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Shuttle Computer, a leading supplier of small form-factor (SFF) personal computer barebones, on Wednesday unveiled a new system that employs a quad-core processor thus providing performance of four processing engine, something unbelievable just two or three years ago. But Shuttle is not the first with such an SFF workstation project, and market perspectives of the product are unclear.

The Shuttle P2 3700w barebone is based on Intel 975X core-logic sets that supports various dual-core and quad-core Core 2 processors as well as Intel Xeon processors for uniprocessor servers and workstations with two or four cores. Since Shuttle positions the system as an SFF workstation, it offers to install Intel Xeon 3210 processor (2.13GHz), which is currently Intel’s most affordable quad-core offering. Still, users seeking higher performance may use Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.40GHz) processor instead, which fits into the same 105W thermal envelope, but generally provides higher performance.

The system can be equipped with up to 8GB of PC2-5300 (667MHz) memory and up to three Serial ATA-300 3.5” hard disk drives (which provides maximum of 2.2TB of storage if 750GB drives are used up to 3TB when 1TB hard drives emerge). Given the workstation positioning, Shuttle recommends to use ATI FireGL or Nvidia Quadro professional graphics boards. The system may also be equipped with a natural set of hardware, such as an optical drive, however, due to pretty small chassis, no additional add-in cards can be installed. The system has 400W power supply unit. Pricing of the machine starts at $1649.

“Shuttle XPC P2 3700w workstations present the best engineering Shuttle has to offer. It pairs Shuttle’s outstanding workstations with Intel’s blazing fast quad-core Xeon processors for unmatched levels of performance,” said Kevin Tu, Shuttle product marketing manager.

While Shuttle presents its XPC P2 3700w as a masterpiece, the system resembles similar machines that the company offered a year ago or earlier with the exception that now Shuttle can install a quad-core chip inside.

Moreover, Iwill, another maker of small form-factor PCs already tried to push SFF workstations and high-performance gaming systems – with two processors or two graphics cards – to the market back in 2004 and 2005, but with no major luck. Perhaps, the time was not exactly right for Iwill and with Microsoft’s Vista operating system on the market some performance-demanding customers may pay attention to Shuttle’s SFF workstations, as there is a trend towards small systems. However, those, who demand extreme performance may not necessarily look at form-factor and are more concerned about other peculiarities of their systems.

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