Some time ago I bought a second hand shuttle SB87G5 as a back up computer for my work, and I was imressed that it still worked well and had no problems, never the less it had been used an HTPC with W7.
When I bought it it came with the following spec
P4 3.06 ghz 533fsb Northwood cpu
1 gb of ram (2x512mb sticks)
1 ATI 1650 graphic card
TV nuner card analog and DTV
1x 80gb ata hard drive
DVD recorder ATA optical drive
3.5 multi card reader
optional case cover with mesh windows
Although everything worked, as you can imagine it wasnt exactly blazing fast with the above components, but I had in mind giving it to my daughter as her first computer, and she only uses it for web surfing and school work, so she doent need the latest hardware and felt that with few upgrades I could make a reasonable improvement and keep it usefull with out spending a fortune on it, and by the way according to W7 performance index the weakest scores where the Cpu and the memory.
The first I looked at was the memory, and lucky for me I swaped the mememory from my work computer and intalled 2 gb of ram kingston (2 x 1gb) this made a noticeable improvement to the speed of the computer, next I looked was the cpu, and had a go at overclocking it, did not hold much hope since there is no provision for cpu or ram voltage adjustment, but surprisingly it allowed to me to go from 133 fsb to 167 fsb, the max the bios would allow, this meant cpu was running now a 3.6 ghz not a bad overclock. another jump in performance at the expense of having to run ice cooler fan at high speed to keep temps under manageable, I had another cpu from another computer a p4 630 prescott 3 ghz 2mb 800 fsb, gave that a go a found I could overclock up to 230 fsb, the max the bios will allow you, giving me a 3.45ghz, performance felt the same but it had the same problem as the other cpu that it required a high fan speed to keep things cool.
Out came the dremel, I cut the rear exit grill of the ice cooler and installed a spare noctua fan I had spare on the outside of the rear case in push pull configuration that allowed me to select smart fan again and bring the noise down.
I also installed a zalman heatsink to the northbridge, I removed the TV tuner card and installed a pci Wifi card in its place.
Next Item on the agenda was the hard disk, so I hooked up a spare Velociraptor behind the card reader and did a fresh install of W7 another improvement in the performance and now the noisest component in the computer is the ati cooling fan, took the graphic card apart cleaned the fan and lubed it this made a huge improvement to the noise but it still relatively noisy and the fan bearing looked like it has some play, so no doubt the noise will return soon.
So far I had not really spent any money on upgrades this box since I used components I already had in my posesion, so I decided to see what else could be done to it whilst spending as little as possible, I checked on shuttle website what was the fastest cpu suported by the motherboard and found it listed a p4 660, which is a 3.6ghz chip, but searching the clasifieds I found a p4 670 which runs at 3.8 ghz, although not officially suported by shutlle, I checked the specs of the processor and found it was a prescott chip with a higher multiplier so in theory it should work ok, I bought this cpu for 40 € and installed it, the shuttle booted up and the bios recognized the cpu correctly as did windows, this chip has speed step which means that when its idle or under light load it drops to multiplier 14x200fsb= 2.8 ghz and under load it runs multiplier 19x200fsb= 3.8 ghz.
So far so good, since the p4 630 would overclcok up to 230 fsb, I was curious to see how far the 670 would overclcock, well I got up 218 fsb, but any faster than this and it would not boot or it would freeze looding windows, since the board has no voltage adjustments, I tried turning the cooling fan up to full speed, this allowed me to reach 220 fsb or 4.18 ghz, giving me hope of a higher overclock if I can improve the cooling in some way(not much scope here, I allready have 2 fans on the ice cooler) so in the meantime the fsb stays at 218 fsb.
Regarding the graphic card, I decided to invest in a current card, taking into consideration the limitations imposed by shuttle, which requires a single slot card and no pci express power connector, this means that the most powerfull graphic card you can install is an ati/amd 6670 with 1gb of GDDR5 memory, the problem is that for some reason graphic card manufacturers have decided to sell this card with a double slot cooler and only make the DDR3 version as a single slot, the ddr3 memory cripples this card, so I decided to buy a 6670 1gb gddr5 version and I shall seek a cooling solution that fits within the case, and one posibility is to fit a zalman passive cooler VNF100, I shall have to wait for the card to arrive first and see how much space I have to play with.
There is one more upgrade I am considering and thats installing a SSD, having seen the improvement in speed it brought to my other shuttle, it would help counter the limnited system memory and the slow cpu performance of its p4 even overclocked when you compare it to more modern processors.
In the meantime I have some ideas I am going to try to improve the cooling, my next step is to lap the cpu, this will hopefully let me raise the FSB up to 220 without having to turn up the fan speeds, I might even try the h60 water cooling from my other shuttle to see if it can be cpu can be maxed out to 230 fsb limiton of the motherboard which with a 19 multiplier on the cpu would give me 4.37 ghz although this looks to me like a lot of effort for the return.
I will post some photo as a i get the chance.