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Computex 2004

Shuttle only had a very small booth on the show floor, instead choosing to take a large suite in the New York New York complex.

There’s no denying that Shuttle started the whole small form factor PC revolution, but lately the competition has caught up, and more desirable small form factor boxes have started to appear from other manufacturers. But Shuttle is set to change all that with a new range of products that look very impressive indeed.

The product that most interested me was the xPC SB81P. This cube system is slightly larger than most, but I would be more than willing to forgive it the extra girth considering the raft of features inside.

Shuttle has built a barebone chassis that should suite even the most power crazed PC user. The SB81P is based on the new Intel 915G chipset for Socket 775 CPUs, so it has PCI Express support for the latest graphics cards.

At the front of the machine you’ll see a slimline card reader mounted at the very top. Because the card reader is integrated into the chassis, there’s no need to waste a 3.5in bay. Below the card reader is a 5.25in bay to hold your optical drive.

But it’s what’s going on inside that’s really special. Behind the card reader you’ll find two hard disk bays, but because the card reader is pre-mounted, you can also use the external 3.5in bay for a hard disk. This means that you can configure a system with both striping and mirroring, giving you RAID performance and data security.

To make the most of all those hard disk bays, there is a total of four S-ATA headers on the board, and the slimmer S-ATA cables should make it possible to have three disks installed without things getting too messy.

To keep everything cool there are five fans in the system. Two fans blow across the top hard disk enclosure, there’s a CPU cooler fan, and another one that blows air through the case, over the CPU and out the other side. The final fan is in the 350W power supply – this is the highest wattage power supply I’ve ever seen in a small form factor box, and shows Shuttle’s high-end intent for this box.

Shuttle’s latest batch of boxes also make use of a new WiFi adapter. This is an impressively tiny unit, which is always a bonus when making a module for a small form factor system. The module comes complete with an external aerial that slides through a cut-out in the back of the machine.

In an effort to supply an almost total solution, Shuttle was pushing its TFT screens. The design is quite attractive, and the large carrying handle on the top shows that this is the kind of screen that can be taken to friends’ houses or LAN parties. Of course the screens have a low 16ms response time to keep the hardcore gamers happy.

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