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Review: Shuttle XPC SB86i

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 27 May 2005, 00:00

Tags: Shuttle

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I think it's fair to say that I had a go at the BTX form factor back in March, when I was asked to evaluate the Intel press kit for BTX. Comprising an AOpen chassis, picoBTX LGA775 mainboard and a BTX Type 1 Stacked Fin Thermal Module, I was drawn to tap out the following, as I summed it all up: "So BTX is still embryonic and it'll take time to see what it grows into. Today's early designs show promise on several fronts and while far from perfect, may just hold keys to future PC design that ATX doesn't have. Companies like IBM, HP and Dell are shipping BTX to customers as I type this, Intel's Marblehead mainboard is shipping and the boxed P4 CPUs with the BTX Thermal Module will show up to purchase outside of a system in due course, should you wish to roll your own."

Nothing's really changed since I typed that. We saw a little bit of BTX at CTS this year, and Matt, the article's author, waxed lyrical about his own experiences with a BTX chassis design and his thoughts on the spec in general. He wasn't impressed.

Personally, it's still early doors for the form-factor, with Intel pushing it slowly, AMD only working on BTX if and when one of their major customers request it, and it having no contact with the mainstream enthusiast space bar some faux-BTX chassis made by basically turning an ATX design on its head. However, people need to start thinking about BTX's thermal philosophies as we approach next generation processor designs from AMD and Intel.

Heat output, and not just of the CPU, but the core logic and memory subsystem too, is ever rising. Even if it's as slow as possible, due to innovative use of low-K substrates in silicon designs, silicon-on-insulator, strained silicon and research into the eventual replacement for the silicon-based transistor and full wafer, we're going to see the first mainstream 100W+ processors from AMD in due course, with Intel there for months already with various Pentium 4 designs.

So when Matt's main bugbear in his CTS article, Shuttle's SB86i, which is a full picoBTX design in a brand new chassis, dropped into the HEXUS Review Dungeon for me to poke, prod and evaluate, I wondered how well Shuttle would do with the form factor in a chassis design they've had to engineer from the ground up to support it. And support it literally, which will make sense if you understand how the Type I and Type II cooling modules work.

That gives me plenty to talk about today, with a good look at Shuttle's XPC SB86i. Let's soldier on with a look at the specification.