Shuttle reinvents mini PC

In a bid to end the rule of proprietary motherboards in baby PCs, Shuttle has reinvented the XPC range that revolutionised the desktop PC industry at the beginning of the Millennium. Shuttle’s latest XPC SG41J1 not only has its own motherboard, but can also accommodate a standard Mini-ITX motherboard for future upgrades.

The SG41J1 uses Shuttle’s new J1 chassis, which Shuttle says had to be “almost re-designed from scratch.” This is also just a foretaste of what’s to come, as Shuttle describes the SG41J1 as a “pioneer”, with many other mini PC designs being introduced in the next few weeks. Presumably, these will be upgradeable with Mini-ITX boards too.

The compact computer’s innards are already pretty potent for a pintsized system too. Inside, there’s an LGA775 motherboard based on Intel’s G41 chipset. This can take a Core 2 Quad CPU, plus up to 8GB of DDR2 memory in the two DIMM slots. As well as this, there’s also a bog standard PCI slot, as well as a full-size PCI-E graphics slot. The latter is positioned so that you can install a card with a dual-slot cooler into the SG41J1 too.

Shuttle has also paid careful attention to the cooling system. While some mini PCs have their own proprietary heatpipe-based CPU coolers, which would make it very tricky to install a third party motherboard, Shuttle instead asks that you install your own CPU cooler. Meanwhile, the chassis helps out with its own cooling system, featuring large ventilation holes and controllable fans.

However, while this might look like the ideal foundation for a mini computing powerhouse, you’ll need to be very careful about your choice of components. The SG41J1 only has a 250W PSU, which is a very tight power envelope if you’re accommodating a powerful graphics card and quad-core CPU.

To help you work out your power budget, Shuttle points out that the G41 Express Northbridge and ICH7 Southbridge consume 27.3W in total. You then need to look at the TDP of your processor, and Shuttle says that the SG41J1 can handle anything up to a Core 2 Quad with a TDP of 95W.

In addition to the PCI and PCI-E slots, the SG41J1 packs in all the other essentials, including six USB 2 ports (four on the back; two on the front), three SATA II connectors, 5.1 audio outputs and a DVI slot for the integrated graphics. There’s also the geeky bonus of a clear CMOS switch on the back panel, which is always handy for those who like to fiddle around in the BIOS.

No UK pricing has been announced yet, but the SG41J1’s RRP across the channel is €146 (£128) ex VAT.