The first issue I would like to cover in this review is the thermal work-mode. When transforming the Shuttle ST61G4 into a regular powerful computer, you add one or two hot components: the processor and the graphics card (optionally). You should also remember that the manufacturer mentions the compatibility of this barebone with Prescott-based processors, which are much warmer than their predecessors, as we know.
As for the graphics card, it remains cool inside Shuttle ST61G4 as our practical tests show. The case has vent holes against the AGP slot, through which air is sucked inside. So the graphics card remains under an interruptible flow of cool outside air; that’s quite enough for it to remain stable. We questioned the stability of Shuttle ST61G4 with two high-end graphics cards: ATI RADEON 9700 PRO and ATI RADEON 9800. Both cards were working correctly, at least we experienced no problems throughout the entire test session.
We did find problems when testing the system with processors that dissipate a lot of heat. CPUs on the Northwood core (with frequencies up to 3.4GHz) worked stably in Shuttle ST61G4: the cooling system handled them well enough. But when we tried to install a Prescott-based Pentium 4 with a frequency of 3.2GHz, we saw the system freezing from time to time because of the CPU overheating. So I don’t recommend you to use CPUs on Prescott core in Shuttle ST61G4, because these processors generate on average 20% more heat than their Northwood-based predecessors.
We checked the cooling system in the following manner: we installed an Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz (Northwood core), a RADEON 9700 PRO graphics card, two Corsair XMS3200C2 memory modules, and a Seagate Barracuda ATA IV HDD. Shuttle doesn’t include any hardware monitoring programs with its barebone, so we used the Motherboard Monitor utility. This setup done, we warmed the system up by running 3DMark2001 SE and Content Creation Winstone 2002 benchmarking suites. We got the following temperatures:
As you see, the cooling system is efficient enough. Talking about the thermal conditions, we should mention the noise factor, too. Shuttle ST61G4 is not very loud in comparison to other cubic barebones available in the today’s market. The 80mm fan that cools the system down is relatively noiseless even at its maximum rotation speed. The whole picture is spoiled by the small fan in the PSU. When it works at its highest rotation speed, it generates rather annoying noise. Anyway, Shuttle ST61G4 is no louder than an ordinary desktop system.