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Since the demise of the beige box, PC design has gone to extremes. You can go for the uber, pimped out approach, beautifully rendered by the likes of Vadim or you can go for something small, compact and yet, also very powerful. If the latter approach appeals you’ll almost certainly want to take a look at Shuttle’s new SD39P2.
Shuttle is pretty much synonymous with small form factor PCs, which is hardly surprising considering it created the genre. The SD39P2 is billed as its flagship machine – it supports Intel socket LGA775 dual-core and quad-core processors including the top-end Core 2 Quad QX6800. Add-in support for up to three hard disks, including RAID 0, 1 or 5 and the ability to take a dual-slot graphics card - even a GeForce 8800 GTX, and you can see that it has the potential to be an incredibly powerful machine for either gaming or workstation use.
It’s a smart box with understated looks. The front is uncluttered with a smooth brushed metal effect. There are two 5.25in bays and three bulbous silver buttons running down the side. The top button ejects the optical drive, the middle doesn’t actually do anything but has a light in it that indicates hard disk activity, while the third is the power switch and has a small blue light that shines when the system is powered on. The middle flap opens by pressing at the top right – this is if you have placed a floppy disc drive (why!) or a card reader (that’s better) in the lower 5.25in drive bay. Down the sides of the case are several grilles for airflow, so don’t put a drink on top in case it spills.
Let’s take a look at the specification. The SD39P2 is based on Intel’s 975X chipset that supports LGA775 processors at a FSB of up to 1,066MHz. It is combined with the ICH7-R southbridge – older that the ICH8 chipset that accompanies that P965 chipset, and therefore supports fewer USB ports. There’s a single PCI-Express x16 slot and next to it a regular PCI slot, which differentiates it from its predecessor, the SD37P2, which offered two x8 PCI Express card slots. While this gave it the ability to run two single slot ATI cards in CrossFire mode it prevented use of things such as TV Tuners or sound-cards. However, if you do go for a dual-slot graphics card on the SD39P2 then access to the PCI slot is obstructed anyway.
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