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Hardware  » Small form factor builds?

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25 posts found
  frillycheesesteak

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/12
Posts: 32

 
OP  12/11/12 3:56:29 AM#1
Hi all. I've been reading up on building smaller rigs lately and have finally taken the plunge into it. I'll be putting together a full-featured gaming rig that all fits inside a Sugo SG08. Just wondering, are there any other MMORPG gamers out there who play on a SFF build? I don't have my rig yet but I'd like to hear others' opinions on SFF gaming.

Read my blog where I write about games and stuff.

  miguksaram

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/29/03
Posts: 827

12/11/12 5:21:04 AM#2

I've learned to appreciate the power you can pack into SFF PC's these days without that much sacrifice (in some cases ZERO).  I realize you already purchased your parts but if you haven't checked out the following forums I HIGHLY suggest you do.

http://hardforum.com/forumdisplay.php?f=102

My wifes PC I build (pics under my profile) probably doesn't qualify as a true SFF but it's still a great use of space for a mATX board build and as you can see next to my mid tower case it looks tiny yet is actually more powerful, quieter and gives off less heat (kinda pisses me off to be honest).  I also have a HTPC which uses a mATX build that I could easily throw one of my spare GTX560 Ti's into and it would be a pretty damn decent gaming PC (recently upgraded my GTX 560 Ti SLI build to a Asus GTX 680 DirectCUII OC edition).

Needless to say when you look at most peoples builds they rarely, if every, actually use the extra PCI slots which makes me wonder why "standard" ATX is actually the standard anymore.  The thermal issues typically associated with SFF builds are largerly no longer an issue thanks to better case/hardware engineering.

In the future any build I do will be in as small a form factor as my gaming needs will allow, which is pretty damn small considering how much power you can pack into a Silverstone SG05 for example.

  Ridelynn

Elite Member

Joined: 12/19/10
Posts: 3360

12/11/12 10:31:20 AM#3

The only real difference between a standard Mid-Tower/Tower ATX and a SFF (mATX or smaller) is really in the difficulty of assembly. You can more or less pack the same equipment in either build, it's just going to be a lot harder to get it hooked up in a smaller form factor, and you have to consider cooling a bit more (most installations will be fine, but you can get into some trouble if you don't keep your eye on it).

If you want to tinker with your build, I wouldn't go SFF, because they can be a pain in the butt to put together or change around (compared to standard ATX, where you have lots of room between components and some open space to work in).

But aside from that, there are SFF cases that can accomodate oversized video cards, multiple video cards, and multiple hard drives, so you don't necessarily need to skimp on performance (unless you are trying to get extremely small).

  Quizzical

Guide

Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 13308

12/11/12 11:38:16 AM#4

How much you're restricted by a small form factor build depends tremendously on how small of a form factor you have in mind.  As others have said, you can get a Micro ATX build without losing much, though some Micro ATX towers are about the same size as mid-towers, but just can't take full ATX motherboards.

Mini ITX means you're considerably more restricted.  You can still build a genuinely high end gaming rig around the Silverstone SG08 that you're looking at, but you'll have to be careful about what parts you pick.  You'll need a Mini ITX motherboard, for starters, which excludes most of them.  You'll also need a slim optical drive, which also excludes most of them. A large fraction of CPU coolers won't physically fit.  Three-slot video cards are out, as is any multi-GPU setup.  An external exhaust video card is desirable, though not absolutely essential.  And assembly is definitely going to be cramped.

You might want to look at this site, just for an idea of which parts they can make fit:

http://www.avadirect.com/nano-gaming-pc-configurator.asp?PRID=19636

There are smaller form factors yet, such as laptops.  And then the Zotac Zbox and some competitors.  But those involve major sacrifices in performance, which might be why you're not looking at them.

