Since the Shuttle SP-45H7 doesn't support our passive cooled MSI 7600GT graphics card, we had to replace that with a newly designed Asus 9600GT Top model.


7. Benchmarks - page 1

MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. The software runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances.

The CineBench R10 benchmark uses all the available CPU cores. The Shuttle SP-45H7 gave the second best scores here.

- x264 HD Benchmark

x264 Benchmark utilizes the next generation of Video Encoding benchmarks with support for x264 codec that is considered to be one of the most demanding for Video applications. Simply put, it is a reproducible measure of fast your machine can encode a short, HD video clip to a high quality x264 video file. It's nice because everyone running it will use the identical video clip and software. The video encoder (x264.exe) reports a fairly accurate internal benchmark (frames per second) for each pass of the video encode and it also uses multi-core processors very efficiently.

The benchmark procedure is very simple. You just run a batch file that encodes the same file four times. There software offers two different results for each pass of encoding. The average performance for both passes are found below:

The Shuttle SP-45H7 was the slower system here mainly due to the low memory divider we set.

- TMPGEnc 4 Xpress

TMPGEnc converts *.AVI files to MPEG1, the format which is used in VideoCDs. Using a variety of options in TMPGEnc, you can compress your video file in high quality. TMPGEnc enables you to adjust bitrate, quantize matrix, GOP structure, interlacing and many other parameters so that you can create the most appropriate movie file depending on your needs.

For our test we uses a 350MB AVI file encoded with the Xvid (Mpeg4 ASP) codec. We used the build in Mpeg4 ASP/AVC MediaEncoder profile and by present the average FPS for each system:


8. Benchmarks - page 2

SuperPI has become an utility to benchmark modern systems. In August 1995, the calculation of pi with 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.

The software offers up to 32M calculations of PI numbers. We set 8M calculations for this test:

The fact that couldn't initialize the memory divider at the 533MHz had a cost here and the Shuttle SP-45H7 was slow.

- wPrime

wPrime is a benchmarking application designed to use a highly multithreaded approach to calculating the square-roots of large amounts of numbers (up to 32 billion at this stage!)

Shuttle's system was fast in this test.


9. Summary

The Shuttle SP45H7 continues the tradition to produce SFFs (Small Form Factor PCs) adjusted to what people really need. The product supports socket 775 processors and follows the typical design of the Shuttle H7 series of products. The Intel P45 chipset supports Core2 Quad Processors, DDR2 1066(OC), PCI Express Gen 2.0 architecture, 1600Mhz FSB, Serial ATA 3 Gb/s, which is essentially all latest technology packed in a compact device. Shuttle is also continuing to offer top build quality and ergonomics with this new barebone.

Assembling the PC takes only a few minutes since the power supply is included and the SATA cables are pre-installed. All you have to do is to get the memory, the processor and the drives in place. After closing the case, everything runs quietly especially if you have an SSD drive installed.

The BIOS offers several options related to the installed CPU cooler allowing you adjust its operation according to your needs.

The main box may not support large graphics cards such as our MSI 7600GT with passive cooling, but the Asus 9600GT card with normal cooling was a perfect match.

We really have no complains about the internal design, everything is placed in the right position. We liked the eSATA port found on the front panel of the device, but we would also like to see a PS2 port at least on the rear side, for users who own a PS2 keyboard.

The included power supply has has been certified by the 80plus.org and worked just fine during our tests.

Speaking about performance, we should mention the problems we had in changing the memory dividers. We tried to make the memory run at 533MHz but the was refusing to allow the setting, leaving the memory run at just 400MHz . This had a negative impact in specific benchmarks such as the SuperPI. On the other hand, it did not cost much in the speed of the system in applications such as the x264 benchmark. Anyway it would be great if Shuttle fixed this problem with a firmware upgrade.

Overclocking is possible using the Auto Bios features or with manual settings. However, do not expect any significant performance gain since we couldn't push our C2Q 9300 CPU any higher than 3.0GHz.

Shuttle SP45H7 retails for around $354, making it an ideal solution for users who wish to get a small, affordable and powerful PC.

Positive

- Great build quality in all areas
- Based on the Intel P45 chipset
- Quiet operation
- Great design and aesthetics
- Small dimensions make it ideal for all users
- Four DIMM slots for lots of RAM capacity
- Easy and fast installation

Negative

- Big sized VGA products may don't fit
- Front plate can bend down easily with a small push
- PSU could be higher rated to support the latest graphics cards



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