Shuttle’s XPC SG33G5 SFF barebones system

Manufacturer Shuttle
Model XPC SG33G5
Price (MSRP) $360
Price (Street)
Availability Now
OVER THE YEARS, Shuttle’s XPC lineup has been whittled down from a vast array of small form factor barebones systems based on wildly different form factors to a handful of models built on only a couple of chassis. Power-hungry enthusiasts will be most interested in the XPC SD39P2 and SN27P2, both of which are based on a P-Series cube that packs a beefy power supply and can easily accommodate double-wide graphics cards and a couple of hard drives. For the rest of the market, Shuttle leans on various flavors of its slightly smaller G-series chassis, a design that’s been around for an astounding five years.

The G-series was Shuttle’s first really slick XPC, and it quickly became the basis for a slew of models that ultimately popularized small form factor barebones systems. Apart from a nip here and a tuck there, plus a gentle massaging of the cooling system, the layout and overall design hasn’t changed much in five years—at least on the inside. Shuttle’s been a little less restrained with its treatment of the G-Series exterior, which has been adorned with everything from brushed metal to tinted transparent plastic.

Of course, the systems built around this chassis have progressed by leaps and bounds over the last five years. The G-Series debuted with the SS40G, which was designed for Socket 462 Athlon processors and limited to PCI expansion, just 1GB of memory, and analog audio and video outputs. Today, the latest XPC SG33G5 comes equipped with digital audio and video outputs and can accommodate quad-core processors, PCI Express graphics cards, and up to 4GB of memory. My, how things have changed.

The SG33G5’s combination of HDMI and S/PDIF outputs, driven by Intel’s new G33 Express chipset and GMA 3100 integrated graphics, makes the SG33G5 ripe home theater PCs, and this XPC’s “Glamor” styling should look good in your living room. But is this a fitting tribute to five years of the G-Series chassis? Let’s have a look.

The specs
Measuring just 310 mm long, 200 mm wide, and 185 mm tall (that’s 12.2″ x 7.9″ x 7.3″ for the metric-impaired), the XPC SG33G5 is notably smaller than the newer P-Series chassis. That limits what Shuttle can squeeze into the system, but they’ve still managed to cover all of the important bases.

CPU support LGA775-based Celeron, Pentium 4/D, Core 2 processors
North bridge Intel G33 Express
South bridge Intel ICH9DH
Interconnect DMI (2GB/s)
Expansion slots 1 PCI Express x16
1 32-bit/33MHz PCI
Memory 2 240-pin DIMM sockets
Maximum of 4GB of DDR2-667/800 SDRAM
Video Intel GMA 3100
Storage I/O Floppy disk
1 channels ATA/133
3 channels Serial ATA
Audio 8-channel HD audio via ICH9DH and Realtek ALC888D codec
Ports 4 USB 2.0 (rear) with headers for 4 more
2
USB 2.0 (front)
1 1394a Firewire via Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A (front)
1 1394a Firewire via Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A (rear)
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 via Marvell 88E8056
2
eSATA

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 TOS-Link digital S/PDIF output

BIOS Award
Bus speeds FSB: 266-600MHz in 1MHz increments
DRAM: 667, 800MHz
PCIe: 100-200MHz in 1MHz increments
Bus multipliers NA
Voltages CPU: +0.01-0.5V in 0.01V increments
DRAM: 1.825-2.575V in 0.025V increments
FSB: 1.25-1.35V in 0.05V increments
NB: 1.3-1.4V in 0.05V increments
SB1.5: 1.55-1.65V in 0.05V increments
SB1.05: 1.1-1.5V in 0.05V increments
Monitoring Voltage, fan status, and temperature monitoring
Fan speed control CPU

Intel’s G33 Express chipset is responsible for much of the functionality packed into the SG33G5. This chipset is a part of Intel’s new 3-series family, which was launched a couple of months ago with the P35 Express. As one might expect, the G33 covers the integrated graphics end of the 3-series spectrum, featuring Intel’s Graphics Media Accelerator 3100. The GMA 3100 is DirectX 9.0c compliant and supports Shader Model 2.0 and OpenGL 1.4. It also includes a Clear Video processing engine with “dedicated hardware acceleration” for high-definition MPEG2 playback and support for HDMI output at 720p, 1080i, and 1080p resolutions. The graphics core appears to be identical to the GMA X3000 integrated graphics in Intel’s previous G965 Express chipset. You can read more about the IGP’s architecture and features here.

