Single page Print

Shuttle's XPC SB75S mini-barebones system


Open the pearly gates; we're in heaven
— 12:00 AM on March 31, 2004

Manufacturer Shuttle
Model XPC SB75S
Price (Street) $375
Availability Now

GOOD DESIGN CREATES irrational attachments. You can see this principle illustrated in zillions of ways, from the outrageous prices commanded by exotic automobiles to the slavish, enthused dedication of the Macintosh faithful. For me this principle was recently put into play by the arrival of the Shuttle XPC SB75S at Damage Labs.

Let's be clear about some things. I like small form factor computers. I've liked 'em from the introduction of the first underpowered little boxes without AGP slots. I like the latest and greatest ones even better, and I've reviewed loads of them.

But when the XPC SB75S arrived, something different happened. I got to looking at its stark, sleek lines and white pearlescent finish, and something clicked. I really like this thing, well beyond what a simple reskin of the XPC SB75G2, with the exact same motherboard, deserves. I know that rationally. But I also know that if a fire broke out in Damage Labs, I'd probably be carrying out the backup tapes under one arm and the SB75S under the other.

That's just wrong, but that's the power of good design, and this Limited Edition XPC has that power in abundance. Let's uncork a picture of this puppy, so you can see what I mean.


The XPC SB75S

The XPC SB75 Type-S is a limited edition model produced by Shuttle in concert with Soldam of Japan, makers of some of the sexiest case designs you'll ever see. The SB75S's enclosure is a refreshing departure for Shuttle, with some touches you won't find on other XPCs, including a slick cover that conceals its CD/DVD drive bay. The Type-S shares its height and depth with most XPC models, but this new enclosure is 20 mm wider than usual. The extra width gives the Type-S a more elegant, less toaster-like profile than its siblings. Its clean look is completed by the case's metallic white pearl finish, an auto-grade paint job lifted straight from the Lexus playbook. The cumulative effect is, in my estimation, most excellent. The photo above may not do it justice, so keep reading for more.

Of course, the Type-S isn't just a better-looking SB75G2. Shuttle has worked to make this a better PC overall, starting with the 250W SilentX power supply unit, which promises more juice and less noise than the stock XPC cooler. Shuttle has also taken a hint from Biostar's IDEQ series and revamped its cable routing. More on that shortly.

The specs
The SB75S packs in the whole gamut of must-have features for a Pentium 4 system, from dual-channel DDR400 memory support and Serial ATA RAID to six-channel audio and Gigabit Ethernet. Have a look:

CPU support Socket 478-based Intel Pentium 4 processors with 533/800MHz front-side bus
Form factor Flex ATX (Shuttle form factor)
Chipset Intel 875P
North bridge Intel 875P MCH
South bridge Intel ICH5R
Interconnect Intel Accelerated Hub (266MB/sec)
PCI slots 1 32-bit/33MHz
AGP slots 1 AGP 4X/8X (1.5V only)
Memory 2 184-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 2GB of DDR333/400 SDRAM
Storage I/O Floppy disk
2 channels ATA/100
2 channels Serial ATA 150 via ICH5R south bridge with RAID 0,1 support
Audio 6-channel audio via ICH5R integrated audio and ALC650 codec
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard
1 PS/2 mouse
2 serial
6 USB 2.0 (2 front, 4 rear) with headers for 2 more
2 IEEE 1394 ports (1 front, 1 rear) via VT6307 Firewire controller
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via Broadcom BCM5788

2 line out/front out (1 front, 1 rear)
1 rear out
1 bass/center out
1 optical SPDIF in
1 optical SPDIF out
1 mic in (front)
1 line in (front)
BIOS Phoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speeds 100-355MHz in 1MHz increments (400-1420MHz quad-pumped)
Bus dividers AGP/PCI/SATA: 66/33/100, 73/36/100, 80/40/100
Voltages CPU: 0.8250-1.5875V in 0.025V increments
DRAM: 2.5, 2.65-2.75V in 0.05V increments
AGP: 1.50-1.65V in 0.05V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring

So long as you can live with the limitations of the XPC's form factor, the Type-S should give you just about everything you need for a very decent general-purpose PC. Shuttle says the SB75S will support Pentium 4 "Prescott" CPUs up to 3.4GHz, for those of you who like to live dangerously.

As I mentioned, the Type-S uses the same FB75 motherboard as the XPC SB75G2. We reviewed the SB75G2 late last year and ran it through an extensive battery of tests. We found it to be a solid performer, if a little off the pace of the fastest Intel 875P-based motherboards, with no glaring flaws. Because we've already tested the FB75's performance at some length, we'll be concentrating on what makes the SB75S unique in this review. If you'd like to see performance numbers for the FB75 motherboard, please see our SB75G2 review.