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Shuttle's FB54 motherboard

An alternative to Mini ITX?
— 12:00 AM on December 24, 2003

Price (MSRP)$150

SHUTTLE HAS been pushing small form factor PCs for years with its XPC line of barebones systems, but the infectious little cubes have their limitations. For starters, the cube form factor is largely incompatible with home entertainment system furniture. Shuttle's cubes are also designed to work with standard desktop hard disks, optical drives, and AGP cards, making them quite a bit bigger than systems using 2.5" laptop hard disks, slim optical drives, and integrated video.

To cater to small form factor enthusiasts looking to build systems in something other than one of its XPC cubes, Shuttle has rolled out a tiny Flex ATX board called the FB54. Just two centimeters wider than VIA's diminutive EPIA Mini ITX boards, the FB54 should be compatible with a good number of Mini ITX cases. However, rather than relying on VIA's cool-but-slow C3 processor, the FB54 can accommodate a Pentium 4 processor on a 533MHz front-side bus.

With support for processors as fast as the P4 3.06GHz—Hyper-Threading included—the FB54 could unlock all sorts of possibilities for home-theater PCs and other small form factor systems. Is the FB54 worth its extra girth over VIA's Mini ITX EPIA M10000? Read on to find out.

The FB54 can squeeze Pentium 4 power into a case no bigger than some University textbooks

The specs
What has Shuttle managed to squeeze onto the 19cm x 17cm Flex ATX form factor?

CPU supportSocket 478-based Intel Pentium 4 processors
Form factorFlex ATX
ChipsetIntel 845GE
North bridgeIntel 82845GE
South bridgeIntel 82801DB
InterconnectIntel Accelerated Hub (266MB/sec)
PCI slots1 32-bit/33MHz
AGP slotsNone
AMR/CNR slotsNone
Memory2 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 2GB of DDR333/266/200 SDRAM
Storage I/OFloppy disk
2 channels ATA/100
Serial ATANone
Legacy ports1 PS/2 keyboard, 1 PS/2 mouse, and 1 Serial port
USB2 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
Internal header for an additional 2 USB ports
Firewire1  IEEE 1394 Firewire ports via VT6306 Firewire controller
Audio6-channel audio via ICH integrated audio and ALC650 codec
analog front, rear, surround, and center outputs
shared analog line and microphone inputs
VideoIntegrated Intel Extreme Graphics
VGA, S-Video, and Composite video outputs
Ethernet10/100 Fast Ethernet via Realtek RTL8100B
BIOSPhoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speedsFSB: 100-165MHz in 1MHz increments
Bus dividersNone
MonitoringVoltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring

Quite a bit, though the board lacks an AGP slot, which largely disqualifies it as a gaming platform. We'll be looking at the FB54's integrated peripherals and features in detail, but first, let's have a look at the board's layout.