IntroductionShuttle ST61G4 XPC SFF System
It's fair to say that HEXUS has reviewed a number of SFF systems recently. We had seen sexy cubes powered by chipsets from the usual suspects; Intel, NVIDIA, VIA and SiS. All performed reasonably well and all were stable, rich in features and desirable. NVIDIA's nForce2 chipset was probably the most versatile of all. It provided excellent speed and, importantly, integrated graphics that could actually be used with modern games. Its GeForce4 MX GPU, whilst obviously not being up to scratch when compared to a dedicated, discrete DX9-busting card, provided decent 2D and made an adequate stab at 3D work. The situation for current XPCs based on Intel chipsets wasn't so great. Intel will tell you otherwise, but the revised Extreme Graphics 2 integrated GPU is poor in 2D and even poorer in a 3D context. Calling it a 3D accelerator may be factually correct but it is left wanting in games that wouldn't duly stress a £40 discrete AGP/PCI card.
Shuttle realises this fact. One of the appeals of the SFF format is the ability to include everything in a tiny box of tricks. Shuttle produces powerful cubes that are able to run a 3.2GHz P4 and Radeon 9800 without issue, but it is left wanting when potential buyers are looking for the truly all-in-one package, consisting of decent onboard graphics and enhanced video connectivity. The SB62G2, for example, is the closest a present Shuttle XPC gets to this holy grail, but as we have commented before, it lacks any real 3D clout.
It's clear that any present Intel chipset isn't going to fit the bill here. What's needed is an nForce2-like implementation, that is, decent overall speed and a semi-powerful integrated GPU. Shuttle's dilemma was solved by turning to the masters of discrete consumer-level graphics cards. If NVIDIA can do it, ATI can too, or so says the Canadian giant. That's right. A Shuttle XPC with none other than an ATI chipset and integrated graphics as the backbone. Let's see if the Radeon 9100 IGP-powered Shuttle ST61G4 XPC is as good as it potentially sounds.