Shuttle SZ87R6 Review
Shuttle have been on the PC market for a while now, releasing a number of small form factor PCs over the years. While their early models weren’t necessarily the most powerful or the most quiet, things have definitely improved over the years. The last model I looked at proved that the company was continuing to develop small and powerful barebone systems, and their latest offering in the form of the Shuttle SZ87R6 is a testament to that.
Build quality & Design
The SZ87R6 doesn’t stray from design convention in any way – it’s still pretty much a medium sized black box that has a minimal number of buttons and lights in the front. There’s a hidden cover at the bottom that provides quick access to USB and audio ports, and you can also install an optical drive in the unit if you so desire.
What makes the SZ87R6 a bit more exciting however is its support for Intel 4th Generation i3/i5/i7 LGA 1150 CPUs. This means that you can cram an Intel Haswell processor into a case that’s about a quarter of the size of a regular tower PC. Coupled with the PCI-E x16 slot you can build a pretty powerful beast in a seemingly innocent looking form factor. You also have access to ten USB ports, 7.1 channel audio, and even two mini-PCIe sockets if you’d like to install an mSATA SSD card. The SZ87R6 also sports dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, making this a very capable mini-server build for a business environment.
Inside the system things are laid out fairly compactly, as seen in previous Shuttle models. Getting inside the case is as simple as removing the thumbscrews at the back, but once you’re inside you’ll need a regular Philips screwdriver to get to some of the components. The trickiest thing here still remains the graphics card – replacing the graphics card in the SZ87R6 is a delicate process, as you have to slide it in at just the right angle to avoid damaging the card or getting it stuck. This is just down to the small size of the SZ87R6, and in all honesty once you’ve plugged in your required hardware, you’re not going to be tinkering around with the insides very often. The SZ87R6 has support for 3.5” HDDs, but if you’d like to use a 2.5” SSD or HDD, you’ll need to grab the optional drive kit. The SZ87R6 once again features Shuttle’s Integrated Cooling Technology to keep the CPU cool, however extreme power users and overclockers might make some advanced tweaks to the chassis cover to install additional fans or cooling units if they install more powerful hardware.
Benchmarks & Performance
Our review unit came with pretty average specifications, so the results won’t do the SZ87R6 any real justice – the combination of an i5 processor and Nvidia GTX 365 graphics card wasn’t going to blow anyone away. However if you pack in an i7 processor and upgrade the graphics card to something with a bit more punch, you’re looking at quite a serious machine at a fraction of the size. Case in point – we decided to plug in Nvidia’s GTX 780Ti graphics card, just to see if the system could handle it. I previously had an issue with my SX79R5 not booting up with a 760 graphics card in it, and I wanted to see if the SZ87R6 had a similar issue or not. Installation as I said before was a bit delicate, but the card fitted properly and sat snugly on the motherboard. I was worried that the power supply wouldn’t be able to cope with the demanding 780Ti, but once we hit the power switch the system booted up successfully and went straight into Windows. After a quick driver update, we fired up Tomb Raider on maximum settings, and the game ran incredibly smooth. We weren’t able to change the game’s Hair Quality setting, but all other aspects of the game looked absolutely brilliant. We ran a quick test of 3DMark’s Firestorm on Extreme settings and earned a score of 4197. Interestingly enough, we got this exact same score before when testing the 780Ti on a more powerful rig, further fuelling Shuttle’s theory that you don’t need a monstrous PC case in order to pack a few punches. One of our editors did raise a concern as to whether or not the SZ87R6’s power supply would be able to hold up if something as powerful as the 780Ti was being used, but Shuttle seem pretty confident with the 500W PSU that the SZ87R6 comes with. My only observation is that the SZ87R6’s BIOS isn’t as user friendly as we’d like it to be, so poking around for overclocking settings may take a little bit of getting used to.
Heat and Noise levels
As Shuttle promises, the SZ87R6 is certainly quiet. I had the unit sitting on my desk right next to my monitor, and I could barely make out its low humming. The unit also stayed cool to the touch, with processor temperatures fluctuating between 47 and 73 degrees centigrade. Only when you add in a more powerful graphics card to you notice a slightly louder noise coming from the SZ87R6, purely from the graphics card’s fans, but the case does muffle this quite a bit so again it’s not that noticeable.
With the SZ87R6 Shuttle have once again proved that great things can come in small packages. Support for the latest Intel processors means that the SZ87R6 has a very flexible usage scenario. Kit it out with average specifications and it becomes a sleek media PC for your home. Beef up the storage and it can double as a lightweight server in a business environment. Soup up the graphics card and processor and you can get a killer multi-monitor gaming or video editing PC – the choice is yours. There’s enough flexibility here to do as you please with the SZ87R6, making it a compact yet highly versatile SFF PC.
Components listed in Specifications table are sold separately and not included in the quoted price.