I'm lazy so I slightly pirated Duke's (and by extension Craig’s) format and used it as my template. The following is a review of my Shuttle SN25P small form factor PC. I have had this system for over a year, but I recently gave it a major upgrade and decided to write a combination review/how-to.
I decided to go with a Shuttle because space is sometimes limited in college dorms. I also had no need for a full-size case when I was just going to leave most of the bays empty. Also, this way I didn't have to worry about picking a separate case, motherboard, and PSU. This was my first time building a computer, after all.
Case - Shuttle XPC SN25P
Motherboard – Shuttle FN25 nForce4 Ultra (included with barebones system)
PSU - Shuttle Silent X 350W (included with barebones system)
Processor - Dual Core AMD Opteron 165 @ 1.8GHz
RAM - 2x 1GB CORSAIR ValueSelect PC 3200
Video Card – BFG nVIDIA GeForce 7600GT OC
Hard Drive - 2x 160GB 7200RPM Hitachi Deskstar
Optical Drive - NEC ND-3540 16x Dual Layer DVD±R/W Recorder
Monitor - Dell 20" 2005FPW widescreen LCD
Keyboard - Logitech Ultra X
Mouse - Logitech MX518
Speakers - Logitech Z2200 2.1
Approximate total cost - $1750
A Shuttle in its natural environment:
I purchased all parts from Newegg with the exception of the Dell monitor. All parts were delivered in a timely manner. I, however, was on a road trip though Oregon when they were delivered and had to wait a week before I could start putting it together.
Disclaimer: Most of the details I provide are specific to the Shuttle SN25P. This how-to is not meant to replace the manual for the SN25P or any other Shuttle system. Always consult your manual prior to building or modifying your system.
Building a Shuttle is relatively easy. However, because of the compact nature of it, certain steps can sometimes be a little tricky. If you have fat fingers it may cause you some extra grief. My two main recommendations are the following:
1) Read the manual. It has very good instructions which include lots of pictures showing you what to do.
2) If something doesn't fit/is stuck, don't force it. In some places the fit is tight; in others the fit and finish isn't spectacular. If something isn't doing what it's supposed to be doing, double check the manual.
3) Get a Philips screwdriver. A P1 should work fine. You'll need it for removing/installing the heatsink and for installing the video card.
For this review, I'm only doing a basic how-to. I won't cover every single minor step (the manual already does a great job of that). What I'll be doing is an overview of how the whole thing goes together.
When you take your Shuttle out of the box, this is what it should look like; a mass of stamped metal and wires. Don't worry, most of the cables are already labeled or routed to where they need to be.
The first step is to remove the internal drive rack (pictured). This will eventually hold the CD/DVD drive and your choice of a floppy drive or hard drive. To remove it, pull up on the black tabs, slide it back, and it should lift out. Note that the black tabs that buckle the rack to the chassis are not in the picture, because they are also part of the rails that hold the optical drive in place (which are installed on my optical drive, and I'm too lazy to take them off to pose for a shot).
Now the fun begins. The next step is to remove the fan duct. I found this step to be the most difficult of the whole project, mainly because the duct refused to come out. Take your time, and if it seems to be stuck, carefully look over the duct to see exactly how it is connected. I had the most trouble with the tabs that fit into recesses in the front of the chassis. I found it helpful to wiggle the duct laterally until the tabs worked free.
Pictured is the fan duct.
When the fan duct is removed, you will be able to see the ICE (heatsink) module. To remove this, disconnect the fan power header and unscrew the four screws holding it down.
The large fan on the other end of the heatsink has a release which allows it to pivot out of the way, giving you full access to the socket area.
Since this was not my first time through, when I pulled off the heatsink I discovered that I had used too much thermal compound the first time. Good thing it wasn't conductive.
After removing the original CPU (AMD Athlon64 3000+) and cleaning up the mess from the thermal compound, you're left with the socket.
This part is pretty simple. Align the CPU, drop it in, lock it into place, and spread on the thermal compound. I used Arctic Silver Ceramique, which I chose because its non conductive (compared to AS5, which is conductive).
The next step is to insert the RAM. You can see the DIMM slots in the above picture. If you are only using one stick of RAM, Shuttle says that it must be installed in the blue DIMM slot. Keep in mind that it does take quite a bit of pressure on the RAM to get the latches securely in place.
Now reinstall the fan, heatsink, and duct.
From here we move onto the internal rack. Install rails on the floppy drive or third hard drive, whichever you are using. I went with a floppy drive.
Then attach cables and install into the bottom of the rack. Mine was a tight fit, so it took a bit of force to slide it all the way forward. This is because the rails are friction fit into the rack; nothing locks the drive in place.
Next, install the rails onto your optical drive and insert it into the rack. This drive does lock in place. Do not connect any cables to it; it is easier if you wait until it’s installed in the chassis.
Fully assembled rack:
Now install the rack into the chassis. This takes a little finesse, but it should slide all the way forward and lock into place with the black tabs.
After plugging in all the cables, it’s time to install the hard drives. First install the rails on the hard drive.
Now install the hard drive in the top of the chassis. One end of the rails will fit into notches in the frame rail, and the other end of the rails will rest on the chassis and buckle into place.
Repeat to install a second hard drive if necessary. The power and SATA data cables have already been routed to their correct locations at the ends of the drives; just plug them in.
The final step is to install the video card. Remove the screws on both expansion slot covers, flip the mounting bracket up, and remove the cover from the PCI-e 16x bay. Pictured are the PCI-e slots. Note that the cover for the 16x bay has been removed already.
Install the video card and reinstall the screws on the mounting bracket. This will lock the card in place.
Install the cover on the chassis and hook up all your peripherals. Install/reinstall Windows if necessary.
At first, I was hesitant about how much I would like the looks of the SN25P. Unlike most of the other offerings from Shuttle, this one has a more "organic" look to it. Most of the promotional pictures online show the facing to be very blue; however in person it has more silver and gray in it. It wouldn't be the best choice an office setting, but it's certainly fine for home use. I've gotten quite a few comments on it, but that may have more to do with its size than with its looks.
Design and Build Quality:
The design is very good. The stealth doors on the front are a nice touch, because it gives the system a very clean look. The doors for the front I/O ports and the floppy drive are of the push to open, push to close type. The door hiding the CD/DVD is spring-loaded, so the CD tray pushes it open, and then it closes by itself when the CD tray retracts. My biggest complaint is that the I/O door is a little flimsy (warps when you push on it), however, I just leave it open most of the time so it doesn't see a lot of use.
Below is a picture of the three stealth doors.
Heat and Noise:
While it’s not a space heater, it will heat up a closed room if you let it run. As for noise, the processor fan runs constantly at a low speed. It’s noticeable in a silent room, but even quiet music will completely cover it up.
Input and Output Ports:
8-in-1 card reader
(2) USB 2.0
(1) Firewire 400
8-channel audio out
SPDIF I/O ports
(1) Coaxial audio port
(1) Serial port
(1) PS/2 Mouse
(1) PS/2 Keyboard
(1) Gigabit LAN
(1) Firewire 400
(4) USB 2.0
(1) Line in
Counter-Strike:Source video stress test
82.40 FPS @ 1680x1050 resolution, 2x AA, 4x AF
Half-Life 2:Lost Coast video stress test
74.69 FPS @ 1680x1050 resolution, no AA, no AF
Ease of construction: 4/5
This was my first try at building my own computer, and has convinced me never to buy another prebuilt desktop again. For the most part it went very smoothly, and the parts where I got hung up only helped to further my knowledge of computers. Overall it is a very well-rounded machine. I would highly suggest it to anyone.