Shuttle combines the G33 Express north bridge with Intel’s ICH9DH south bridge chip. This “Digital Home” product is predictably Viiv-compliant. This south bridge also features support for AHCI, which is how Intel implements Native Command Queuing. However, the ICH9DH is conspicuously missing RAID functionality. RAID might not seem like a high priority feature for home theater PCs, but if you’re going to be storing a lot of media—particularly storage-hungry high-def video—RAID 5 certainly has some appeal. Shuttle’s G-Series chassis is really only meant to accommodate a single hard drive, so it’s easy to forgive the lack of RAID.

On the audio front, Shuttle employs Realtek’s ALC888D codec. This chip can output audio in DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live formats, which pass multichannel audio to a compatible receiver or speakers over a single cable. Realtek handles DTS and DDL encoding in software rather than with dedicated silicon, so you’ll lose a few CPU cycles in the process. Still, it’s a nice capability to have in an XPC targeted at the living room.

Ain’t nuttin but a G thang
When I first heard that the SG33G5 fell under a new “Glamor” brand of XPC, I expected a wildly new exterior bursting with visual flair. Part of me hoped for a glam look reminiscent of the Thin White Duke in all his her its Ziggy Stardust glory. Shuttle, however, had other ideas. Or more accurately, it had none at all. The Glamor brand may be new, but the SG33G5’s exterior is all but identical to that of the SN21G5, which made its debut almost a year and a half ago.

So this Glamor brand is really just a new name for the emperor’s old clothes. I suppose that’s fine. Despite its lack of fresh aesthetics, the SG33G5 looks rather dapper with its sleek lines and brushed face. The understated appearance should certainly blend well into most living rooms, although the splashes of glossy plastic (the ring around the face plate and a strip along the bottom hiding the front port cluster) end up looking a little out of place. Shuttle may be trying to add what little contrast it can to an otherwise all-black exterior, but the glossy bits are fingerprint magnets, and they don’t really break up the black theme.

Shuttle does well to preserve that theme by stealthing the system’s external 5.25″ and 3.5″ drive bays behind retractable doors. The spring-loaded top drive bay door pops up and down automatically with tray-loading optical drives, and an adjustable eject button ensures compatibility with a broad range of button configurations. This setup doesn’t work particularly well with slot-loading optical drives, though.

Below the 5.25″ drive bay hides an external 3.5″ drive bay ready for floppy drives and memory card readers. This bay sits just above the XPC’s array of front-panel controls, where you’ll find power and reset buttons alongside subtle power and hard drive activity lights.

Along the bottom edge of the system we find a front port cluster that contains a pair of USB ports, a mini Firewire jack, and headphone and microphone jack—all behind another stealthy door.

The rest of the XPC’s expansion ports can be found around the back. Here, we’re greeted by four USB ports, two eSATA ports, Firewire and Ethernet jacks, and a full suite of analog audio ports. You’ll also find a TOS-Link digital S/PDIF output tucked away in the top right-hand corner, and VGA and HDMI outputs in the lower left. The HDMI output can carry audio signals to compatible devices, allowing you to run audio and video across a single cable. Just in case you feel the need to be protected from the immediate danger that is digital content, HDCP is supported over HDMI, as well.

If you don’t have a display equipped with an HDMI port, you can still coax a digital video signal from the SG33G5 with a provided adapter that pipes HDMI output to DVI. This converter can be used to connect to standard PC monitors, although only those with native DVI inputs; you can’t daisy chain a DVI-to-VGA adapter into the mix to connect an analog display.

Rewinding for a second, I should point out a couple of other things we can see from the rear of the XPC. In the lower right-hand corner of the port cluster you’ll find a recessed CMOS reset switch that comes in very handy when immersed in the trial-and-error joy that is overclocking.

Over to the left, there’s a small fan attached to the XPC’s power supply. The PSU in question is a 250W model that Shuttle has used in a number of its systems over the years, and it should be adequate for the kinds of low-power systems we’d recommend for home theater PCs. However, we’ve seen this power supply fan develop an annoying whine over time with other systems, and that makes its suitability for low-noise living room environments a little dubious. It’s not like you can easily rip out the stock PSU fan and swap in a quieter replacement, either.

Behind the black
As with all G-Series systems, accessing the SG33G5’s internals involves little more than removing a trio of thumbscrews and sliding off the case’s outer skin. That’s only the first step in the disassembly process, but it’s enough to gain access to some of the guts of the system.

