||ABS Bravado 2310 Review
March 24, 2003 Chris Angelini
Summary: Sporting Shuttle's popular nForce2-based SN41G2 small form factor PC, the ABS Bravado 2310 packs a big punch in a tiny little package. Outfitted with 512MB of DDR memory, an Athlon XP 3000+ CPU, and RADEON 9700 PRO graphics, the Bravado 2310 boasts an impressive list of features. ABS tops off the package with a DVD/CD-RW combo drive and a 17" ViewSonic LCD display. But how does it compare against a more traditional gaming rig? Find out in our review!
| Introduction||Page:: ( 1 / 13 )|
I’ve always been a staunch supporter of those who build their computer systems component by component, searching out the best prices using pricewatch.com or pricegrabber.com. The end result is generally a powerful gaming rig, completely customized, right down to the cooling and lighting. Now don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy piecing systems together for friends and family. But I’ve seen enough pre-built gaming rigs to know that there is an alternative. Gone are the days of buying an “enthusiast” machine from one of the larger OEM’s only to find its performance dismal in the latest first-person shooter.
Earlier this year, we took our first look at ABS Computer’s Ultimate M1 system, which featured all of the latest hardware in an aluminum case and a few extras, like rounded cables and thumb screws for easy disassembly. We were even treated to some tasteful lighting effects. As it stood, we were thoroughly impressed with the M1 and gave it an Editor’s Choice award. There simply wasn’t much for ABS to improve upon, or so we thought.
Whenever we discuss pre-built systems with manufacturers, we like to stress that differentiation is key. There are several companies that already sell impressive gaming systems at attractive prices. To compete in a market saturated with competitors and low profit margin, it is important to set yourself apart. So, with that advice in hand, ABS has constructed a performance rig based on Shuttle’s SN41G2 XPC small form-factor chassis. Is it unique? Yeah, in fact, we didn’t even know Shuttle’s 200 watt power supply would be sufficient for a top-end machine. The resulting Bravado 2310 is, at least from the outside, sleek and compact. Looks aren’t everything though, so let’s take a look at the system’s specification sheet to see if it has a shiny personality to go with that sparking smile.
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SIDEBAR: ABS Bravado 2310 product page.
| Specifications||Page:: ( 2 / 13 )|
As previously mentioned, the Bravado 2310 begins life as a Shuttle SN41G2 XPC. For the uninitiated, the XPC is Shuttle’s small form-factor “cube” chassis that comes equipped with a motherboard and power supply to fit the small box. Further, it also features Shuttle’s proprietary I.C.E. cooling technology, utilizing heat pipes to transfer heat from the processor to an array of aluminum fins. An 80mm fan blows past the array, through an exhaust hole on the back of the system. Needless to say, the setup doesn’t emanate much noise. At the heart of the SN41G2 lies the FN41 nForce2 motherboard. Shuttle is utilizing the IGP and MCP-T components of the chipset, giving the system dual-output GeForce4 MX-class graphics, IEEE 1394, USB 2.0, optical output, 10/100 Ethernet, TV-out and six-channel analog audio output. It’s a mouthful, I know, but it goes to show how much functionality has been integrated into an aluminum box measuring 300mm long, 200mm wide, and 185mm high.
Space efficiency is clearly imperative in the SN41G2. There isn’t room for a conventional power supply, so Shuttle uses a 200W unit from Enhance Electronics. Amazingly, it is robust enough to power an Athlon XP 3000+, AMD’s current processing flagship. The chip, based on the newly released “Barton” core, hosts 512KB of Level 2 cache memory, operates at 2.17GHz and runs on a 333MHz front side bus. For the most part, the 3000+ is capable enough to compete with Intel’s 3.06GHz Pentium 4. If you don’t require quite that much performance, the Bravado 2310 can be configured with the 2800, 2700 or 2600+ processors for significantly lower prices.
