For those of you who have followed the development of the PC market have probably not missed the exploding growth of SFF system. Small Form Factor, also called Shuttle Form Factor, has become well known…

For those of

you who have followed the development of the PC market have probably not missed

the exploding growth of SFF system. Small Form Factor, also called Shuttle

Form Factor, has become well known.

Shuttle who began with SFF have done a great job with keeping it alive and

exploiting it. Three months ago, when we reviewed the first Springdale-based

SFF-barebone on the market, Shuttle SB61G2, it made a huge impression on us.

Even the sun has its spots, despite our very positive thoughts about the Shuttle

SB61G2 it had some bad points. Much has happened since then, a lot of new

barebones have entered the market. Shuttle has launched more SFF-system than

ever before.

To see how much that has happened since last time with the SB61G2 we have

pulled its successor, the SB65G2 and even the first 875P-based SFF-barebone,

Shuttle SB75G2 to be reviewed.

We have also

included products from two other manufacturers, ABIT and Soltek.

Soltek has like

Shuttle been active on the SFF market for a long time, they were actually

one of the first to deliver SFF-products after Shuttle. Soltek has had their

Qbic-series of barebones, but like Shuttle XPC the product line has been increased

and improved very much as time went on.

ABIT is actually

rather new on the SFF market, the barebone we will look at this time is their

first try to get a piece of the cake. It will doubtless be very hard for ABIT

to compete with two of the SFF market’s most experienced manufacturers, but

ABIT has surprised us before.

One of the more
interested parts we will take a look at during this roundup is the different
types of cooling solutions. All three manufacturers in this roundup have chosen
their own and equipped it with a very exotic name, it will therefore be very
interesting to take a closer look at them.

The cooling is

not the only thing we will focus on, the differences between the unit’s chipsets

is also very interesting. Two of the four units we are reviewing have the

Springdale 865G chipset, one has Springdale 865PE and finally one with the

Canterwood 875P.

This will guaranteed

be a hard fight, the first contestant is ABIT DigiDice.


DigiDice: Specifications


307 x (B) 215 x (H) 255 mm


x USB, 1 x headphone out, 1x MIC, 1 x Firewire


1 x VGA,

1 x PS/2 Keyboard & Mouse, 2x USB, 1 x Lan RJ45, 1 x Audio connector

(Speaker, Line-out, Line-in, Mic-in, Center/Sub woofer & SPDIF

Out connector)


x 5.25″, 2 x 3.5″






865G (MCH) + ICH5



Pentium 4/Celeron Socket-478, 400/533/800MHz FSB, HyperThreading support,

No Willamette support


266/333/400, 2 slots

Extreme Graphics 2 (256-bit 3D Engine)



1 x 32-bit bus master PCI


2 ports ATA100, 4 units (ICH5)


ports S-ATA150, 2 units (ICH5)



Realtek RTL8101 10/100Mbit


ALC650, AC97 Codec + S/PDIF in/out on the Back panel


x Front panel, 1 x intern


ports (2 front and 2 on the Back panel), additionally 2 x internal where
1 goes to the card reader


Front LCD display, ABIT heatpipe cooling, Essential Oil



2900 SEK

(Exchange rates)

DigiDice is built on a mainboard with the model code IS-50. This is a SFF
mainboard equipped with the i865G+ICH5 chipset. The ”G” means
that the mainboard has an integrated VGA that’s good for anything except
playing advanced 3D-games. Otherwise, the specifications looks like the
most Springdale-boards today. All of the southbridge’s integrated features
are being used, sadly we have to learn to live without the RAID0-support
on both S-ATA-channels, since they chose to use ICH5 southbridge instead
of ICH5R. A reasonable sacrifice if you look at how totally crammed this
little barebone is with the latest hardware.

Price and availability

The retail price
for DigiDice lies around 2900 SEK (Exchange
) which is 100-200 SEK less than Shuttle’s cheapest Springdale-barebone.
If you compare with buying a regular mainboard and computer case, which in
principle is a barebone, then ABIT DigiDice as an more expensive alternative.
Besides that you are limited in your expansions possibility because of the
small size. A regular tower has much more room for expanding. Reasoning like
that you kind of miss the point of buying a barebone. If you buy a barebone
it’s for the small size and attractive design you do buy it and in the end
that’s what you pay for. If then compare the price with the competitors offer
we have to say that ABIT DigiDice really is good value. As usual there is
no need to go into discussing the availability of ABITs products. It’s very
high, the end.

Features and accessories


DigiDice: Accessories

x ATA100 cable, 1 x long 40-floppycable
x Mainboard manual, 1 x Quick Installation manual
x Installations CD

x backpack with a small pocket


x Remote control


Oil container, plus Oil

the DigiDice-package can make the most sensible individual to act as a small
child on christmas eve. Inside the huge box are namely tones of tuny cartoons
and bags to rip and tear open. Just unpacking everything took about fifteen

The first accessory we got in our hands was also the largest, namely the
backpack. DigiDice-owners doesn’t have to worry for transportation, they
just have to stick into their the handy backpack, jump onto the train and
for the LAN. Besides that a small pocket for change, credit card or something
similar is part of the accessories.

The fascination with the backpack mellowed out pretty fast though, and we
kept looking around in the big box. Next accessory that caught our attention
was a small carton that smelled weird. We eagerly ripped it open and our
eyes was attracted to a small bottle, and a small silver bowl that reminds
you of something you might find in a hotel bathroom. We were thinking, what
is that, and flipped through the pages in the manual until we found a picture
of both objects. It said Essential Oil, but we couldn’t really figure out
what it has to do with a barebone. After a moments thinking it struck us.
This has nothing to do with the barebone’s function, apparently computer
nerds has a tendency to smell bad, or at least that is what ABIT thinks.
Essential Oil is namely nothing else then an regular scent oil, that you
for example can put in a bowl over a candle. The warmth from the candle
will make the aroma rise up in the air and stink up the room with some artificial
scent. In this case it was lavendel and in and we didn’t use a candle. You
are suppose to attach the little bowl on the back of the case. The oil is
heated up by the flange and a couple of seconds later all the DigiDice-owners
in the room will smell lavendel Fun? Yes. Useful? Only if you tendency to
bend for strong artificial scents that will settle into every item in the

The last rather unusual accessory on the list is the remote control with
which you can control some of the applications that comes in the software
package. (WinDVD, WinRip, CloneCD) More about that later.

That leaves the standard accessories that consists out of a manual, a quick
installation guide, a Cd with drivers and the software, an 80-pin ATA-cable,
a long 40-Pin ATA-cable plus some screws and things. Nothing we haven’t
seen before.

list of features doesn’t contain anything we haven’t seen before on any
regular ATX-mainboard but what’s really impressive is that managed to keep
the large number of integrated features even though the small size. There
are Serial ATA (no RAID support), integrated LAN, Firewire, USB 2.0, six
channel-sound and last but not least a 6-in-1 cardreader which makes life
allot easier for all you camera owners.


Cardreader 6-in-1 card

DigiDice is really well equipped with all the modern features that you can
demand. In comparance with an ATX mainboard the DigiDice’s heart mini mainboard
IS-50, would do very well. The only thing that’s really missing is RAID0-support
for both S-ATA channels when ABIT chose to use the cheaper ICH5 southbridge
instead of the RAID-alternative. The accessories are both fun and useful
but the biggest plus is the cardreader that have done quite allot of work
at least during this review.

first glance ABIT’s DigiDice looked more of a mini stereo than a computer.
The bug round wheel makes your thoughts travel to a volume control. The
Exterior is very smooth in the design. Four buttons, a big LCD-display,
the volume wheel and an IR-receiver is all that we can find at a first glance,
if we keep the front door closed.

Also the back is rather clean. At the bottom we find two USB-ports, the
P/S2-contact, a VGA connector, audio connections and LAN. The big hole in
the middle holds the heat pipes flange that we’ll look closer at later in
the cooling section. Just above we find a hole for the system fan which
purpose is to blow out the hot air. The Dimensions of the fan is 60x60mm.
At the bottom left you find the PSU fan and right next to it we see the
hole for the heatpipe flange’s fan. As we can see in the picture the case
has three brackets even though there are only one AGP- and one PCI-slot.
The purpose is to make room for a large GeForce FX-card that takes up two

Open hatch

return to the front of the case and see what hides behind the
hatch, which looks like a nice thing. The hatch can be pushed back
along the side so you don’t have the to worry about a half open door
being in the way. Behind the hatch we find the two 5,25″ slots at the
top. These slots conceal the front ends of the CD drives to give a
nicer look without limiting functionality. The tiny force the CD tray
has is enough for them to open, so the tray can reach out all the
way. When you then close the CD, springs will draw the slot door back
and conceal our drives beige front again. A simple, nice and effective
way of raising the esthetic experience of the DigiDice case. Just below
the 5.25″ slots we find the 6in1 card reader that can read and write
Compact Flash/Memory Stick/SmartMedia/SecureDigital/MicroDrive/MultimediaCard. This is a
very nice addition that all camera owners will be eternally grateful
for. At the bottom of the front we find a headphone out, a microphone
in, two USB-ports and a Firewire port.