Around the right, we see the XPC’s 250W power supply, which can supply a maximum of 16A on its 12V rail. That should be more than enough power for a home theater PC, since you’ll want to optimize that kind of system for low power and noise levels. It may not be enough juice to supply the latest crop of high-end graphics cards, but for reasons we’ll touch on in a moment, that won’t be an issue with the SG33G5.

The PSU’s lack of a six-pin PCIe power connector will be a problem if you’re planning to run some of even the latest mid-range graphics cards, though. Fortunately, those cards typically come with the necessary adapters in the box, and the XPC’s PSU has enough spare four-pin molex connectors to feed them.

Rotating the system 180 degrees reveals why you don’t need to worry about powering high-end graphics cards—with the PCIe x16 slot on the outside edge, there isn’t enough room for double-wide graphics coolers. It’s unfortunate that Shuttle places this arbitrary limitation on the system, particularly because we’ve used a number of double-wide graphics coolers whose low noise levels make them perfect for home theater PCs. However, there’s only so much room inside this XPC’s cramped chassis. If you have your heart set on running a double-wide graphics cooler, you can always dremel the chassis’ thin aluminum skin.

Just above the PCIe x16 slot, Shuttle has fitted the SG33G5 with a standard PCI expansion slot. PCIe peripherals are still painfully rare in the wild, so going with PCI here ensures compatibility with the wide range of TV tuner, audio, and other expansion cards already on the market.

From this angle we also have a better look at the XPC’s pair of DIMM slots running parallel to the front edge of the chassis. The slots look a little cramped from here, but it’s surprisingly easy to slide modules into place since you have access to the other side of the case.

To gain greater access to the rest of the SG33G5’s internals, all you have to do is remove a couple of screws and pop out the system’s internal drive bay cage. This lift-out cage makes installing drives much easier and also opens up the interior of the case so you can get at the CPU socket.

That socket lies beneath the latest incarnation of Shuttle’s ICE cooler. Much like ICE designs of old, a trio of heatpipes channels heat away from a copper base to an array of cooling fins that sit next to the chassis’ rear exhaust. Four screws secure the cooler to the chassis, sandwiching the motherboard between them for a snug fit. The screws are just the right length, too, so it’s impossible to accidentally over-tighten them.

The ICE heatsink works in conjunction with a 92mm fan to push warm air across the radiator fins. This seven-blade unit is also responsible for chassis cooling, and apart from the fan tucked away inside the power supply, it’s the only active cooling element in the system. Having a single, extremely quiet fan responsible for CPU and chassis cooling keeps the SG33G5’s noise levels nice and low. However, keep in mind that if that fan fails, the entire system is likely to overheat quickly.

Note that the fan uses a four-pin connector, allowing it to ramp fan speeds smoothly rather than stepping between predetermined high and low speed settings. Few things are more annoying than a system wheezing back and forth between fan speed settings like Britney Spears bounces in and out of rehab. Actually, Britney Spears is more annoying.

Turning the fan on its face reveals another little touch that’s worth noting: Shuttle uses rubber grommets to dampen each point where the fan shroud makes contact with the case. This should help to reduce fan-induced vibrations, lowering noise levels in the process. Shuttle could run with this theme a little more, including similar grommets to isolate the drive cage from vibrations induced by optical drives and hard disks.

With the drive cage, heatsink, and fan removed, it doesn’t take much work to pop out the SG33G5’s motherboard for a closer look. There isn’t much to see on a motherboard this small, of course, but the G33 Express chipset impressively requires only passive cooling within the cramped confines of the XPC chassis. Here we can also see that Shuttle is using “solid state” capacitors throughout the board. These caps should be less prone to bursting than conventional designs.

If you’re planning on running a discrete graphics card in lieu of the SG33G5’s integrated graphics, you’ll need to flip a row of jumpers just above the PCIe x16 slot. This chore isn’t terribly inconvenient, but we haven’t had to fiddle with onboard jumpers in a long, long time. These days, just about everything can be done through the BIOS, and since all of Shuttle’s previous XPCs have been smart enough to disable their IGPs when discrete graphics cards are installed, we expected the SG33G5 to do the same.

BIOS options
Although their limited cooling generally keeps small form factor systems away from serious overclockers, that hasn’t stopped Shuttle from equipping the SG33G5’s BIOS with a handful of options for those looking to turn up the clocks.

