Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

Build and Evaluation

To complete the SZ270R9 I added the following components –

CPU – Intel Core i5 7600K; Memory – 4 x 8GB, Corsair
Dominator Platinum 2666MHz; System drive – Adata XPG SX8200 480GB M.2 2280 PCIe
SSD.

The 7600K is an
unlocked processor which allowed me to test the SZ270R9’s overclocking
capability to the full.

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The Adata XPG SX8200, which is one of the fastest NVMe
drives we have tested, should prove to be an outstanding boot drive.

Shuttle provides clear instructions for how to fit the
additional components to the barebones chassis –

Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

 

Removing the outside of the case simply requires three
finger screws to be removed from the rear.  Excellent access is then provided
to be able to easily add the additional components –

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Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

At the top left of the chassis you can see the small fan
that is dedicated to cooling the built in power unit.

At the front of the chassis you can see the fan that pulls
air in through the front of the case.

 

Here you can see the Corsair RAM and the Adata XPG M2.2280
NVMe SSD located in the Motherboard –

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Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

You can also see CPU cooler with its long heat pipes
reaching out from the CPU to the rear of the chassis where the cooling fins are
enclosed by a powerful fan.

Here is a picture of CPU cooler’s individual parts before I
attached them to the CPU –

Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

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After the CPU Cooler has been pinned to the CPU, the fan and
its shroud are placed over the cooling fins and secured with four finger screws
to the rear of the case. 

 

Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

 

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Please note that the cooler is attached to the CPU using
classic CPU cooler locator pins (the same as is typically used by ‘stock’ Intel
CPU coolers).  Great care must be taken when attaching the cooler to the CPU. 
Please check and double check that the locator pins are aligned with the holes
in the motherboard before using a firm push to secure them in place (in the
order as stipulated in the supplied instructions) – from past experience I know
only too well that it is easy to bend or break the pins.

Conveniently, and helpfully, Shuttle supplies a good quality
TIM to use.

 

This picture shows the cage that is supplied to hold
HDDs/SSDs –

Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

 

This picture is looking down into the void above the CPU
cooler and RAM into which the drive cage may be placed –

Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

Please note that it is not possible to use the cage if your
RAM has tall heat dissipaters (as the RAM I have used does).  This did not create
a problem for me as I used an M2.2280 PCIe NVMe SSD, which plugged directly
into the motherboard.

BIOS

The SZ270R9 comes with a reasonably comprehensive BIOS,
which supports overclocking directly from the BIOS.  However, I planned to use
the Shuttle’s special feature of supporting an overclock at the touch of a
button.  So, the only change I applied in the BIOS was to tell the SZ270R9 to
use the Corsair memory’s 2666MHz XMP profile.

I installed the Windows 10 Home Operating System and the drivers
ans software supplied by Shuttle.

I knew the Intel Core I5 7600K has excellent overclocking
capabilities but the open question was whether the SZ270R9’s CPU cooling would
support an aggressive overclock.

Over Clocking and Stability Testing

To perform an overclock in Windows, Shuttle supplies its XPC
Overclock software.

Here is a screenshot of the software’s primary interface –

Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

Here you can see how the screen looks when turbo mode is not
engaged.

To apply an overclock (enter ‘turbo’ mode) one simply sets
the desired ‘Ratio’ or multiplier to be applied to the CPU’s Base Clock speed.
One can then engage the chosen overclock by applying it in the software or by
pressing the overclock button on the front edge of the SZ270R9’s case.

 

The screen then changes to show that turbo mode is engaged –

Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

One can also turn on the ‘Watch Dog’ function (by clicking
the ‘Watch Dog’ button at the bottom of the screen). Watch Dog will apply a
hardware reset if the system hangs or will sound an alarm if the CPU starts to
throttle.

You can see that the CPU temperature, Voltage and Fan speed
are displayed.

The software also allows you to customise the colours that
the case will emit when Turbo mode and Normal mode are engaged. I left these at
their default values so that the case lights matched those displayed in the XPC
software. I must admit that it is a lot of fun playing around with the
flashing, double flashing and breathing styles –  

Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review

 

Stability Testing

When an overclock is applied through the XPC Overclock
software, the CPU Voltage is automatically set to a level that Shuttle believes
to be appropriate, and the higher the multiplier set then the higher the
voltage that will be applied. For example a CPU Voltage of 1.3V is applied to
the 7600K (when under load) when a multiplier of 47 is applied, to give a CPU
frequency of 4,700 MHz. In turn, the higher the voltage then the more heat that
the CPU will generate and it becomes key that the CPU’s cooler is able to
dissipate the increased heat to avoid instability and prevent the CPU being
throttled.

To test the stability of the SZ270R9 in turbo mode I used
the Stability Test in the outstanding AIDA 64 software.

Here is the result –

Shuttle XPC Cube SZ270R9 ‘Barebone’ Mini PC Review 

In the top chart you can see the temperatures for each of
the CPU’s cores over a period of time.  In the bottom chart you can see the CPU
load.  Initially, for a short period of time, the CPU was effectively idling
(except for background OS activity) and the core temperatures were down to around
30 C.  A 100% load was then applied  (with no overclock yet engaged) and the
core temperatures increased to just over 60 C.  After several minutes, an over
clock to 4,900 MHz was then engaged, and the core temps increased to around 75
C.

So, the SZ270R9’s CPU cooling can satisfactorily manage the
heat generated by an XPC Overclock to 4,900 MHz.  However, an XPC Overclock to
5,000 MHz proved to be unstable even though the cooling still seemed to be
satisfactory. I suspect one could find a stable overclock to 5 GHZ through
manual settings being applied in the BIOS (by applying a higher CPU voltage
than applied by the XPC Overclock software).  


Now let’s head to the next page, to look at the
Conclusions of this review…..

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