Shuttle SB77G5
Posted on: 01/15/2005 06:00 AM

One of the nice features of Gallery is the ability to record the amount of views images get. It's easy to tell that our faithful SMPers love pictures of hardware, so let's dig right into the design and layout of the Shuttle SB77G5.

Taking a quick spin around the SB77G5, you get a sense for the sleek, clean look of Shuttle's G5-series chassis. I really like it; it almost has a "space-age" sort of look to it. The 5.25" external drive bay at the top of the unit and the floppy drive bay are covered to remove the need for color matching your drives. If you already own a beige or white DVD+RW or floppy drive, there aren't any concerns here. Just slap them in and the tray (or face of the floppy drive) will only be visible when you open it for ten seconds to insert a disk. Big deal.

Sliding the unit around to get a look at the side, you notice the Shuttle lettering on the unit. I think this is a nice touch and from a brand recognition standpoint (marketing again...), is a smart move. The only other thing of note on the side of the unit is the small grill near the bottom. This will allow for a little passive ventilation. Every little bit helps.

Moving around to the back of the unit, the first thing to discuss is the ATX backplate. You'll see two serial ports, a firewire port, an SPDIF input, 2x USB 2.0 ports, Broadcom Ethernet jack, and an array of audio inputs and outputs. The only question that I continue to have lies with the inclusion of two serial ports. Does anyone actually use these anymore? If I had my way they'd be replaced with additional USB ports or possibly an old-fashioned parallel port.

On the front of the unit near the bottom, hidden away behind another sleek black panel lies additional ports. You'll find an audio input and output, 2 more USB 2.0 ports and a Firewire Mini port. All-in-all, the SB77G5 has enough ports to satisfy the majority of enthusiasts. The mechanism for dropping the black panel is pretty simple. To the right there are three little dots which mark the spring-loaded clip. Simply push in and it falls. It's sleek, simple and relatively sturdy. The latter is important to me because a few months ago, I inadvertently broke one of the front panels off another SFF in my possession. It was really aggravating to me because I really didn't put a lot of force into the action. It was just plain flimsy. I won't spill the beans on who made it, but it wasn't Shuttle. ;-)

Now let's turn our attention to the insides of this sexy, black unit.

Anyone who's owned a semi-recent Shuttle XPC will be quite familiar with the layout of the FlexATX boards installed in them. The CPU socket is placed in the middle towards the rear. The DIMM slots and primary and secondary IDE connectors are towards the front. The PSU is to the rear on the right and the expansion slots, in this case one PCI and one AGP 8x slot, are to the rear on the left. The ATX power connector is tucked away to the front left and is generally out of the way.

One area where Shuttle and other manufacturers have improved over time with SFF design is cable routing. When dealing with such a confined space, it's imperative to keep the cables out of the way. If you don't, you can really blow (pun) up whatever air flow considerations were put into the chassis to begin with. A twisted IDE cable stuffed into a tight area in an XPC could potentially block off an entrance for fresh, cool air or an exhaust for hot air. In either scenario, overall ambiant system temperature could be compromised which could lead to system instability or hardware failure. No geek wants to experience either of these things. In the SB77G5, the cables are routed logically. The IDE cable going to the optical drive is rounded and routed along the upper edge of the chassis. It doesn't really have any opportunities along the way to restrict air-flow. The IDE cable going to the hard drive is routed directly from the primary IDE connector back under the removable hard drive bay (held in place by a plastic clip) straight to the drive. Last but not least, the floppy connector on the motherboard is actually beneath the power supply on the back right of the unit. As such, the floppy cable can be routed straight up along the backside of the power supply and from there routed directly to the floppy drive. If I had to give Shuttle a grade for their cable routing, I'd probably give them a 90%. They do an excellent job of it, but there are still ways to improve. Namely by changing the orientation of the 3.5" hard drive bay so the connector is closer to the connector on the motherboard thus requiring a shorter cable run.

Integrated Cooling Engine (ICE)

I haven't talked about "ICE" in awhile, so I thought I'd take a quick look at the latest version of the heatpipe that really makes it work. There really haven't been a lot of changes. The bottom of the heatpipe, that contacts the heatspreader on your CPU, has a polished copper finish. It's ideal for the transfer of heat away from your processor.

One slight change is with the screws that tighten the heatpipe to the socket. They're spring-loaded screws that work really well. You just apply a little down pressure until the tip of the screw is lined up with the hole in the board. A few turns later and you've got a heatpipe that isn't going anywhere.

The heat is then transferred up the heatpipe to the grill at the rear of the case. The grill is then cooling by the temperature-controlled 80mm fan at the rear of the chassis.

What's next? The BIOS of course! Let's see if the SB77G5's BIOS was put together with the overclockers in mind.




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