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Shuttle XPC SN25P - Small Form Factor Barebone
As I mentioned in my review of the Biostar iDEQ 330P a few weeks ago, I had yet to see the Shuttle XPC SN25P, which is the only real competitor to the iDEQ 330P. First impression of the SN25P is that it’s a far more stylish box than the iDEQ. The light blue metallic and black front shows that Shuttle pays attention to its design. The blue bits hide the drives and the front ports, which might or might not be to your liking.
Internally the SN25P is very similar to the SB81P although the motherboard is of course completely different. The shared parts are the cooling system and the internal case mounts. This means that the SN25P can be fitted with two hard drives across the top, while a further drive can be seated in the front accessible 3.5in drive bay instead of a floppy drive. There is no need to install a card reader as this is already fitted as standard. The card reader accepts all the standard memory card formats except XD cards according to Shuttles specs.
The P range of chassis are larger than the traditional XPC cases, which makes it easier to assemble the system. It also results in more space inside the case which allows for improved air circulation and better cooling. The cooling setup is not quite up to that of the iDEQ 330P, as there are no less than seven fans blowing air in different directions inside the case. As far as the CPU cooling is concerned this is not a problem, as the air is taken in on the right hand side of the chassis and blown out on the left hand side.
The 350W PSU as well as the two rear mounted 60mm case fans are sucking the hot air out of the rest of the system. The 60mm fans are mounted at the top of the chassis to improve the hard drive cooling. The nForce4 Ultra chipset has a rather unusual cooling setup, as Shuttle has fitted it with a heatsink that has a side mounted fan.
Abit has done this in the past on a few motherboards, but it’s not a solution that seems to have gained much popularity. I’m not quite sure why the chipset fan is blowing air toward the front of the system, when the other cooling fans are pulling the hot air out the back - unless the chipset cooler was mounted the wrong way around on our review sample. The way it is mounted now would cause turbulence inside the case which could increase the noise generated.
Speaking of noise, the SN25P has a wide range of BIOS options for the fan speeds from ultra low noise to running the fans at full speed. There is if course an automatic mode as well which in all honesty worked quite well. The SN25P is not as quiet as the iDEQ 330P on its lowest settings, but both systems are about as noisy as each other when running flat out. Unfortunately Shuttle doesn’t supply a Windows utility to change the fan settings on the fly, whereas Biostar did.
Using the nForce 4 Ultra chipset the SN25P is ready to accept the new AMD X2 processors, although you need to upgrade the BIOS first. Other benefits of the nVidia chipset include integrated Gigabit LAN with a hardware accelerated firewall along with SATA and IDE RAID. There are of course some limitations to the drive capacity so if you want to use four hard disks in a RAID you’d have to sacrifice the optical drive. Another option is to have a spare drive fitted which will take over the functionality of one of the two RAID drives in case of a failure – although then you can only mirror, rather than striping and mirroring.