Ins and Outs
Removing the SH55J2's aluminium cover reveals a steel frame that's tasked with housing the specification of your average mid-tower desktop in an area roughly equivalent to a shoe box.
There isn't a whole lot of room to work with, but at the base of the chassis you get a proprietary Shuttle mainboard based on Intel's H55 chipset. That means support for a choice of socket LGA1156 Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processors, many of which feature integrated Intel HD graphics.
Thinking ahead, Shuttle has ensured the chassis supports any third-party mini-ITX mainboard, so long-term upgradability shouldn't be a concern.
Taking a look at the CPU socket, we see cooling is provided by Shuttle's tried-and-trusted Integrated Cooling Engine, a.k.a. ICE.
The all-in-one unit attaches to a rear temperature-controlled 92mm fan and uses heatpipe technology to transfer CPU heat out the rear of the chassis.
During use, we found that the fan remained quiet enough not to become obtrusive, but users should note that noise levels will depend on your choice of internal components. Particularly hot-running parts will of course cause the fan to ramp up and become noisy. At full tilt - close to 4,000rpm - it's very, very loud.
Elsewhere on Shuttle's H55 board, you're given four DIMM slots capable of supporting up to 16GB of dual-channel DDR3 memory at speeds of 1,333MHz (1,600MHz if overclocked), and a duo of expansion slots.
Making full use of the 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes available to the H55 chipset, Shuttle includes a 16x PCIe slot and a standard 32-bit PCI slot.
The expansion slots ensure there's room to add a discrete GPU of your choice, but there are a few provisos to be aware of. Although the chassis can squeeze in full-length cards such as the Radeon HD 5870, the integrated 300W PSU may fall short of capacity and the installation of a dual-slot GPU will cover the adjacent PCI slot. You won't, therefore, be able to squeeze in a PCI TV tuner and a discrete dual-slot GPU; it's one or the other.
It's also worth reminding readers that Intel's H55 platform doesn't support switchable graphics, so you can't flick between an IGP or discrete GPU as you see fit. Once again, it's one way or the other.
In terms of storage capacity, the SH55J2 provides four SATA 3Gbps connectors, two of which are usefully attached to pre-routed cables for easy installation of both an optical and hard-disk drive.
Shuttle's drive bays, mounted to the front of the chassis above the DIMM slots, can accommodate two 3.5in hard disks and a single 5.25in optical drive. There's no mounting kit provided for 2.5in disks, though.
Despite a few quirks here and there, the complete package is compact, tidy, easy to work with and more importantly able to accommodate many of Intel's latest desktop processors. Let's build it up and see how it performs.