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Choosing the PC Case That's Right For You

- Page 8/11
June 7, 2006
By Thomas Soderstrom

Form Factors (Continued)

Slim Towers/Slim Desktops

The thinnest cases use either half-height-slots or a riser card that turns the slot sideways, both methods hindering card selection.

Antec's Minuet 300 uses half-height slots and proprietary power.

While half-height cards are common, they normally come attached to full-height brackets and without the needed half-height bracket for conversion. Further, half-height graphics cards are normally limited to low-end parts with reduced 64-bit memory pathways, as the top of the card is where additional RAM and its pathways would have gone.

Cooler Master's CM Media 260 shows a typical riser card implementation

Riser cards restrict the type of card interface a buyer can choose, as well as limiting motherboard selection. We often find riser-cards lining up to empty slots, or an incompatible slot type, such as PCI Express x1 slot where the PCI riser card is intended to go. Still, riser card cases may be an adequate solution for buyers willing to compromise their motherboard and card selections to match the case.

SFF and microATX Cubes

Small Form Factor (originally Shuttle Form Factor) systems rely on tiny Flex-ATX boards as found in many OEM dictionary-sized PC's. As such, they have many of the same restrictions as those much ridiculed systems, such as cooling problems for multiple hard drives (when available), no room for oversized graphics card coolers, miniaturized power supplies, and a narrow selection of compatible motherboards. If you ever need more than one PCI slot, even in the distant future, you're out of luck.

Nevertheless, SFF has been promoted for portable gaming systems, even though it usually can't support top graphics cards. SFF has been promoted for limited desk space, even though it has a larger footprint than many towers. SFF has been promoted for home theater PC's because of a resemblance to miniature audio systems, even though it integrates into home theater racks as poorly as those miniature audio systems. A single PCI slot cannot support multiple tuner cards or a tuner and high end sound card simultaneously. SFF's main advantage over OEM mini systems is the use of full-height card slots.

A standard SFF system from Shuttle, with TFX power supply

The inferiority of Flex ATX for anything greater than basic office duty has lead to the release of larger microATX cubes. Though it seems almost idiotic to consider the wide-footprint SFF a "space saving" alternative to narrower mid-towers, the microATX versions are even wider ... nearly 50 percent wider than many full-towers!

Antec's Aria Micro-ATX cube resembles SFF, but with fewer restrictions

Table of Contents
•  Introduction
•  Quality Materials and Construction and Adequate Cooling
•  Upgradeability
•  Added Value Features
•  We're gonna party like it's 1999!
•  Form Factors: Matching the Board with the Box
•  Form Factors: Full-, Mid-, Mini-Sized Towers and Desktops
•  Form Factors: Slim Towers/Slim Desktops, SFF and microATX
•  Recommendations for Power Users and Small Office PCs
•  Recommendations for LAN Party and HTPC Cases
•  Conclusion
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