There is only a handful of options, though. For example, the BIOS lacks control over the Core 2 multiplier, and memory speed options are limited to 667 and 800MHz. Front-side bus speeds are available all the way up to 600MHz, though, and processor voltage can be increased by up to half a volt. You can also push the memory voltage as high as 2.575V and tweak voltages for the front-side bus and chipset components. Pay particular attention to that memory voltage setting; we had to give our Corsair DIMMs a little extra juice to get them stable with 4-4-4-12 timings at 800MHz on the SG33G5.

For those seeking more simplistic overclocking controls, the BIOS also offers the ability to overclock the system automatically by between 3% and 20% under load. The value of load-based dynamic overclocking seems a little questionable with the Core 2 Duo’s C1E Enhanced Halt State and SpeedStep throttling clock speeds at idle, though.

Delving deeper into the SG33G5’s BIOS reveals all the memory timing options you’d expect. Limited control over the integrated GMA 3100 graphics is also included, allowing users to decide how much video memory to provide the IGP and whether that memory is allocated in one chunk or doled out as needed.

Perhaps the most important element of the SG33G5’s BIOS is its fan speed control section, where users can choose between five fan speed options. Having five such options is great, but we’d much rather be able to define actual temperature targets and the speed at which the fan ramps RPMs as things heat up.

Shuttle has actually moved more fine-grained fan speed controls from the BIOS to its XPC Tools software for Windows. However, the current version of XPC Tools doesn’t work with Vista x64, leaving our test system out in the cold. Shuttle is aware of the issue and has plans to port XPC Tools to 64 bits, but there’s no timeline for an x64-compatible release.

Our testing methods
To make things interesting, we’ll be comparing the XPC SG33G5’s performance to that of a handful of P35 Express-based motherboards from a recent round-up. To keep things fair, we ran the SG33G5 through our gauntlet of application tests twice: once with the GMA 3100 integrated graphics and Intel’s latest 15.4.3 drivers, and again with the same GeForce 7900 GTX as our other systems. Peripheral testing was conducted with a GeForce 7900 GTX installed.

The astute among you will no doubt be wondering how we squeezed the 7900 GTX’s double-wide cooler into the SG33G5. Well, we didn’t. Instead, we stripped the XPC down to its component parts and ran it on an open test bench, just like we do with ATX motherboards.

All tests were run at least twice, and their results were averaged, using the following test systems.

Processor Core 2 Duo E6700 2.67GHz
System bus 1066MHz (266MHz quad-pumped)
Motherboard Asus P5K3 Deluxe Abit IP35 Pro Asus P5K Deluxe Gigabyte GA-P35-DQ6 MSI P35 Platinum Shuttle XPC SG33G5
Bios revision 0201 10 1101 F4 A7345IMS SG33S10P
North bridge Intel P35 Intel P35 Intel P35 Intel P35 Intel P35 Intel G33
South bridge Intel ICH9R Intel ICH9R Intel ICH9R Intel ICH9R Intel ICH9R Intel ICH9DH
Chipset drivers Chipset 8.3.0.1013
AHCI 7.5.0.1017
Chipset 8.3.0.1013
AHCI 7.5.0.1017
Chipset 8.3.0.1013
AHCI 7.5.0.1017
Chipset 8.3.0.1013
AHCI 7.5.0.1017
Chipset 8.3.0.1013
AHCI 7.5.0.1017
Chipset 8.3.0.1013
AHCI 7.5.0.1017
Memory size 2GB (2 DIMMs) 2GB (2 DIMMs) 2GB (2 DIMMs) 2GB (2 DIMMs) 2GB (2 DIMMs) 2GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair CM3X1024-1066C7 DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz Corsair TWIN2X2048-8500C5 DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz
CAS latency (CL) 7 4 4 4 4 4
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 7 4 4 4 4 4
RAS precharge (tRP) 7 4 4 4 4 4
Cycle time (tRAS) 21 12 12 12 12 12
Audio codec Integrated ICH9R/AD1988B with 5.10.1.6110 drivers Integrated ICH9R/ALC888 with 1.67 drivers Integrated ICH9R/AD1988B with 5.10.1.6110 drivers Integrated ICH9R/ALC889A with 1.67 drivers Integrated ICH9R/ALC888 with 1.67 drivers Integrated ICH9R/ALC888D with 1.67 drivers
Graphics GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB PCI-E with ForceWare 93.71 drivers
Hard drive Western Raptor X 150GB
OS Windows Vista Ultimate x64

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. 2GB of RAM seems to be the new standard for most folks, and Corsair hooked us up with some of its 1GB DIMMs for testing.