Concluding, the DigiDice’s design is both esthetically and functionally
appealing. Memory-card reader and USB-ports in the front makes life a
little easier, especially for people who own mp3-players/digital
cameras and other units that from time to time is connected to the
computer. The big display and wheel fills quite a lot of functions,
besides looking damn good, we will return to this later on. There is a
not so small cloud on the designer sky when it comes to DigiDice
though. The case is made out of hardened aluminum while the front is
made out of plain, rottener plastic. To close your eyes and let your
hand glide over the case’s cold aluminum is really pleasant until you
reach the front. The buttons on the front also feel very plastic.
The big wheel, also made out of cheap plastic, has distinctive steps
though, but it feels a bit too loose and easy to turn. You can even
wiggle it a couple of millimeters up and down which enhances the
feeling of a cheap Korean plastic stereo. Surely a design in pure aluminum
would raise production costs and technically the manufacturing process
become more advanced, but to be honest it would be so worth the
trouble. The design of the DigiDice witness that they have been
inspired from exclusive stereos and I ask myself then, where does cheap
panels enter the picture? Right now the DigiDice feels like a mass
produced ”exclusive” Korean instead of a elegant handmade british sport
wagon. We simply have to blame it on the fact that it’s ABIT’s first
try in designing a SFF-system and then we forget the plastic front
rather fast.

If we lift off the top of the case, some thing you do with a twist of a
hand, thanks to the thumbscrews, we see the hard drive cage to the left
and the right CD-drive cage. If we remove the cages we get a total overview
of the mainboard which is the model IS-50. Being able to access the whole
Mainboard in this way makes installation of components so much simpler,
when you can access the DIMM-slots, the socket .etc. The hard drive cage
holds two drives and so does the CD-cage. This is more than ok and even
more than most other SFF-cases can offer in space. Personally I would like
to see a 5.25″->3.5″ adapter included, as i rather use an extra hard
drive instead of two CD-drives. Sure, you can install one or two extra hard
drives (if you don’t have any CD-drives), but the problem is that hard drives
will lie loose in the case which isn’t good if you want to move the computer,
I.e. going to LANs. Besides, the system temperature skyrockets since the
system can’t ventilate the heat that the extra disks produce properly.

Top with support bars
Top without support bars

hard drive and CD-Drive cages

we remove both cages, which are attached by four screws each, we get
a good view of the mainboard. Everything is fairly easy to access.
The installation of the CPU-cooler and memory modules goes without any
problem. The CPU-cooler is easily placed over the socket and fastened
with four screws. A problem that occurred during testing was that one
of the nuts on the backside of he mainboard fell off after one out of
many installs/uninstalls of the board that we did. This meant
that we no longer could fasten the cooler without removing the entire
mainboard and fasten the nut properly again. It wasn’t hard but really
annoying and time consuming. There should be a better way to keep the
nuts in place on the back of the mainboard than just pressing them down
into plastic counter sink.

Overview with I.C.E. cooling installed.
Overview without I.C.E. cooling installed.


small system fan is easily fastened with four plastic pins. The
northbridge has passive cooling to keep noise levels down. One AGP and
one PCI slot is what DigiDice is equipped with and much more than that
you can’t fit in there. The little gray flat cable which is showing in
the right picture is for the display and has a tendency to be in the
way when installing a graphic card. The simplest way is to lead it over
the mainboard beneath the piece of the graphics card that sticks out
over the AGP-slot.

system fan

northbridge cooling

& PCI slots

slots are easily accessible with the two installation cages removed. The
IDE and SATA connectors are also easy to access when the cages are removed.
It gets tricky first when you have to install the cages again since they
are right above the previous mentioned. It takes quite a lot of work with
the cables to to get everything into place, especially with a large graphics
card installed. The ATX connector along with the 12V connector are well
placed near the socket. As the PSU is right next to the socket the length
between the connectors and PSU is minimal which helps keeping the cable
mess under control.

DIMM slots



thing that caused the most headache was the installation of our Creative
GeForce FX5900 Ultra. It didn’t matter how much we twisted and turned it,
we couldn’t fit it into the barebone. After coming up with the idea of removing
the graphics card’s bracket it became more convenient to work with. A couple
of nervous minutes later, twisting and turning, the card was in place with
minimal margins. The memory slot’s clips lies directly against the card
and you can take it from us that it takes a lot of patience even with the
bracket removed. Graphic cards doesn’t get any larger than our test card
generally which says that in theory any card on the market should fit into
the DigiDice, it just takes some sweaty minutes.
We should add that the ABIT DigiDice is the only one who can handle dual
slot graphic cards. Just wanted to make clear that there was a lot of problems
installing such a card and that maybe an extra PCI-slot might have been
a better choice.

you see a couple of pictures with the barebone crammed with
components. Four hard drives, one GeForce FX5900 Ultra and an extra
network card quickly fills up a tiny barebone. That the DigiDice can
hold so many components is quite impressive, when a regular barebone
usually holds so much less. The thing that really impresses me is the
fact that the PSU can supply all components with power without any
problems what so ever. To get all this to work with just 200W emits
respect, especially when there are more powerful power supplies having trouble
with this configuration, mainly because of the power hungry GeForce

The front

The CPU frequency

with all barebones the small size is both the products strength and
weakness. ABIT’s DigiDice is anyway a moderately convenient thing to
work with, but installing hard drives and graphics cards can cause some
troubles and irritation. The DigiDice is definitely not for the person
who disassembles his system often. After going through installing all
components once you’d better leave it there. In the next section we
take a closer look at the barebone’s display.

One of the first

things your eyes tend to get stuck at is the DigiDice’s big, blue, illuminated

display. It is a multi-lined LCD display, which can supply you with lots of

interesting system information.


CPU clock frequency

The middle row

tells system information, such as temperatures, RPM of the fans and the CPU

clock frequency. The upper row specifies, by using small icons, what information

that is being presented in the big row. For example: there is a thermometer

icon when showing a temperature value, a fan icon when displaying fan RPM,


Main menu



The lower row
of icons are connected to the current function as well, but are explaining
what the buttons underneath the display will do. These buttons work as shortcuts
to the bundled software; push the button and the application starts. The functions
are: music playback (WinRip), DVD playback (WinDVD), CD ripping (CloneCD)
and photo viewing (Windows XP PhotoBrowser). Unfortunately the buttons only
work with the software mentioned above, which considerably restricts their
usability. Many users, including myself, prefer to use WinAmp for music playback
rather than the quite awkward WinRip. On top of this we have the fact that
it is mostly faster to start applications through shortcuts in Windows than
stretching out your arm and press the buttons on the front panel.

However, these
problems are to some extent solved with the included remote control, but the
limitation of software remains as the remote, just like the buttons, only
works with the bundled applications. From my point of view the shortcut buttons
could have been left out, as I during these weeks of testing the product not
a single time have had the need to use any of the buttons. To be honest I
have not touched the remote either but to some people it could add some extra
value. The button on the very right is blue colored and is really not a button,
as you can not press it. Beneath it is the IR diode that communicates with
the remote control.

Beneath all the

things mentioned this far is the big volume control that in addition to volume

adjusting (volume icon is on the lower right of the display) also can be used

for ”fast overclocking”. If you turn the knob clockwise during start-up

you can choose between five different overclocking levels without entering

BIOS. Level 1 results in 5 % increase and level 5 a 25 % increase of the CPU

clock frequency. Each level adds 5 %. This is a fun and easy function that

makes overclocking a child’s play. However, overclocking normally consists

of configuring memory timings, memory ratio, AGP/PCI frequencies and the voltage

of processor and memory. ”Fast overclocking” does not adjust all

these values, which means you most likely will need to visit BIOS setup anyway.

Personally I would have liked if the levels instead were connected to a number

of BIOS configuration presets made by the user, similar to DFI’s ”CMOS

Reloaded”. Such a solution would have made ”Fast overclocking”

more flexible and usable. Maybe this is something for forthcoming BIOS updates?

ABIT has made great success among enthusiasts with their simple

and powerful BIOS. ”Soft Menu” has become similar to stable, efficient

and not the least easy overclocking, something that they have no plans of

changing. Previous barebone systems on the market have had a tendency to be

equipped with rather basic BIOS software but the DigiDice is not one of them.

Instead we get a fully developed Phoenix Award BIOS in an ABIT style.

