[REVIEW] Shuttle XPC SZ77R5
During this year’s Computex, one of the products that caught our eyes was this Shuttle XPC (model: SZ77R5). It is a fairly small machine so you tend to walk by very quickly, however we stopped to read the specifications sheet of this little black box claiming to be a fully-fledged gaming rig. First impression was quite obviously “yea, like this baby case will… “
After agreeing to test one of these XPC (eXtreme PC) models, we have to admit there is a lot more than meets the eye.
Shuttle Inc, founded in Taiwan in 1983, is specialised in development and production of innovative mini PCs. The joint-stock company is represented worldwide by a network of branch offices in Germany, the US and Japan. Since 2001 the attractive cube-shaped PCs have conquered nearly any field of application and have become the core business of the company headquartered in Taipei / Taiwan.
Widely acclaimed by customers and press across the globe, Shuttle founds its success on effective management and long-term experience in making mainboards of highest quality standards. Since years Shuttle’s mini PC barebones and fully-configured systems are the first choice of many system integrators, VARs, OEMs and ODMs banking on the high reliability and build quality. With appealing mini PC solutions Shuttle meets the requirements of consumers excellently and seeks to provide further user-friendly solutions of consumer electronics for the digital home environment.
Key pointers, as described by Shuttle
High performance Mini-PC platform supports 22nm “Ivy Bridge” processors
This XPC delivers top performance and a large feature list despite its small aluminum chassis. Thanks to the support of newest hardware components like 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, PCI-Express v3.0 graphics cards and 32GB DDR3 RAM support, this platform can be transformed to a high end PC with amazing performance.
Demanding peripheral cards can be populated into the PCIe X4 slot and two Mini PCIe slots can be used e.g. for a WLAN and a mSATA-SSD card. The XPC also features 10 USB connectors, four of them comply the USB 3.0 standard. The SZ77R5 provides SATA ports with 6G-speed for modern hard disks and SSDs, and it also supports RAID and Smart Response (SSD caching). The highly efficient 500W power supply guarantees reliable operation even with a fully equipped system. Let yourself bewitched from the inner values und stylish exterior of this Shuttle XPC!
On the outside
- Black aluminum chassis
- Storage bays: 1 x 5.25″ (external), 2 x 3.5″ (1x internal, 1x external)
- Front door for I/O ports and storage drives
- Kensington Security Slot at the back panel
- Dimensions: 33.2 x 21,6 x 19.8 cm (LWH), 14.2 liters
- Weight: 3.5 kg net / 5.0 kg gross
Design wise this mini performer looks very stylish! We definitely like what Shuttle has done to make the black aluminum finish looking this good.
You have a push-open panel for an optical drive station or hot swap hard disk bay on top, below that you have a push-open panel that hides a fitting for a 3.5inch bay (floppy or card reader will be the most commonly used items here). Completely at the bottom there is another push-open panel protecting an array of IO ports from dust. In this bottom panel you will find 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 mic-in, 1 line-in and 1 quickcharge USB2.0 port (designated to be used for smartphone or tablet charging and synching, delivers up to 2A of juice).
Under the bonnet
Inside the XPC, you find Shuttle’s FZ77 form factor, proprietary design for XPC SZ77R5 running an AMI BIOS. Southbridge chipset: Intel® Z77 Express (codename: Panther Point).
This FZ77 board supports any Socket 1155 (LGA 1155, second and third generation) Intel Core i3 / i5 / i7 / Pentium / Celeron processor with a TDP up to 95W. (“Sandy Bridge” 32nm process technology and “Ivy Bridge” 22nm process technology). This mainboard equally supports Intel® K-Series unlocked CPU.
Memory: There are 4 x 240 pin slots available, supporting DDR3-1333/1600 SDRAM memory (PC3-10600/12800) in 2+2 Dual Channel mode. Max. 8 GB per DIMM, combined max up to 32 GB.
- 1x PCI-Express x16 v3.0 slot (PEG, up to Dual-slot graphics cards)
- 1x PCI-Express x4 v2.0 slot
- half size MPCi, supports PCIe 2.0 and USB 2.0, e.g. for WLAN cards 
- full size MPCi, supports PCIe 2.0, SATA 3G and USB 2.0
- 7.1 channel High Definition Audio with Realtek ALC888S codec (Azalia standard support).