  Castillle

Forum Bunny

Joined: 10/24/10
Posts: 2681

12/11/12 5:25:04 PM#5

I have a SG08 that quiz sugested to me months back! Its awesome but the main problem with moving it around is that you must have a monitor in the places youre going to go or have a hard time lugging around a huge monitor :(

 

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  frillycheesesteak

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/12
Posts: 32

 
OP  12/11/12 8:41:38 PM#6

Wow, thanks everyone for the very insightful responses! I'd gotten more feedback than I hoped for, but I'll go through it all one by one.


Originally posted by miguksaram Needless to say when you look at most peoples builds they rarely, if every, actually use the extra PCI slots which makes me wonder why "standard" ATX is actually the standard anymore.  The thermal issues typically associated with SFF builds are largerly no longer an issue thanks to better case/hardware engineering.

This is exactly the case I find myself in (no pun intended). I had a full-sized tower for years before I realized I never used any of the expansion ports anyway; why waste space? It's also worth noting that I move around a lot - but not enough to warrant spending the premium for a gaming laptop - and SFF builds (ITX in particular) appeal to me for their portability versus ATX cases. I agree with you in wondering why the standard is still ATX when the only demographics that might still be interested in all the expansion slots a full-sized motherboard offers are the extreme hardcore gamers and possibly professional multimedia (video/audio) engineers.


Originally posted by Ridelynn If you want to tinker with your build, I wouldn't go SFF, because they can be a pain in the butt to put together or change around (compared to standard ATX, where you have lots of room between components and some open space to work in).

By "tinker," I assume you mean constantly opening up and modifying the rig? I don't think I'll be doing that. After the initial build, I don't see myself going into it again unless a specific upgrade is in order - and after making the purchases of all the necessary parts, that won't be for a while.


Originally posted by Quizzical There are smaller form factors yet, such as laptops.  And then the Zotac Zbox and some competitors.  But those involve major sacrifices in performance, which might be why you're not looking at them.

I'm looking specifically at mITX. mATX still feels a bit clunky to me, and I really don't have need for ANY expansion slots aside from the PCI-E. It's just not necessary for what I intend to use the PC for. Gaming laptops, while great in theory, are quite far beyond what I can afford right now and the thought of never being able to really upgrade them after they're purchased doesn't quite appeal to me. Also, from the experience I've had with gaming laptops so far, they tend to gradually develop problems with overheating, presumably due to fans giving out, heatsink assemblies tarnishing, or thermal paste drying up.


Originally posted by Castillle I have a SG08 that quiz sugested to me months back! Its awesome but the main problem with moving it around is that you must have a monitor in the places youre going to go or have a hard time lugging around a huge monitor :(

Aside from lugging around a monitor, have you had any other issues with it? Are there problems with overheating or airflow? The two main places I'll be lugging the unit around both have space monitors, so that won't be a problem for me thankfully, but I'd like to know your experience with the SG08 specifically; as it's exactly the case I'll be using.

I realize I never gave the specs of the mITX I'll be putting together once all the parts arrive. Here they are:

CPU: Intel Core i3-3220 Dual-Core Processor 3.3 Ghz 3 MB Cache LGA 1155 - BX80637i33220
GPU: Galaxy GeForce GTX 560 Ti GC 1 GB GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 DVI/DVI/Mini-HDMI SLI Ready Graphics Card, 56NGH6HS4IXZ
MoBo: ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard
SDD: SAMSUNG 830 Series 2.5-Inch 128GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) MZ-7PC128B/WW
HDD: Western Digital Caviar Green 3 TB SATA III 64 MB Cache Bare/OEM Desktop Hard Drive - WD30EZRX
ODD: Panasonic UJ240 6x Blu-ray Burner BD-RE/8x DVD±RW DL SATA Drive (Black)

The forum flagged my initial reply that was complete with URL links to the above products as spam, so I had to remove them. I intend to use it as an all-purpose HTPC, for gaming, media, and very very light video/audio editing (I want to start making Let's Plays). Thank you all for your valuable input, it's much appreciated!

Read my blog where I write about games and stuff.

