Shuttle AN50R (NVIDIA nForce3 150)
Shuttle company has been mostly mentioned recently in reference with their Small Form-Factor PCs, where they actually managed to become very successful. However, Shuttle started all this business with the mainboards and is not going to give up this business and this market segment at all. By the time AMD Athlon 64 3200+ was launched the company prepared their own Socket754 mainboard based on NVIDIA nForce3 150 chipset. This is exactly the board we are going to discuss today in our roundup.
I would like to stress that as soon as we took Shuttle AN50R out of the box, its excellent PCB design immediately caught my eye. Even though this mainboard boasts about the same features as other products discussed today, the company engineers paid due attention to the easy use of this device. That is why all connectors and expansion slots are located in the most optimal way. “Broad” connectors for ATA/133 devices, FDD and ATX power cable are placed right in front of the DIMM slots. Most other connectors have been moved to the very left edge of the mainboard, behind the last PCI slot. This way there is a lot of free space in front of the AGP and PCI slots, and most cables will not hinder proper air circulation inside the case. The AGP graphics card will never block the DIMM slots clips, no matter how big it is. All in all, Shuttle AN50R is an excellent example of nearly perfect PCB design. The only thing we still have to comment on is the location of the additional 12V power supply ATX connector, which has been placed behind Socket754, close to AGP 8x slot, though this is not a very grave drawback, I should say. In fact, it is not at all surprising that Shuttle AN50R won my heart with its great PCB layout. Most mainboards from Shuttle can certainly boast the same advantage, and the tremendous experience of the company engineers, who have to design miniature mainboards for Shuttle’s Small Form-Factor PCs, is of great help for desktop ATX mainboards design, too.
As for the features of Shuttle AN50R, it is hardly that much different from most other nForce3 150 based mainboards here. There are two ATA/133 ports out of the three supported ones laid out on the mainboard, and all six USB 2.0 ports, four of which have been implemented on the mainboard rear panel and the remaining two are represented by the corresponding PCB connector. IEEE1394 ports support is implemented via the additional VIA VT6306 controller, which allows up to 3 FireWire ports. One of these ports is also available on the mainboard rear panel and sits in the place of the second Serial ports. Two more FireWire connectors are laid out on the mainboard PCB. Shuttle AN50R is supplied with two additional brackets for the case rear panel with two USB 2.0 ad two IEEE1394 ports. These brackets can certainly be connected to the corresponding mainboard ports.
The sound on Shuttle AN50R mainboard is implemented via the Realtek AC97 ALC650 codec. As we see, Shuttle decided not to us any of the brand new codecs supporting AC97 2.3 specification, but preferred to stick to the solution that has already stood the tests of time. Despite that, Shuttle AN50R can work perfectly well with six-channel acoustic systems and is even equipped with an optical SPDIF output port located on the board rear panel.