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    Building a Shuttle Gaming XPC
    Author: Daniel Topler
    Date Posted: August 30th, 2004
    Bottom Line: When Shuttle announced an XPC with an AGP slot, gamers could finally use this machine and loved the systems because they offered equal performance as their desktop counterparts, yet were stylish, light, and easy to build. SLCentral set out to build one spending under $1000, read on to find out more....

    Find the lowest price for this product
    Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
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    Choosing The Parts

    A crucial step to the building of the budget gaming XPC is choosing the ideal parts for the machine. This section of the guide will show our recommendations as to what you should buy. Of course, you can adjust our recommendations depending on your preferences,


    Iíve long been a fan of Shuttle XPCís, not only because Shuttle revolutionized the XPC, but also because their performance is excellent, and the design is top-notch. However, there are just so many models to choose from. First, you need to decide if you want to go the Intel or AMD route. Iíll discuss the pros and cons of the two later. Once your route is chosen, you have to decide which model you want.

    Iím building a P4 system, so I went with the ST61G4L. While performance on this model is slightly lower (about 3 to 5%) then other XPCís, I have always preferred ATI, and since this model has an ATI chipset, I thought this model was best for me. On top of that, I just loved the flashy design and great price. The ST61G4L supports all Intel Celeron, Pentium-4, and Prescott chips, meaning it will work with pretty much any Intel Desktop CPU you throw at it. It also features a 250W power supply, which is huge for an XPC, and the biggest Iíve seen yet, and also features Silent-X technology, to keep the noise down.

    If you would rather go for an Intel-based chipset, you canít really go wrong as to which model you choose. I would, however, recommend staying away from the "Zen" line from Shuttle. While they are quiet, and quite nice looking, they simply don't offer enough power for a demanding user, since they use external 180W power supplies.

    If you would rather go the AMD route, Iíd grab the SN85G4 (v.2). Itís for the Athlon 64 754-pin socket. This is an aging socket, so you may want to wait until September, when Shuttle will launch their new Socket-939-based XPCís. Alternately, you can go for a different-brand XPC, yet Iíd seriously recommend staying with Shuttle because of their reliability.


    As you most likely know, there are two big names in the processor market: AMD and Intel. Which one is faster, do you ask? After extensive testing, AMD usually is a little ahead in games, while Intel is faster in business apps, but it really is about the same either way, so you can confidently go with either AMD or Intel for this XPC. I chose Intel, simply because Iíve been an AMD guy for the past 5 years or so, and I wanted to give Intel a shot. However, if you simply want the fastest processor for gaming, I'd probably lean toward AMD.

    When buying a processor for an XPC, I suggest getting an OEM model. Retail models include a heatsink and fan, but this is not needed for the XPC, since you use the included heatpipe instead. However, retail models include a longer warranty, so you need to decide if the longer warranty is worth the extra money. They are about $10-$15 more expensive then the OEM models.

    If you go the Intel route, I advise picking up the Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz C processor. This CPU features an 800MHz FSB, and has Hyperthreading-Enabled. By the time this article is online, you'll be able to get a Shuttle XPC for the new Intel Gransdale and Alderwood processors. I'd advise skipping these chipsets/processors for the time being. They offer no performance increase, and will be much more expensive then the current chipsets and processors. Since we are on a budget, we cannot go this route, nor is it really necessary.

    If you go with AMD for your XPC, grab the Athlon 64 3000+. It should compete nicely with the 3.0GHz C Intel processor, and runs for about the same price as well. But, you can change this recommendation based on your price range.


    RAM is an essential part of any system, but more so for a gaming system, since newer games are requiring more and more RAM. For cost constraints, Iíve decided to go with only 512MB of PC3200 memory, but if you have a little extra cash, I urge you to go ahead and buy another 512MB stick. Not only will it make your RAM dual-channel, improving the speed quite a bit, 1GB of RAM is excellent in demanding games such as FarCry, as well as pretty much every single MMORPG. On top of that, good RAM can be found for relatively cheap.

    For this XPC, due to cash constraints, I decided on a 512MB PC3200 stick of Crucial RAM. Crucial has long been an excellent memory provider, and Iíve always trusted them with my memory needs. On top of being an excellent performer, it is also very inexpensive.

    Of course, if you have your own personal RAM favorite, you can substitute the Crucial RAM for it.

