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Shuttle's XPC SN27P2 mini-barebones system

On the cutting edge again?

Manufacturer Shuttle
Model XPC SN27P2
Price (Street)
Availability Now

SHUTTLE ESSENTIALLY CREATED the market for small form factor barebones systems, but lately, the company has become more of a system builder. That shift in focus has slowed Shuttle's once-constant stream of new XPC designs with the latest and greatest chipsets to a trickle, and other manufacturers have failed to pick up the slack. In fact, most manufacturers seem to have slowed their own pace of small form factor development. Some have even dropped out of the market completely.

The dearth of new small form factor barebones designs nicely sets the stage for a Shuttle comeback, and although the company may never match the frenetic pace of barebones development it achieved a few years ago, it does have a couple of all-new small form factor systems for the enthusiast market. First out of the gate is the XPC SN27P2, a tweaked successor to Shuttle's P series chassis with Socket AM2, an nForce 570 Ultra chipset, and a beefy 400W power supply under the hood.

Can the SN27P2 recapture Shuttle's former glory and make the small form factor world exciting again? Read on to find out.

Board specs
Shuttle has made numerous changes to its XPC design with the SN27P2, some of which are even apparent with a cursory glace at the system's spec sheet.

CPU support Socket AM2-based Athlon 64 processors
North bridge nForce 570 Ultra MCP
South bridge
Interconnect NA
Expansion slots 1 PCI Express x16
1 32-bit/33MHz
Memory 4 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 8 GB of DDR2-400/533/667/800 SDRAM
Storage I/O Floppy disk
1 channels ATA/133
4 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 support
Audio 8-channel HD audio via nForce 570 and Realtek ALC882 codec
Ports 6 USB 2.0 (rear)
2 USB 2.0 (front)
1 1394a Firewire via VIA VT6307 (rear)
1 1394a Firewire via VIA VT6307 (front)
1 RJ45 10/100/1000

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 coaxial digital S/PDIF output
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF output
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF input
BIOS Phoenix AwardBIOS
Bus speeds HT: 200-300MHz in 1MHz increments
DRAM: 400, 533, 667, 800MHz
Bus multipliers LDT: 1x-5x
Voltages CPU: auto, 0.8-1.525V in 0.025V increments
DDR: auto, 1.9-2.0V in 0.05V increments
Chipset: auto, 1.55-1.6V in 0.05V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed control CPU, system

Space constraints usually limit small form factor systems to only two DIMM slots, but Shuttle manages to squeeze four into the SN27P2. These DDR2 memory slots nicely complement the system's AM2 socket, which supports AMD's latest and greatest Athlon 64 processors. AMD's new Energy Efficient Athlons seem particularly well suited for Shuttle cubes, and there's even an "Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Energy Efficient Small Form Factor" with a 35W designed specifically with small enclosures in mind.

Speaking of new chips, the SN27P2 includes NVIDIA's nForce 570 Ultra core logic. The nForce 570 Ultra is based on the same basic technology as the nForce 590 SLI, although a few of that high-end chipset's features don't make the cut for the Ultra. SLI isn't supported, for example—not that it's needed in a small form factor system with only one PCI Express x16 slot. LinkBoost doesn't make the cut, either, although without SLI or a chipset interconnect, there's no need for it.

The nForce 570 Ultra doesn't have a chipset interconnect because it lacks traditional north and south bridge components; like nForce designs of old, the 570 Ultra is a single-chip design. NVIDIA still manages to cram plenty of features onto the single chip, including 20 PCI Express lanes, six Serial ATA RAID ports, dual hardware-accelerated Gigabit Ethernet controllers, and support for Intel's High Definition Audio standard.

Presumably due to space constraints, the SN27P2 only implements four of the chipset's Serial ATA RAID ports. That's to be expected in a small form factor system with limited capacity for internal hard drives. However, it would have been nice to see Shuttle take advantage of both of the 570 Ultra's GigE controllers—only one is implemented in the SN27P2.