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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  • CrystalBay - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    Hi, How about the dual Opteron Iwill, that keeps flashing on the right.
  • skunklet - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    there is an ideq with an embedded c3 proc that i would love to see a review of.
  • gerf - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    I'd been looking at that Biostar SFF, as its specs are better than the equivalent Shuttle version, and is much cheaper. And now you drop a great review for it! I think that both I and my brother are going to use it for our new systems. Thank you for the kickarse review!
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    #6 - fixed, along with a few other things I noticed. If anyone sees anything else, feel free to drop me a line.

    #7/#8 - both of those are on the list of S939 systems we have coming for review. (We haven't received the PCIe one yet, but it should arrive sometime soon.) Unfortunately, most of the "high end" SFFs that we currently have are S775 for whatever reason. I think we have eight 775 units and only three 939 right now. I'd really like to see additional S754 units as well, since Sempron is moving in that direction.

    I think one of the reasons that we're seeing more Intel SFFs is due to the chipset support. 865G is really almost the same price as 865PE, so the integrated graphics are "free". They're not good for gaming, but for most other tasks they work well. The only AMD platform chipsets with IGP are currently the outdated VIA K8M800 and the SiS stuff, although there are some newer offerings.

    In case any of you aren't aware of this, we really can't afford to simply go out and purchase every item that we want to review. Since the reviews are basically "free" advertising (although if a unit has serious problems, it may not be good), the manufacturers have to send us the parts. In case any manufacturers are reading this, get in touch with us and we'll be happy to review any of your SFFs that you send our way! There are quite a few manufacturers that aren't currently represented.
  • Phantronius - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    Im hoping the SN25P turns out to be reliable unlike the SN95G.

    That and the way the PCI-E cards are facing the opposite direction makes me wonder about heat with both slots taken up. Hrmm....
  • REMF - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    AT - don't even consider doing your high-end round up until you have the new nForce4 P-series Shuttle due to be released at the end of the month.

    i would also like to see the nForce3 G5-Series Shuttle compared against it, and other high-end SFF chassis'. :D
  • AtaStrumf - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    WAU, that is one massive review! Good work guys.

    Just one typo to point out on page 8:

    The iDEQ doesn't include any notable extras **included**, but it does have all of the high quality standard features that we like.

    There was one more "it" that shoud have been "if", but I forgot where it was. Sorry :-)

    I thought this article would include a MAC mini, but I guess that will be a separate article altogether.

    If I may, I would suggest you only focus on SFF systems which stand out in a positive way and stay clear of the ones that don't. Just seems like a lot of pointless work.
  • MIDIman - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    Been waiting for anand's SFF reviews. Looking forward to the A64-939 / Intel 775 review that I'm sure will be next.

    arswihart - Note that the SB61G2V3 is Shuttle's latest socket 478, Intel-based system. All of their newer products are socket 775 which will be in a later review. However, I think there are plenty on the AMD side that could've been covered instead that are socket 754...the SN85G4V3 ain't too shabby.
  • quidpro - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    Absolutely no way that 7 bright blue leds in the Aopen (which only get brighter) should be considered acceptable or "minor" for an entertainment system, in my opinion. My shuttle has only two lights and I've had to cover them up with electrical tape with a small pinhole in order to cut down on the extremely distracting glare coming from it while watching a movie...the orange HD led flashes (as it should) which is even more distracting...
  • arswihart - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    what the hell were they thinking when they chose to review this obsolete Shuttle system?

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