In the Soft Menu

section we find the overclocking properties, which, as usual, are more generous

than most offered by the competitors. The CPU FSB can be adjusted by 1 MHz

intervals from 100 up to 300 MHz. The CPU voltage can be set to as high as

1.9 V and the DIMM voltage up to 2.8 V. The AGP clock frequency can of course

be locked or set as one desire between 66-99 MHz in 1 MHz intervals. In other

words there is no lack of overclocking settings at all, the one thing that

may restrain our overclocking plans is rather heat generation in the small





100-300 MHz (1MHz intervals)


or optional between 66-99 MHz



1.525v-1.90v (0.0250v intervals)




– 2.8v (0.05v intervals)




– 1.65v (0.05v intervals)

No parts of the

DigiDice BIOS differ from what ABIT previously have delivered. Advanced Chipset

Timings adjust settings for memory timings and the ”Game Accelerator”

function that optimizes the timings for northbridge and memory for increased

performance. The PC-Health section contains, just like expected, information

about system temperatures and voltages, and the option to set at what temperature

the fan RPM should be decreased to avoid noise. OnChip IDE controls integrated

features and except that there is not much more to say about the DigiDice


Advanced Chipset Features

PC Health

OnChip PCI Device

ABIT’s DigiDice

comes with a lovely ABIT BIOS that makes the hearts of enthusiast’s bounce

all over the world. Long gone are the days when a failure in overclocking

could be blamed on a bad BIOS. Nowadays it is only the cooling and lots of

luck with your components that matters in how high you can overclock.



ABIT’s DigiDice is extremely easy thanks to its supreme BIOS. The Mainboard,

IS-50, is a real high quality product as well and we had no problems pushing

our processor to max limit 230 MHz FSB. However, the cooling is a problem.

If the computer is running overclocked for a long period of time the case

temperatures will raise a lot, which results in bad CPU cooling as the fan

blows hot air on the heatsink. Several hours of usage and lots of heat generating

components (graphics card, hard drives) create problems for the tiny 60-mm

fan that exhausts the warm air. For more stable long-time overclocking you

need to mod a little to improve the airflow in the chassis.

Time for next candidate, Shuttle XPC SB65G2


XPC SB65G2: Specifications


300 x (W) 200 x (H) 185 mm




x USB, 1 x Line in, 1x MIC, 1 x Line out, 1 x mini1394



1 x VGA,

1 x Serial, 1 x Parallel (extra option), 1 x PS/2 Keyboard & Mouse,

4x USB, 2 x RJ45, 1 x Line in, Line Out, Mic In, WLAN-antenna out.



1 x 5.25″, 2 x 3.5″
220W, (W) 84 x (H) 43 x (D) 190 mm


Intel 865PE (MCH) + ICH5-R

Intel Pentium 4/Celeron Socket-478, 400/533/800MHz FSB, HyperThreading support, No Willamette support

DDR 266/333/400, 2 slots
1x AGP 8X

1 x 32-bit bus master PCI


2 ports ATA100, 4 units (ICH5-R)


ports S-ATA150, 2 units (ICH5-R)


2 units RAID 0, (ICH5-R)

Realtek 8100B 10/100Mbit

Wireless LAN 802.11b USB module 11 Mbit



ALC650, AC97 Codec + S/PDIF in/out on back panel

FireWire (IEEE-1394):

VT6307, 2 ports (1 mini)

USB 2.0:


ports (2 front and 4 back panel)



Shuttle I.C.E. heat-pipe cooling



340 €


first sight you may find it hard to notice any differences between Shuttle

SB61G2 and SB65G2. To be honest, only a few differences between the two

models are actually notable. One of these is the PSU that on the SB65G2

has been beefed up to 220W from the 200W we saw with the SB61G2. Not much

of a difference, but clearly a welcome one considering the power hungry

PC market of today.


SB65G2 is not based on the 865G-chipset as its predecessor, but rather use

another model of Intel’s Springdale-chipset, 865PE.

The only difference is that 865PE doesn’t come equipped with the integrated

graphics chip Intel Extreme Graphic 2 – not a loss for most consumers.


taking a closer look at the Shuttle SB65G2 and the news this barebone brings,

we’ll go through its price and availability.


and Availability

In our review

of the Shuttle SB61G2 we brought up the fact that having a smaller computer

actually means paying a higher price. This hasn’t changed since then, but

during the three months that have passed, not only has the competition hardened,

but the prices have dropped overall for SSF-barebones.

Shuttle SB65G2 can as of today be found for about ~ 340 € in stores which

is about 40 € more expensive than the Shuttle SB61G2 and a fully 60 €

more expensive than ABIT’s DigiDice. Not a fortune for a chassis, mainboard

and PSU, but far from cheap. ABIT has succeeded a lot better with pushing

the price down and the only possible drawback is the question whether the

quality has been cut down on as well.

The availability for the Shuttle SB65G2 is good as usual since Shuttle’s XPC

series have a lot of fans and retailers.


and Accessories

The list of

accessories for the Shuttle SB65G2 doesn’t offer any surprises but contains

most of what you can wish for. The WLAN-antenna however is a piece of equipment

we for obvious reasons don’t see that often.

We would have liked to see two SATA-cables especially since Shuttle is using

the ICH5R southbridge. Since the PSU isn’t equipped with SATA power connectors

we find it very strange that no adapters are included in the package.


XPC SB65G2: Accessories


x ATA100 cables, 1 x floppy cable


x Serial ATA150 cable


x mainboard manual, 1 x chassis manual, 1 x WLAN manual


x Installation CD for barebones, 1 x CD for WLAN


x metal feet for rising the front of the chassis somewhat


(not on the picture)


paste and necessary screws

Manuals and CDs


of the admirable things with the Shuttle SB61G2 was the enormous amount

of features the system offered. Perhaps it wasn’t very special compared

to a well-equipped modern ATX mainboard, but considering the obvious lack

of space it offered a quite impressive amount of features.


that have taken a quick glance at the specifications of the Shuttle SB65G2

it should soon be clear that this later version is well up to it when it

comes to features, and actually more than that.

Just like the predecessor the Shuttle SB65G2 offers 4 USB2.0-ports, 6-channel

sound (with digital in/out), 10/100Mbit LAN, 2 S-ATA150 ports, FireWire



Realtek and VIA chip


SB65G2 is just as its sibling the SB62G2 equipped with two LAN connections,

but here it’s not two ordinary Fast Ethernet-chips but one Fast Ethernet-chip

(Realtek 8100B 10/100Mbit) and one Wireless LAN 802.11b USB module.

The 802.11b standard is also known as Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) and has

a maximum capacity of 11Mbps. That is not a very fast network in comparison

to today’s 100Mbit standard for wire-networks and with the 1000Mbit solutions

increasing in number. But for an ordinary office network it suffices, the

802.11g standard would however be more interesting with its maximum speed

of 54Mbps.

As of whether WLAN is a usable feature in the present situation is a bit

hard to say. If you already have a wireless network without any higher demands

for speed it’s very positive and if the market for wireless networks continues

to grow it can be a good investment in the future. But as of today I am

sorry to say that I think it’s an unnecessary cost for most consumers.


we didn’t have access to a wireless network nor an access point during the

review so we can’t offer any tests with the SB65G2s WLAN.


WLAN 802.11b USB module


for the extra NIC the SB65G2 has also been equipped with a feature we actually

missed with the SB61G2; SATA-RAID. By using the ICH5-R southbridge the mainboard

now supports not just SATA but also SATA-RAID 0.


SB65G2 is just like the ABIT DigiDice a very well-equipped barebone. It’s

not just that Shuttle has kept all features from the SB61G2, but it has

also extended the feature-list with SATA-RAID and WLAN. There really isn’t

a lot to whine about and we can’t find any missing vital features. Sure

it would have been nice with a card reader as on the ABIT DigiDice but that

would probably have cost us a 3.5″ slot which I’m not personally ready

to sacrifice.

Other than that, Gigabit Ethernet-support would have been nice, but then

we are actually actively looking for missing features. Today, there is hardly

more people that have use for Gigabit Ethernet than WLAN.

difference to for example the ABIT DigiDice Shuttle have kept the ”standard
shape” that their XPC-series have had since the introduction of these
machines in about two years ago. Some minor changes have been added during
the years but all in all its pretty much the same shape. The design of the
chassis is virtually the same we saw on the SB61G2 as the name suggests
since the suffix G2 is the chassis model description. We were quite taken
with the Shuttle G2-design in our review of the SB61G2 and our views are
still valid. The Shuttle SB65G2 don’t have aluminum finish as it’s precursor,
this time it’s an all out black design. In our opinion this is a very nice
look for the shuttle but then again – beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The brushed aluminum look isn’t bad at all, it tends to give the chassis
a neat and sober look.

Shuttle has
without doubt ABIT beat when it comes to the general feel of the design,
the G2-chassis is made entirely out of aluminum and this give a very nice
impression. But by using exposed 5,25″-units this neat design is
very easily corrupted once you start adding your components. A beige CD-burner
is a blasphemy of enormous proportions in this chassis. If you want to
keep the tidy look you’d better ”steathmod” our optical unit
or at least find a black model.

THe front of the Shuttle SB62G2 is equipped with a number of ports, some
for audio, two for USB and we even find a min1394 port as well (FireWire).
On the back we find the more traditional setup of ports and contacts for
the mouse and keyboard, USB, FireWire, LAN, analogue and digital soundports
(SPDIF in/out). Up in the left hand corner we find the hookup for the
WLAN-antenna, an unusual sight.

