It has been quite a while since we had regular SFF reviews here at AnandTech, but that's all about to change. We've been working for a few months on getting all the parts necessary for testing, and now we're ready to "re-launch" the Small Form Factor review section! Initially, we had thoughts of trying to get all the units that we currently have tested and reviewed, but that would not only take a long time to complete, but it would also make for one massive article. In order to get things out in a more digestible form and in a timelier manner, we've decided to break up our initial roundups into three groups.

This is the first part of what will be a three-part series of SFF roundups. For this installment, we're including all of the socket 478 and 754 units that we have in our possession, and the platforms should be roughly comparable in terms of features and performance. While the platforms are a little older, don't let that deter you. The newer platforms tend to be more expensive, and while performance may be higher, performance is not everything. We'll continue with a roundup of socket 939 units and finish up with socket 775, so if those platforms hold more interest for you, stay tuned.

Before we get into the actual units themselves, it is important to lay the groundwork for how these reviews will be conducted. SFF units are a bit differnt from many of the other components that we review. For a motherboard, we're generally looking at performance and features. The same goes for graphics cards and processors. Cases are a different story, as performance isn't typically a concern. What we're looking at there is ease of use, aesthetics, noise levels, cooling, expandability, and features. Not surprisingly - given that an SFF is part case, part motherboard - SFFs contain elements of both types of components. That means that we have to look at the performance and features offered, but we have to look at the overall design as well, like we would with a case. Their small size also makes them potentially useful to other markets that would not normally consider purchasing a large PC case; for example, the Home Theater PC crowd.

Recently, we did a First Contact article on the topic of who might want to look at Small Form Factor systems. If you haven't ever given the subject much thought, we suggest that you start there to get some idea where we're coming from and whether or not you would be interested in such a case. There are definitely individuals who would have issues being "forced" into a SFF system, but for most people, they offer everything that you would need.

Reviewing a Small Form Factor System
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  • gerf - Thursday, March 24, 2005 - link

    I noticed! :D

    but i doubt that you will notice back anyway. Heh
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 6, 2005 - link

    Touche! And only 9 months late. LOL
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - link

    UPDATE! I screwed up in comment 28 above and neglected to mention this in the article. The iDEQ 210P actually *CAN* use a two slot graphics card. That makes high-end cards like the 6800 Ultra an option, as well as quieter solutions like the Silencer GPU HSF. I'm not sure how many will actually notice this post, but it's one more point in favor of the 210P.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, February 18, 2005 - link

    Update: I inadvertently stated that the ASUS quick-boot mode supports MP3 CDs. It does not. Sorry for any confusion. The Aopen and Foxconn do support this feature, but my brain got a little scambled in the process of reviewing all five units.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, February 18, 2005 - link

    27 - at least for the units in this roundup, none of them could take a large two-slot graphics card. The AGP slots are all on the outside, so the HSF would end up outside the case. Clearance even with the X800 Pro used was tight on several of the cases and it required a bit of finagling to install. Any of the cards that use a large cooler like the Silencer would also not fit in the cases. I'll be sure to make note of any SFFs that could actually accept a two-slot GPU, though.
  • benjin - Friday, February 18, 2005 - link

    Excellent reviews, I appreciate all the hard work.

    Since noise is a big issue, it'd be nice to see how well some of the new, larger and passively cooled video cards fit, if at all.

    I could see that as being difficult since they'll all be different, but maybe future reviews could offer an idea of how much clearance would be available to work with.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, February 17, 2005 - link

    The Kloss is amoung the systems in the 775 roundup I'm working on. Do they have a 939 version as well?
  • Noli - Thursday, February 17, 2005 - link

    can you include the Trigem Kloss as well pls? Sounds and looks pretty cool.. (esp if they have an A64 version - anyone know?)

  • JarredWalton - Thursday, February 17, 2005 - link

    23 - I've sent a request to Biostar for any additional units, particularly Athlon 64 units. The same goes for several other companies.
  • REMF - Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - link

    Biostar are are about to release an nForce4 SFF in their 300 series chassis. :D

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