Also, with the exception of the SG33G5, all of our test systems were powered by OCZ GameXStream 700W power supply units. Thanks to OCZ for providing these units for our use in testing.

Finally, we’d like to thank Western Digital for sending Raptor WD1500ADFD hard drives for our test rigs. The Raptor’s still the fastest all-around drive on the market, and the only 10K-RPM Serial ATA drive you can buy.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Memory performance

The SG33G5 slips towards the back of the pack in our memory performance tests, but the cube’s integrated graphics performance is actually rather impressive. Despite stealing system memory, the GMA 3100’s impact on memory bandwidth and latency is minor.

WorldBench

The SG33G5 is near the back of the field in WorldBench. Again, with the GMA 3100 enabled, the XPC just trails our standard configuration. WorldBench includes a 3ds Max DirectX rendering test, and that’s where the XPC’s integrated graphics lose ground.

Gaming

While the GMA 3100 has done well thus far, our first round of gaming tests puts integrated graphics in their place. The GMA 3100’s performance is abysmal here, and we couldn’t get Supreme Commander or Quake 4 to run at all—both produced graphics driver-related errors when we tried to launch them. If you want to play games, a low-end graphics card would be an upgrade for the SG33G5, if only to improve game compatibility.

Fortunately, the XPC is every bit as fast as full-size ATX boards with a discrete graphics card installed.

Cinebench rendering

With the exception of OpenGL shading tests, where the GMA 3100 just can’t keep up, the SG33G5 is competitive in Cinebench.

Sphinx speech recognition

The XPC does reasonably well in Sphinx, too. This test is particularly sensitive to memory subsystem performance, but the GMA 3100 barely slows the SG33G5.

Audio quality
We used an M-Audio Revolution 7.1 sound card for recording in RightMark’s audio quality tests. Analog output ports were used on all systems. To keep things simple, I’ve translated RightMark’s word-based quality scale to numbers. Higher scores reflect better audio quality, and the scale tops out at 6, which corresponds to an “Excellent” rating in RightMark.

The SG33G5 manages a higher score than the rest of the field in RightMark Audio Analyzer’s dynamic range test, but only with its rear audio jack. Overall, the XPC’s analog output quality looks to be comparable to that of the rest of the pack.

ATA performance
ATA performance was tested with a Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 ATA/133 hard drive using HD Tach 3.01’s 8MB zone setting.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Serial ATA performance
Moving to Serial ATA, we tested performance with a Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD SATA hard drive. Again, we used HD Tach 3.01’s 8MB zone test.

Don’t, er, read too much into these HD Tach write speeds. Intel has confirmed that a bug with Western Digital’s Caviar RE2 hard drives can affect performance in this test when combined with its recent south bridge chips. We’re using Western Digital Raptor drives here, but this is the same behavior we observed with the Caviar RE2, so it’s likely the same problem. You can read more about the issue here.

Even with the write speed test results off the radar, the XPC’s SATA performance matches that of the competition. The SG33G5’s ICH9DH south bridge may lack RAID support, but its Serial ATA controller appears to be every bit as fast as that of the ICH9R with a single drive.

USB performance
Our USB transfer speed tests were conducted with a USB 2.0/Firewire external hard drive enclosure connected to a Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 hard drive. We tested with HD Tach 3.01’s 8MB zone setting.

The SG33G5 slots nicely into the middle of a tightly-knit pack in our USB performance tests.

Firewire performance
Our Firewire transfer speed tests were conducted with the same external enclosure and hard drive as our USB transfer speed tests.

Firewire proves a bit of a challenge for the XPC, which can’t match the transfer rates of the Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI boards. The SG33G5’s Texas Instruments Firewire chip may not have the transfer rate punch of its rivals here, but at least CPU utilization is reasonably low.

Ethernet performance
We evaluated Ethernet performance using the NTttcp tool from Microsoft’s Windows DDK. The docs say this program “provides the customer with a multi-threaded, asynchronous performance benchmark for measuring achievable data transfer rate.”