Of course, one of nForce2’s primary features is its dual-channel DDR memory support. Capable of supplying up to 6.4GB per second of bandwidth at 400MHz, the effectively 128-bit bus is best utilized by the integrated GeForce4 MX graphics. If an external AGP 8x card populates the board’s slot, system memory delivers even better performance clocked at 333MHz (synchronous to the processor) with aggressive timings. ABS includes two, 256MB modules of Corsair XMS3200 DDR RAM, which is of the utmost quality, though we feel Corsair’s low-latency modules would have been even better. Nevertheless, ABS ships the Bravado system preconfigured to run very aggressive timings and the appropriate 333MHz memory bus.
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The Bravado 2310 would make for an excellent home PC equipped solely with the parts we’ve already talked about. Simply, the system has power to spare. ABS wants to appeal to the gaming community, though. And so, the onboard video capabilities are disabled in favor of a RADEON 9700 Pro card with 128MB of DDR memory that populates the SN41G2’s AGP 8x slot. The result is greatly enhanced gaming performance and the ability to connect a digital flat-panel monitor to the 9700’s DVI port. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the nForce2’s dual outputs can work in conjunction with the RADEON 9700 Pro, but it should be of little consequence, as the 9700 also supports two display outputs.
SIDEBAR: Though the RADEON 9800 Pro isn’t quite available, ABS does offer a few systems for pre-order that include ATI’s flagship.
| Specifications (Continued)||Page:: ( 3 / 13 )|
It would have been nice to see some sort of Serial ATA implementation included with the Bravado 2310, as the technology’s neat cabling scheme would have made for a perfect match to the small form-factor chassis. However, there is no provision for Serial ATA built onto the FN41 motherboard and even beyond that, availability of Serial ATA hard drives is still limited. But it is of little consequence; ABS has no trouble incorporating a Western Digital 80GB Special Edition hard drive with an 8MB buffer and there isn’t much more we could ask for, save that Serial ATA setup.
Because space is limited, the SN41G2 chassis can accommodate a single 5.25” drive. ABS populates that space with a combo drive that functions as a 16x DVD drive and a 48x CD writer. For most home users and gaming enthusiasts, this is an excellent combo drive. It would, however, be good to see ABS include a DVD writer as an option, as it would perform the same functions, plus the ability to burn 4.7GB DVD media. ABS hasn’t wasted the only 3.5” slot, either. Rather than adding a floppy drive, ABS equipped the slot with another combo drive – a 7-in-1 media reader. Despite the minimal expandability, ABS makes excellent use of the space available.
Our review system included a set of Creative I-trigue 3300 2.1-channel speakers. The 80-watt burst power system isn’t weak, but it doesn’t do the SoundStorm audio system justice. For an extra $230, the MegaWorks 5.1 THX system is a much more powerful option. The review system also came with a 17” Viewsonic LCD display, but it is important to note that ABS offers an array of monitors to fit your size and budget requirements. Similarly, our machine included Microsoft’s Multimedia Keyboard and Wheel Mouse Optical. Input device preferences are highly subjective though, so again, there are several other keyboard and mouse combinations. Finally, ABS includes a 56k modem. Most enthusiasts won’t need that particular option, but it is available, should you be stuck without a broadband connection.
The Bravado 2310 is aimed more towards the home user than the Ultimate M1 we looked at previously. As such, it comes with a little more productivity software. ABS has again opted to use Windows XP Home Edition (the Professional Edition remains a $61 dollar upgrade). Nero Burning ROM and PowerDVD also make it into the bundle. The Microsoft Works Suite 2003, a $60 dollar inclusion on our system, is of course completely optional.
Our invoice price, not including sales tax, was $2,290. However, the system cost about $100 more when we priced it on ABS’ site. Without the pricey LCD, unnecessary modem, or mainstream Works Suite, the price came out under $1,900 – much more manageable. ABS also includes a one year warranty with that price, along with lifetime labor and lifetime technical support. Should you feel you need it, there is also a 24/7 tech support and onsite warranty that provides extra protection for an additional fee.
