We would like to thank Shuttle for supplying the review sample.
After the DS437T slim-PC we reviewed a while ago, Shuttle suggested we take a good look at their fresh DS81 unit. The latter shares its durable chassis with the DS437T; however, it doesn’t exploit a fanless design since it can take up to a 65 W TDP Haswell CPU, which produces much more heat than the DS437T's low-clocked Celeron CPU. The DS81 also packs a lot of I/O ports, although a DVI port hasn't been included, but its two DisplayPorts and single HDMI port will suffice. The unit is even compatible with 4K monitors and can operate at up to 50°C ambient, making it an ideal choice for difficult digital signage applications.
Shuttle has a ton of experience in building small and reliable units, and we strongly believe that the DS81 is no different. Its predecessor, the DS61, was compatible with Intel Sandy Bridge / Ivy Bridge CPUs and scored a pretty high price-to-performance ratio because of its nice price tag. The fresh DS81 kept the price, but comes with even more features, so we expect it do even better in that regard.
|Shuttle Slim-PC DS81|
|Chipset||Intel H81 Express Chipset|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics|
|CPU Support||Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 / Pentium (LGA1150)|
|Memory Support:||2 x 204 pin DDR3 SODIMM slots, 8GB per DIMM (Max 16GB)|
Dual Channel DDR3 1600 Mhz
|Networking||Realtek 8111G X2|
100Mb/s and 1Gb/s operation
Support Wake-On-LAN function
|Storage Interface||SATA III|
|Onboard Connectors||(1) SATA III connector|
(1) SATA II connector
(1) SATA power connector
(1) LPC header
(1) 4pin fan connector
(1) D-sub connector
|I/O Ports Front||(4) USB 2.0 ports|
(1) Power-On button
(1) Power LED
(1) HDD LED
(1) SD Card reader
|I/O Ports Rear||(2) RJ45 Gigabit LAN port|
(2) Display port
(1) HDMI port
(2) USB 3.0 ports
(2) USB 2.0 ports
(1) External power on header
(1) DC in
(1) Kensinton lock
(1) Clear CMOS
(2) Wireless Antenna fixture
|Drive Bays||(1) 2.5" HDD / SSD bay|
|Cooler||Heatpipe Based Heatsink + +2x 60mm fans (Apistek SA61O2U)|
|Power||90W Power Adapter|
Input:100- 240V AC
Output: 19V 4.47A DC
|Expansion Slot||(1) Full size Mini-PCIE socket|
(1)Half size Mini-PCIE socket
|Dimensions||165mm(W) x 43mm(H) x 190mm(L)|
This platform supports Intel's H81 chipset, a mainstream chip that will fully cover the DS81's needs since its missing features simply aren't needed. The lack of SLI/Crossfire support won't matter because the DS81 can't take discrete VGAs, and the absence of overclocking options in its BIOS will actually keep the system from overheating since its cooling system can only support a TDP of up to 65 W. The provided power brick can deliver up to 90 W. The H81 chipset does support up to two SATA III ports, so the capabilities of a fast SSD won't go to waste, and it has the capability to host more than enough USB 3.0 ports for such a small system. The DS81 supports up to 16 GB of RAM, and a Kingston HyperX Impact 2x 8 GB kit we tried worked like a charm; however, it did not work at its rated 1600 MHz but at 1333 MHz instead since the CPU we used, a Pentium G3258, doesn't officially support higher memory speeds. If there were any memory overcloking options, we would have cranked our Impact DIMMS up to 1600 MHz and beyond, but the mainboard doesn't have any overclocking capabilities.
Two Gigabit Ethernet ports are provided, while its other I/O ports include many USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports. An SD-card reader has conveniently been placed at the front, and two serial interfaces in the rear offer compatibility with older device interfaces. The DS81 also packs a pair of DisplayPorts and an HDMI port. Shuttle most likely didn't offer DVI compatibility because there is no room for it on the back.
Only one 2.5" drive can be installed, and you had better connect it to the only SATA III port if it is an SSD (the other ports are SATA II). Should you need more storage space, there is a fully sized Mini-PCIE socket on the mainboard for a compatible drive, and you will find a half-sized port for an optional WiFi module.
The DS81 is very compact, so it will easily fit into even an office with little room, or behind a TV or monitor if you exploit its VESA mount. The warranty is three years long, a sufficient period, and its price looks good for its features. At this price point, it is very difficult to find such a small system that tolerates harsh environments and has 4K support. To the best of our knowledge, Shuttle is the sole company with such a unit on hand, and they did a fine job, although there is no serious competition as of yet.