Small Form Factor PCs - Flawed By Design?

Comments 1 to 25 of 37

KidMod-Southpaw 24th February 2012, 09:08 Quote
That was fantastic Craig and Anthony! I'm sure it will come as a big help for lots of people.
Mentai 24th February 2012, 09:14 Quote
That was a really good article. A SFF PC is something I really want, but don't have the time, energy or skill to make happen to a degree I would be satisfied with. I think the next build I do will veer more towards being a quiet as possible rather than convenient form factor.
Jqim 24th February 2012, 09:51 Quote
I have a Silverstone raven02 and I hate how massive it is. I am always thinking of ways to mod a case or scratch build something very small but my thoughts always derail and collapse when I realise I don’t want to sacrifice things like the triple slot cooler on my 570 phantom, and the gelid tranqillo tower cooler that supports the 4.5ghz overclock at whisper quiet levels. I it to be quiet more than I want it small, but I really want both.
xaser04 24th February 2012, 10:20 Quote
Great article, thanks Antony and all of the other contributers! :)

Building a ITX system has always been something I wanted to do. I almost built one for my wife but ended up going ATX in a case similar in size to a Define mini instead as I already had a load of the components.

The only things holding be back from an ITX build are cost and practicality. I don't need another computer in the house and I don't have the spare cash to throw at one as the Bathroom needs doing (dammit!).
Blarte 24th February 2012, 10:49 Quote
new fan of SFF .. ideal for 1080p occasional gaming / video / Blueray etc ..
Spreadie 24th February 2012, 11:38 Quote
Nice article Antony.

I do hope your build will be logged on the forums. :D ;)
PegasusM 24th February 2012, 12:00 Quote
Nice article! Something like this for making quiet builds would be good in the future.
Jedibeeftrix 24th February 2012, 12:03 Quote
"I’ve been a fan of small PCs for almost as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I bought my first Shuttle SN25P barebone system years ago that I was well and truly hooked."

Haha, that is exactly where i started with SFF computers, in fact i think i remember Craig from SFF-Tech.

Had the shuttle, and Sugo 02e, a sugo 03, now to an enormous FT02, but i think a FT03 mini is next on the cards.
javaman 24th February 2012, 13:07 Quote
Thanks for the article, gave me some food for thought. I currently use a coolermaster cm690 and hate the wasted space with empty hdd slots, and the fact im only using a single gpu and wireless card (soon to be replaced with home plugs). Having to keep the case under the desk is quite annoying but basically ATX is too much so for my next build i was planning of going mATX or itx. With itx boards getting better power circuitry and intel moving most overclocking ability away from the motherboard this means itx boards are very attractive. The problems i keep having tho are

a) availability of cases - itx cases are fugly. Most are aimed for under the tv from yesteryear

B) low profile components. Most are designed round getting 2-3 hdds in, blu ray drive etc leaving little rooms for a cooler or gpu. Also

C) PSU - horrible selection. Pico units are underpowered, ATX leaves room issues in some cases, small PSU's arent well documented (harder to find) and are expensive

D) expensive - small certainly is less for more.

Atm im seriously considering watercooling but this adds weight and due to my limited experience in pc building, possibly not something i want to dabble in just yet.
mATX is a possibility since it gives a bit more space to play with but i still think its too big.
dunx 24th February 2012, 13:20 Quote
Mine's getting old now, Fractal Array plus Gigabyte H55N-USB3 + i5-655K @ 4 GHz + GTX 480 + 5 HDD's and all I had to modify was the HDD cage to miss the graphics card. Oh and to use a 550W ATX PSU dangling out the back.... ( out of sight as it's my media server'/BOINC rig ! ).

Imagine what an i5 in a brand new board could do ?


P.S. Having just gained access to a laser cutter or two at work......
tad2008 24th February 2012, 13:53 Quote
Great article and I love the minime and nanotower, had not seen those before, how could I have missed them!

I couldn't agree more with the three biggest problems with SFF cases being space, heat and wiring which proved to be quite a headache back when I had the msi mega 180, airflow was almost non-existent once a dedicated graphics card was added.

Once thing I have come to appreciate in cases from though is partitions that keep areas seperated and allow you to maximise the airflow for a smaller area. My Antec desktop style case does this with the PSU and Optical bays, so air comes in for the PSU and goes straight back out of the case.