To open the
chassis you have to use the same method as with all preceding XPC-models,
loosen three thumbnuts and remove the lid. Quick and easy even when attending
a LAN where its usually dark and hard to see where you poke the screwdriver.
As with most SFF-barebones the removable HDD-cage is more workable outside
of the chassis. In some cases its down right necessary since its gets
real crowded in some areas, especially in the from where the IDE-cables

The HDD-cage have room for one 5,25″-unit and two 3,5″ units

(one extern), this is standard for Shuttle and several other SFF-manufacturers.

ABIT win this round however since DigiDice offer for two units of each


There are undeniably not as much room in the Shuttle barebone as in the
one from ABIT since Shuttle’s models quite simply is smaller. THe difference
however isn’t that big when it comes to installation of components since
Shuttle have learned a thing or two over the years. With the HDD-cage
outside of the chassis the should be no trouble to install all components
but once they are installed there aren’t a lot of room to spare, a side
effect you simply have to put up with if you want to use a SFF-barebone.

Top with HDD-cage

Left side with HDD-cage

Top without HDD-cage


CPU-cooler, I.C.E., is very easy to both install and uninstall. We will
move into further detail with this later on. As you can see from the pictures
the HDD-cage take a lot of room inside the barebone. Its a good thing that
it is easily removed but with harddrives and optical units installed you
could have some trouble unless you unhook the IDE-cables since they are
too short. And while on the subject IDE-cables we have to pose a complaint,
of the four Shuttle barebone systems we have had in our testlab two have
had their IDE-cables ruined. This comes from the special designed cable
with an IDE hookup attached directly on the cable so to speak. After a few
installations/uninstallation this cable simply cannot stand the strain and
let go of the hookup that when stressed enough stay in the harddrive or
hangs on by a tread on the cable. This is a small design blunder but worth
to mention since you want to use the shorter special designed cables that
come with the package.

Left side without HDD-cage

Top without HDD-cage

Top without HDD-cage

thing that are very plosive with the Shuttle SB65G2 is that you get by without
a fan on the chipset cooler. The reason for this is probably that the 865PE-chipset
doesn’t have an integrated VGA-circuit, this means less heat. Even if the
Shuttle SB61G2 with its integrated VGA-circuit used an active chipset cooler.
it isn’t necessary as we saw on the ABIT DigiDice earlier.
The RAM-slots are located directly underneath the HDD-cage just like on
the SB61G2 and the IDE-slots are crammed in between the RAM-slots and the
front. With the HDD-cage removed it’s quite easy to place or remove both
RAM and IDE-cables.
The PSU is installed on the side like in previous XPC-models and on the
SB65G2 we see the little WLAN-module placed right above the PSU. Underneath
the PSU we find a floppy-slot. This is no optimal placement for this but
since floppy is on it’s way out we don’t suffer to bad from this.

Shuttles barebone have no problem what so ever with installation of graphics
boards besides that it can’t house cards that use more than one slot. There
really aren’t much room in the barebone with both a PCI and an AGP card
installed. Even if the mounting can be a pain thing work fine once everything
is in place.

Shuttle have by knowledge and experience managed very well with the layout
of the Shuttle SB65G2 but it’s still no picnic to install a complete system
in a XPC. Described difficulties aside the Sb65G2 is one of the most user
friendly barebones we’ve tested.

their latest two SFF-models Shuttle have become more and more generous towards
overclockers and enthusiasts. Even if SFF-systems aren’t exactly optimal
for overclocking some extra juice is there for those who know how to squeeze
in the right places.

Shuttle have a BIOS-layout similar to the one found on the ABIT DigiDice,

this is a positive thing, we say. A well known layout that’s easy to navigate

through and its user friendly.

Frequency/Voltage Control is the section that hold every setting for overclocking
and Shuttle has, as we mentioned earlier, grown to be quite generous. Enormous
options for FSB that guarantee satisfaction for all thinkable users and
the currency settings are straight through good.
ABIT has slightly higher settings for CPU and DIMM-currency but the differences
are small to say the least, few will even notice the difference.

Frequency/Voltage control


100-355 MHz (1MHz intervals)

alt. free choice 66-99MHz
1.1v-1.85 i 0.0250v intervals

– 2.75v i 0.05v intervals


– 1.65v (0.05v intervals)

Advanced chipset features is a section of the BIOS that really are ”the
place to be” since it inhabits the memory timing settings. A very interesting
and relatively new setting in this section is the ”Turbo Mode”
that’s included in the Shuttle P-BIOS (Performance BIOS). This is simply
Shuttles answer to ABIT’s Game Accelerator and how it hold up to the ABIT
implementation is yet to be seen.
PC Health present features similar to the ones we found in the ABIT DigiDice.
You can control system temperatures, currents and rpm’s for fans. Its also
possible to set the temperature at which the system fans should increase
their rpm’s.

Advanced Chipset Features
PC Health
Integrated Peripherals


have, just like ABIT, managed very well with their BIOS and even if it isn’t

as comprehensive as the ABIT BIOS when it comes to performance related setting

possibilities it is a very complete and user friendly BIOS indeed.


there isn’t much to say in this section since our test CPU once again sets
the limit. 230 MHz FSB is the limit of what our testsystem can do but at
these speeds the Shuttle SB65G2 were very stable and cooling vas no problem
despite the extra heat development.


XPC SB75G2: Specifications

(L) 300 x (B) 200 x (H) 185 mm

x USB, 1 x Line in, 1x MIC, 1 x phones out, 1 x mini1394



x Serial, 1 x PS/2 Keyboard & Mouse, 4x USB, 1 x RJ45, 1 x IEEE1394,

1 x Line in, Line Out, Mic In.

1 x 5.25″, 2 x 3.5″
220W, (W) 82 x (H) 43 x (D) 190 mm


Intel 875P (MCH) + ICH5-R

Intel Pentium 4/Celeron Socket-478, 533/800MHz FSB, HyperThreading support

DDR 266/333/400, 2 slots
1x AGP 8X
1 x 32-bit buss master PCI

2 ports ATA100, 4 units(ICH5-R)


ports S-ATA150, 2 units (ICH5-R)


2 units RAID 0, (ICH5-R)

Broadcom 5788 10/100/1000 Mb/s


ALC650, AC97 Codec + S/PDIF in/out on the back panel
FireWire (IEEE-1394):

VT6307, 2 ports (1 mini)

USB 2.0:

ports (2 front and 4 on the back panel)


Shuttle I.C.E. heat-pipe cooling



3800 SEK (Exchange rates)

As you can see the Shuttle SB75G2 use the same case design as it’s little
brother, the SB62G2, and we find that the PSU has been spiced up to 220W,
something that doesn’t hurt at all.

The Shuttle SB75G2 is the only barebone in this test that rely on the
more expensive 875P-chipset (Canterwood). Thanks to PAT (Performance Acceleration
Technology) the 875P-chipset is the leader of performance when it comes
to the Pentium 4 market today.
Granted several mainboard manufacturers has managed to enable PAT on their
springdale based mainboards as well so the difference between these chipsets
don’t have to be significant at all. This remains to be seen in our performance
tests however, where three hungry 865-barebones will pursue the Shuttle

Aside from the PAT the 875P-chipset differ from the 865G by not feature
an integrated graphics board, this means that this time none of Shuttles
tested systems offer any integrated graphics. This is further sign that
Shuttle is aiming the SB75G2 sourly towards ”power users” that
require proper 3D-performance and therefore don’t need any lousy performance
integrated circuit.

and availability

if the Canterwood-chipset generally is more expensive then the Springdale-chipset
we don’t see no big differences between the SB75G2 and the SB65G2. This
probably stems from pricey WLAN-support in the SB65G2. This make the Shuttle
SB75G2 stand up fairly well against it’s little brother Sb65G2. At this
time the SB75G2 only costs 200 SEK more then the SB65G2, a very small difference
when compared to the ABIT DigiDice where the price differ as much as 1000
SEK and that’s a lot of money in this context. It’s currently very hard
to get hold of an SB75G2 since it is one of Shuttles latest products but
thinking of of Shuttles attitude towards the Swedish market, availability
isn’t going to be a problem.
Shuttle SB75G2 is the most expensive barebone we’ve tested in this review
and if this machine is worth the extra doe or not will hopefully be perfectly
clear to you at the end of this review.

and accessories

are virtually the same for the SB75G2 and the SB65G2, the only thing that
separate the two is the WLAN-antenna included in the package for the SB75G2.


SB75G2: Accessories

x ATA100 cables, 1 x floppy cable
x Serial ATA150 cable and SATA power cable converters

x mainboard manual, 1 x chassis manual

1 x Installation CD-Rom

x metalfeet to raise the front a tad

paste and necessary screws

Manuals and cd’s

list of features for the Shuttle SB75G2 doesn’t surprise much, no double
LAN circuits and no integrated LCD display. Never the less, this is one
of the most complete lists of features we’ve seen for an SFF-barebone
and according to us the average user won’t miss anything.

