SD11G5 - minireview

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SD11G5 - minireview

Postposted on Sun May 20, 2007 11:45 am

I recently bought an SD11G5 from newegg. Now that I've finally gotten it set up, I'd like to share my experiences/lessons-learned. :)

First, just let me say that this thing really IS whisper quiet when it's on. When it's off, the power brick really DOES make a weird oscillating whine - contacting Shuttle got me a response, but it was just "yep, that's how it works."

Also, there's no onboard RAID. That was kind of disappointing. I ended up buying an Adaptec 1220SA, which also ended up finally finding a use for a PCI-E slot. ;) I hooked up two laptop SATA hard drives, rigging a elastic tie suspension similar to what's seen here. However, a note on the 1220SA: it doesn't have a way to route the drive activity lights to the front panel of any system, much less the heavily-integrated shuttle.

also, there's no floppy port, so i had to use nlite to spin a copy of XP with the adaptec RAID drivers in it - when using a USB floppy drive, it would successfully load the drivers on the initial startup, but would forget how to ttalk to the USB floppy drive when the OS install files were being loaded. :(

The CDROM is a standard CD/DVD R/W from Asus. The SD11G5's push button on the front has an adjustable slider so that I can align the case's pusher w/ the drive's pusher. One thing that's kind of weird is that the drive bay's stealth door doesn't close quite right when i insert & remove discs - it sticks in a nearly-closed position. a gentle tap from my finger settles the door in place, so I have to assume I could just shave some plastic somewhere to fix that.

I used a new 7600GT from gigabyte which is a fanless, single-slot design. it gets a little hot during operation, but not bad at all; definitely better than a 6800 I used to run in a SN95G5. Also, it physically just BARELY fits into the case, and even then it's a tight one - probably only 1/8" between the big heatsink & the guide rail for the CD/HDD tray. since it doesn't require a PCI-E connector, I was able to route & hide the 6-pin connector. :)

the system has a built-in sound blaster live sound card, which the sound blaster live drivers don't recognize. in this case, though i usually hate to do so, i ended up having to install the drivers directly from the driver CD that shipped with the system. :(

The trickiest part was finding an appropriate CPU. You see, the system says it's Socket 479. Well, there ARE no PGA-packaged 479-pin Pentium-Ms. The only true 479s that Intel produced were BGA packaged and - much to my dismay - do not work in a PGA socket. ;) luckily, the vendor took the CPU back & refunded me the cost (except for shipping, but that's okay). :)

I ended up using ebay to get a great deal on a Pentium M 740. however, the first one i bought didn't arrive for almost a month, so i ended up picking up another one to get the system running. with that in mind, i'll probably be using this whole experience to properly build another SD11G5 for some other purpose down the line. while the CPU only has 478 pins, it fits just fine into the 479-pin socket, and plainly works. ;)

nothing too exciting in the memory department - 2GB of Corsair XMS RAM. I got the ones with silver heat spreaders because they match the case. :P there's this annoying green light just next to the RAM as well which filters out of the ventilation holes on the right side of the case. while that has nothing to do with the memory per se, it's NEAR the memory, and so they're both implicated!

there's only TWO USB connectors on the back panel, so I had to go out & get a PCI filler to connect to the only onboard USB connectors in the system. result: I had to remove the faceplate from the adaptec RAID card, and then carefully route the wires to make it all the way across the chassis, but they seem to work, and the RAID card is held safely in place.

finally, the system has a mini-PCI slot on it. so, i again went to ebay and found a Intel 2200BG on the cheap. i had an old HP laptop from which I was able to strip the antenna wires. However, with the aluminum outer shell in place, the system has a very bad reception - it could take up to 5 minutes for it to establish a link to the wireless router that's 6 feet away. With the shell off, it connects perfectly & immediately, and gets ~150KB/s on large downloads. I'm going to have to work out a way to get the antennas routed out of the case in a way that doesn't look sucky, or just leave the shell off all of the time (and i don't like that solution, because of that damned green light shining full-on at me!).

As for performance, the CPU/GPU combination has been well-tested over time. With Folding@Home, I see the following times for 1%:
Project: 2611 (Run 1, Clone 230, Gen 9) - 19m20s
Project: 2606 (Run 36, Clone 1, Gen 52) - 9m20s
Project: 1169 (Run 23, Clone 6, Gen 2) - 30m50s

Under full graphical & processing load (ie - WoW w/ everything maxed, hehe), the frames are smooth even in model-intensive areas. Additionally, using my handy dandy watt meter, i can see that the system never pulls more than 88W total. At idle, it sits at around 55W. :)

in all, i'm very happy with this system, even if it did take me several weeks of stumbling through issues to get everything set up properly. The lack of onboard RAID is insulting, but I can understand why, since the platform is based off of mobile hardware (ICH6M southbridge). Also, with my P-M, 915 chipset, and 2200BG wireless card, I can officially say that I have a desktop that's Centrino-compliant. :)
Your ideas intrigue me; I would like to purchase stock in your company.
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