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Thinking outside the box
As its name implies, the SN21G5 reprises Shuttle's classic G5 chassis. The G-series chassis has been around for what seems like forever, and its G5 derivative is nearly a year and a half old. The chassis still looks great, though, even if it lacks many of the useful features found in Shuttle's newer P-series platform.

Perhaps in a tribute to the late, great Johnny Cash, Shuttle dresses the SN21G5 in black. The brushed metal finish is particularly attractive, and it should keep fingerprints at bay. However, Shuttle isn't able to maintain the brushed metal look throughout. A smattering of glossy black plastic breaks up the aesthetic and cheapens the look of the cube a little. Of course, if you're not particularly fond of brushed metal, that might not be a bad thing.

Since ports and expansion bays don't necessarily go with brushed black metal, either, Shuttle hides them behind a series of retractable doors. Separate doors hide the front port array—which includes mic and headphone jacks, a couple of USB ports, and a mini Firewire port—and the system's external 3.5" expansion bay. That expansion bay should come in handy for anyone who wants to add a media card reader to the system. Shuttle's actually integrated media card readers into several of its XPCs, but sadly, none of the G5-based cubes.

In addition to hiding the front port cluster and 3.5" expansion bay, the SN21G5 also stealths the system's external 5.25" expansion bay. This arrangement neatly prevents beige optical drives from clashing with the SN21G5's classy black exterior, and Shuttle has even rigged a handy eject button extender that opens and closes drives with ease.

From the rear, we can see the rest of the SN21G5's expansion ports. There's no room for a parallel port, but Shuttle manages to squeeze in most of the essentials. You won't find DVI or TV output ports, though. Neither is supported by the GeForce 6100 integrated graphics processor, and that definitely limits the SN21G5's appeal as not only a business desktop but also as a home theater PC. Had Shuttle used the GeForce 6150 instead, the SN21G5 could have been equipped with DVI and a TV output that supports both standard and high definition displays.

While the SN21G5 lacks support for extra video outputs, Shuttle gets points for including a coaxial digital S/PDIF audio output. Not too many points, though. Most of Shuttle's XPC systems have supported S/PDIF output and input, so the SN21G5 is actually a bit of a step down in that department.