South bridge

VIA and the Broadcom-chip

we compare the SB75G2 features whit those of the SB65G2 only two thing
differ really. First and foremost the SB75G2 have no WLAN, this could
be a drawback for some users. The SB75G2 feature however a Gigabit Ethernet
controller in the form of a broadcom 5788, something that make network
performance impressing high in the right environment. Naturally the SB75G2
support SATA-RAID and this makes this tiny can a real monster if placed
in a Gigabit network.

two contributions from Shuttle in our roundup is actually the only ones
with support for SATA-RAID, this is something we really depreciate and
we hope other manufacturers will adapt.

the Shuttle SB75G2 doesn’t really offer any surprises when it comes to
features but few barebones feel as complete. Once again Shuttle has done
a really good job and the only question that remains is how many features
is possible to add to these delicate systems.

SB75G2’s front panel exterior is identical to that of the SB65G2, with
the same black, brushed aluminum finish. The button layout is also the
same. On the back panel the only difference is on the connectors, double
serial connectors and no WLAN is the only difference to be found. Just
like the SB65G2 the SB75G2 has a very lean look and radiates of quality.

The only
differences between the casing of the two Shuttle-models on test today
is on their sides. The SB75G2 has a metal grid whereas the SB65G2 got
holes. The grid looks really nice (according to us) and makes for better
ventilation compared to the SB65G2’s case. The only drawback is that
the system gets a tad bit louder, but only marginally.


the SB75G2 is so similar to the SB65G2 there is not much to add about

the exterior and problems with component installation. A detail that

should be mentioned is that the SB75G2 has active cooling on the

chipset, not passive as the SB65G2, adding a bit to the overall noise.

Canterwood northbridge


if the SB75G2 and the SB65G2 utilizes different chipsets, they got

more or less identical motherboard layouts. So instead of repeating

it all over again we will settle for what we wrote in the part about

the SB65G2.


chose, for obvious reasons, to use a more or less identical BIOS in the SB75G2

as they did in the SB65G2. It is such a tiny difference between the two chipsets/mainboards

that it is hard to tell a difference at a first glance.

The same Phoenix BIOS and layout is used which is positive.


control is the section that contains the overclocking settings on Shuttle’s

barebones. The tweaking possibilities are are identical to those of the SB65

so we will not comment them any further here.

Frequency/Voltage control

BIOS settings
FSB frequency:
100-355 MHz (1MHz intervals)
AGP frequency:
fixable or adjustable between 66-99MHz
CPU voltage:
1.1v-1.85 in 0.0250v intervals
DIMM voltage:
2.65v – 2.75v in 0.05v intervals
AGP voltage:
1.55v – 1.65v in 0.05v intervals


we do not find in the SB75 is ”Turbo Mode”, but this is no surprise

as the Canterwood chipset already have these optimizations in the form of

PAT. This is also activated by default on the SB75 which gives us a promise

of good performance right away.

Below you can see the different fan settings, which by the way are identical

to those of the SB65.

Advanced Chipset Features
PC Health
Integrated Peripherals


SB75G2 has, just like the SB65G2, a very complete BIOS and we had a hard time

finding any direct flaws.


Same story as with the SB65G2, the roof remains at 230MHz and the system has no problems whatsoever to keep up with the processor speed.

Soltek Qbic EQ3401M: Specifications

(EQ3401 Mirror)
(L) 330 x (B) 215 x (H) 200 mm
Front panel:
2 x USB, 1 x headphone out, 1x MIC-in, 1 x IEEE 1394 (Fire Wire), 1 x SPDIF-out
Back panel:
1 x VGA, 2 x Serial, 1 x Parallel (optional), 1 x PS/2 Keyboard & Mouse, 4x USB, 1 x RJ45, 2 x IEEE 1394, 1 x Line in, Line Out, Mic In.
Expansions slots:
2 x 5.25″, 2 x 3.5″
250W, (W) ? x (H) ? x (D) ? mm
250W, (W) ? x (H) ? x (D) ? mm
Mainboard (SL-B8E-F)
Intel 865G (MCH) + ICH5

Intel Pentium 4/Celeron Socket-478, 400/533/800MHz FSB, Hyper Threading support

DDR 266/333/400, 2 slots
Intel Extreme Graphic 2 (256-bit 3D Engine)
1x AGP 8X
1 x 32-bit bus master PCI
2 port ATA100, 4 unit (ICH5)
2 port S-ATA150, 2 unit (ICH5)
Realtek 8100B 10/100Mbit


Realtek ALC650, AC97 Codec + S/PDIF out on the front panel
Fire Wire (IEEE-1394):
3 ports (2 back, 1 front)
USB 2.0:

6 ports (2 front and 4 on back panel)
Other features:
Soltek IcyQ cooling

~ 3100 SEK

(Exchange rates )


Qbic-serie has had similarities to Shuttle’s XPC-series if we are to look

at design and ergonomics. If we look at Shuttles XPC-series as a standard

of how SFF-systems are supposed to look, Soltek is no ground breaker like

ABIT. Even though similarities in shape the Soltek EQ3401M have numerous

differences in specifications when compared to Shuttle’s units.
One such difference is the powerful PSU that Soltek EQ3401M is equipped
with, 250W is the specified output and we haven’t heard of any other SFF-barebone
that offers a higher output.


things that doesn’t change though are the functions and features that

the i865-chipset offers, that most of today’s barebones use. Before we

dives any deeper into the features of the EQ3401M we are going to take

a closer look at price and availability. Something that has been Soltek’s

strong side for so long, especially on the mainboard side.

Price and availability


often sells their mainboard at reasonable prices but the few dimes you save

are usually noticeable in the form of lacking features. After a quick glance

at the EQ3401M we can surely say that the barebone is everything but poorly

equipped, then the question is whether Soltek still can keep their reasonable


And the answer is yes, even if the differences aren’t big, Soltek has a

clear price advantage especially over Shuttle when EQ3401M costs ~3100 SEK

(Exchange rates) today. It’s the cheapest

barebone in this test, with the ABIT DigiDice breathing down it’s neck.

Availability isn’t bad but not quite as good as ABIT’s or Shuttle’s, since

they have had a strong position on the swedish market for a long time.

Features and accessories


Qbic EQ3401M: Accessories

2 x ATA100 cables, 1 x floppycable
2 x Serial ATA150 cable and SATA powercable converter
x mainboard manual, 1 x case manual, 1x installation manual
1 x Installation CD
1 x Application CD
2 x metalfeet to raise the front of the case
Coolingpaste and screws
Carrybag for the barebone*

* Optional, it was a part of the accessories during a limited time campaign

our opinion Soltek has actually succeeded with their accessory package.
Even if the ABIT is the one who offer the most tingle tangle. Soltek has
the most complete package. Everything you might possibly need is included,
cables and everything. 2 st SATA-cables and SATA powercable converter (1
molex-to-2 SATA) is for example something we miss in the other manufacturers
accessory packages. Shuttle that even offer SATA-RAID should at least send
two SATA-cables, but no.


there are not much tingle tangle in Soltek’s package except for the very

neat carrybag, a bag of high quality and with many convenient pockets. It

feels good not to have that gnawing feeling that you have forgotten something,

when you go through the the accessories of the Soltek EQ3401.



the last barebone in this review it’s a bit comical that Soltek EQ3401

ends up somewhere in the middle, when it comes to features, compared to

the three other barebones. ABIT has chosen to go for an ”LSFF-model”

(Large Small Form Factor) where an extra 5.25″ slot and a powerful

LCD-display has made an obvious mark in the design. Shuttle has kept their

small measurements and simply expanded the number of features that doesn’t

take a lot of space.

Soltek has then made something of a middlething by expanding the number of 5.25″ slots (2 st) and the number of integrated features, without any noticeable increase in size. Exactly how they have done this we are going to look at soon, but now we are going to look at the number of features the unit offers.

Southbridge and SATA


we look at the number of integrated features the EQ3401M is relatively

equal to ABIT’s DigiDice with 2 st SATA-ports, 6-channel sound, 10/100

Mb LAN, USB 2.0, IEEE1394 (Fire Wire) etc.

ABIT has an advantage against their opponents though, the integrated card-reader and even if you can install a card-reader in most barebones, you then have to sacrifice a 3.5″-slot, which you don’t have to when using ABIT DigiDice.


only thing we really miss on the Soltek EQ3401M when counting features,

is SATA-RAID support. Considering that EQ3401M’s very powerful PSU and

good expansions opportunities (2 x 5.25″, 2 x 3.5″) it’s really

a shame that it’s absent. We simply have a hard time seeing other barebones

with better opportunities for several hard drives in a RAID-array. Both

power and space are available but sadly they have chosen ICH5-southbridge

to save money. If we are to look at the tiny details, we have to mention

the lack of a digital audio-in, like the one in the ABIT DigiDice. However,

that is something most people can live without and they counter by offering

three physical FireWire-ports, more than any of its opponents in this



Soltek EQ3401M is a well equipped barebone with a the only thing missing

being SATA-RAID support, that would have been an excellent addition to

this machine.

the design puts Soltek something in between ABIT DigiDice and Shuttle SB65(75)G2.
Soltek Qbic EQ3401M uses, just like ABIT, a plastic front but it does not
look or feels dull, since Soltek does not use just any plastic front. The
M in the name stands for Mirror and the whole front is actually treated with
mirror chemicals making a really classy look. Soltek EQ3401 is also available
as an A-model, which uses an aluminum front and even if we have not seen this
one IRL the M-model feels like the right choice. Even if it means a lot of
polishing when greasy fingerprints can become painfully noticeable.

