Good things can come in small packages, but can Shuttle keep delivering the small form factor goods in today's heated marketplace?
As today's CPUs and GPUs continue to climb towards temperatures more suitable for glass blowing than computing, Shuttle's job gets harder and harder. How do they accommodate the high energy requirements and thermal dissipation issues yet retain a case the size of a shoebox? The SX58J3 shows that it can still be done, packing in support for most - if not all - of the technologies demanded by performance purists.
It's hard to believe, but Shuttle has managed to squeeze an Intel X58 Express chipset into this barebones PC's motherboard. As well as enabling installation of the high-end i7 980x processor, it delivers eight USB 2.0 ports and dual Gigabit Ethernet. More impressive though is the inclusion of two full X16 PCI Express slots, delivering dual GPU goodness courtesy of ATI's CrossFire or NVIDIA's SLI.
They'll need to be single slot cards though, as there's just not enough room to fit two double slot cards; this isn't the Tardis. It's even got tri-channel DDR3 support via four memory slots. Sure, there's no USB 3.0, but this slight omission is easy to forgive. Cooling of the CPU is handled via Shuttle's familiar ICE cooling, which uses heatpipes to suck heat from the CPU to a fan shroud mounted at the rear of the case.
7.1 surround sound is delivered via the Realtek ALC888 chipset, one of the better integrated chips for audio. Powering everything is a 500W slimline PSU, which should comfortably accommodate mid-range video cards (5850s or 450 GTX) in dual GPU mode.
It's probably not the best basis for an overclocking machine due to the high temperature issues associated with this black art, but for those who demand top-shelf performance in a mobile package, the SX58J3 punches well above its weight.Available from Shuttle, retailing for $609.APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)