I think the advantage of the larger cases is, if you can really call it that, is that there is simply more air inside to heat up so the heat is able to dissipate even with limited airflow. Now I don't know the in depth thermal properties of air (or water for that matter, lol) but surely if air/water is passed over a component and that heat is immediately removed from the case then by my reasoning that's a good thing and any limitations of actual air volume becomes less of a factor.
Da_Rude_Baboon 24th February 2012, 14:02 Quote
Nice article but I have one major criticism with the title. Small Form Factor PCs – flawed by design? You never answer your own question. You point out the problems and talk to some modders but there is no conclusion to your question or really a commentary on how modern small form factor cases tackle the problems identified. Also what do you define as small form factor? I would class mATX as a pretty standard mid desktop size and would only consider mITX and below as truly being small form factor computing. A build in a current case showing the possibilities and limitations of using gaming grade hardware in a small form factor would have been fantastic.
phinix 24th February 2012, 14:47 Quote
I remember I started my adventure with SFFs from SN25P too:)
Jack_Pepsi 24th February 2012, 16:57 Quote
Fantastic article.


I remember Craig's SFF mods and his advice on the SFFTech/Sudhian - invaluable then, even more so now.

I miss my Shuttles.

javaman 24th February 2012, 17:16 Quote
Originally Posted by Jack_Pepsi

I miss my Shuttles.


My first thought was you meant discovery >.>
Boscoe 24th February 2012, 20:35 Quote
What's the problem it's easy to design SFF comps based on M-ITX...
andy_mcp1 24th February 2012, 21:13 Quote
Always good to see articles raising the profile of SFF gaming cases, these days SFF cases means HTPC's to a lot of people, but you can cram so much more into these cases with a bit more though/planning.

For anyone interested, latest case design is here ( ) for the smallest footprint/volume SFF case I could design whilst keeping full sized ATX PSU for a full sized top end GPU. Enjoy.
Waynio 24th February 2012, 22:00 Quote
Good article

I'm kind of doing 1 myself after looking at what was available at retail & not keen on anything, a lian-li case came very close to being the right one for what I wanted but the design was a joke, was supposed to support regular ATX psu & 6 HDD but it just didn't have the room for it & you had to remove the hdd cage for it to work so like I said the design was a joke.

I'm not trying to make it as small as possible but no wasted space neither & I'll only ever use sff for a low power rig, I'll stick to micro-ATX or normal ATX for a rig that has some upgradability, I debated with myself a lot of which to choose between a good sound card or graphics card, sound card won for a low power light pc with awesome media functions.

Dual modular pc which can be detached whenever needed, always wanted a true "it can do it all" system & Lean & green was the best that came to mind, it's the project that puts an end to my search for my ultimate personal rig, the speed it's been going at though I could be in for quite a while before it's complete but hopefully no more than a year. :D
N17 dizzi 24th February 2012, 22:18 Quote
Fantastic article
mystvearn 25th February 2012, 11:05 Quote
Dell has an alienware SFF: The X51. If only there were off the shelf cases for DIY
Waynio 25th February 2012, 12:06 Quote
Originally Posted by mystvearn
Dell has an alienware SFF: The X51. If only there were off the shelf cases for DIY

With what I've seen of fibreglass something like that could be made no problemo, come to think of it it's got a vague similarity to Andy's rig in his design in progress except his looks better cooled & just better, much better. :D
mystvearn 25th February 2012, 12:22 Quote
Originally Posted by Waynio
With what I've seen of fibreglass something like that could be made no problemo, come to think of it it's got a vague similarity to Andy's rig in his design in progress except his looks better cooled & just better, much better. :D

If only it was mass produced.;)
Waynio 25th February 2012, 18:18 Quote
Originally Posted by mystvearn
If only it was mass produced.;)

True, maybe a case manufacturer could buy the design off him, would be a smart move I imagine, case like that would be quite sought after I expect, unless Andy would rather say do one it's all mine. :D:p
The_Crapman 25th February 2012, 21:18 Quote
considering l3p is currently doing a sff build with a watercooled asus mars II in it, i don't think there's any doubt that their limitations are only determined by the same thing a normal build is. money, imagination and skill. of course if you've got a shed load of money you wouldn't need the other 2! lol
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