At the bottom of the front there is a panel where a small hatch can be opened

with a simple push, and behind are all ports that are available on the front.

The back of the case is mainly occupied by the PSU. To the left of the back

we can see the ventilation holes for Soltek’s IcyQ-cooling which we are going

to look closer at later. Notice the I/O-panel.

On the lower

part of the front we find the front installed I/O-ports behind an easy opened

hatch. Sadly though, it has shown that the hatch (the lower at least) is

of rather poor quality. The only thing holding the hatch at place are two

small plastic pins and after only a weeks usage one of these pins broke

off which makes the hatch fall off when you open it. Not really what you

want, but the rest of the hatches, after three weeks usage, still has both

pins left. If you are just careful and do not pull the hatches too much,

there should not be a problem.

The pictures below clearly show the fronts mirror treatment that is really


As there hardly

are any optical units or floppy drives that have had their fronts treated

to look like a mirror, it is perfect that Soltek has chosen a stealth mode

design for installation of these units. Optical units are opened with a

light push that will activate the units own eject button. The sledge then

opens the hatch by its own force that is kept in place by a small spring.

Very stylish and perfect for those who does not have the energy to stealth

mod their optical units, which, for example, is recommended for the Shuttle-systems.

Front panels open .
Spring for the 5.25″-panel

Beneath the

two 5.25″-units there is hatch that covers the external 3.5″-slot.

This hatch is opened, just like the lower one, with a simple push in the

lower right corner. Here you can install a floppy drive, a card reader or

as in our case an internal hard drive.

It is very
simple to get into the case by loosening the thumbscrews (starting to get
repetitive) that keeps the aluminum case in place. When you have begun to
install our components, the troubles begin. First, we have to have to recommend
reading the installation manual, something yours truly (Anton) did not,
which led to several re-installations. Every single cable has namely specific
purpose at a specific chosen place.

Even though the barebone is a bit larger than Shuttle’s models it is not

really obvious as the bigger hard drive cage is the only thing that takes

up extra space. The installation took quite a long time in this barebone

(2 hard drives, 1 CD-burner, AGP-graphic-card, Audigy 2 PCI-card) but that

can be a spin-off of the fact that we did not read the manual first.

The biggest

problem users will come across is the PSU-placement, because of it you will

have to use force to get the optical units in place, at least the upper

one which was fitted tightly next to the PSU.

Top with hard drive cage
Top with hard drive cage
Tight is the right word

Another annoying

problem was the placement of the USB-ports for the front. You can see them

on the lower side of the upper picture to he right, these were not usable

since the cooling of the graphics card we use for daily purposes was to

big. With the cables installed there was no room left to press the card

down properly, which left us no choice but to remove the USB-cables. Even

if it does not make any major difference to us, since the broken hatch already

ruined our experience of the front installed ports, it is really sad that

such a tiny detail would ruin it. Both USB-ports becomes unusable as they

are right next to each other.


Tight again.

Besides these

problems there is really nothing to complain about as long as you follow

the installation manual. The mainboard layout is relatively similar to Shuttle’s

XPC-models where memory slots and IDE-connector can be found in the front

of the hard drive cage. Easy to access with the with the cage removed, but

nearly impossible to access with the cage installed. The cage is also equipped

with plastic-covered contact-sheets which makes it impossible for PCI/AGP-cards

to touch the hard drive-cage’s metal and being shorted out.

DIMM and IDE-slots
Floppy connector
CPU-socket and I/O-panel

Also Soltek has chosen to use passive cooling on the northbridge which makes Shuttle SB75G2 the only barebone in this roundup, that uses active chipset-cooling. Soltek’s IcyQ-cooling can be seen on the pictures below but more info and even more pictures will come later in the review.

12v ATX-contact, DIMM-slots
north/southbridge and SATA-connector
Soltek’s IcyQ-cooling

we noticed with our hardware configuration is that Soltek has two obvious
problems when we discuss design and user-friendliness The PSU ’s placement
makes installation of the optical units, and even extra hard drives, trickier
than in, for example, Shuttle and ABIT’s systems. This is something most users
will notice.

The other problem is the two front placed USB-ports that can be in the way

of graphics-cards with a large cooler. This will affects far from many , but

obviously some.

The quality of the front panel’s hatches is a bit uncertain and there will

always be problems with quality when you have mechanical parts.


we like the external design and for the lazy person that has optical units

that are not quite up to date, it is never wrong to hide them most of the

time. Even if installation takes its time and can be tricky, which it almost

always is when it comes to barebones, the system works flawlessly. Which can

be certified by the fact that we have used Soltek EQ3401M as a personal computer

for about 1.5 weeks without problems or crashes what so ever.

Soltek is the only manufacturer that has chosen to use an AMI BIOS for their

barebone and unfortunately that’s not a hit in our opinion. The BIOS is more

or less identical with the one we saw on Soltek’s ordinary

Springdale-motherboard and we weren’t satisfied with neither its layout nor

function. Unfortunately nothing has been changed in EQ3401 and the navigation

through the BIOS can be slightly strenuous. Even if this can be due to that we

in most cases see Phoenix-based BIOSes and thus we are more used to their

layout. Alas, even the function falls short. If you for example change the FSB

in the BIOS you can’t write a value at once, but you have to search through

the other values using the + and – characters. This will be tedious if you

reset the BIOS often.


Soltek hasn’t forgotten to offer some candy for the overclockers but have

collected some nice settings under the Frequency/Voltage Control menu. The FSB

can be set from 133 Mhz up to 283 Mhz which should be sufficient for the most

of us. The only thing that is a bit stingy is that the CPU-voltage is only

increasable up to 1.6v DIMM and the AGP-voltage is even more pranked with 2.9v

respective 1.8v. The DIMM-voltage is very positive when it often can be a

limiting factor at overclocking with Intel’s 800 Mhz FSB CPU’s.


133-283 MHz (1MHz intervals)


fixable alt. optional between 66-99 Mhz


0.85v-1.60 in 0.0250v intervals


2.60v – 2.90v in 0.1v intervals


1.50v – 1.8v (0.1v intervals)

The Soltek

EQ3401 offers a bit different arrangement for their BIOS and we can find the

memory timings under the NorthBridge Configuration. The thing we’re really

are missing here are settings like ”Game Accelerator” or ”Turbo Mode” but the

fact is that Soltek EQ3401M is the only Springdale barebone in this roundup

that is missing its own PAT-simulation. How this will affect its performance

results we will see later in the review. Soltek offers, just like their

competitors, a setting for changing the RPM on the system’s fans and here the

technology is called Smart Fan. Other settings for integrated components

and so on you will find a bit scattered throughout the BIOS, but it’s not

anything unusual.

NorthBridge Configuration
Hardware Health
Advanced BIOS features

IDE configuration

Soltek has

unfortunately not put the same energy on their BIOS as ABIT and Shuttle has,

neither overclocking settings nor user friendliness reaches the competitors’

standard. It remains to see how Soltek handles without PAT-simulation in our

performance tests.


As usual our

CPU sets the limit before we can investigate the barebone’s limits at

overclocking. Soltek’s barebone had no problems at all at 230 Mhz FSB neither

in stability nor heat dissipitation.

One of the simplest marketing tricks is to tie your product to catchy names.

We could give you countless examples of this, but now the focus is on our

tested barebones.

The manufacturers call their barebones different things. ABIT calls their’s

OTES, and we have Shuttle’s I.C.E and finally Soltek IcyQ.

Shuttle I.C.E
One of the big problems in a small computer is air flow and in today’s PC’s
most components has significant heat development. That’s why effective cooling
systems is a very important part of having a stable system and Shuttle who
started the SFF-market (Small Form Factor) as it is today, has been using
their I.C.E-cooling (Integrated Cooling Engine). This system uses heat pipes
and a single fan for CPU and system cooling. We had a closer look at Shuttle
I.C.E in our Shuttle SB61G2 review, so we won’t be going in to any details
on SB65G2 and SB75G2’s cooling since it’s identical with the one in SB61G2.

But we can treat you to some pictures of the Shuttle cooling.

The three parts that together makes the Shuttle I.C.E


The heat sink with heat pipes and radiator

ABIT has since
the introduction of their GeForce 4 Ti4200 OTES developed their OTES-cooling
(Outside Thermal Exhaust System) further and now not only graphics cards benefit
from this cooling. ABIT’s MAX3-mainboard has a version of the OTES-cooling
and now ABIT DigiDice introduces another version.
OTES’s main principal is that you use air tunnels to cool components or heat
sinks and the air tunnel then leads the hot air out of the system.

