As previously mentioned, the P series Shuttles are slightly bigger than the other versions, as you can see the clever front styling help give the impression that the increase is size isn't that great. "The SB81P is a Large Shuttle" is very much a relative statement, as compared to most desktop or tower PCs this is by no means large.
The SB81P is also slightly deeper; helping to accommodate the 350W power supply that lives in the rear portion of its innards - supposedly rated to run at 27db at 50cm. I'm not sure that this will cope with the new crop of graphics cards, I have a 6800GT to test it with so we shall see later. The size is also to do with the improved airflow, Shuttle claim.
The front finish is very shiny; my only reservation being it black plastic is how easy it could be scratched. I suggest you are careful when handling this unit, ensuring when you clean it you use a soft cloth.
As if Shuttle had answered our prayers, the front of the unit is graced with entirely stealthed bays. The only thing visible when in use and closed is the 6 in one card reader; a cracking addition for the photographers amongst us.
Good thing about the stealthing is the way the drives are push to open, except the optical drive that uses a mechanical system that depresses the eject button on the drive, pushing the tray over some clever clips that open to let the drive out...
...like so. Another nice feature is how you can set the Blue power LED's brightness through the BIOS, perfect if you are using the system in a darkened room. Note in the close up picture of the push to open clip how the plastic seems quite delicate, I would not be too happy about kids or heavy handed users messing with it. Also you can see how dust is magically attracted to the black plastic, I used one of those static absorbing cleaning dusters on it afterwards and this helped eliminate particles racing back to disturb the reflective finish.
Here is the first clue that heat may have been an issue during the design stage, the two fans on the top and another for the power supply suggesting that there will be a lot of heat to be dissipated during power use. In fact Shuttle have spent a lot of time combating the Intel Prescott's furnace like heat, with a whole new ICE system and much airflow testing; more about this later though.
Nothing unusual here except the Clear CMOS button, which was a godsend during testing and overclocking as looking for one inside the built case is definitely a no no considering how cramped it is.
Talking of inside the case, let's take a look...