There are 3 version of the Shuttle SN41G2. This review refers to version 2.
For those of you that are new to this, the Shuttle SN41G2 is a SFF (small form factor) barebones unit, essentially meaning that this is a computer that comes without a CPU, hard disk drive, memory, CDROM drive or peripherals such as keyboard or monitor. You have to buy your own components to go with it. PC parts are fairly standard these days so there shouldn't be any problems with finding the right parts.
When I purchased the Shuttle SN41G2 barebone unit over 2 years ago, my expectations of what a computer should look like and build quality completely changed. As well as its small and compact size, the SN41G2 is one of the smartest looking units out of the Shuttle range with its brushed aluminum casing and high quality components putting the average high street PC to shame. The Shuttle designs have a strong relation with units designed by a company in Japan called Soldam. The Shuttle SN41G2 redefines what a PC should look like.
Even today, several years since the introduction of the first SFF, the SN41G2 is still one of the smarter looking units in the Shuttle range.
However, I still feel that the design and build quality of Shuttle computers dont quite match the quality of some of the better SFF units available in Japan such as the Windy Square range. Although the SN41G2 is aluminum, the cover has a slightly tinny feel. It just doesnt quite feel as solid as it could be, although compared to what is available in the UK, it is still one of the best.
The great thing about these units is that they are sold as barebones, giving you the option to customize the unit with your preferred CPU, hard drive, ram & optical drive. While some people may not feel up to the job of putting together their own components, once you get the hang of things, it really is straight forward. The only difficulty I have encountered is mounting the heatsink and CPU (explained below). Even if you don't want to assemble it yourself, ask a friend if they can help.
When installing the components the trickiest part is mounting the cooling system over the processor and ensuring the right amount of thermal grease is used. When I first put everything together the Shuttle rebooted every so often due to the heatsink being incorrectly mounted over the CPU, causing excess heat. However, after remounting the cooling system correctly the problem went away.
Since this model is now over 2 years old, it still requires an Athlon XP processor. Today, the latest PCs are using dual core CPU technology and for this reason Athlon CPUs may be difficult to find. Looking on Ebay, one should be able to find an Athlon 2500 XP in the region of £40.
Some people have stated that the upgradability is limited due to there being only 1 PCI slot and 1 AGP slot. However, this is something that one should accept from a SFF PC (If you want a similar style to this Shuttle in the form of a tower there are some quality cases from Soldam). To make up for these limitations, the SN41G2 has 4 USB ports (2 on front and 2 on back), 2 firewire ports and audio connectors on both the front and back. The onboard graphics includes 2 VGA outputs. However, I installed a Radeon 9200SE graphics card with DVI connector for improved image quality.
The SN41G2 is a bit noisy compared to some of the other SFF units I have used. You can always hear the fans (even on the lowest speeds which can be adjusted in the bios) and while its not excessively loud compared to other computers, you can still hear it. It may not be suitable for those who want to simply type a document or surf the web. By comparison, the IDEQ 210V from Biostar is almost silent.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Here's a break down of all the components required to make the unit complete based on prices online from retailers such as Ebuyer, Microdirect and Aria:
Shuttle SN41G2 £140
512 ram (branded) £30
Athlon XP 2500 CPU £40
80 GB Hard disk drive £40
DVD ROM £15
Keyboard & mouse £15
Total (without monitor) £280
Add another £60 for Windows XP or use Linux for free. If you're ready to throw out your old computer you can simply reuse your old keyboard, mouse, dvd rom, HDD and monitor with your shuttle.
Since the SN41G2 is now over 2 years old, using single core technology, it is slightly outdated and may not be suitable for those looking to run resource intensive applications. It is still a very smart compact unit and more than suitable for those looking for a cheap computer to run more mid/basic applications.