Small Form Factor PC Roundup

By Jason Cross  |  Print this article Print

Over the past couple of years, we've reviewed lots of small-form-factor PCs. This roundup brings them all together—don't buy a SFF PC without checking it out.

One of the hottest developments in do-it-yourself PC building over the last couple of years has been those little, cube-like, small-form-factor PCs. Yes, SFF PCs have been around in a variety of shapes and sizes for several years, but at first they came with too many sacrifices for serious PC enthusiasts. Some used half-height expansion cards, which severely crippled video and audio card options. Some didn't have a power supply sufficient for the latest processors. Just recently, small-form-factor PCs have become no-compromise solutions.

When Shuttle originally unveiled its XPC line, enthusiasts saw potential, but the system's critical flaw--no AGP graphics slot--kept sales down. It didn't take long for the company to release an XPC with an AGP slot, and the rest is history. XPCs flew off the shelves, and many other motherboard and case manufacturers started cranking out similar little cube PCs.

Over the last couple of years, we've reviewed many of these little wonders. We've seen systems that place a premium on being small and quiet and others that emphasize performance or flexibility. Since you can still buy some of the first SFF PCs reviewed here (often at a substantial cost savings over newer models), we've decided to put all our reviews into one place for easy access.

SFF PCs are almost always sold bare-bones--kits that include a motherboard, case, power supply, and CPU cooler. The rest of the system components you have to buy and attach yourself. As you read through the reviews, you'll notice the capabilities and design of the SFF cube PC grows and changes over time, but what doesn't change is the utility of a no-compromise PC in such a small box. Take it to a LAN party, put it in your entertainment center, stick it on grandma's desk: The beauty of the SFF PC is having a full-fledged desktop PC you can take anywhere.

Product Rating Price
Shuttle SS40G (check prices)
Shuttle SS51G (check prices)
Shuttle SB61G2 (check prices)
Shuttle SN45G (check prices)
Shuttle SN85G4 (check prices)
AOpen XC Cube (check prices)
Shuttle SB75S (check prices)
Shuttle XPC ST61G4 (check prices)
EPoX eX5 Mini Me (check prices)
Soltek Qbic EQ3801 (check prices)
Shuttle XPC SB81P $399
Jason Cross Jason was a certified computer geek at an early age, playing with his family's Apple II when he was still barely able to write. It didn't take long for him to start playing with the hardware, adding in 80-column cards and additional RAM as his family moved up through Apple II+, IIe, IIgs, and eventually the Macintosh. He was sucked into Intel based side of the PC world by his friend's 8088 (at the time, the height of sophisticated technology), and this kicked off a never-ending string of PC purchases and upgrades.

Through college, where he bounced among several different majors before earning a degree in Asian Studies, Jason started to pull down freelance assignments writing about his favorite hobby—,video and computer games. It was shortly after graduation that he found himself, a thin-blooded Floridian, freezing his face off at Computer Games Magazine in Vermont, where he founded the hardware and technology section and built it up over five years before joining the ranks at ExtremeTech and moving out to beautiful northern California. When not scraping up his hands on the inside of a PC case, you can invariably find Jason knee-deep in a PC game, engrossed in the latest console title, or at the movie theater.


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