    Video Card

    Here, it tends to start to vary based on personal preference. I am an ATI fan, so I wanted to go the ATI route. Since my system is under $1000, I couldn't get the top-of-the-line card, such as the X800 Pro, but instead I grabbed the ATi Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB. This can be easily found for around $200, often less then that, which provides an excellent price to performance ratio. If you have another ~$100 to spend, you may want to get the nVidia 6800 video card instead, as it is significantly faster. I did not go this route because of the price constraints, as well as the lack of the availability of the card at the time of purchase. However, it is now easily available from virtually any online store.. If you prefer nVidia, but don't want to spend a lot, you can always grab a GeForce FX 5950 card, which offers similar performance to the 9800 Pro for a similar price.

    If you are reading this guide on how to build a gaming XPC but for some reason don't want to game, you can always use the integrated ATI 9100 graphics on the ST61G4, but don't expect high frame rates if you try to play a 3D game.

    If you are like me and tend to get the best video card available, even if your system is not top-of-the-line (which is OK as long as your system has fairly speedy parts), I'd grab the GeForce 6800 Ultra card. Yes, it is expensive, but at this point, it will offer you the best performance. As [Hard]OCP tested, nVidia cards clearly beat ATI cards in Doom 3, which, for many, is the most anticipated game of the year. The ATI top-of-the-line cards (such as the X800 and X800PE) are also very fast cards, but they simply get owned by nVidia in Doom 3, which is why I recommend nVidia's solution over ATI's.

    I'm sure I'll get tons of hate mail because of the above paragraph, but I'm ready!

    Optical Drive

    Honestly, the kind of Optical Drive you choose for your gaming XPC doesn't really matter. All games at this point in time are released in CD-ROM format, and only a small number of the games on the market are released on DVD-ROM, meaning getting a DVD-ROM drive is not really useful when it comes to games. However, considering the prices of optical drives, you may just want to grab a DVD-ROM/DVD Burner just for multimedia purposes.

    For me, I wanted to burn DVD's, play/read DVD's, burn CD's, and read CD's, so I decided that the Lite-On 8X Dual-Format (DVD-R and DVD+R) DVD-+RW drive would be best. It costs just $70 at Newegg, just $30 more then the normal 52x CD-RW drive, and in my opinion, worth that extra cash. I'm now able to make copies of my DVD's for backup, and I'm also able to burn high amounts of data on DVD's for backup - much easier then it was with CD-RW's.

    If you want to have a basic optical drive, any recent CD-RW drive will work, but my favorite brand is Lite-On.

    Hard Drive

    Serial ATA is not a very new of a technology anymore, but I still don't think it is ready for the XPC, or most personal computers in that case. It offers a very small performance increase, and to me, the only benefit to SATA are the thin cables, which increase airflow. SATA hard drives cost around the same as a normal IDE hard drive.

    Despite this slight advantage, there is one huge problem: almost all SATA chips are not integrated on the southbridge, meaning the BIOS won't see the drive. Neither will Windows setup, unless you make a floppy disk and load the SATA drives at the beginning of the Windows setup. This itself is not hard to do, but it means you'll have to have a floppy drive. This isn't a problem for many people with normal computers, but with XPC's, especially this model (ST61G4), it is a limitation because there is no floppy bay in the XPC! This means you need to connect the drive outside of the case, so whenever you install Windows again, you have to take off the case cover, plug in the floppy connector, plug in the floppy drive, and then install Windows. After, you'd probably want to put the case cover back on, which adds even more time. What Microsoft needs to do is either add SATA support directly into Windows XP, or allow the use of a CD-ROM to load drivers for Windows. This way, the only limitation of SATA would be avoided, and the technology would grow significantly.

    Unfortunately, I bought a SATA drive before thinking about this big limitation (Maxtor 80GB). When I was putting the computer together, I realized my mistake, and decided to use a Hitachi 40GB ATA/133 drive that I had laying around in my previous system. This got rid of the problem, and made the entire Windows install much easier to complete. I'd advise for the time being (until Windows gets SATA drivers built-in, or until the SATA chip is integrated into the Southbridge) and stick with ATA/133. I personally like Maxtor. 80GB is a great size for a gaming PC, but adjust this based on your personal preference. You can take a look at some of our previous hard drive reviews to see what model would be right for you.

    Other Accessories Go the the next page
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    Article Navigation

    1. Introduction
    2. Choosing The Parts
    3. Other Accessories
    4. Buying Everything
    5. Putting It Together
    6. Installing Drivers
    7. Windows Tweaks
    8. Conclusions
    9. Gallery

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