We used the following command line options on the server machine:

ntttcps -m 4,0,192.168.1.25 -a

..and the same basic thing on each of our test systems acting as clients:

ntttcpr -m 4,0,192.168.1.25 -a

Our server was a Windows XP Pro system based on Asus’ P5WD2 Premium motherboard with a Pentium 4 3.4GHz Extreme Edition (800MHz front-side bus, Hyper-Threading enabled) and PCI Express-attached Gigabit Ethernet. A crossover CAT6 cable was used to connect the server to each system. The boards were tested with jumbo frames disabled.

The SG33G5’s PCIe Gigabit Ethernet controller provides plenty of throughput with reasonable CPU utilization.

Power consumption
We measured system power consumption, sans monitor and speakers, at the wall outlet using a Watts Up power meter. Power consumption was measured at idle and under a load consisting of a multi-threaded Cinebench 9.5 render running in parallel with the “rthdribl” high dynamic range lighting demo.

Intel’s GMA 3100 won’t run the rthdribl HDR demo, so we’ve had to leave that configuration out of our power consumption tests. Keep in mind that the XPC is also using its own power supply; the other test systems are running off a 700W OCZ GameXStream.

The XPC’s power consumption looks pretty good. The Core 2 processors’ C1E Enhanced Halt State is properly implemented—something that’s been a problem with previous XPC systems—and the SG33G5 only draws about 10W more than the leaders. Considering that the other systems are running with a 700W PSU that doesn’t have to work nearly as hard as the XPC’s 250W unit, that’s an impressive result.

Overclocking
For our overclocking tests, we swapped our Core 2 Duo E6700 engineering sample for a retail E6300 we’ve had up to 3.3GHz without extra voltage or cooling. System stability was tested with Prime95 and the rthdribl HDR lighting demo. Since the SG33G5 doesn’t support CPU multiplier adjustment, we had to stick with the E6300’s default 7X multiplier and fiddle with the front-side bus speed from there. The memory clock was set to 667MHz to take it out of the equation.

In testing, we were able to get the SG33G5 up to a stable front-side bus speed of 390MHz—enough to push our E6300 to 2.7GHz. The system would boot into Windows at higher speeds, but Prime95 detected errors within only a few seconds of operation. No amount of fiddling with the chipset, processor, or even front-side bus voltages coaxed higher speeds from the front-side bus, and neither did cranking the ICE cooler up to its highest fan speed.

390MHz falls 100MHz short of the best overclocks we’ve seen from the P35 chipset, but it’s certainly respectable for a small form factor system. Of course, this is overclocking, so your results may be very different from ours.

Conclusions
After spending more than a week with the XPC SG33G5, I’m still struggling to figure out exactly what Shuttle’s new “Glamor” branding is all about. The system’s G5 chassis is all but identical to those that have come before it, as if Shuttle has subscribed to the Porsche 911 school of styling. But then there are plenty of folks—myself included—who think that the 911 looks pretty stellar as-is. The same goes for the current G5 chassis, which is sleek, understated, and even a little sexy. It’s just nothing new.

Fortunately, Shuttle’s latest XPC has plenty of cutting-edge comforts under the hood. The cube’s G33 Express core logic may be the best integrated graphics chipset for Core 2 processors, and with HDCP-compliant HDMI onboard alongside support for Dolby Digital Live and DTS encoding, Shuttle has nicely tailored the SG33G5 for home theater applications. If you’re not going to be playing games, you don’t even need to upgrade beyond the system’s integrated graphics. However, if you do want to get your frag on, we’d strongly recommend a discrete graphics card to avoid the painfully slow performance and spotty compatibility that plague the GMA 3100.

The SG33G5 has a couple of other niggling issues that are worth pointing out. First, you’ll have to wait on Shuttle for a version of XPC Tools that works under Windows Vista x64. That wouldn’t be a big issue, but with Shuttle moving its fine-grained fan speed control out of the BIOS, XPC Tools has become more of a necessity. We’re also not crazy about the tiny fan that sits inside the SG33G5’s 250W power supply. With previous XPC models, we’ve seen this fan get much noisier over time, and it’s not easy to replace. The SG33G5 is very quiet out of the box, just like other recent G-Series cubes, and we’d hate to see its low noise levels stymied by a tiny PSU fan. For what it’s worth, though, the SG33G5’s small form factor will prevent it from being as quiet as full sized ATX systems optimized for silence; bigger cases can use larger fans that spin slow and low, and they can also benefit from additional convection-induced airflow.

