The Shuttle ST61G4 XPC
ATi's Radeon 9100 IGP In Action...

By, Marco Chiappetta
January 26, 2004
 

Setting up the Shuttle ST61G4 was very simple and straightforward. The drive tray is removable, which made it easy to mount the drives, so once we inserted our memory and CPU, it was only matter of connecting a few cables and powering up the system.  Having been spoiled by the wiring job in Biostar's iDEQ 200T, we found the ST61G4's wiring to be a mess in comparison.  Reportedly, retail versions of the ST61G4 come pre-wired, so should you pick up one of these systems at your favorite retailer, the wiring should be much cleaner than what we're showing you hear today...

Setup & Quality
Top Notch Hardware

     

Front Panel
  • 2 x USB ports
  • 1 x Mini 1394 port
  • 1 x Line-in
  • 1 x Mic-in
  • 1 x Line-out
  • 1 x Power-on button
  • 1 x Reset button
  • 1 x USB 2.0 6 in 1 card reader (CF I/II,MMC,MS,SD,SM)
     
Back panel
  • 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
  • 1 x IEEE 1394 connector
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
  • 1 x Rear out
  • 1 x Front out
  • 1 x Center/Bass connectors
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN port
  • 1 x Serial Port
  • 1 x VGA Port
  • 1 x SPDIF in & out ports
  • 1 x TV-out Port

On the front of the system, a 6-in-1 card reader replaces the external 3.5" drive bay found on the older G2 based XPCs.  Two USB 2.0 ports, one mini-1394 port, three 1/8" audio connectors (Line-In, Mic-In and Line-Out) and power and reset switches are mounted to the flashy, mirrored bezel adorning the front of the system as well.  The rear of the system is equipped with three more 1/8" audio connectors (Front, Rear and Center / Bass Out), S/PDIF in and out, two USB 2.0 ports, a powered IEE1394 connector, a serial port, a DB15 VGA out connector, S-Video out, PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports and an RJ45 LAN port.

      

     

     

When we were first exposed to Shuttle's relatively new G4 enclosure during our review of the black and grey SN85G4, we found it to be very attractive and a welcome change from their G2 case.  The ST61G4 is also available in the same black and grey color scheme, but we think the silver finish seen here is far more attractive.  The brushed aluminum case, with the mirrored front bezel looks great (the pictures don't do it justice).  It is fairly easy to scratch though, so be careful.  Removing the aluminum case cover reveals the FT61 motherboard powering the system.  The FT61's layout is similar to most other XPCs, with a few notable exceptions.  In a very smart move, Shuttle moved the CMOS jumper to the edge of the board, which makes it easily accessible in situations where it needs to be used.  The SATA RAID connectors are intermingled with the board's fan headers, which is a bit messy, but SATA cables are easy to connect, so we don't think this is that big of a deal.  The Radeon 9100 IGP / Northbridge is actively cooled by a relatively large aluminum heatsink / fan combo.  The active cooler is necessary because the Radeon 9100 IGP puts out quite a bit of heat.  By default the graphics core is clocked at 300MHz (2x1 architecture - 600MPixels/s | 600MTexels/s), and it runs fairly hot.  According to the PC Health section of the BIOS, the 9100 IGP's temperature hovered around 75-80C at idle.  Interestingly enough, inserting a video card into the AGP slot automatically disabled the integrated Radeon 9100 graphics, but the Northbridge's operating temperature stayed at the same level. (For a comprehensive look at the RS300 chipset, click here)  Also making its debut in the ST61G4 is Shuttle's new SilentX 250 watt PSU.  This new PSU puts out more power than any previous XPC, yet it generates less heat.  As the name implies, it's also much quieter than other XPCs.  In a side-by-side comparison with the SN85G4, the ST61G4 was noticeably quieter.

The ST61G4's BIOS
It's Good - If You Don't Plan to Overclock Much

     

   

Shuttle has equipped the ST61G4 with a fairly complete Phoenix / Award BIOS, that should please all but the most discriminating power users.  The BIOS on this system has a full compliment of options for tweaking the RAM and all of the on-board peripherals. The system's fan speeds can also be altered for maximum airflow, or minimum noise, and they can be set to spin-up or down at a specified temperature.  We did run into a problem when tweaking our memory though.  We tested the ST61G4 with Corsair and Kingston low-latency memory modules, that have consistently run with 2-2-2-5 memory timing on some other test system.  When installed in the ST61G4, we couldn't get the system to boot with any timings that were more aggressive than 2-3-3-8.  If we set the memory to run at 2-2-3-8, the system would POST, but it wouldn't boot Completely into Windows.  With the timings set to 2-2-2-8, the system would POST, but the BIOS would automatically revert to the "Auto" setting, overriding any manual adjustments we had made.  Hopefully, this can be fixed with a new rev of the BIOS, but considering there have been four BIOS revisions released already, we don't expect Shuttle can do much about this.

     

 

The overclocking options available in the ST61G4's BIOS are represented in the six screen shots above.  All of the options you'd expect are available, but with somewhat limited thresholds.  The memory voltage can be set to 2.6v, 2.7v, or 2.8v, and the AGP voltage can be set to 1.6v, 1.65v, or 1.7v.  The CPU core voltage can also be altered, but the peak selectable voltage is only 1.5875v.  Changing the Front Side Bus (FSB) is done by choosing a frequency from +1MHz to +15MHz, but things aren't exactly as they seem.  The +1MHz to +15MHz options are literal speeds, only when using a CPU with a 133MHz FSB.  When a processor with an 800MHz FSB is installed, however, the options equate to 1.4x their actual value.  For example, selecting the +10MHz option sets raised the FSB by 14MHz.

Overclocking Experience:

            
SANDRA CPU BENCHMARK                SANDRA CPU BENCHMARK

CPU @ 3.20GHZ                                    CPU @ 3.49GHZ

We set out to find our CPU's maximum stable operating speed with the ST61G4, and had fairly good results.  We raised the CPU's core voltage to the maximum 1.585v, and raised our memory voltage to the maximum 2.8v.  Then we raised the FSB slowly until we found our peak.  In the end, we maxed out with the FSB at the +13MHz setting, which equated to a 218MHz FSB, for a top speed of 3.49GHz.  At any setting higher than this, the ST61G4 would not POST and if we lowered the CPU voltage, we couldn't complete any benchmarks with the +13MHz FSB option selected.  This particular CPU has hit 3.6GHz+ on some other motherboards, so while a 3.49GHz peak wasn't bad, we were expecting a bit more.

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