- Review Price: £256.00
So here we are, yet another new barebone system from Shuttle, although this time around in a much more traditional Shuttle design than the SB81P that I looked at previously. It features Shuttle’s new G5 chassis, which is much smaller than the P series. This mean that it’s less roomy inside, but Shuttle has still tried to make the most of the space available.
For those that didn’t like the cooling system that was introduced with the P series, the SB77G5 has a tweaked version of the ICE heat-pipe cooler. This is one of the features Shuttle is known for in its small form factor barebone packages. The cooler has been given an overhaul and the awkward fastening clips have been banished and replaced with four screws – definitely a far easier solution. That said, you do have to be careful when fitting the new cooler, as you could damage components on the motherboard if you’re a bit rough. Beside the screws, the cooler has also been given a much better finish than the older design.
As the SB77G5 is a Socket-775 system, the fan has been upgraded to a new four-pin version, which supports better thermal management. The fan is very loud at full speed, but this only happened during the initial start up. After that initial burst it was fairly quiet, but not silent. A better quality fan would produce less noise, but would in turn increase the cost of an already pricey system.
As I mentioned the SB77G5 accepts the new Socket-775 Intel Pentium 4 processors, so you’d be forgiven for assuming that the motherboard utilises one of the new Intel chipsets. However, Shuttle has instead gone with the tried and tested, the 875P chipset. This is one of a select few SFF barebones that features the 875P chipset and to my knowledge the only one offering Socket-775 support.
So, you can use the latest processors, but there’s no DDR2 or PCI Express support. This is fine if you’re looking to upgrade your PC as long as you don’t feel the need for new memory and a graphics card. The advantage of the 875P chipset is that you can use affordable components all around. So if you already have some suitable computer parts knocking about, this might be the ideal upgrade.
The case is up to Shuttle’s normal high standard and it’s relatively easy to assemble. However, the power cables could do with being a couple of centimetres longer. Shuttle seems to have taken onboard some of the comments made in the past about its systems and most of the cabling is now pre-routed, which is great. Shuttle also supplies an extension cable that is used with graphics cards that needs to be powered. The clever thing is that it has both types of power connector, so even older ATI cards with the smaller power connector can be used.
A nice touch is the plastic flap underneath the hard drive bay, which is used to hold any cables running from the front of the system to the hard drives. The SB77G5 accepts one 5.25in drive and two 3.5in drives, which is fairly typical for a system this size. The front finish is very stylish and well made, but I’m personally not a fan of the “push to open” flaps.
Removing the drive cradle gives you access to the innards of the SB77G5 and it’s quite easy to get to all the parts you need to access in order to build the system. The memory slots are accessible even after the drive cradle is populated, but there isn’t much space to manoeuvre. The floppy connector has been demoted to the back of the motherboard, under the PSU, which will make it awkward to route the cable if you want to use a floppy drive – not that I’d advise such behaviour.
The IDE connectors and the two SATA connectors are towards the front of the case and all of them are relatively easy to get to. There’s plenty of connectivity around the back as well. Shuttle has fitted two serial ports, two PS/2 ports, two USB 2.0 ports and single FireWire port. Add to this an Ethernet port for the onboard Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet controller, 5.1-channel audio outputs in the shape of 3.5mm jacks, a line in, coaxial S/PDIF out and optical S/PDIF in and out. The optical S/PDIF out connector is located above the expansion card slots and is connected with a wire internally, so you’ll need to be careful when installing a PCI card.
The parallel port doesn’t come as standard, but there is a pin header on the motherboard and a space in the case where the optional port can be fitted. Right next to the audio connectors is a small hole, behind which a button is placed. The button is used instead of a jumper to reset the CMOS.
Hidden behind a flap at the front are five more ports, a headphone and microphone jack, two USB 2.0 ports and a four-pin FireWire port. The panels on the front of the case have been finished with black brushed aluminium to enhance the overall stylish design.
Fitting optical drives to SFF systems in the past has been a tricky affair, especially if the eject button on the drive didn’t line up exactly with the eject button on the case. Shuttle has solved this problem by fitting an adjustable eject mechanism that can be moved along a track to ensure that it lines up with the middle of the eject button on the drive.
Overall the SB77G5 is well built and has all of the features you would expect considering the hardware that it’s built with. The lack of HD audio is a downside as the integrated Realtek codec is far from the best onboard audio solution around. It would also be a tight squeeze to fit a dual slot graphics card in this chassis.
The benchmark scores don’t disappoint either with an overall SYSMark 2004 score of 212 with a 3.6GHz Pentium 4 and 1GB of Crucial Ballistix PC3200 DDR SDRAM installed. The 3D benchmarks were done with a GeForce 6600GT AGP card and considering the limitations of the GPU the scores are very good. If you’re looking for a Shuttle system to take along to LAN parties the SB77G5 would serve you well as long as you’re happy with an AGP graphics card.
If there’s one downside to the SB77G5 it’s the steep retail price of £255.95 which makes it one of the most expensive SFF systems on the market. Whether the SB77G5 is worth the money is really down to the person buying it, but I think that the price is a tad too high for what is really a rehashed model in a stylish new case and sporting a different CPU socket.
The Shuttle SB77G5 is a stylish, well built SFF system, but it lacks some of the features seen on the latest generation of barebone systems. The i875P chipset is still going strong and for anyone not willing to move on to DDR2 and PCI Express this is a good alternative, but it’s a lot of money to spend on old technology.
Score in detail