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Shuttle's XPC SD39P2 SFF barebones system

Still the daddy?

Manufacturer Shuttle
Model XPC SD39P2
Price (Street)
Availability Now

THE POPULARITY OF small form factor barebones systems has faded of late, and that's really a shame. Shuttle practically invented the breadbox form factor with the seminal SV24, and in the months and years that followed, we were treated to a flurry of new and innovative designs aimed squarely at enthusiasts looking to roll their own pint-sized systems. It didn't take long for others to jump on the bandwagon, either. Soon nearly every motherboard maker had small form factor designs of their own, although few were able to match—let alone exceed—the polish of Shuttle's mature product line.

Then Shuttle shifted its attention to selling complete systems, reducing what was once a torrent of new barebones designs to little more than a trickle. Shuttle's competitors didn't exactly pick up the slack, either. In fact, many retreated from the small form factor barebones market altogether, leaving enthusiasts with few reasonable alternatives.

Fortunately, we're still treated to a new barebones XPC every so often. The latest such box is the SD39P2, which supports Intel's latest quad-core processors, up to 8GB of memory, two hard drives, and both PCI Express and PCI expansion cards—in a form factor the size of a toaster. The question, of course, is whether this latest toaster has the performance, features, and attention to detail that made Shuttle king of the small form factor. Read on to see what we found.

The specs
There's only so much one can squeeze into a form factor that measures just 325mm long, 210mm wide, and 220mm tall (12.8" long, 8.3" wide, and 8.7" tall, if 32 degrees seems to you like a good temperature for water to freeze), but the SD39P2's spec sheet is surprisingly loaded.

CPU support LGA775-based Celeron, Pentium 4/D, Core 2 processors
North bridge Intel 975X Express
South bridge Intel ICH7R
Interconnect DMI (2GB/s)
Expansion slots 1 PCI Express x16
1 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory 4 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 8GB of DDR2-533/667/800 SDRAM
Storage I/O Floppy disk
1 channels ATA/133
3 channels Serial ATA with RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 support
Audio 8-channel HD audio via ICH7R and Realtek ALC888 codec
Ports 6 USB 2.0 (rear) with headers for 2 more
USB 2.0 (front)
1 1394a Firewire via VIA VT6308 (front)
1 1394a Firewire via VIA VT6308 (rear)
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Broadcom BCM5789

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 coaxial digital S/PDIF output
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF output
1 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF input
BIOS Award
Bus speeds FSB: 133-400MHz in 1MHz increments
DRAM: 533, 667, 800MHz
PCIe: sync, locked at 100MHz
Bus multipliers NA
Voltages CPU: +0.025-0.8V in 0.025V increments
DRAM: 2.0-2.4V in 0.2V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed control CPU, system

You might be surprised to see Intel's 975X Express chipset in Shuttle's latest XPC. After all, the 975X is far from Intel's newest core logic chipset. The 975X is actually a pretty good match for the SD39P2, though—perhaps even a better match than the P965.

First, the 975X is every bit as fast as the P965. The P965 may have a fancy new memory controller, but it doesn't actually deliver greater bandwidth or lower latency than the 975X. There is virtually no difference in application performance between the two chipsets, either.

The P965's real advantages over the 975X don't become apparent until we consider Intel's new ICH8R south bridge, whose six Serial ATA and 10 USB ports trump the ICH7R's four and eight. Because the SD39P2 uses the older ICH7R, its port selection is a little more limited. A couple of extra USB ports would be nice, I'll admit, but eight should be plenty for most folks. There wouldn't be much point in equipping an XPC limited to just three internal drive bays with six Serial ATA ports, either; the ICH7R's four SATA ports are more than up to the task. The fact that the ICH7R retains an ATA controller is a bonus for the SD39P2, as well.

The SD39P2 does need a few third-party chips to augment the chipset. Networking, audio, and Firewire are handled by auxiliary silicon from Broadcom, Realtek, and VIA, respectively.