I guess Shuttle needs no introduction, they are the company that brought us the first SFF, small form factor, PC a few years ago and have been shipping one SFF after the other ever since, closely following new chipset releases by Intel, NVIDIA and others. They sent us their SB95PV2 recently which basically is a revamped SB95 as it now offers support for the new 1066MHz FSB on Intel’s Pentium 4 processors by using their 925XE chipset. We’ve been putting the SFF through its paces over the past two weeks, using a variety of hardware, trying to determine if it indeed is a worthwhile replacement for our bulky mid- and full towers.
The front of the Shuttle SB95PV2, with everything mounted behind hinged doors.
One thing that is obvious from looking at it is that it looks sleek which is a nice deviation from the plain beige or black cases that most people have under their desks. It is actually meant to go on the desk, rather than under, which also prevents it from being kicked around due to the light aluminum chassis. Another welcome trait is the media card reader and USB, FireWire and audio connectors mounted on the front panel which makes them easily accessible. These connectors, as well as the optical and floppy drive, are hidden behind hinged doors that open by applying slight pressure to them and thus do not interfere with the front panel aesthetics.
A look inside the Shuttle SB95V2 with all parts mounted, it is a tight fit.
Okay, so we have a good looking SFF that features the latest Intel PCIe chipset, but how about performance? To be honest we could not distinguish between the SFF and the similarly configured desktop system featuring the exact same components. We equipped the SB95PV2 with both a 3.46GHz, 1066MHz fsb, Pentium 4 EE processor and a Pentium 4 570J 3.8GHz processor, an NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT PCIe graphics card, two 250GB Maxtor Maxline III Serial-Ata harddisks in RAID0 with NCQ and 1GB of OCZ PC 4300, cas 4-4-4-8, DDR2 memory. Windows XP was used with SP2 installed and all the latest drivers on both the chipsets as well as the graphics card. To gauge the performance of both chipsets we measured the overall performance using Futuremark’s 3Dmark05, accompanied by some benchmarks on compressing DVD to DiVX, CD to MP3 and data files to ZIP files.
As is evident from the benchmarks the SB95PV2 holds its own, which is quite impressive if you factor in the size of the SFF. It is quite an engineering feat to cram this much power into such a small box and still have it up and running properly. What impressed us in particular was the fact that the power supply, rated at just 350-watts, was able to supply a system consisting of the most power-hungry components without a single hiccup. Although noise production is a tad bit higher than a larger case, such as the mid towers most PCs are shipped in, it isn't too obtrusive. If you're like us, and require your PC to be whisperquiet, the Shuttle SB95PV2 however is not for you, it is quite audible if we compare that to the low hum from the mid tower under the desk it is aspiring to replace. In a modern office, or even at home, as a desktop PC, whisper quiet operation is a requirement, and that’s what the SB95PV2 unfortunately lacks.
This article has been updated since it has been posted. Due to a new BIOS being released shortly after our evaluation we've retested the Shuttle SB95PV2 and found that the noise level has been decreased significantly compared to our initial findings. Furthermore the annoying constant changing of fan rpm to accomodate heat dissipation by the processor has been completely resolved by this new BIOS. The Shuttle SB95PV2 now no longer makes us want to wear earplugs, but has about the same noise level of a normal PC.