Those are minor quibbles, though. Shuttle has once again built a fine XPC that defines the standard by which small form factor barebones systems should be judged. There may be fewer small form factor competitors to judge these days (and I suspect that may have slowed the once frenetic pace of Shuttle’s innovation), but the SG33G5 is a solid offering nonetheless. At just under $300 online, it’s reasonably priced, too.

Comments closed
    • azenz
    • 14 years ago

    How can you push the FSB to 390 without killing your hard drive and other PCI/AGP-based components? With FSB 390 Mhz your PCI bus must run at 49Mhz!!

    However, I see that the PCIEX bus clock can be set, does that mean that on this Shuttle overclocking the FSB doesn’t overclock the PCI express (and hopefully also PCI?!) bus, and therefore your hdd and sound cards are safe?

    • Shadowtester
    • 14 years ago

    One question you stated in your review that you did the tests with jumbo frames disabled does that mean that the shuttle supports jumbo frames or that some of the other boards were jumbo frame capable.

    • BeowulfSchaeffer
    • 14 years ago

    I have bought two SFF systems, one from Biostar and one Shuttle. The Biostar one is still going after 3 years, the Shuttle was a total waste. Perhaps I just got a bad one.

    • zurich
    • 14 years ago

    Is the market for these things healthy (yet)? I always thought of Shuttle’s XPCs as a fag/niche market.

    • mczak
    • 14 years ago

    GMA 3100 in G33 is NOT the same as a GMA X3000. Not even close. The 3d core is, in fact, pretty much identical to the one found in i945 (gma 950), though it has a much updated name…

    • eitje
    • 14 years ago

    q[

    • cobalt
    • 14 years ago

    I saw someone mention you were using CAS 4 timings. Did you keep those for the overclocking portion, or loosen them? If not, if this one is like other recent Intel Shuttles, it means you were probably running DDR2-975 (the 667 is 5:4, so 390×5/4=487.5×2=975) at CAS4, but the RAM is only rated for CAS5 at DDR2-1066. Obviously that doesn’t necessarily mean the RAM’s the limiting factor here, but it’s cutting it close.

      • Dissonance
      • 14 years ago

      We back off on timings for overclocking tests.

        • cobalt
        • 14 years ago

        Okay. The only reference I could find discussing the latencies was in the original methods page showing CAS 4. Thanks for the clarification! (Still a better result than the SD37 and SD39 were showing, even without a botched BIOS.)

    • Shinare
    • 14 years ago

    Just re-read your SD39P2 review from earlier. In cases like this review, do you ever go back and see if the issues you highlighted that could be fixed with a BIOS update ever were?

      • cobalt
      • 14 years ago

      FWIW, various users have reported that the BIOS released after TR’s SD39P2 review still exhibited the problems with the memory dividers not allowing the 1:1 setting (i.e. even choosing “533” for a nominal 266FSB CPU was using the 5:4 or 3:2 divider), limiting overclocking in the same way. The strange thing is that these same users reported the previous BIOS did not have these problems, and so they downgraded back to the old one to get the 1:1 divider back. In any case, that one’s not fixed yet, but a BIOS downgrade might help.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 14 years ago

    So can you run the RHYBTH (whatever it is) demo or not. In the power section you said you couldn’t, but then the next paragraph said that that’s what you used to test for o/c’ing stability. Next up, you say that prime95 errored out, which you didn’t mention at all. I’m assuming that you meant to say that you tested stability with prime?

    • Xenolith
    • 14 years ago

    I thought the SS51 was the first g-series. I’ve had that for over 5 years… still my primary computer. Maxed out with a 2.8 p4 and a ATi x800 PE for video.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 14 years ago

    Actually if anything this review left me impressed with Gigabyte’s p35 motherboard more than anything, really.

    • dragmor
    • 14 years ago

    I’m glad they stuck with the G5 case, its so much better than the G6 design.

    Looks like intels overclocking on G series chipsets is the same with 33 and the 965 boards.

    • FireGryphon
    • 14 years ago

    Gave a quick read through. Very good article, as always. Shuttle made some weird design choices, like the graphics jumpers and the PSU fan, but everything else seems in place.

    One thing: in the conclusion, did you mean to say that the PSU fan was easy, or not easy, to replace? You wrote that it was easy.

    First post!

      • Dissonance
      • 14 years ago

      Yeah, just fixed that. Beat me to it.

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