Introduction

Even though micro-ATX motherboards have been in rather widespread use for a while now, the small form factor PC is still relatively new to most people. Show an average PC user a no-holds-barred system roughly the size of a bowling ball and they will most likely be impressed... even if they already know about Mac Minis and Shuttle PCs. This is not to say that the market isn't growing, however. Indeed the computer industry as a whole will probably never cease to try to miniaturize even the most powerful of machines, even if there are already computers smaller than a C battery.

Smaller contraptions containing more processing power pose real thermo-dynamic challenges though, and without good enclosures systems built in these compact sizes will be prone to all sorts of problems stemming from the high heat levels. Unfortunately, the only way most manufacturers deal with heat problems is by compensating with more noisy fans, which ironically defeats a primary purpose of the small form factor PC - simply being a less noticeable computer.

Worse yet, even if a case company happens to get the heat and noise issues of a small PC enclosure handled admirably, they might make the case so impossibly difficult to work in that no one would ever want to put up with the headache of installing parts in it. Extrapolating this mentality brings us to an even worse scenario, where a company would choose to use the case to build a mass quantity of miniaturized computers and they could lose all sorts of revenue simply to lost time spent futzing with poor construction.

As usual with our evaluation of computer cases we have decided it is most beneficial to view several models at once to see how different manufacturers choose to handle the design challenges. We'll compare these techniques to give an overview of not only what we think about these particular models, but the ideas and methodology used to design these units and how they might be improved.

From a mile-high perspective, here's how the three cases we are looking at in this article 'stack up'.


(TL: Tool-less, TS: Thumbscrews, SS: Standard Screws, TR: Tool-less rails, SR: Screwed rails)

Antec Aria - Exterior
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  • shenoyh - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Just curious..there seems to be enough space and screw-holes for a regular ATX motherboard ...though it would be a tight fit. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    If it can fit a regular ATX board, it would no longer be a micro-ATX case - at least, that's how I see it. Reply
  • OrSin - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    How can you do a M-ATX review and not have the Sugo in it. Its price is nice and workmanship on par with the Qmicra. With the huge difference in pricing I would think even full systems can be reveiwed. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Generally, we review what we get. If Sugo wants to send Josh a case for review, I'm sure he would be happy to include it. Obviously, a look at three cases is not going to be a comprehensive roundup, but it's virtually impossible to include every potential candidate in an article. Reply
  • KingDaPuma - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Great review. Thanks. I note that the cases were tested with the GeForce 6600GT. Will any of the new DX10 cards (GeForce 8800, ATI R600, etc.) fit within any of these SFF cases? Reply
  • blinkin2000 - Wednesday, January 03, 2007 - link

    The 8800GTX Fits but you must cut a hole for power connectors and you loose the lower 5.25" bay, but it fits. Reply
  • blinkin2000 - Wednesday, January 03, 2007 - link

    in the microfly Reply
  • wilburpan - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    If I read your review correctly, it looks like the main source of noise was from the power supply fan. Would it be possible to replace the fan to try to cut down on the noise? Failing that, are these power supplies proprietary enough so that they can't be swapped out? Reply
  • mpc7488 - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    From the Microfly Final Words: "If you want to use a different full-size ATX PSU, you can get the case only for as little as $50."

    IMO, accepting a full-size ATX replacement is a huge plus for this case. Everyone I know with a Shuttle cube has had a power supply fail in 1-2 years, they're not that cheap to replace, and output capacities are very limited.
    Reply
  • Schmide - Friday, January 05, 2007 - link

    Agreed, However I got this case and the funny thing is the X-connect doesn't fit in this case. Aren't these the same brand. Lollerskates... Reply

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