Shuttle SD39P2

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent

Pros

  • Supports Intel LGA775 processors
  • Intel 975X chipset
  • Up to 8GB 800MHz memory
  • Three HDD bays (RAID supported
  • Overclocking functions

Cons

  • Expansion slots are limited
  • No built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
  • AMD loyalists are out of luck

Shuttle has produced the most powerful and configurable small-form-factor barebone system (lacking processor, memory, graphics card, HDD and operating system) to date. The all-aluminum SD39P2PC has a compact footprint and looks relatively unassuming, but under the surface it supports Intel quad-core processors, up to 8GB of DDR2 800MHz memory and the GeForce 8800GTX.

Shuttle’s XPC Barebone SD39P2 uses the company’s well-tried P2 design. The 22cm by 32.5cm by 21cm chassis isn’t the most appealing (where are all the brushed aluminium and myriad of LEDs?). but is a strong force to be reckoned with in terms of performance. The system supports Intel’s most powerful Socket 775 processors (Intel 975X chipset), such as the Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme, and up to 8GB of DDR2 800MHz memory in dual-channel mode (up to 4 times the capacity of previous-generation XPCs). We found this was plenty for demanding video and graphics-editing duties, and it also makes 3D games fly. Compatible with the latest PCIe graphics cards, such as nVidia’s highly-regarded GeForce 8800GTX/7950GX2 or ATI’s Radeon X1900XTX, the Shuttle SD39P2 also supports plenty of storage, so it's equally suited to network storage and media server duties. The system can accommodate up to three SATA 300 hard disks, which can be run in combination as RAID 0, 1, 5 or 10.

To complete this impressive package, there's an external SATA port, Gigabit LAN (Broadcom BCM5789) that supports Support Wake-On-LAN, and onboard 7-channel audio (Realtek ALC888). We checked that the 400-Watt power supply was up to the job, and found it capable of powering a GeForce 8800GTX, three hard disk drives, and a single optical drive. It’s also surprisingly quiet when running, thanks to the system’s intelligent management of its five fans; the system has multiple climate zones for optimal air circulation.

The XPC SD39P2 has  easy-to-reach USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 ports at the front of the system. The external SATA port at the back provides smart setup and hot-plug functionality, allowing effortless sharing and transfer of digital media on external devices.

For those looking to squeeze the most possible performance out of the system, overclocking functions in the SD39P2’s BIOS let you adjust the 'CPU Clock Ratio', 'CPU Clock' and 'DDR2 Voltage set'. The ability to alter DDR2 voltage is particularly useful as it allows you to benefit from overclocked DDR2 800MHz memory (by default the SD39P2 is configured to support 667MHz DDR2 memory). Unfortunately, the latest-generation DDR3 memory isn’t supported by the motherboard.

When it comes to expandability, the SD39P2 is clearly limited in comparison to a regular desktop PC, but there's still scope to kit it out with some of your favourite peripherals. Accessing the internal workings is quick and easy using the four thumbscrews, and the whole enclosure comes off in one go giving you access to all sides of the machine. The onboard connectors consist of x3 SATA, ATA/100 IDE, floppy connector, 5-pin USB 2.0 header, ATX main power connector, ATX 12-Volt power connector, three 4-pin fan connectors and one 3-pin fan connector. Expansion bays include three 3.5in. bays and a single 5.25in. bay. Upgrade slots include a single PCI-E x16 slot (SLI and Crossfire are out the window) and one PCI slot, so you’ll have to pick your expansion card wisely.

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The front of the machine is fairly minimalist, which we like, offering just two USB 2.0 ports, 4-pin FireWire, microphone-in and headphone-out ports beneath the flip-down cover. Next to the 3.5in. drive bay, which is ideal for a memory card reader, are power-on/off and reset buttons, alongside power and HDD LEDs. The rear panel is much more exciting: RJ45 Gigabit LAN, eSATA port, six USB 2.0, FireWire 400, line-in, front-out port, side surround-out port, rear surround-out port, center/bass port, S/PDIF coaxial-out port, S/PDIF optical-in port, as well as a Clear CMOS button (just in case your overclocking skills aren’t up to scratch).

A barebone PC isn’t for everyone: the machine is incomplete as supplied and there’s always the fear that you’ll buy a component that isn’t fully supported. Shuttle, however, has made the SD39P2 almost foolproof by supporting all the best components on the market, although the lack of support for AMD processors will disappoint some. You’ll still have to shop around for core components, but at the end of the day you’ll have a unique piece of kit that packs a punch while consuming minimal desk space — about 1/7th the volume of a typical desktop PC, in fact.

 

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