We’ve previously praised ABS for packaging its systems in a user-friendly manner and including the necessary documentation to ensure anybody can put the PC together. The Bravado 2310 follows suit with a well-organized binder that houses software and manuals. Further, the box includes a large poster illustrating how all of the parts fit together.
We did attempt to “build” the Bravado 2310 on our own, using the online tools available to you, and came up with the following prices:
AMD Athlon XP 3000+ - $558
Shuttle SN41G2 - $325
FIC RADEON 9700 Pro - $300
Western Digital 80GB Special Edition - $97
Corsair XMS3200C2 512MB - $160
LG 16x DVD/48x CD-RW Combo Drive - $67
Y-E Data 7-in1 Media Drive - $80
Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard/Optical Mouse Combo - $40
Viewsonic VE700 17” LCD - $455
Blitzz PCI Modem - $15
Microsoft Windows XP Home - $85
Creative Labs I-trigue 3300 2.1 - $81
MS Works 2003 OEM - $54
Total - $2,317, including shipping
This system, which would cost a little over $2,300 to piece together, is available for about $2,375 from ABS’ website. It is frankly a little surprising to see how little margin ABS is presumably operating with. Prices are lower when hardware is purchased in quantity, though, and the consumer reaps the benefit of this.
SIDEBAR: Check out the product page for the 7-in-1 media reader.
| System Setup||Page:: ( 4 / 13 )|
ABS Bravado 2310 System
FiringSquad.com Test Bed (as follows):
AMD Athlon XP 3000+ (333MHz)
ASUS A7N8X Deluxe nForce2 Motherboard
512MB Corsair XMS3200 CAS2 Memory
ATI RADEON 9700 Pro
30GB IBM Deskstar DTLA 307030 ATA-100 Hard Drive
Windows XP Professional
Desktop resolution 1024x768, 32-bit color, 75Hz refresh
All power saving options were turned off, as were the Automatic Update and System Restore services. Graphics options under the ‘Performance’ tab were all disabled for maximum performance.
Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo
3D Mark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 – 32-bit color
Quake III: Arena version 1.17 ‘Demo001’ demo
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter – 32-bit color, Elephant Atrium demo
SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth Benchmark
ABS shipped the system to us configured for optimal performance. That is, memory timings and AGP BIOS settings were set just as we would have wanted them. Overclocking, as nice as it would have been, was a lost cause. The space constraints and limited cooling capacity of the SN41G2 chassis is simply not conducive to running beyond spec. We were able to get increase the front side bus frequency slightly, but not nearly enough to register a notable gain in the benchmark tests.
SIDEBAR: Interestingly enough, the LG optical combo drive included with our system is not available on ABS’ configuration page.
| 3D Mark 2001 SE||Page:: ( 5 / 13 )|
3D Mark 2001 SE v.330 – DirectX 8
SIDEBAR: NVIDIA has already said that if and when an Athlon XP with a 400MHz front side bus is released, the nForce2 will support it immediately.
| 3D Mark 2001 SE – Frame Rates||Page:: ( 6 / 13 )|
3DMark 2001 - Car Chase
3DMark 2001 - Dragothic
3DMark 2001 - Lobby
3DMark 2001 - Nature
SIDEBAR: NVIDIA plans to update its core logic product line in the second half of 2003. At that point, we expect to see the integration of Serial ATA support.
| Serious Sam SE||Page:: ( 7 / 13 )|
Serious Sam SE (Elephant Atrium) – OpenGL
SIDEBAR: ABS seems to be offering GeForce FX cards with some of its products, but we’re not sure how available those cards are.
| Quake III: Arena||Page:: ( 8 / 13 )|
Quake III v.1.17 Demo001 – OpenGL
| Comanche 4||Page:: ( 9 / 13 )|
Comanche 4 – DirectX 8
SIDEBAR: Finals are over, and Spring Break is here!
| Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo||Page:: ( 10 / 13 )|
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby – DirectX 8
Unreal Tournament 2003 Botmatch – DirectX 8
SIDEBAR: Shuttle’s FN41 motherboard features 1MHz front side bus adjustments, but doesn’t offer any voltage settings.
| SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth||Page:: ( 11 / 13 )|
SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth
SIDEBAR: ABS’ BizRate.com rating is overwhelmingly positive – always good information to have.
| Ballistics Report||Page:: ( 12 / 13 )|
Size: We’re big fans of Shuttle’s XPC line (especially the models with AGP connectivity). The fact that ABS has chosen to base its Bravado 2310 on the Shuttle SN41G2 chassis gives the system the uniqueness we talked about previously, appealing to hardcore gamer and mainstream home users alike. Even though the SN41G2 doesn’t offer much room for add-ons, ABS has taken advantage of what space is available and incorporated a combo 5.25” drive and a 7-in-1 media reader in the 3.5” slot. As a result, the system’s capabilities exceed those of many full-sized systems from other manufacturers.
Performance: The Bravado 2310 was even able to best our own Athlon XP 3000+ test bed in several situations! And don’t let the small size fool you – the system is extremely potent. It is fairly amazing that ABS is able to use the hardware it has in the Bravado without introducing stability problems attributable to either excess of heat or shortage of power.
Price: We’re not sure how they do it, but ABS is again offering its product at a price only slightly higher than we’d be able to build it, and that includes ABS’ setup manual and warranty. If you’d like to build your own gaming rig but don’t have the time, this would be an excellent alternative.
Professionalism: ABS may not have the corporate clout of Dell or HP/Compaq, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at the packaging and documentation sent out with the Bravado 2310. All spare parts are included, like the DVI connector you’d find in a retail RADEON 9700 Pro package. And the instructions are easy to follow.
Options: One of the negative consequences associated with ABS’ use of such a small system is that there aren’t as many options available to swap hardware in and out. For instance, we’d like to see a unit akin to Sony’s DRU-500A available for DVD burning. Similarly, we’d like to replace that 56k modem with a PCI wireless networking card or even choose a quantity of memory beyond 512MB. Overall, ABS does a good job working with the space they’ve got, but there is still room for more.
Price: No matter how you look at it, $2,400 doesn’t constitute a mainstream, budget system. If you can pay the price of admission, you’ll be happy with the show. Otherwise, you may have to watch from the sidelines or knock the price down with a more affordable processor.
SIDEBAR: ABS also offers a custom configurator where you can, for instance, order a system without memory and a processor, if you’ve already got those parts.
| Final Verdict||Page:: ( 13 / 13 )|
Ask any woman – good things (like diamonds) come is small packages. Yes, ABS has done it again – the Bravado 2310 is a full-fledged gaming system compressed into a Shuttle XPC chassis. It doesn’t weigh much, but it’s got all of the ingredients necessary to throw down 300+ frames per second in Quake III. In fact, it paces our test bed used in our Athlon XP 3000+ almost effortlessly.
We’d like to see ABS expand the number of options available with the Bravado, but as it stands, there is little we’d change. Even the price is appealing enough to sway a “build it yourself” enthusiast like myself.
On a whole, we’d like to praise ABS for putting together an impressive package. The Bravado 2310 arrived securely packed with all of the accessories we’d get if the parts had each arrived separately from different vendors. Set-up is neat and simple and keeping the documentation is effortless with the included organizer. Performance is excellent, as we’ve stated repeatedly and the system’s value, while masked by a $2,400 price tag, is apparent based on the fact we were only able to save $75 by building the system ourselves, and that one wouldn’t have included a warranty.
SIDEBAR: Care for a gaming system/Shuttle XPC? Get in line, bud. But, if you’d like to comment on the review, let us know!