  Quizzical

Guide

Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 13308

12/11/12 9:05:29 PM#7
Originally posted by frillycheesesteak

CPU: Intel Core i3-3220 Dual-Core Processor 3.3 Ghz 3 MB Cache LGA 1155 - BX80637i33220
GPU: Galaxy GeForce GTX 560 Ti GC 1 GB GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 DVI/DVI/Mini-HDMI SLI Ready Graphics Card, 56NGH6HS4IXZ

The processor is on the slow side, especially for its price tag.  But you can't really get a Mini ITX motherboard for Socket AM3+, and even if you could, you could justify going with the Core i3 anyway for the energy efficiency in such a small form factor.  A Core i5-3570 is better, of course, but also more expensive, so it's a question of budget.

The video card, on the other hand, is a big mistake, unless you found a really great price on it.  By "really great", I mean something like $100 new including shipping and before rebates, and not just slightly cheaper than you were expecting.

In a small form factor, heat matters, as ability to dissipate heat is the main thing you gain with larger form factors.  A video card that puts out a ton of heat and sprays it everywhere within the case is exactly what you want to avoid if you can.

And in this case, it's pretty easy to avoid it.  Fermi cards were poor at energy efficiency even by the standards of three years ago (before they launched!), and are downright terrible today.  You could get a faster card like this:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814125451

and have it still put out vastly less heat than any GeForce GTX 560 Ti.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that there's no plausible reason to get the card you chose unless it's a lot cheaper than the one I just linked.  Not just a little cheaper; a lot cheaper.  And even then, I'd be hesitant.

If you happen to have a strong preference for Nvidia rather than AMD, then the cards to look at are the GeForce GTX 650 Ti and the GeForce GTX 660, though neither is a direct replacement in performance level for the GeForce GTX 560 Ti, as the 650 Ti is slower and the 660 is faster.  You might want to see if you can cancel the order for the video card and get something more appropriate to a small form factor.

  stayontarget

Guide

Joined: 10/04/08
Posts: 6127

Girlfriends come and go but Epic battles are Soulbound

12/11/12 9:23:09 PM#8

I built a SFF a few years back and I kinda regret it, it was just too small and limiting on what type of VC & PSU you can use.  Pain in the ass to clean or replace parts.

For my next build i went with MATX factor with this case http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OHtzUVuQtC0 .  Best build I have ever made and i have made quite a few, large and small.  (best MATX mini-tower case around imo) throw in a Asrock mobo, SSD, HDD, and a full size videocard and you're good to go.

Velika: City of Wheels: Among the mortal races, the humans were the only one that never built cities or great empires; a curse laid upon them by their creator, Gidd, forced them to wander as nomads for twenty centuries...

  frillycheesesteak

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/12
Posts: 32

 
OP  12/12/12 12:00:58 AM#9
Originally posted by Quizzical

You might want to see if you can cancel the order for the video card and get something more appropriate to a small form factor.

Ah, shit.

As for the CPU, yeah, it's definitely quite underpowered compared to what I'd prefer; but an i5 at this point isn't an option, specifically due to budget reasons. I feel terrible now knowing that the GTX 560 Ti isn't a good choice; all the research I'd done before placing the order suggested it was the best card in terms of bang/buck ratio, so I built around that.

Please excuse me for a while as I proceed to kick myself in the head.

Read my blog where I write about games and stuff.

  Quizzical

Guide

Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 13308

12/12/12 10:02:59 AM#10
Originally posted by frillycheesesteak
Originally posted by Quizzical

You might want to see if you can cancel the order for the video card and get something more appropriate to a small form factor.

As for the CPU, yeah, it's definitely quite underpowered compared to what I'd prefer; but an i5 at this point isn't an option, specifically due to budget reasons. I feel terrible now knowing that the GTX 560 Ti isn't a good choice; all the research I'd done before placing the order suggested it was the best card in terms of bang/buck ratio, so I built around that.

Most likely, you were reading stuff a year to a year and a half old, or perhaps even launch day reviews from a little older than that, when the new generation of cards wasn't out yet.  And you were probably also reading stuff written by people who assumed a larger desktop where heat output really didn't matter.

