THE POPULARITY OF small form factor barebones systems has faded of late, and that's really a shame. Shuttle practically invented the breadbox form factor with the seminal SV24, and in the months and years that followed, we were treated to a flurry of new and innovative designs aimed squarely at enthusiasts looking to roll their own pint-sized systems. It didn't take long for others to jump on the bandwagon, either. Soon nearly every motherboard maker had small form factor designs of their own, although few were able to match-let alone exceed-the polish of Shuttle's mature product line.
Then Shuttle shifted its attention to selling complete systems, reducing what was once a torrent of new barebones designs to little more than a trickle. Shuttle's competitors didn't exactly pick up the slack, either. In fact, many retreated from the small form factor barebones market altogether, leaving enthusiasts with few reasonable alternatives.
Fortunately, we're still treated to a new barebones XPC every so often. The latest such box is the SD39P2, which supports Intel's latest quad-core processors, up to 8GB of memory, two hard drives, and both PCI Express and PCI expansion cards-in a form factor the size of a toaster. The question, of course, is whether this latest toaster has the performance, features, and attention to detail that made Shuttle king of the small form factor. Read on to see what we found.