Earlier this week we looked at Shuttle’s SN27P2 barebones and at over £300 we thought it a touch too expensive. If you agreed with this, then you should cease your lamenting and have a peek at Shuttle’s budget AM2 barebones instead.
With a VAT inclusive price of under £150 it’s within the range of most people who’re considering building their own budget PC. It’s quite easy to specify a PC for just under £300 if you choose entry level components: SK22G2 – £149.21, Sempron AM2 2800 - £28.14, 250Gb Hitachi Deskstar T7K250 - £52.86, 256MB Corsair Value Select PC3200 - £18.44, NEC ND-5170A-0B DVD Writer - £22.17; total cost £270.82 using sample prices at the time of writing from www.scan.co.uk.
It’s a smidgen cheaper than the Dell Dimension 3100C – which costs £299 and comes with a Celeron D, 256MB of RAM and integrated graphics – but you’d still need to spend money on a keyboard, mouse and monitor to go with your newly built barebone system.
However, while the SK22G2 might not be quite as cheap as Dell’s 3100C it certainly looks a darn sight better. Although the Shuttle is based on the veteran G series chassis it’s a simple design, which has aged gracefully. Fortunately, the motherboard isn’t from the same era as the chassis. The motherboard’s controlled by a VIA K8M890CE, which supports the new AMD Socket AM2 processors and provides two RAM slots for up to 4GB of PC6400 DDR2 memory.
The system comes with both a PCI-E x16 slot and ViaChrome integrated graphics. However the case doesn’t have a 6-pin PCI-E power connector, and there’s barely enough space or ventilation for a single slot graphics card. You could leave the PCI-E slot and 32-bit PCI slot free though and use the integrated graphics and audio like the Dell does.
The integrated ViaChrome graphic chipset, although DirectX 9 compliant, isn’t suitable for high-resolution gaming. It is however, perfectly good for desktop applications and video playback. Since the on-board graphics has a couple of hardware pixel shaders it will also work with Vista should you be brave enough to try.
What you will find yourself using, unless you want to fill the system’s only 32-bit PCI slot with a soundcard, is the integrated audio. The in-built Realtek ACL655 provides 5.1-channel sound and while it may not sound as nice as an Audigy X-Fi, the quality is still relatively high.
If your intention is to use the SK22G2 as the base for a media PC then you should be aware of its limited space for drives even though the specs may not suggest it. The board’s SATA2 controller is wired to two internal SATA ports and provides support for RAID 0 / 1 / 0+1, and RAID 5. There’s also a single IDE channel, which enables you to connect two IDE devices and a pair of Molex power connectors dangle in the correct position should you wish to use a pair of IDE drives.
Although internal connections are sparse, the exterior of the case helps to remedy the problem. The back of the case has connections for LAN, analogue outputs for the 5.1 surround sound and an S/PDIF in/out socket. You’ll also find four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port and a serial and D-Sub monitor port. Hidden down at the bottom of the case is an external CMOS clear switch. This unmarked switch makes it easy to remedy any mistakes made in the BIOS setup.