Shuttle’s P-series line of small-form-factor systems represents a concerted effort to update the now-classic cube PC. The P-series is slightly larger than the company’s G4 line but offers more amenities, such as nearly tool-free installation, quieter operation, and more elegant cosmetics.
The SN25P pushes the Shuttle line forward, offering a small-form-factor Athlon 64 system that supports PCI Express. Shuttle is using nVidia’s nForce4 core logic, which brings PCI Express, Serial ATA, and Gigabit Ethernet to the socket 939 AMD platform. It sounds like a great recipe for a small high-performance gaming system.
But there is one wrinkle: The SN25P has no PCI slots. The system ships with one PCI Express x16 slot for graphics and one PCI Express x1 slot for other expansion. This is similar to the SB95P V2, which is Intel 925XE-based, but different from the Shuttle XPC SB81P, which offers PCI Express graphics but a standard PCI slot.
Gamers could use a PCI slot to add a PCI sound card, like Creative Labs’ Audigy 2 series. Digital media junkies might use a PCI slot to add a TV tuner card. We know of PCI Express TV tuner cards in the works, but Creative Labs doesn’t currently have PCI Express solutions on its roadmap, and neither does any other manufacturer of audio semiconductors.
Shuttle clearly realized this might be a problem. Rather than relying on the integrated audio built into the nForce4 chipset, Shuttle has integrated VIA Technology’s Envy24 audio chip onto the motherboard. It’s a reasonable compromise. The Envy24 offers high-resolution audio capabilities and hardware mixers, but lacks a DSP for acceleration of audio effects. As such, some games may experience a CPU hit if 3D audio is enabled.
|Click to Enlarge|
So how does the Shuttle perform? We compared it to a similar desktop system running on a VIA K8T890 chipset. Can the tiny Shuttle keep up with the fully expandable ATX system? Continued…