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Shuttle SN68SG2 Barebones PC - Shuttle SN68SG2 Barebones PC
Once everything is in, there is very little space wasted and if it weren't for all the cables being in place when you buy the system, you'd have a hard time routing them all yourself - Shuttle really do make this as easy as possible.
To test the performance of this barebones system we added an AMD Athlon64 X2 5000+, 2GB Corsair XMS2 PC 6400 DDR2 RAM, a 400GB Seagate Barracuda hard drive, a Plextor CD/DVD re-writer drive, and the aforementioned graphics card. We tested using our usual 2D and 3D benchmarks though, given most of the performance comes down to the CPU, RAM and graphics card, these results are more a reflection of the stability of the platform and thermal performance of the chassis. Even so, it's worth noting the setup we used, which is fairly low budget, still performed very well in all of our testing.
So, the SN68SG2 is small, fast, dark, and handsome, so surely deserves a recommended award? Well, not quite. While the performance and ergonomics of the system and chassis are without fault, it does fall down on heat and noise issues. As soon as the CPU had anything remotely taxing to do, the PSU fan kicked into overdrive and succeeded in making the SN68SG2 sound and feel more like a rather cumbersome hairdryer than a sleek tabletop computer. And, no matter what I did, I couldn't get it to quieten down during our gaming and video encoding tests. I tried adjusting the CPU fan to low, rather than spinning up automatically, but the system crashed under intense load.
The fan certainly needs to spin up as parts of the power management circuitry, the MOSFETs, rose to temperatures over 100 degrees Celsius during our testing, which is above anything I've come across before. I'd suggest putting a heatsink on them might be a good way to go for the next version.
The SN68SG2 is another in the long list of well built, easy to use, great looking small form factor PCs from Shuttle. And, if all you need is a computer for casual office work with the occasional bit of gaming, it is just perfect. However, it is let down by a cooling system that can't cope with regular intense use and as such it isn't appropriate for the power user.