Shuttle had already cracked the problem of heat when they released the P series of cases a couple of years ago. The SN27P2’s encased in the second generation of this chassis, so you’d expect it to provide at least as much cooling and space for drives as its predecessor. And you’d be right.
Key to the P’s success was the manner in which it compartmentalised the system’s components. The primary drive cradle remained unchanged from the earlier G series of cases, providing 5.25 and 3.5in external drive bays. The older G series of cases provided an extra internal 3.5in bay but as populating all three of these bays was often necessary this had the effect of reducing airflow between the drives causing them and the rest of the system to overheat.
This need not be the case in the P series of cases, though, because two more 3.5in drive cradles are provided in the top of the case. The redesign of these top bays is the most noticeable and welcome addition from the P chassis redesign. The case still comes pre-wired to accept a pair of SATA disks, but the flimsy rails have been replaced with a pair of aluminium cradles.
The drives screw into the sturdy cradles and the cradles are then screwed into the top supports of the case. This system is a lot less fiddly than the clip-on rails of the first P chassis and should also transmit less drive noise than the early model. The drives are not vibration isolated in any way though, so your system will still contain audible whirring and clicking hard disks
The noise level will be largely determined by your choice of hard disks, but at least they won’t suffer from overheating. This is because the drive compartment, in the top of the case, is cooled by a pair of 60mm exhaust fans. These may be speed controlled by the BIOS’ SmartX functions and remain near silent under normal operation. The new P2 revision also includes a header and space for a (noisy) 40mm fan to provide additional cooling if required.
Unlike the drive compartment, Shuttle’s ICE CPU heasink and fan hasn’t noticeably changed from the previous version. It’s still secured atop the CPU by four large bolts, and the 70mm exhaust and 92mm intake fans still suck cool air from vents on one side of the case and expel warm exhaust air directly out of the other. Once again, these fans are speed controlled by the motherboard. Unlike the smaller fans in the drive compartment, these are swift to fire up to full speed, particularly when you are playing a game or encoding video.
We tested the SN27P2 with an pretty full-on AMD FX-62, 2GB of Corsair 800MHz DDR2 memory, a Seagate Barracuda ST3400832AS hard disk and an nVidia 7900 GT. For comparison we put the Shuttle up against a reference system in a Abit KN9 motherboard and against a SK22G2, another Shuttle system. This result will mean more after we publish a full review of that system shortly.
The computer suffered no stability problems during any of the tests, completing each on the first attempt: no mean feat when running such a powerful CPU and graphics card.
If you’re short of space on your desk, but still require a powerful PC for home video editing or gaming then the SN27P2 fits the bill. It’s stable and relatively quiet with even the most demanding CPU in place. The price, at over £300, is quite high but a high-quality motherboard, case and PSU would cost a similar amount of money.
While the SN27P2 may perform very well for an M2 system it’s still not a match for Intel’s Core Duo, so it might be worth keeping an eye out for the SD37P2, which uses the same case but features an Intel 975X Socket 775 motherboard inside.