What companies make good Small Form Factor PCs?
January 16, 2005 5:43 PM   Subscribe

[PCHardwareFilter] Inspired by the recent MacMini, I've been looking at Small Form Factor (SFF) PCs. (This isn't a question about the mac, I use a powerbook, but run an IT Division). What companies make SFF PCs that are good, reliable, and suprisingly decent little beasts. I'd love to hear reviews and accolades. I know of Shuttle... What else is there?
posted by warhol to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Dell offers an Optiplex GX280, and Optiplex SX280. Both are small form factor, but in the current model, the SX series is smaller, the case/components seem a little more robust, but unfortunately it's more expensive.
posted by purephase at 5:56 PM on January 16, 2005

I just got a shuttle on eBay last week at what i feel was a decent price-- $700 = Shuttle XPC SB75G2, P4 3.0, 80GB HD, 1 gig of RAM, 52x24x52x16 CD/RW + 16x DVD-ROM combo drive, 6 in 1 card reader, Geforce FX 5200 128mb, and XP pro. i've had no problems at all with it so far, and after adding in a tv tuner card, i use it as a very nice media machine and pvr. in fact, it's probably the awesomest AND best-looking system i've ever had, and i've had several PCs and Macs.

shuttle's prebuilt machines look a bit expensive on their site, so i suggest either buying a barebones system on newegg and adding in the parts you want. i also suggest taking the route i did, and finding a machine cheap on ebay. other popular SFF companies include ASUS and AOpen.
posted by lotsofno at 5:56 PM on January 16, 2005

I have an antec aria with a k7s41 in it. more of a do-it-yourself solution than the more integrated offerings, but it's much more flexible (e.g. having 2 pci slots let me stick a tdm card as well as a 4-port ethernet switch card in it)
posted by dorian at 5:57 PM on January 16, 2005

Don't forget about Mini-ITX machines. The VIA C3-based ones can be pretty anemic for day-to-day use, but there are Intel Pentium 4-based, Pentium-M and AMD Athlon ones as well (check here).
posted by mrg at 5:59 PM on January 16, 2005

also, second the Optiplex SX line - they're very small machines.
posted by mrg at 6:00 PM on January 16, 2005

Vapourware warning.

Though the release date keeps getting pushed back, the Nano-ITX-based Nanode has to be the best-looking SFF computer anywhere. It won't play Doom3 but just look at it...
posted by blag at 8:05 PM on January 16, 2005

I've built four machines around the VIA EPIA mini-ITX motherboards (the V10000As; I bought mine here).

I'm using one as a headless backup server (running Fedora Core 3), one in a really tiny case running Asterisk as a VOIP PBX, and two with low-profile nVidia GeForce FX (PCI) video cards as desktop machines (one Windows XP, one FC3).

Running Windows, they make great basic Windows boxes for web browsing, Microsoft Office, etc. Under Fedora Core 3, the video is a bit slower (even with the nVidia binary drivers) but still perfectly usable.

This is only with the C3 Ezra CPUs; I've not tried the C3 Nemeniah boards with more cache onboard or any of the models that take DDR RAM instead of PC133.
posted by mrbill at 9:14 PM on January 16, 2005

my computer is a shuttle st62k. it's particular in the line of shuttle XPC computers in that it's the smallest of the bunch. it's also the quietest -- its power supply is external, and passively cooled, so the only fan needed is for the processor chip. it's really a remarkable machine, and i'm very happy with it.

i'm not aware of any readymade SFF systems that are being sold right now ... so you may have to build the system yourself. the good news is that this isn't hard, particularly as most SFF manufacturers take after Shuttle and ship "barebones" systems with the mainboard already soldered to a chassis. but you will have to purchase ram, hd and cd/dvd drives, a processor chip and peripherals (kbd/mouse) seperately.

for me, installing the processor chip among all that is the most difficult. (i.e.: set the chip into the socket, spread the thermal conductor grease on top of the processor, and then set the heat sink on top of that. if you mess up, you'll have an expensive if not interesting chunk of exotic metals and minerals that will mock you in its uselessness.)

if you have to buy a keyboard and mouse, i recommend picking up an apple pro keyboard and The Mouse from Mac Mice.
posted by moz at 10:15 PM on January 16, 2005

i'm not aware of any readymade SFF systems that are being sold right now

Depends on what you mean by "small form factor". If you're talking about the SFF chassis architecture, I think there are only a few. In general, though, most of the major manufacturers have oodles of small, ready-made corporate PCs which are not designed to be easily upgradeable -- e.g. this year-old CNET review. As it happens, I think the Shuttle systems beat the pants off of most of these because they appear well-designed inside and should be a cinch to upgrade by comparison (but then corporate boxen rarely get those upgrades anymore -- it's much cheaper to send them downstream). You're just looking at branding codes like "slim" instead.
posted by dhartung at 11:07 PM on January 16, 2005

FWIW I have a BioStar Ideq at home and am very happy with it, problem free. If you want specs or more info feel free to shoot me an e-mail.
posted by AllesKlar at 1:26 PM on January 17, 2005

When is nano-ITX coming out?
posted by glibhamdreck at 2:48 PM on January 17, 2005

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