The three parts that together makes the ABIT OTES

Heat sink with both fan and heat pipes for a bigger heat sink

The heat sink comes with a copper base

As you can
see on the pictures this solution resembles Shuttle’s I.C.E a little with
a primary heat sink and heat pipes to the bigger radiator heat sink. The
extra fan you can see is the 60mm fan that cools the system it self. Even
if it doesn’t count to OTES it’s a necessary component in the DigiDice’s
cooling system. One of the obvious problems with DigiDice’s cooling is
that it uses as many as three fans, which gives it a noticeably higher
sound level than the Shuttle system. If ABIT designed the cooling system
with the future in mind, or just feels insecure with only two fans we
don’t know.

The cooling installed

The air tunnel at the back of the barebone

Soltek IcyQ

Soltek has chosen a different solution. Both ABIT and Shuttle

uses specially manufactured CPU-coolers with heat pipes and therefore the

user can’t experiment with CPU-cooling on his own. To the less experienced

users this can be good since you don’t have to look for effective cooling to

your system, but for the enthusiast it could be fun to choose your own


Soltek IcyQ is just the name of the system fan which doesn’t resemble

anything we’ve previously seen in a barebone. Soltek uses a radial fan who

pushes the air through an air tunnel. The system is very thin and the fan is

about 90mm which results in good cooling and low sound level.

IcyQ works very well together with the automatic fan controller on the mainboard
that raises and lowers the speed of the fans depending on the temperature
of the system and the CPU.

The radial fan pushes the hot air out of the case

The IcyQ-cooling takes up much space vertically..

.. but not horizontally.


Cooling system conclusion

To conclude this review we chose to to show you a summary of the

four barebone’s design and give subjective scores for sound level and

cooling ability

ABIT DigiDice Shuttle SB65G2 Shuttle SB75G2 Soltek EQ3401M

Number of

fans :

4 incl. PSU
2 incl. PSU
3 incl. PSU
3 incl. PSU
Exchangeable CPU-cooler:





Size of system fan:


Size of PSU fan:



controlled fans:





The chart above shows a summary of the four barebone’s cooling system and
if we were to rank them according to cooling capacity they are quite equal.
Even if it they could differ a degree up or down our subjective tests (unfortunately
we lack professional testing equipment for temperatures and sound level)
hasn’t shown any bigger differences.

The sound level however differs quite a bit with ABIT being the outsider.

DigiDice has both the highest number of fans and the smallest size which

makes it louder significantly louder than the other competitors.

Shuttle SB65G2 and SB75G2 are more or less identical in regards to sound

level but you’ll notice that the active chipset cooler on SB75G2 increase

the sound level slightly. The design of the fan bars of the chassis could be

a reason for this as well. The biggest problem of the Shuttle still is the

whining 40mm fan in the PSU that ruins the experience a little. However this

is supposed to be corrected in future XPC models where a much quieter PSU

will be used, something that we really are looking forward to be testing.

In regards to sound level Soltek is the obvious winner with relatively few
fans, but what really makes the difference is the size of the fans. The
90mm system fan is practically impossible to hear at it’s lowest rpm, and
the 60mm PSU fan is clearly quieter than the competitor’s 40mm versions.
Now that we know more we have a  little more understanding why the
PSU is placed where it is in Soltek EQ3401M.

As long as you don’t choose a loud CPU cooler Soltek IcyQ feels like the

winner in this area, but remember that you will have to spend 10-20 Euro’s

on a good CPU cooler. Unless you choose Intel’s boxed cooler which actually

isn’t that loud, especially with Soltek’s temperature control.

Now it’s time to test the performance of the four barebones and see how they

compare to each other in that area.


testing system



Pentium 4 2.8GHz (800 MHz FSB)


ABIT DigiDice (IS-50, 865G)

Shuttle SB65G2 (FB65, 865PE)

Shuttle SB75G2 (FB75, 875P)

Soltek EQ3401M (SL-B8E-F, 865G)
Reference:: DFI LANParty 865PE

2 x 256MB GeIL PC3500 Ultra CL2

Graphics card:

nVidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra 256MB @ 450/850MHz
80GB Maxtor 740DX


Operating System:

Windows XP Professional SP1


1024x768x32bit, 90Hz


Detonator 52.16 WHQL

DirectX 9.0b

Intel chipset driver 5.0.2

Testing programs:
Quake 3:Arena v1.32

Unreal Tournament 2003 demo v.2206

3Dmark2001 SE 330

Comanche 4 benchmark

SPECviewperf 7.1

Winace v2.20

Audioactive Production Studio 2.04j (Fraunhofer II encoder)

SiSoft Sandra 2003


The memory timings
were set to 2-5-2-2 for all of the barebones. Any possible performance increasing
settings were activated on all of the systems that offered them, yet only
in games and the 3D-tests due to lack of time. These results are marked with
bold text to make it easier to tell them apart in the diagrams. The reference
card from DFI has a gray stack in the diagrams while the four barebones have
blue stacks.

Before we go on

with the test results we will see which effective clock frequencies the

systems do.

Front Side Bus


ABIT DigiDice
Shuttle SB65G2
Shuttle SB75G2
Soltek EQ3401M
DFI LANParty 865PE

  0 60 120 180 240 300

The clock frequencies

more or less identical on the different systems, so it won’t affect the performance


As usual we

begin with some quick memory tests and first on the line is the bandwidth

demanding SiSoft Sandra Buffered memory benchmark.

SiSoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth
Buffered, Int (MB/s)

Shuttle SB75G2
ABIT DigiDice
DFI LANParty 865PE
Shuttle SB65G2
Soltek EQ3401M

  0 1200 2400 3600 4800 6000

SiSoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth
Buffered, Float (MB/s)

Shuttle SB75G2
DFI LANParty 865PE
ABIT DigiDice
Shuttle SB65G2
Soltek EQ3401M

  0 1200 2400 3600 4800 6000

The differences in this tests are as usual very small and not quite unexpected

the Shuttle SB75G2 is on the top, but with very small margins.

SiSoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth
Unbuffered, Int (MB/s)

Shuttle SB75G2
DFI LANParty 865PE
Shuttle SB65G2
ABIT DigiDice
Soltek EQ3401M

  0 800 1600 2400 3200 4000

SiSoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth
Unbuffered, Float (MB/s)

Shuttle SB75G2
DFI LANParty 865PE
ABIT DigiDice
Shuttle SB65G2
Soltek EQ3401M

  0 800 1600 2400 3200 4000

In the

unbuffered benchmark we can see the same pattern even though this test

depends more on low latency and aggressive memory timings.

We quickly

move on with some common application tests.

First in line
among our common applications is WinAce and file compression.

Highest compression (sec)
Shuttle SB75G2
DFI LANParty 865PE
ABIT DigiDice
Shuttle SB65G2
Soltek EQ3401M
  0 50 100 150 200 250

This test lays large weight at memory bandwidth and latency, of which the
small differences between the systems can be related to our memory tests on
the previous page. Once again it’s the Shuttle SB75G2 at the top with a
minimal lead.

MP3 encoding (Fraunhofer II codec)

Audio encoding, MP3
192 kbps (sec)
ABIT DigiDice
DFI LANParty 865PE
Shuttle SB75G2
Soltek EQ3401M
Shuttle SB65G2
  0 50 100 150 200 250

is almost only dependant on pure processing power which you can clearly
notice when there’s practically no difference at all between the different

Our games and 3D tests will also contain the results from various performance enhancing techniques, more info on these can be found under the test system information.

First out among the games is Quake 3.

Quake 3, 1024×768, Demo Four
MaxQ (fps)
DFI LANParty 865PE ”Enhanced Mode”
ABIT DigiDice ”Game Accelerator F1”
Shuttle SB75G2
DFI LANParty 865PE
ABIT DigiDice
Shuttle SB65G2 ”Turbo Mode”
Shuttle SB65G2
Soltek EQ3401M
  0 90 180 270 360 450

We see here, just as we’ve shown earlier, that the ABIT Game Accelerator and DFI Enhanced Mode is far more than just their own versions of PAT as they both leave the Canterwood based Shuttle SB75G2 in their trailing dust.
Shuttle SB65G2 however seems to be equipped with the exact equivalence of the Canterwood chipset PAT through its Turbo Mode as activating it puts it head to head with the SB75G2.
Other from that it’s the Shuttle SB65G2 and Soltek EQ3401M that draws the shortest straw, still by a small margin though as long as we don’t count the performance enhancing techniques.

UT2003 Flyby demo
1024×768 Default run (fps)
ABIT DigiDice ”Game Accelerator F1”
DFI LANParty 865PE ”Enhanced Mode”
Shuttle SB75G2
Shuttle SB65G2 ”Turbo Mode”
DFI LANParty 865PE
ABIT DigiDice
Shuttle SB65G2
Soltek EQ3401M
  0 60 120 180 240 300

We see a similar pattern in Unreal Tournament as we did in Quake 3, they all score very close to each other except for Abit DigiDice using its Game Accelerator technique and the reference board from DFI using its Enhanced Mode.