The GeForce 400 and 500 series cards were a disaster for Nvidia, as they cost vastly more to produce and used substantially more power than their AMD equivalents.  That meant that Nvidia couldn't be competitive on price/performance with most of their lineup, so the few cards that did were rather excessively praised by Nvidia fanboys.  Someone who was partial to AMD could have recommended just about any of the cards AMD produced on a price/performance basis, while Nvidia fans were pretty much restricted to the GeForce GTX 460, GTX 560 Ti, and maybe the GTX 570.

Another thing to note about price/performance is that it depends on prices that day.  If the problem with a card is that it usually costs $200 while you can get something just as good elsewhere for $150, but that "$200" card is available for $100 today, then it might well be great on a price/performance basis today even if it was terrible yesterday.

The more general principle is to ask what to get before you place the order--and to ask someone who isn't trying to sell you things.  You did much better than most of the people who come here and say, "I just bought this at random.  Is it any good?"  But still, it's much better to ask before making a purchase rather than after.

  miguksaram

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/29/03
Posts: 827

12/13/12 12:37:48 AM#11

I'll make this short and sweet, I own two GTX560 Ti which I used to run in SLI in my Silverstone FT-02 case (check my profile for pics) and I have to agree with everyone here regarding their use in a small form factor or general purchase as it stands to today...JUST NO!!!  They give off way too much heat and while they were a "good" deal for a time, that period has come and gone.  If you can, get a more modern 600 series card.

The Silverstone Temjin series or TJ-08 in above youtube link is considered by many "THE" best bang for you buck mATX case available today.  My wife's case (pics also available under my profile) is a cheaper version known as the Precision series or PS-07.  It is for all intensive purposes the same case minus some plastic and a different front fan configuration which is why I personally find the PS-07 the best bang for you buck today in the mATX department.  But you already mentioned you are looking to go the minimalist route of mITX in which case the SG08 is probably one of the best available (the SG-05 is more beloved but that is simply because it's as small as you can get with current length of top end GPUs, thermals on the otherhand will suffer vs the SG-08).

  Castillle

Forum Bunny

Joined: 10/24/10
Posts: 2681

12/13/12 5:50:12 PM#12

The only airflow problem youd have is if you used those umm...aftermarket graphics card coolers that arent like...Blower style that blasts the air it takes right out of the case.

Right now Im sitting at a decent 52 GPU, 52 core 1 cpu,  54 core 2 cpu while playing Smite o.o

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  frillycheesesteak

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/12
Posts: 32

 
OP  12/14/12 12:30:52 AM#13

Well, my luck with possibly getting a return on the 560 TI is shot. I just might go and find someone to buy it off me locally.

An honest question, though; will it really be that much of an issue? I do understand what heat can do to a system. However, I do not intend at all to overclock any of my components, nor will I be doing anything more intense than regular gaming. Should I still expect my components to all overheat in that case? I read that the SG08 has excellent cooling for its size and that its single case fan is enough to handle cooling the internals.

I'll definitely upgrade to a 660 or similar when I can. However I'm asking, with what I bought right now and considering the predicament I'm in, would it still be safe to even have that GPU in my rig during the interim at all?

Read my blog where I write about games and stuff.

  frillycheesesteak

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/12
Posts: 32

 
OP  12/14/12 12:32:07 AM#14
Originally posted by Castillle

The only airflow problem youd have is if you used those umm...aftermarket graphics card coolers that arent like...Blower style that blasts the air it takes right out of the case.

Right now Im sitting at a decent 52 GPU, 52 core 1 cpu,  54 core 2 cpu while playing Smite o.o

Apologies for the doublepost, but I just wanted to single this case out. Do you have a system specced out similarly to mine, Castillle?

Read my blog where I write about games and stuff.

  aRtFuLThinG

Advanced Member

Joined: 4/30/09
Posts: 1011

12/14/12 12:51:27 AM#15

The only and by far the biggest problem with Form Factor box for gaming was never really a question of power. It is a question of cooling.