- Analog: line-out (7.1-ch), line-in, microphone, AUX input (onboard)
- Digital: optical S/PDIF-out (Digital Audio also via HDMI output)
- Gigabit Realtek RTL 8111E Ethernet network controller (WOL support)
- 2x SATA 3.0, 6 Gbit/s – 2x SATA 2.0, 3 Gbit/s
- 1x Ext. SATA 2.0, 3 Gbit/s
- Supports Intel Rapid Storage Technology (Raid 0/1/5/10, JBOD)
- HDMI (supports digital audio bypass)
- DVI-I (supports analog VGA with optional adapter)
- 6x USB 2.0 ( 2 front, 4 back) + 2 additional via onboard plug
- 4x USB 3.0 ( 2 front, 2 back)
- Digital Audio: optical S/PDIF output
- Clear CMOS button
- 1x RS232 (2×5 pins) for optional accessory H-RS232
- 2x fan connectors (4 pins)
- Audio AUX input
The built in (and user replaceable) power supply that feeds this XPC is a 500 Watt mini PSU, AC input voltage: 100~240V 80PLUS Bronze compliant. The PSU provides at least 82/85/82% efficiency at 20/50/100% load.
Active PFC circuit (Power Factor Correction)/ATX main power connectors: 2×10 and 2×2 pins/Graphics power connector: 6 and 6+2 pins.
Note: this is a barebone system; you have to install the OS, HDD/SSD and RAM of your preference manually.
Multilanguage XPC Installation Guide: 4 of them in our EU edition to be precise. Since nobody actually reads them, we found them very useful not to spill thermal paste on our working surface. They also come in handy if you wish to learn Chinese, Korean or German IT lingo.
1 combined 32/64 bit driver disk -> Useful, yet I’d strongly recommend you checking the Shuttle website to see if there are more recent drives available.
2 Serial-ATA cables. Enough for our tests but it wouldn’t have hurt to actually have 2 SATA3 and 2 SATA6 cables in the box. We used the 2 supplied SATA6 cables, 1 for the OCZ Vertex 4 and one for a DVDROM to install Windows 7. Many parts (I’m talking hard drives, DVD/Blu-ray drives, etc) don’t come with additional SATA cables. Also considering the fact that when you buy 10 spare, you never seem to find them when you actually need them… but that might be a personal issue
Also included: a power cord, screws and some heatsink compound.
Cooling and noise
Shuttle uses its own proprietary cooling system, which they call “Shuttle I.C.E.” (Integrated Cooling Engine). The CPU gets its heat dissipated via their advanced I.C.E. Heatpipe technology combined with a linear controlled SilentX 92mm fan.
Overall the noise levels are bearable for close proximity usage, yet the SZ77R5 still hits the 40Db marker when the smart fan controller decides its time to give the I.C.E. system a fresh breeze. Notice that, using dual slot video cards with high power requirements or single slot video cards with poor cooling solutions attached, might push your amount of decibels even higher. This said, the I.C.E. system does have a copper plate mounted at the bottom for direct contact to the CPU. Enough to keep a default Intel CPU cooled down, but not efficient for those of us who like to push the bar and do a bit of OC-ing.
Where possible we like to advice you to do some modifications to the system and if your budget allows, spend some money on a more silent 92mm fan to be mounted on the back. Next what you can do if you’re a tad bit handy, is drill a hole on top of the case and fit one of these big sized radiators for CPU cooling, it’s better to buy the big model and get the 2 fans running at ultra low speed than 1 smaller unit with 1 fan on medium or high speed. Or alternatively one could take the I.C.E. out and get both CPU and video card chilled by water-cooling. All of these previously mentioned methods should get you from 40Db well below 25Db. We do note that, when using stock components (DDR, CPU with built-in graphics core, SSD or HDD) this system fluctuates between 32 – 35Db.
Time to assemble this fancy looking design piece! First of the bat we wish to thank Kingston, Club3D, OCZ and obviously Shuttle (www.shuttle.eu) themselves, for supplying us the parts we required for assembly.
