Summary: Built around Intel's 975X chipset, the Shuttle SD37P2 is the world's first SFF system with built-in CrossFire support. The SD37P2 also supports the latest dual-core and quad-core Intel CPUs and ships with a 400W power supply. See how this tiny XPC fared against high-end 975X and nForce 680i motherboards in this review!
An SFF PC is roughly the size of a child’s shoebox, but packs the same punch as the behemoth 50lb full towers many of us own. The obvious advantages of this chassis format are its size, weight, and portability. The XPC does all this without sacrificing performance. However, because of the powerful components in the small volume, heat is often a problem. Another issue with these small computers is their upgradeability. There are only two expansion slots in an XPC/SFF case versus 6-7 on a normal ATX motherboard. There is also limited space for hard drives. The P2 chassis provides a maximum of 3, while full tower cases can provide up to 6 spaces. Shuttle has done much to combat these deficiencies with new technologies that we’ll discuss later on in this article.
Shuttle is undoubtedly the leader of all SFF companies. Shuttle Computer was founded in 1983 and was mainly and OEM manufacturer of motherboards until 2001, when they introduced their first XPC (Shuttle’s SFF line), the SV24. This was named the 15th greatest landmark in PC history. By 2003, the XPC line featured chipsets from all major manufacturers: Intel, NVIDIA, Sis and VIA. By 2004, Shuttle had shipped 1 million XPCs. Finally, in 2005, their latest advance was enabling NVIDIA’s SLI technology into the XPC chassis.
It is now almost 2007, and Shuttle has released a new SFF for its newest P2 chassis. The SD37P2 combines Core 2 Duo (and Quad) support with ATI’s Crossfire graphics, which is a first for SFF. The SD37P2 also supports 8GB of RAM, another first. The detailed technical specifications are below.
Now let’s take a look at the actual product.
This is the second of the only two XPCs from Shuttle that use the P2 chassis. The first was the SN27P2 for AMD’s AM2 socket. This means that both XPCs are similar, if not exact on the outside and inside, except for the motherboard of course. In fact, if you read our review on the SN27P2, you can obviously tell that the two SFFs look exactly alike.
Shuttle has always stuck with the simple and elegant exterior designs for their XPCs. There are no flashing lights, no ‘bling bling’. This is in good measure too, since SFFs are supposed to be small, out of the way, and not distracting to the user. The new P2 chassis stays with those guidelines. The front is very simple. There are three buttons on a silver strip along the right side. They take care of the power, hard drive activity and optical drive buttons. The single 5.25” external bay and 3.5” bay are covered by brushed aluminum doors. The XPC logo is large enough to be seen, but not large enough to be distracting. The sides are plain with ventilation holes. The rear of the XPC is very standard. There is a 70mm power supply fan, and two 60mm fans hidden behind fan grilles (these grilles are a little too restrictive in our opinion, but more on that later). You can also see the only two expansion slot covers.
The rear ports on the Shuttle SD37P2 are numerous and fully featured. There are 6 USB2.0 ports, a 1394 Firewire port, an external SATA, one gigabit Ethernet port, and 8-channel audio. There is also coaxial and a tiny external clear CMOS button, so you don’t have to open up and poke around in the tiny chassis every time your overclock fails. We encountered a small problem that did not appear on the other P2-based Shuttle. As you can see in the pictures above, the motherboard was not seated properly, so the backplate interfered with the USB ports and the 1394 Firewire port. Fortunately, reseating the motherboard solved this issue.
Another potential issue that may or may not affect you with the new P2 chassis is the lack of legacy ports. Even though technology is moving rapidly to USB-everything, many people still have PS/2 keyboards and mice. Shuttle could have relocated the ‘Clear CMOS’ button somewhere else, like the front panel, and inserted PS/2 ports.
The front ports of the XPC are pretty standard, and are found on just about every quality case out on the market. There are audio-out and microphone-in. The other ports are two USB2.0 and a mini-Firewire jack. The 3.5” external bay is covered by a door that you push to open. Here you can install a hard drive, card reader or floppy drive. There is also a reset button that can only be accessed with a pointy object, such as a pen.
Now let’s open up the Shuttle SD37P2 and take a look inside.
All pre-built systems usually have some sort of cable management. The Shuttle XPCs and all SFFs have some of the best cable management because of the small volume and limited workspace and most importantly, airflow.
As you can tell, all the cables are cut to exact lengths, and are routed around the case with plastic hooks. This reduces clutter, and maximizes airflow in an already hot environment.
The 975X Northbridge and ICH7R Southbridge are passively cooled. This reduces noise in the XPC. These chipsets consume much less power than NVIDIA’s nForce 500 series, so they don’t need active cooling. The DIMM slots are well organized. Each dual channel configuration is marked, so you know where to place your memory modules. This is the first SFF to support 8GB of RAM. More than 2GB is not necessary today (particularly if you’re running a 32-bit OS), but Shuttle’s innovation should not be overlooked.
On top of the chassis are two aluminum hard drive trays. We recommend housing SATA drives only here though to ensure optimal airflow. If you have a PATA hard drive we’d suggest you house it in the empty external 3.5” bay. In any case, the hard drive trays are removable, and placed well in the case, so they don’t radiate heat on other components. Right below the hard drive trays are the 5.25” and 3.5” bay tray. At the back of the case are two small 60mm fans. They are not too useful though, because there is a very restricting grille in front of them, preventing air from exiting the case. Underneath the fans is the 400W Silent X power supply. It has two PCI Express power connectors for Crossfire support.
For expansion the Shuttle SD37P2 features two PCI Express graphics slots. The slots are placed close together, so you won’t be able to house two X1950 XTX cards inside the SD37P2 for CrossFire, but two single-slot cards like the X1950 Pro should fit just fine.
Today’s processors are the hottest yet. So Shuttle includes a proprietary ICE™ cooler for the CPU. Like in most SFFs, this cooler is proprietary, so it will only fit in the chassis it is designed for. The cooler has two fans. One 70mm attached to the heatsink that pushes air onto the fins, and a 92mm fan on the chassis that sucks hot air off of the fins and out of the case. Shuttle’s design has heatpipes and a very well polished copper base, ensuring that the heatsink will cool to its full potential.
Now let’s move on to testing the Shuttle SD37P2, and see if it can keep up with the full size motherboards.
Intel Core 2 Duo E6700
EVGA 122-CK-NF68-AR nForce 680i
Gigabyte GA-965P-DQ6 (P965)
Shuttle SD37P2 (975X)
2GB Corsair PC2-6400C4
250GB Samsung SATA2
- Memory Read
- Memory Write
- Memory Latency
- 1600x1200 Ultra Quality 4xAA 16xAF
Call of Duty 2
- 1600x1200 4xAA 16xAF
- 1600x1200 4xAA 16xAF Maximum Settings
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- Outdoors 1600x1200 4xAA 8xAF
- Indoors 1600x1200 4xAA 8xAF
- Foliage 1600x1200 4xAA 8xAF
Call of Duty 2