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The SN21G5's internals look especially awkward from above, but with a removable drive bay cage and cooling assembly, it's not nearly as bad as it looks. We'll get to the drive cage and cooler in a moment, but first, note the Nike Red Joggers Mens position of the DIMM slots towards the bottom right hand corner of the picture. Shuttle usually mounts the DIMM slots parallel to the PCI slot along the top edge of the board. This allows them to be easily accessed from one side of the chassis without having to remove anything other than the system's skin. The SN21G5's DIMM slots run perpendicular to that position, and their placement below the drive cage makes installing memory modules a little more complicated with some configurations. Longer graphics cards like the GeForce 7800 GTX obscure access to one set of DIMM slot retention tabs, necessitating the removal of the graphics card or drive cage just to swap out memory modules.
Shuttle's XPC SN21G5 barebones system
Around the right hand side of the system, we have a good view of the SN21G5's 250W power supply. The PSU is capable of pushing up to 16 amps over the 12V rail, and it had no problem handling a test system that included 2GB of memory, a 10K RPM Raptor, a 130nm Athlon 64 FX 53 processor, and a GeForce 7800 GTX graphics card. Unfortunately, the power supply doesn't have a six pin PCI Express graphics card connector, so you'll have to track down a four Nike Polo Blue
pin Molex adapter to run the latest high end graphics cards in the system. While we have it in frame, it's worth noting that the SN21G5's PSU relies on only a pair of 40mm fans for cooling. We've used scores of Shuttle power supplies with similar cooling over the years, and with extended use, we've found that the fans tend to get a little loud. Most small diameter fans suffer from increased noise levels over Nike Men Pants
time, so the problem isn't unique to the XPC. Our SN21G5 sample runs pretty quiet, but we've only had it for about a week.
Removing a graphics card from the SN21G5 isn't a big deal, as the x16 slot is located along the left edge of the system. That position does limit the SN21G5's compatibility with wider graphics cards, though. You'll have to take a dremel to the aluminum shell to accommodate double wide designs like the GeForce 7800 GTX 512 and Radeon X1900 XT and XTX.
Underneath the skin
At least some of the credit for the SN21G5's low noise levels should go to the motherboard's passive chipset cooling. Shuttle manages to keep the GeForce 6100 happy without a dedicated fan, something it couldn't do with the Radeon Xpress 200 powered ST20G5. The GeForce 6100 is built using 90 nano fabrication technology, so that could be contributing to its relaxed cooling requirements. Otherwise, the SN21G5's motherboard doesn't yield too many surprises. The floppy connector can be a bit of a pain to get at, but since few users actually need a floppy drive these days, it's not that big of a deal. Shuttle can't ditch the floppy port completely, though, as the Windows installation process still demands that third party drivers for unrecognized storage controllers be loaded off a disk. Fortunately, Windows XP has no problem recognizing single drives connected to the nForce 410.
Peeling back the SN21G5's brushed aluminum skin reveals the G5's somewhat cramped internals. However, thanks to years of gradual refinement, the tight G series chassis is surprisingly easy to work on. Everything has its place, and cables are carefully routed to exactly where they're needed.
The fan uses a four pin connector that allows for linear fan speed control, ensuring that fan speeds don't repeatedly oscillate between high and low speed settings. Fan induced vibrations are also dampened by a set of rubber washers that sit between the fan shroud and chassis. When installed, the SN21G5's cooling fan slides over a block of radiator fins at the rear of the system. Those fins are a part of the processor heat sink, which is connected to the CPU via a slender trio of heat pipes. Unlike previous ICE designs, the cooler actually screws directly into the chassis, through the motherboard. This retention design is incredibly sturdy, although unlike previous ICE retention clips, it does require a screwdriver. With the exception of its retention mechanism, Shuttle hasn't changed the ICE cooler much for the SN21G5. That's probably a good thing, since it's proven to be an effective design. The SN21G5 runs nice and quiet with an Athlon 64 FX 53 under the hood, although in our experience, Shuttle's newer P Series chassis is a little quieter.
With just a little more work, it's also possible to remove the SN21G5's cooling assembly, which consists of a 92mm fan and an updated ICE heat sink. Nike Short Shorts
The key to the G series chassis' ease of use is its drive cage, which can be popped out after removing just a couple of screws. Removing the cage opens up access to much of the SN21G5's internals, including its 3.5" and 5.25" bays. Capacity is limited to one 5.25" drive and two 3.5" drives, but given the system's cramped internals and limited air flow, I wouldn't recommend running more than one hard drive anyway.
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