Athlon Hit Parade: 10 mobos with the nForce2 Ultra400

Shuttle Spacewalker XPC-SN45G

Board revision: D

BIOS version: 1.0 (May 29, 2003)

We decided to include the current XPC from Shuttle in this comparative test, as its hardware is also based on the nForce2 Ultra 400. With its extremely compact format, this board has only one PCI slot in addition to the AGP and two DIMM sockets instead of the usual three. However, these two are fine for dual-channel operation.

There is certainly no shortage of ports on the XPC, despite its shoebox size. There are two USB ports on the front and two more on the back, two FireWire ports on the back and an iLink port on the front. Audio connections are available both on the front and on the back.

Inside you will find the usual two IDE channels along with a whopping three fan connections, which you will never use under normal circumstances. They can't do any harm, at least.

Of course, if you install a floppy drive to go with the hard disk, or flash-card readers and an optical drive, it starts to get a bit cramped in the XPC. For that reason, and because of the small, rapidly rotating fan on the power unit, it's not too easy to get the noise level down to that of an insulated desktop PC, either. But Shuttle does all that's needed in that respect, because there is a perfectly functional fan control available in the BIOS.

The test results for the XPC-SN45G did astonish us a little, however, because we would not have been surprised by a few trade-offs in terms of performance or stability in view of the compactness of the system. In all of the benchmarks the XPC ranks right up among the leaders, and there are also useful overclocking qualities incorporated in the BIOS. It's a great pick for anyone who wants a "portable" nForce2 system.

This photograph shows how compact it is: one PCI slot, AGP, socket 464, North and Southbridge, plus DIMM sockets and IDE connections - all located within 600 square centimeters.