Question What's your favorite form factor when building a PC?

SHaines

Community Manager
Staff member
Apr 1, 2019
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The Tom's Hardware community is surely one of the best groups of experts in the world for getting advice on building your own custom computers for a multitude of purposes.

With that expertise also comes some aesthetic preferences. Beyond the look of things, some machines being used for dedicated tasks require a whole different mindset.

What is your favorite form factor when starting a new computer build?

Definitely post what different form factors you prefer for different tasks, as folks can never predict what kinds of builds they may need in the future.

We're excited to hear your hot takes!
 

JarredWaltonGPU

Senior GPU Editor
Editor
Feb 21, 2020
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I'll kick this off.

ATX, all the way. Not EATX or full-size towers -- just a decent mid-tower ATX case will do.

First, understand that I'm a hardware enthusiast and I swap parts WAY more than your average nerd. Even so, there are many other factors at play. I'd really love to be able to say mini-ITX, or even micro-ATX, but the smaller cases are a pain in the butt to build or swap parts in, pure and simple. Plus, cooling and overheating problems pop up over time even with larger builds, and a compact build is basically a commitment to routinely (every three months at least) clean out the dust. I should be better at doing that, but I know I'm not, so give me the bigger case.

Something else that factors into it is the limited choices for a good mini-ITX or micro-ATX motherboard. It doesn't matter the chipset or socket; you usually only have a handful of mini-ITX options at best, and maybe twice that many micro-ATX boards (that don't immediately disqualify themselves with poor component choices or missing options). Go with an ATX board and there are dozens of reasonable options to meet every price.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to the graphics card support. I don't want to end up in a case that can't accommodate a big GPU. Sometimes that might even mean a triple-slot (or 2.9-slot) monster that's 335mm long. There are plenty of ATX cases where you can't fit such a card, and mini-ITX and micro-ATX don't stand a chance.
 
I would say it's depending on the computers usage and location.

For the HTPC/Living Room I prefer to use Mini ITX due to footprint and design features. They tend to look more like they belong in that environment and in some cases can even be placed alongside existing AV hardware in the TV stand and so forth.
Mini ITX tend to be a bit more costly to build in relation to some other form factors and you have to pay close attention to the specific components in relation to the chosen chassis. It is often difficult if not impossible to "meaningfully" upgrade some aspects of your hardware in this form, such as adding RAM, easily swapping components, etc. Heat and noise can be issues with powerful equipment inside such cases. By and large the build experience tends to be more involved and require more experience to build in an operational as well as aesthetic way, proper cable management and such.

Full size ATX is my favorite form motherboard, and thus case to build a general purpose PC with future in mind. The large cases offer plenty of air exchange, and especially with a well designed case. Room for future expandability, common form factors, room for large and powerful components and coolers, easy to build in, big hands...the whole slew of items.

I will give a passing shout out to Micro ATX. If you are looking for a budget build with less expandability but still room to fit large components and easy to work within this form factor is king.
 
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Wolfshadw

Titan
Moderator
I have to give it to Micro-ATX. I've had several ATX boards over the years and I've never had a need for that many expansion slots (Never went Crossfire/SLI). The few slots that I do use, I just need to make sure they're configured in such a way that there's space between the expansion cards for proper air flow. As for Mini-ITX, it seems I always have to add in a card other than the graphics card, so Mini-ITX doesn't work for me.

-Wolf sends
 

hftvhftv

Honorable
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May 26, 2014
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Full tower with EATX or ATX motherboard. I went from a $50 Rosewill mid tower to a Cooler Master HAF 932 and haven't looked back, lots of room to work with, allowed me to add a custom side door hinge, room for a side panel mounted 230mm fan that blows directly onto my extra tall 980 Ti Classified, custom fit my 280mm H240X cooler, and I've been able to just add hard drives when I need them.
 
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Apr 3, 2020
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I prefer Full ATX just because it allows you to fit more fans into a case allowing greater airflow at lower noise levels. I've built a few Micro-ATX computers before and they become very painful to work on due to the fact that they're very small.
 

bit_user

Splendid
Ambassador
nobody still use 5.25 inch optical, nor 3.5 inch HDD and not even 2.5 SSD mostly.
LOL. Speak only for yourself, please.

I still use all three.
  • Optical for backups (BD-R), ripping CDs, and reading old disks I burned years ago.
  • 3.5" HDDs for RAID
  • 2.5" SSDs because they're still the most cost-effective and fast enough for most purposes.
I also have a HH/HL PCIe SSD (NVMe 1.0), in one of my systems.
 

daniel_542

Reputable
Jun 10, 2017
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Hello all,
Mid ATX or Full ATX as they are easier to upgrade later on (additional hard disks, PCI/PCI-E cards, etc) due to having more space.
With my current system, I am starting to consider upgrading to a larger tower as the GPU pretty much fills case from front to back lol
TTFN!
 

DSzymborski

Champion
Moderator
Pyramid. You can use it to harness the mystical powers of the Templars that totally founded the United States and if a roustabout enters your house, you can stab them with your PC in a pinch.



More seriously: I like full towers with ATX/EATX motherboards. I've got plenty of room because my home office is about 500 square feet and I live alone in a five-bedroom house (as my girlfriend usually has some level of low-key hostility towards me). So I'm not worried about efficient space, so I like having large PC cases in which I can stuff anything I want. My main rig weights about 70 pounds, has 10 hard drives, and enough RGB to make a unicorn vomit with rage.
 
Apr 1, 2020
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ATX for sure because is the most used form factor all cases support it (other than small ones ofc) and its easiest to work with not to big not to small the layout is familiar and almost the same across all ATX boards so cases usually have cutouts at the right spot ATX is enough to fit all that you need in my opinion E-ATX is for high end workstations or small servers
 
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jwcrellin

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Dec 3, 2016
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I have only ever built in ATX midtower cases or pre-built MicroATX chassis. Earlier this year I built on a test bench, super easy but not very aesthetically pleasing. Next pc I build, i'm going to try small form factor or ITX.
 
I use M-ATX primarily because my space limits the depth of the case to about 16"
I do not have a need for a large number of storage drives.

As to favorite, that has to be ITX.
In part because of the build challenge.
But, as a practical matter for office or normal desktop use, a small case is best.
 

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