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Shuttle's XPC SG33G5 SFF barebones system


Glamming up the toaster
— 1:01 AM on July 26, 2007

Manufacturer Shuttle
Model XPC SG33G5
Price (MSRP) $360
Price (Street)
Availability Now

OVER THE YEARS, Shuttle's XPC lineup has been whittled down from a vast array of small form factor barebones systems based on wildly different form factors to a handful of models built on only a couple of chassis. Power-hungry enthusiasts will be most interested in the XPC SD39P2 and SN27P2, both of which are based on a P-Series cube that packs a beefy power supply and can easily accommodate double-wide graphics cards and a couple of hard drives. For the rest of the market, Shuttle leans on various flavors of its slightly smaller G-series chassis, a design that's been around for an astounding five years.

The G-series was Shuttle's first really slick XPC, and it quickly became the basis for a slew of models that ultimately popularized small form factor barebones systems. Apart from a nip here and a tuck there, plus a gentle massaging of the cooling system, the layout and overall design hasn't changed much in five years—at least on the inside. Shuttle's been a little less restrained with its treatment of the G-Series exterior, which has been adorned with everything from brushed metal to tinted transparent plastic.

Of course, the systems built around this chassis have progressed by leaps and bounds over the last five years. The G-Series debuted with the SS40G, which was designed for Socket 462 Athlon processors and limited to PCI expansion, just 1GB of memory, and analog audio and video outputs. Today, the latest XPC SG33G5 comes equipped with digital audio and video outputs and can accommodate quad-core processors, PCI Express graphics cards, and up to 4GB of memory. My, how things have changed.

The SG33G5's combination of HDMI and S/PDIF outputs, driven by Intel's new G33 Express chipset and GMA 3100 integrated graphics, makes the SG33G5 ripe home theater PCs, and this XPC's "Glamor" styling should look good in your living room. But is this a fitting tribute to five years of the G-Series chassis? Let's have a look.


The specs
Measuring just 310 mm long, 200 mm wide, and 185 mm tall (that's 12.2" x 7.9" x 7.3" for the metric-impaired), the XPC SG33G5 is notably smaller than the newer P-Series chassis. That limits what Shuttle can squeeze into the system, but they've still managed to cover all of the important bases.

CPU support LGA775-based Celeron, Pentium 4/D, Core 2 processors
North bridge Intel G33 Express
South bridge Intel ICH9DH
Interconnect DMI (2GB/s)
Expansion slots 1 PCI Express x16
1 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory 2 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 4GB of DDR2-667/800 SDRAM
Video Intel GMA 3100
Storage I/O Floppy disk
1 channels ATA/133
3 channels Serial ATA
Audio 8-channel HD audio via ICH9DH and Realtek ALC888D codec
Ports 4 USB 2.0 (rear) with headers for 4 more
2
USB 2.0 (front)
1 1394a Firewire via Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A (front)
1 1394a Firewire via Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A (rear)
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Marvell 88E8056
2
eSATA

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in (front)
1 analog headphone out (front)
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF output
BIOS Award
Bus speeds FSB: 266-600MHz in 1MHz increments
DRAM: 667, 800MHz
PCIe: 100-200MHz in 1MHz increments
Bus multipliers NA
Voltages CPU: +0.01-0.5V in 0.01V increments
DRAM: 1.825-2.575V in 0.025V increments
FSB: 1.25-1.35V in 0.05V increments
NB: 1.3-1.4V in 0.05V increments
SB1.5: 1.55-1.65V in 0.05V increments
SB1.05: 1.1-1.5V in 0.05V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed control CPU

Intel's G33 Express chipset is responsible for much of the functionality packed into the SG33G5. This chipset is a part of Intel's new 3-series family, which was launched a couple of months ago with the P35 Express. As one might expect, the G33 covers the integrated graphics end of the 3-series spectrum, featuring Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator 3100. The GMA 3100 is DirectX 9.0c compliant and supports Shader Model 2.0 and OpenGL 1.4. It also includes a Clear Video processing engine with "dedicated hardware acceleration" for high-definition MPEG2 playback and support for HDMI output at 720p, 1080i, and 1080p resolutions. The graphics core appears to be identical to the GMA X3000 integrated graphics in Intel's previous G965 Express chipset. You can read more about the IGP's architecture and features here.

Shuttle combines the G33 Express north bridge with Intel's ICH9DH south bridge chip. This "Digital Home" product is predictably Viiv-compliant. This south bridge also features support for AHCI, which is how Intel implements Native Command Queuing. However, the ICH9DH is conspicuously missing RAID functionality. RAID might not seem like a high priority feature for home theater PCs, but if you're going to be storing a lot of media—particularly storage-hungry high-def video—RAID 5 certainly has some appeal. Shuttle's G-Series chassis is really only meant to accommodate a single hard drive, so it's easy to forgive the lack of RAID.

On the audio front, Shuttle employs Realtek's ALC888D codec. This chip can output audio in DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live formats, which pass multichannel audio to a compatible receiver or speakers over a single cable. Realtek handles DTS and DDL encoding in software rather than with dedicated silicon, so you'll lose a few CPU cycles in the process. Still, it's a nice capability to have in an XPC targeted at the living room.