Yesterday, we reported on Biostar’s small form-factor lineup for the duration of 2004. Despite a saturated market and heavy competition from a number of other motherboard manufacturers, Biostar’s iDEQ series is a relative success.
But Shuttle is responsible for igniting small form-factor inferno, and it isn’t about to let another company displace it as the most influential figure in the market. Admittedly, Shuttle’s current designs have tired over the past couple of years, which is perhaps one reason it has seen so much competition as of late. The engineers at Shuttle are hard at work, though, developing new aesthetic designs and internal features, in addition to researching the technologies that promise to enable smaller cases and quieter operation.
Intel’s recently unveiled BTX form-factor is receiving a lot of attention and Shuttle concedes that the design will facilitate much smaller motherboards than the ATX layout. BTX boards will employ the same power connector as today’s ATX systems, but Intel is interested in quieter, more efficient power sources. Thus, it is co-funding research with Shuttle to develop internal and external power sources. Shuttle expects that its research will evolve into a new generation of smaller form-factor systems that plug into the wall via external power brick, similar to a laptop.
For now, though, Shuttle is concentrating on a number of upcoming products. Its Athlon 64 solution, SN85G4, is already shipping (though they haven’t yet materialized on Pricewatch). And whereas other manufacturers worry about processor availability for their systems, Shuttle has hashed out a deal with AMD to bundle Athlon 64 3200+ processors with units that ship to system builders. Apparently, AOpen and ASUS have a similar arrangement with AMD. Enthusiasts unfortunately won’t be able to buy the package deal from resellers, but there is always the possibility that online outfits may sell the XPC and processor together if availability proves problematic.
Shuttle's upcoming ST26K, a miniaturized XPC with RADEON 9100 IGP graphics
The ST61G4 is the standard XPC with RADEON 9100 IGP graphics
Look for the SN85G4 to start shipping within days
Further, Shuttle is also preparing its ST61G4, based on the ATI RADEON 9100 IGP. Rogers speculates that the system will emerge in the November timeframe, but at this point, ATI seems to be the culprit for delaying the game. Thus, you can expect that any manufacturer with a RADEON 9100 platform will release it in sync with its competitors. Shuttle is adding a twist, though. It has an even smaller variant of the ST61G4, dubbed ST62K, which weighs in at a fraction of the other system’s size. Slated to debut a couple of weeks after its big brother, the ST62K will support an 800MHz front side bus, dual-channel memory, Firewire, USB 2.0, and of course, integrated graphics. The system’s placard claims AGP 8x, but we’d guess this is a reference to the onboard RADEON graphics rather than an expansion slot.
During the course of our meeting, Shuttle mentioned an online survey it had run to explore the uses of its XPC systems, and characteristics customers looked for before buying. One of the primary uses reported was gaming, so Shuttle is spending time to develop a gaming LCD display. The prototype is relatively lightweight, with a framed stand that serves to protect the unit and offer support when it is set down. A plastic cover also protects the display’s front from damage. Of course, we’ll be reporting on further developments.