 

When I was younger I did a lot of on site tech support work and I'd say most of the Form Factor machines problem in which we will have to call in for replacement has to do with overheating killing components (in fact mostly to do with HDD, not so much the CPU or GPU, and it is because the box is small and HDD often times has to be really touching the case, and that's not ideal).

 

That has always been the issue.

 

If somehow the newer technologies can resolve that then I don't see it as much of a problem with SFF gaming rigs.

  miguksaram

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/29/03
Posts: 827

12/14/12 1:06:11 AM#16
Originally posted by frillycheesesteak
Originally posted by Castillle

The only airflow problem youd have is if you used those umm...aftermarket graphics card coolers that arent like...Blower style that blasts the air it takes right out of the case.

Right now Im sitting at a decent 52 GPU, 52 core 1 cpu,  54 core 2 cpu while playing Smite o.o

Apologies for the doublepost, but I just wanted to single this case out. Do you have a system specced out similarly to mine, Castillle?

If you have a reference cooler, which means it pushes air out the back of the card, it's not as bad but it's still not ideal.  Both of the cards I have are reference nvidia cards and the amount of heat they push literally made gaming uncomfortable without having the AC on.  Will it effect your rig, not by much, but it will certainly effect your overall experience while gaming (unless you typically game with an AC or fan blowing on you.

  frillycheesesteak

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/12
Posts: 32

 
OP  12/14/12 1:54:57 AM#17

I'm getting scared. Yes, I believe the GPU I got is a reference design one, but now I'm not so sure. Well, only thing left to do now is just wait for the parts to arrive and build the thing, hoping for the best.

@aRtFuLThinG, how long ago was your experience in tech support? When I researched on what case to get for my build, most mITX-specific sites do put a premium on how well the cases can keep their components cooled. The reason why I leaned towards the SG08 in the first place is because of site - and user - reviews that kept saying it's among the best in that regard. If you have first-hand experience with the case, I'd gladly appreciate your thoughts on it and its cooling ability!

Read my blog where I write about games and stuff.

  miguksaram

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/29/03
Posts: 827

12/14/12 2:04:41 AM#18
Originally posted by frillycheesesteak

I'm getting scared. Yes, I believe the GPU I got is a reference design one, but now I'm not so sure. Well, only thing left to do now is just wait for the parts to arrive and build the thing, hoping for the best.

@aRtFuLThinG, how long ago was your experience in tech support? When I researched on what case to get for my build, most mITX-specific sites do put a premium on how well the cases can keep their components cooled. The reason why I leaned towards the SG08 in the first place is because of site - and user - reviews that kept saying it's among the best in that regard. If you have first-hand experience with the case, I'd gladly appreciate your thoughts on it and its cooling ability!

Did you bother checking out the forum link I provided in my first post?  If you didn't I'm not sure what to tell you beyond in the future you should probably take the time to educate yourself on a subject you might not know much about from those that are enthusiasts of said subject before you spend your money (hence the reason I posted the link).  If you did you should be aware of the temps you can expect to see with specific hardware in your preferred case.

  frillycheesesteak

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/12
Posts: 32

 
OP  12/14/12 2:32:41 AM#19

I did check out the forum, and actually some of the information I gathered about the Silverstone in general came from there before I bought the components I did. They rave about the SG08 in general.

I honestly thought I'd done enough research, which is why I bit the bullet and bought the components in the first place; however now it seems that the research I'd done is outdated. It really pains me to say that I might end up regretting my build once I do finally get it; however, on the other hand, I probably wouldn't have even realized there was something wrong with the build until I did bring it up here.

Well, now I know; and knowing is half the battle.

Read my blog where I write about games and stuff.

  miguksaram

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/29/03
Posts: 827

12/14/12 6:10:40 AM#20

The majority of your build is current minus the GPU.  The one thing I need to stress when you look a forums is the current age of the most recent forum.  What you purchased is not a bad machine but rather not a current machine either.  That is and will most likely remain the main issue with part selection.  The fact that the current GPU cards can easily exceed 2Gb's is something to conider.

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