In our rig we put:
- Intel Core i7 3.10Ghz (up to 3.90Ghz) 3770S, 8MB cache, LGA1155 (65w)
- 4x 2Gb of Kingston’s KHX1600C9D3K4/8GX, a quad channel ready kit operating at 1600Mhz labeled as HyperX (Kingston’s line of gaming grade memory products, CL9 rated 240Pin). Check out www.kingston.com for more info about their HyperX memory products. When it comes down to reliability, you really can’t go wrong with Kingston.
- OCZ’s Vertex 4; 256GB edition, to be admired at www.ocztechnology.com and a definite speed boost for any serious performance user out there. (510Mb/Sec write, 560Mb/Sec read, respective R/W 4k IOPS 90 000/85 000 max IOPS 120 000).
Optionally we tested with a single slot AMD Radeon HD7750 from Club3D (www.club-3D.com), but with the built-in Intel HD4000 graphics chip from the i7 CPU you can get pretty decent results without additional expense. For the gamers amongst us, good news: yes you can fit a dual slot PCI Express 3.0 card in this Shuttle SZ77R5.
Another option is a 5.25inch DVD-RW or Blu-ray drive; we just had to test this (our windows installer USB got lost borrowed again).
General 3DMark 2011 score on Intel 4000 graphics: P763
3DMark 2011 score on dedicated Club3D AMD Radeon HD7750: P2559
Notice the huge benefit of putting a graphics card in your system? The scores don’t lie. And for a 100 Euro PCI-Express Rev.3.0 powered single slot(+-120 USD) Club3D Radeon HD7750 (1Gb DDR5 memory, hdmi/displayport/dvi-d supported) it’s really a bargain. The default Intel HD4000 can play most games perfectly on 1600-1920x resolutions; yet suffers at fine detail rendering. The HD7750 can play them at 2550x resolutions with improved detail. Obviously if you wish to keep the FPS rate high, I recommend you staying at 1920 or below.
SSD performance was as described by OCZ, we got a 559 Mb/Sec read and up to 514Mb/Sec write (560Mb/Sec on the box, but do mind that windows services are also taking up their share when the test is performed on an SSD with OS installed, thus in real life the Vertex 4 tops the 560 margin).
DDRIII Ram functioned as advertised, default it gets picked up at 1333Mhz, so do mind to change in the system BIOS that this is XMP (extreme memory profile) enabled memory and you’ll see at the next reboot that it will function at 1600Mhz.
We already mentioned it to be easy to fit a radiator kit inside to shush the somewhat buzzy I.C.E. system. Well that’s not all, more mods are available.
For example, if you are handy and know how to cut acrylic or polycarbonate sheets, you can create your own transparent outer shell.
Another nice fact is that when you remove the bracket for holding the 5.25/3.5 bays, you get plenty of space to attach a fully featured standard format power supply unit. So you can remove the bronze certified PSU by a gold or even platinum model. The advantage here is that you can mount your SSD/hard drive on the right side of the unit where the Shuttle PSU used to be.
And if you really want to go all the way, the 5.25 bays can fit a cool looking car-audio styled flip up display with combined card reader.
Shuttle delivered with this SZ77R5. This barebone is an amazing cocktail of the latest high performance technology combined with an excellent cooling system and energy efficient components. We heard some people complain about the facts their I.C.E. system isn’t all that silent and their power supplies are still bronze rated where the market has already reached the platinum efficiency phase. True, I admit.
However… for a price tag well below 450 Euro (+-500 USD) it’s hard to deliver the all-in-one convenience Shuttle produced here. You are still getting an amazingly stylish looking case, you are getting a built-in 500watts power supply and you are getting a potent motherboard with all the latest bells and whistles. So it is hard to demand more when the market might not be willing to pay a 100 or 200 USD premium just for a 5% more efficiency claim and a liquid based cooling solution. So overall this Shuttle SR77R5 is definitely a recommended purchase for home users and enthusiasts alike. The wide option of customization (both on CPU/RAM/SSD/HDD/GRAPHICS or visual appearance) will not disappoint or leave the advanced gamers republic in the cold.