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Mini PC can use SSD as cache, supports Sandy Bridge CPUs

Jan 31, 2012 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 5 views

Shuttle announced a mini PC that includes multiple expansion slots and is designed so that an SSD (solid state drive) can augment its hard disk speed. The SZ68R5 supports Intel “Sandy Bridge” Core processors, accepts up to 32GB of RAM in four DIMM slots, has three drive bays (one 5.25-inch, two 3.5-inch), and includes 12 USB ports, according to the company.

Like other Shuttle mini PCs we've covered — 2010's XS35, to cite one example — the new SZ68R5 comes in "barebone" form, making it ideal for those who want to choose their own operating system, RAM, drives, and other components. This particular system, however, is aimed at customers with demanding applications, not power-sipping embedded use, as its 500-Watt power supply makes clear.

Shuttle's SZ68R5
(Click to enlarge)

According to Shuttle, the SZ68R5 supports LGA1155-socketed "Sandy Bridge" processors ranging from the 1.6GHz, single-core Celeron G440 (35-Watt TDP) to the 3.5GHz, quad-core Core i7-2700K (95-Watt TDP). All in all, there are 37 different choices, as listed via a table on the device's data sheet.

The processor of choice may be accompanied by up to 32GB of 1066/1333MHz DDR3 RAM, installed in the device's four DIMM slots, Shuttle says. Meanwhile, the SZ68R5 employs Intel's Z68 Express chipset (block diagram farther below), which not only supports RAID (0, 5, and 10) disk arrays but also provides one of the system's more unusual attributes.

Specifically, Shuttle says, the Z68's "Smart Response Technology" (SRT) allows a relatively small SSD (solid state disk) to be placed in the SZ68R5's mSATA (Mini Serial ATA) expansion slot, from where it will act as a cache for the system's hard disk drive (HDD). Built into the PC's firmware, SRT can deliver a 60 percent performance improvement over a HDD-only system, according to the company. (To the best of our knowledge, however, SRT requires a Windows device driver, and provides no benefit with Linux.)

Intel's Z68 Express chipset
(Click to enlarge)

According to Shuttle, the SZ68R5 has two 6Gbit/sec. SATA ports and two 4Gbit/sec. SATA ports on its motherboard, plus an external 5.25-inch drive bay and two 3.5-inch bays that can be accessed either internally or externally. It also features an eSATA port on its rear panel, the company adds.

In addition to the mSATA slot already mentioned, the SZ68R5 also has an additional Mini PCI Express slot that may be used for a wireless networking card, says Shuttle. Further, there's a PCI Express x16 slot plus a PCI Express x4 slot — if the latter isn't needed, dual-slot PCI Express x16 graphics cards may be installed, the company adds.

Externally, the SZ68R5 provides two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a microphone input, and a headphone output on its front panel (below left). The rear panel (below right) includes DVI and HDMI video outputs, S/PDIF digital audio, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, and 7:1 analog audio output, the company says.

Ports on Shuttle's SZ68R5
(Click to enlarge)

Finally, the SZ68R5 is also said to offer onboard connectors for an optional RS232 port, two additional USB 2.0 ports, and an auxiliary audio input. A wireless LAN antenna is also available, Shuttle adds.

Specifications listed by Shuttle for the SZ68R5 include:

  • Processor — LGA1155-socketed Intel "Sandy Bridge" CPU
  • Chipset — Intel Z68 Express
  • Memory — up to 32GB of 1066/1333MHz RAM via four DIMM slots
  • Storage:
    • 2 x 6Gbit/sec. SATA ports and 2 x 4Gbit/sec. SATA ports
    • eSATA port
    • mSATA slot (can also be used as standard Mini PCI Express slot)
    • 2 x 3.5-inch drive bays
    • 1 x 5.25-inch drive bay
    • RAID 0, 5, 10 supported
  • Expansion:
    • 1 x PCI Express x16
    • 1 x PCI Express x4
    • 1 x Mini PCI Express (in addition to mSATA slot already listed)
  • Networking — 1 x gigabit Ethernet
  • Other I/O:
    • 4 x USB 3.0 (2 front, 2 rear)
    • 8 x USB 2.0 (2 front, 4 rear, 2 internal)
    • 1 x RS232 (internal)
    • S/PDIF output
    • 7:1 analog audio (4 x 3.5mm jacks)
    • DVI-I
    • HDMI
  • Power — 500-Watt power support accepts 100~240 VAC; consumption n/s
  • Operating range — n/s
  • Dimensions — 13 x 8.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Weight — 7.7 pounds

Further information

According to Shuttle, the barebone SZ68R5 is available now in Europe for approximately 300 Euros (about $391). More information may be found on the SZ68R5 product page.

Jonathan Angel can be reached at [email protected] and followed at

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