3D test demo

We start off with the system demanding Comanche 4 from Novalogic.

Comanche 4 Demo Benchmark
DFI LANParty 865PE ”Enhanced Mode”
ABIT DigiDice ”Game Accelerator F1”
Shuttle SB75G2
ABIT DigiDice
Shuttle SB65G2 ”Turbo Mode”
DFI LANParty 865PE
Shuttle SB65G2
Soltek EQ3401M
  0 16 32 48 64 80

The differences here are very small between the different machines but among the SFF systems the Shuttle SB75G2 and ABIT DigiDice top the list.

3DMark2001 SE Build 330
ABIT DigiDice ”Game Accelerator F1”
DFI LANParty 865PE ”Enhanced Mode”
Shuttle SB75G2
DFI LANParty 865PE
Shuttle SB65G2 ”Turbo Mode”
ABIT DigiDice
Soltek EQ3401M
Shuttle SB65G2
  0 4000 8000 12000 16000 20000

Once again we see the same results and can draw the conclusion that ABIT managed very good with their Game Accelerator technique for the Springdale chipset. Shuttle have been somewhat humble with their Turbo Mode and we can only speculate about the reason for it. We can also draw another conclusion, that Soltek would have needed some sort of performance enhancer as well in order to keep up with the competition.

Last of all we’ll do some tests in a workstation environment.

advanced 3D tests are performed using SPECviewperf 7.1. For those of you
not familiar with SPECviewperf, it’s a test program containing 3D renditions
from 6 different 3D programs available on the market today and is used professionally.
The performed tests are as follow:

  • These
    tests are run in window mode and are thereby affected by the system’s desktop
    resolution. During our tests, we used a resolution of 1024x768x32 bit and
    an update frequency of 85 Hz.

    SPECViewperf – 3DSMAX-02
    ABIT DigiDice
    DFI LANParty 865PE
    Shuttle SB65G2
    Shuttle SB75G2
    Soltek EQ3401M
      0 3 6 9 12 15

    SPECViewperf – DRV-09
    DFI LANParty 865PE
    ABIT DigiDice
    Shuttle SB75G2
    Shuttle SB65G2
    Soltek EQ3401M
      0 14 28 42 56 70

    SPECViewperf – DX-08
    Shuttle SB75G2
    ABIT DigiDice
    DFI LANParty 865PE
    Shuttle SB65G2
    Soltek EQ3401M
      0 14 28 42 56 70

    SPECViewperf – Light-06
    Shuttle SB75G2
    ABIT DigiDice
    DFI LANParty 865PE
    Soltek EQ3401M
    Shuttle SB65G2
      0 4 8 12 16 20

    SPECViewperf – PROE-02
    DFI LANParty 865PE
    Shuttle SB75G2
    ABIT DigiDice
    Shuttle SB65G2
    Soltek EQ3401M
      0 4 8 12 16 20

    SPECViewperf – UGS-03
    Shuttle SB75G2
    ABIT DigiDice
    DFI LANParty 865PE
    Soltek EQ3401M
    Shuttle SB65G2
      0 3 6 9 12 15

    SPECViewperf there are almost no difference at all, the graphics card is
    also the big bottleneck in these very demanding 3D tests.

    try to sum it all up we can draw the conclusion that all four barebones
    performs relatively the same. But with Game Accelerator activated ABIT’s
    DigiDice is without any doubt the fastest one. Even the Canterwood-based
    barebone from Shuttle is slower. Because we saw the same result when we
    reviewed the ABIT IC7 (Canterwood) against IS7 and Game Accelerator we must
    say that Game Accelerator is not a PAT-copy. This technique which obviously
    increases the performance demands a lot of the memory in the system.

    do also succeed with increasing the performance with their SB65G2 with the
    P-BIOS, but Turbo Mode is not as effective as ABIT DigiDice’s Game Accelerator.
    If an updated BIOS could fix this remains to see.

    EQ3401M is often the last one in the tests even if the marginals are rather
    small, if we disregard from DigiDice with F1 activated it certainly would
    have been good with some sort of technology like PAT.

    DigiDice is the best performing system thanks to its Game Accelerator technology,
    it will be very interesting to see how Shuttle and Soltek will react on
    this in upcoming BIOS versions.

    the latest this review has been one the tougher to summarize. This, because
    all four systems are all very good products that speak to us in different
    ways. All four are very close to deserving an award, but after a real examination
    it feels like no one really reaches all the way.

    If we fist
    look at our debutante, ABIT, we can say that DigiDice was positive surprise
    for us in the testlab. The positive are its relative good expansion possibilities,
    good overclocking, performance and a number of extra features, 6-in-1 card
    reader and LCD-display among others. Even the price is very attractive looking
    at it all together and ABIT DigiDice has been a candidate for both Editor’s
    choice and Best budget choice.
    The negative aspects we can find on a barebone is its large size which might
    not even classify it as a SFF-system. But even though build quality doesn’t
    always feel at best and here we relate to the plastic front. The Installation
    can also cause problems that we acknowledged during the review. The biggest
    problem is probably the loud cooling, which isn’t very effective in a fully
    equipped system. The problem lies with the 60mm exhaust fan that has to
    work at a very high capacity.

    ABIT DigiDice is though a very good choice for the person who wants a lot of space in its barebone and appreciate the extra features that is offered at a very attractive price.

    Shuttle has
    through the years gotten rid of most the child diseases SFF-systems can
    have. Both SB65G2 and SB75G2 are solid barebones with a high-class quality.
    Both barebones are well equipped with S-ATA RAID, Wireless LAN (SB65) or
    Gigabit Ethernet (SB75) and that’s really up to you what you want.
    Despite they have the smallest dimensions in the test we had no real problems
    with installation of our components. Of course it’s trickier then in a normal
    ATX-case but the risk of bumping into problems are after our experience
    relatively low.
    Also Shuttle has in our eyes, or more correctly ears, problems with their
    cooling. The I.C.E-cooling is both effective and relatively silent but the
    PSU-fan is way to loud and the small 40mm-fan creates an annoying whining
    noice that ruins the big picture. The thing that finally tips both models
    over from being the optimal choices are their high prices.

    Shuttle’s barebones are all the way through solid products with well thought through features, barebones that fits most people that are looking for a small computer.

    Soltek EQ3401M
    is a very sober barebone that has shown to be especially appreciated by
    less computer interested persons. Its clean style outer and low noice levels
    makes it an optimal choice for the one who doesn’t want to be ashamed of
    putting you computer on your desk. Soltek has a complete list of features
    and sends all thinkable accessories directly in the carton which adds a
    plus. They have even managed to fit a few extra expansions slots in their
    barebone and kept their dimension small.

    Sadly, it has led to very little space inside the case which makes installation a bit tougher, something that we got painfully aware of. Even if you don’t like poking around in your barebone every day Soltek EQ3401M is one the worst since space is very limited. Also performance leaves somewhat to wish for, but in everyday use it’s hardly noticeable.
    For those who prioritize a silent stylish system Soltek EQ3401M is one of
    the best choices on the market.

    Last but not
    least we have a small summarize of the four barebones pros and cons. In
    our opinion all four are good competent products and it’s totally up to
    your own taste and work area to chose among them.

    ABIT DigiDice


    + Very good performance
    + BIOS and overclocking potential
    + A lot of features, SATA, USB2.0, FireWire, 10/100Mb LAN, 6-channel
    audio etc.
    + 6-in-1 card reader, LCD-display with easy buttons

    + A lot of space

    + Very attractive price


    – Some installation problems
    – Plastic and dull front panel

    – Relatively loud
    – Case cooling can become defective in a full system

    Shuttle SB65G2


    + Good performance
    + BIOS and overclocking potential

    + Loads of features, SATA-RAID, USB2.0, FireWire, 10/100Mb LAN, WLAN, 6-channel audio etc.
    + High quality and nice design

    + Small dimensions

    + Effective cooling


    – High price

    – PSU has a irritating whining noice

    Shuttle SB75G2


    + Good performance
    + BIOS and overclocking potential

    + Loads of features, SATA-RAID, USB2.0, FireWire, Gigabit LAN, 6-channel audio etc.
    + High quality and neat design

    + Small dimensions

    + Effective cooling


    – High price

    – PSU has a irritating whining noice

    Soltek Qbic EQ3401M


    + Powerful PSU
    + A lot of features, SATA, USB2.0, FireWire, 10/100Mb LAN, 6-channel
    audio etc.
    + Room for 2 5.25″ units
    + Very good looking exterior with hidden expansionsslots

    + Very silent and effective casecooling


    – Very narrow case which complicates installation of components

    – Not optimal performance

    Thanks to Rotakorn, PCB

    Distribution, Shuttle,ABIT who made this review possible!


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