One of the benefits of Shutttle’s ICE cooling system is that it uses as few fans as possible, so the northbridge and southbridge are passively cooled. The CPU heatsink is chunky and has an 80mm fan pulling in air on one side, and a 60mm fan on the other. At the rear are two 50mm fans pulling the warm air out of the rear of the case. The dual-slot GeForce 8800 GTX I used for testing however, pushed a serious amount of hot air out at the rear, and I was intrigued to find out if it would all remain stable when working under load. The memory slots are relatively accessible as they’re at the side, so you can upgrade without having to dismantle the thing.
When I realised what it was possible to fit inside the SD39P2 I got quite excited by its potential. As such I endeavoured to get hold of some of the best components I could and put them inside to see if this machine could really operate reliably when properly specced up. As such I populated it with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 – not the fastest quad-core CPU Intel does, but at around £340, a lot cheaper than either the X6700 or the X6800 and therefore a fair match for the SD39P2.
I wanted to make sure I used some decent memory, and OCZ kindly helped out by providing a matched pair of PC2 800MHz PC2 6400 1GB DIMM, with 4-4-4-15 timings. These are also fetchingly covered in gold heatsinks. After all when running under load you need your memory to be reliable.
I also went to town on the hard disks, fitting not one, but two, Western Digital Raptor X hard disks in RAID 0. These are specialist drives aimed at gamers and high-end workstation users and spin at 10,000rpm, the only SATA drives on the market that do so, delivering blistering performance. I was actually sent the versions of the drives with a glass lid, which actually let you see what’s going on inside. It is actually pretty cool to see the discs spin up and watch the actuator head move incredibly fast across the spindle – though it’s all rendered rather pointless once the lid goes on. It could be a great incentive to mod a Shuttle case, which if you look around the web has been done.
There are two downsides to the fantastic performance you get from the Raptors – they generate quite a bit of heat, which will make a good test for the cooling performance of this compact system, and that the capacity of each disk is limited to a relatively measly 150GB. This is why I went for RAID 0 – though striping two discs together increases the chance of data loss and does not necessarily give significantly better real world performance than one drive, at least you get the benefit of having a decent sized 300GB partition. Still that’s not enough these days, hence the addition of a 750GB Seagate hard drive too. That’s a system that’s pretty sorted for storage.