Shuttle XPC SD37P2 CrossFire-ready SFF PC
Small yet powerful?
Review The SD37P2 is the first Core 2 Duo-ready small form-factor XPC from Shuttle, but it has far more than support for Intel's latest processor on offer. For anyone looking at building a high-end SFF system, the SD37P2 supports ATI's CrossFire - the first SFF PC to do so - although you're limited to single slot cards. Is this the most powerful barebone from Shuttle as yet?
The SD37P2 is based on the Intel 975X chipset, which has become very popular in high performance Core 2 Duo setups. As you'll see later on, there's no doubt that this is a very fast system and enthusiasts will be happy to know that there were no problems using a Core 2 Extreme X6800 with the Shuttle.
Besides the four memory slots and the two x16 PCI Express slots there's little else in terms of expansion inside the SD37P2. You can fit up to three hard drives, although one of those would take up the floppy bay as well as a single 5.25 in drive. Shuttle has changed the mounting for the two top-mounted hard drives as they now have to be screwed into aluminium cradles. Gone are the plastic clip-on brackets - although they where easier to use, but Shuttle claims the new mechanism makes for better cooling.
I'm not entirely sure why Shuttle has used L-shaped SATA connectors for the hard drives, as you have to fit these through small holes in the side of the chassis and it means the cables get bent at very odd angles. It's not entirely easy to fit the cables either. The SATA power cables are much easier to fit and have a small handle at the back which gives them a good grip.
There are only three internal SATA connectors and a single IDE connector, so there's little choice but to use SATA hard drives with the SD37P2. The fourth SATA connector is around the back of the chassis and allows for an ESATA drive to be attached. This is a clever approach for a small chassis like this and allows for fast external storage to be attached easily. There are no less than six USB 2.0 ports around the back as well as a six-pin FireWire port, an Ethernet connector for the on-board Gigabit Ethernet controller and a vast selection of audio connectors.
There are four analogue 3.5mm audio jacks for 7.1-channel sound as well as a line in, optical and coaxial S/PDIF out and finally optical S/PDIF in. Around the front underneath a flap you'll find a headphone and microphone jack as well as a further two USB 2.0 ports and a four-pin FireWire connector. There's really very little missing, and Shuttle also offer an optional USB Wi-Fi solution which fits inside the chassis.
The case itself is very well built and it's in line with what I have come to expect from Shuttle. Amazingly, the company has managed to squeeze in a 400W power supply into the SD37P2 and that's how it can power two graphics cards. Noise levels were acceptable during the testing, although with two graphics cards fitted, it's not going to be quiet.
The SD37P2 is straightfoward to put together: just remove the hard drive caddies, lift out the 5.25 in drive bay and you've got access to the CPU cooler. This is fitted to one side towards the front of the chassis and is screwed into places with four spring loaded screws. It uses heatpipes to aid the cooling, and a fan is located on the left side of it that sucks the hot air out of the chassis. Two 40mm fans are fitted at the rear of the chassis, just above the PSU.
On the performance side of things the SD37P2 isn't quite as fast as the Intel D975XBX motherboard using the same Core 2 Extreme X6800 CPU and 2GB of Crucial Ballistix memory, but some of this could be down to the use of the slower ATI Radeon X1800 GTO graphics cards in comparison to a Radeon X1900 XTX. Nonetheless, the performance numbers are impressive for such a small system and with a pair of X1800 GTOs in CrossFire, this is a competent gaming system.
The downside is that the Shuttle SD37P2 will set you back £308 which isn't exactly cheap for what is pretty much a motherboard and a case. However, the SD37P2 is a very stylish system and if you have the money to spare it is definitely worth a look. The only bad point apart from the limited expansion options, is the high price.
Shuttle has once again proven why it's the leader in the SFF market. The SD37P2 is the first SFF barebone to offer the ability to run CrossFire. It also offers excellent overall performance and its only real downfall is the fairly steep price tag. ®