Which small form-factor PC is best?



So… for a secret email server in your State Department office?

1 Like

For a while, I was a fan of Shuttle boxes as well. First was an SK41G (from the Athlon XP days) that is collecting dust but still works, and then an SN21G5 (early dual core Athlon 64). I used that as my main desktop for several years, but the capacitors on the motherboard crapped out, and it wasn’t really worth recapping. I was considering reusing the case with a Mini-ITX board, but the front panel USB ports used a proprietary ribbon cable instead of standard connectors. No more Shuttle boxes for me.

I can’t help but wonder how many billions of dollars have been wasted because of junk capacitors, but that’s a different rant.

I can’t speak for the more beefy brix units, but I’ve bought a couple of the fanless N2807-powered boxes and they’re fantastic as media players. It won’t handle 4k or high bitrate 3D or anything crazy like that, but for a secondary system for a bedroom, it’s perfect. Anything reasonable (<8Mbit) plays flawlessly. The thing uses practically no power at idle, and not much more loaded up. Not bad for $110 + storage and RAM.

1 Like

My last case was a large aluminum tower. Kinda HUGE, but so wonderfully light I swore off of steel. (sort of like when I swore off of crt screens)

Now that smaller doesn’t necessarily mean underpowered, I’ve been dreaming of such, and that ncase looks absolutely sublime. Except I’m not sure I really want to build another computer. (and do I finally buy windows again? systemd scares me) Maybe I’ll give the alienware a try, it seems like a not-terrible choice that fits the most of the bill with minimal effort.

I almost lost a monitor that way. Luckily I apparently a) correctly diagnosed the problem, b) recognized that I did not have the skill to carry out the requisite repairs, and c) found someone who could for 50 bucks.

Stupid capacitors…

As much as I’d rather not have my computers look like tupperware, HP seems to be the winner of this round, unless chromeboxes are more your thing.

The NUCs are slightly smaller; but offer the opportunity to pay higher, sometimes strikingly higher, prices for CPUs that will likely be let down by the rest of the system. The ‘Brix’ units are basically tackier NUCs; but with obnoxiously loud cooling if you go for the (still mediocre, because of size and thermal constraints) discrete graphics.

There are SteamBox-ish things on the market already (Falcon Northwest’s Tiki, for example) but you pay a hefty premium for prebuilt SFF gaming boxes. More such SFF gaming PCs are scheduled for the holiday season… dunno what your schedule is.

Assuming you’re building your own: for gaming your primary performance constraint is your resolution. If your combined resolution is 3.5 megapixels or larger (anything over 2560x1440) then you’ll need to use multiple GPUs to achieve consistent 60 Hz performance in the latest games with all the pretties on… unless you want to spend $1000 on a Titan X which is hugely marked up (and this is to say nothing of driving a 120+ Hz gamer-oriented display). If you want high res and/or high refresh rates in bleeding-edge games, ITX is out and mATX is in (mini-ITX boards only support one GPU).

If you don’t need to max out the game settings on a hi-res display and you’re not fussed about displays with high refresh rates, then a single GPU is the way to go and ITX will serve you fine. My favorite case under 20 liters is probably Fractal Design’s Node 304, but it’s six liters larger than the M1 (it’s also less than half the cost, which you could put towards an SSD or beefier GPU). Silverstone’s SG08-Lite is also nice, and closer in size to the M1.

Were you looking for parts recommendations or build guides? Here’s a $1000 mini-ITX gaming build from a bit ago; I’ve a few more price points there to the side as well.

If you get a small case, be sure to note what format of PSU it will fit. Many of them will only take SFX units, which is the smaller and far less common of the two consumer PC power supply sizes (ATX is the other). The M1 you linked will fit either format of PSU but loses some hardware mounts and space inside if you stuff an ATX PSU in.

The Alienware Alpha doesn’t even have an Alpha processor in it LOL

The EAI TR series seem promising.


This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.