Shuttle's XPC SB81P mini-barebones system

The XPC gets a total makeover
— 12:27 AM on July 26, 2004

WE'VE BEEN REVIEWING Shuttle's small form factor systems since the first SV24, when they were the only game in town. Over the course of time, we've watched the XPC line evolve from a quirky but cute little niche product into a diverse army of mini PCs that rival full-sized computers in most respects.

And we've complained every step of the way. We decried the SV24's limited selection of CPUs. Shuttle then produced a Pentium 4-based XPC. We fussed over the early XPCs' blurry built-in video, lack of an AGP slot, and weak overclocking options. Shuttle responded with better integrated graphics and an AGP slot. We groused about noise and heat. Shuttle introduced a new generation of XPCs that packed an innovative heat-pipe cooler and speed-controlled fans. We gathered our breath and whinged about the lack of AMD-based XPCs. Shuttle answered by unleashing the nForce2-based SN41G2, an instant classic.

Our reply? We reiterated our desire for more overclocking options. The XPC company listened, producing the overclocking-friendly SN45G and a string of new mini-barebones rigs with performance BIOSes. We thanked them by campaigning for beefier power supplies and less noise. The 250W SilentX PSU was born. "Great," we said, "but can you do something about that ugly CD-ROM drive bay?"

Shuttle's designers, ever vigilant, apparently weren't daunted. They've redesigned the XPC from a clean sheet of paper. The result is Shuttle's new P-series chassis, the first incarnation of which is the XPC SB81P. This new XPC sits inside of a handsome, black, BTX-inspired case that's slightly larger in every dimension than prior XPCs. With innovative three-zone cooling, Intel High Definition Audio, room for a RAID array, and a PCI Express X16 slot capable of housing a double-wide graphics card, the SB81P aims to stifle our complaints once and for all. Will it succeed? Keep reading to find out.

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