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Shuttle Computer, the leading manufacturer of small cube-like PC barebones, recently indicated it did not pin a lot of hopes onto its products in picoBTX form-factor. Despite of this fact, Shuttle will introduce three more barebones in picoBTX form-factor.

“Shuttle anticipates that demand for BTX (Balanced Technology Extended) systems will not pick up until next year, while projecting that 5% of the 750 000 XPCs [or 37 500] it expects to ship this year will be BTX systems,” claims DigiTimes web-site citing Shuttle’s executives.

Currently Shuttle has one barebone in picoBTX form-factor and plans to bring another three products featuring the new standard by the end of the year. Shuttle’s XPC SB86i small form-factor computer barebone is based on Intel’s i915G core-logic that supports Intel’s Pentium 4 and Celeron processors with 533MHz and 800MHz processor system bus. The system can install a PCI Express x16 graphics card, a PCI add-in card and up to 2GB of dual-channel PC3200 DDR memory. The chassis allow installing one 5.25” optical drive and two 3.5” hard disk drives to utilize Intel’s Matrix RAID capabilities. The XPC SB86i also sports a number of multimedia enhancements, such as 8-channel Intel’s high-definition audio, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, FireWire and 8-in-1 card reader.

While the XPC SB86i is not as small as some of Shuttle’s SFF systems, it can run Intel’s high-end processors, including the latest Intel Pentium 4 570J (3.80GHz), without the need to be equipped with multiple of fans and a relatively expensive thermal-dissipation system based on heat-pipes, thanks to picoBTX design.

BTX layout allows for more room for processor power delivery routing and reduces routing complexity for the memory controller to memory from the I/O controller to rear panel I/O. The thermal benefits provided to the processor voltage regulation allows for designs with fewer components. Nevertheless, according to Shuttle’s Ken Huang power supplies and heat dissipation modules for the BTX platform are still $10-20 more expensive than similar products used on the ATX platform.

Shuttle believes that consumers will start to adopt picoBTX better in 2006 as a result of better education about the standard. The company does not note how many of its clients care about form-factor and ask for specific designs. One of the catalysts for BTX adoption could be Intel’s requirement to use certified BTX coolers with its future processors, including forthcoming dual-core chips.

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