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

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bencos2018

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Jan 15, 2019
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my favorite form factor is full ATX tbh as I like the flexiblty with the amount of PCI-e slots on the board and the ease of getting parts
 
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At first it was the S100 bus. That got me the ability to skip much of the long lines at the university in my computer science classes to run programs on the mainframe. My day job was IBM which had FSE, full screen edit. The U ran DEC so one of my first programs was an EBCDIC to ASCII converter that output onto punched cards to run at the U around 2am for my 7am classes. A problem though was my typing mistakes on term papers and professors who rejected dot matrix printed submissions. Fortunately the copiers of the day filled in the spaces making dot matrix output look like typewriter pages. Yes! Then in 1984 I was able to get an ISA bus clone of the first 8088 IBM PC for $2,400. Half price of the IBM. I upgraded with a Z80 cpu, then a 10mb hard drive on a card. Next I was putting together clones. 286, 386, 486, Pentium and onwards. Every one running circles around the previous generation. Working with microcode in class at the U in the early 1980s each time the big guys went to a new form factor on IC bigots we got the old machines and had just gone to 100 mm wafers. My EE professor told us that pin outs were the killer. If we could ever get really high speed serial bus then the days of computers on our wrist were possible. Add in voice recognition and it could be like we saw on Star Trek. Still waiting... But whatever form factor moves in that direction is going to be my new favorite. Today that looks like Raspberry Pi. But I still love standard mini tower PC's even though I spend most of my time on a Samsung tablet and my wife loves her iPad air2.
 

Phaaze88

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But counter intuitively, it's getting harder and harder to build as there are fewer motherboard offerings every generation.
This is what I was referring to earlier when I posted that SFF are popular among some of the members here, but that it was too bad the market didn't reflect that.
There are fewer micro options from manufacturers today than there were a few years or so back. SFF has become a niche - I don't expect it to disappear completely though.
 

bit_user

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It really makes no sense to me; why keep reducing the size and power consumption of components when you don't ALSO shrink the platform size?
Did we just timewarp back to 2016? Because that's about the last time this was true.

NVMe SSDs consume more power than their SATA brethren. RTX GPUs burn more power than Pascal. AMD's Navi isn't really gaining ground here, either, compared with Polaris. ...which brings me to PCIe 4.0, that runs so hot many X570 boards have active chipset cooling!

And CPUs... do I even need to mention CPUs? You might've had a point with Ryzen 3k, but then along came the 3950X and the ThreadRipper 3900's.

Newsflash: as competition with AMD has heated up, power consumption is pretty much out the window.

The only silver lining is in the ultra-portable segment, where both battery life and low-weight, low-profile thermal solutions put a premium on keeping power consumption low.

That said, you definitely can buy a NUC, if you don't care about adding a dGPU or any non-USB peripherals, and find a 10-35 W CPU adequate for your needs. Sadly, I haven't noticed the DIY community embracing the NUC-scale form factors, such as mini-STX.
 
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echolane

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Jan 18, 2009
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ATX. Why? Because I have a super sturdy tall steel ATX case that I bought for my Windows 2000 installation in 2000 and I’ve been putting new builds in it ever since, from Win 2000 to Win XP, to Win 7 and now to Win 10. I usually have reusable parts to move forward. In my latest build this month I was able to move forward the power supply, 2 optical drives, 2 SSDs and 2 HDs, plus a RAID Card and 4 port USB 3.0 Card. It has room for at least two more big hard drives and still looks roomy.
 
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I work in IT for almost 20 years now and while I was always preferring full-ATX case in the past for upgradability. I don't see the point with modern computer now, except maybe for the ease of cable management... I am mosly using Mini-ATX case now and it's more than enough since nobody still use 5.25 inch optical, nor 3.5 inch HDD and not even 2.5 SSD mostly. As for myself I built my gaming PC with a CoolerMaster Lite 3.1 (tempered glass side) and it's way huge enough to fit my B450 gaming motherboard and my Radeon RX580 GPU. My storage is a 1 TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus and it's PCIe NVMe so I don't even have a 2.5 drive in the case...
 

bit_user

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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.
 

Avaninja

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Aug 23, 2018
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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!
Sff by far, portable and poweful is what i like
 

bit_user

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I also have a HH/HL PCIe SSD (NVMe 1.0), in one of my systems.
Speaking of PCIe cards, I have an IDE controller card, in one system, which I originally used for taking images of old IDE hard disks and now use for my Plextor DVD burner - the last one they designed, internally. I believe all of their SATA drives were licensed from someone else.

I also have an old PCI DTV tuner card. I mostly use it for recording stuff like Olympics opening/closing ceremonies and time-shifting a few things I really want to see. I used USB capture devices, but went back to my PCI card after the second one died. The PCI card from 2005 is still working, though.

Another PCI card I've got lying around is a SDI capture/playback card.

More recently, I have added some 10 Gigabit and 2.5 Gigabit networking cards.

So, if you're wondering why on earth anyone would need more than 1 or 2 expansion card slots, there are some examples (beyond sound cards, which have already been mentioned a few times).
 
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May 13, 2019
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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.
Hey, welcome in 1990 my friend! :ROFLMAO:Just kidding! :giggle: Since I have a dozen of computers at home (remember I work in IT), I use use a portable USB 3.0 BD-R burner and the only place I still use 3.5 HDD is in my QNAP 6x bays NAS where I have a 40 TB RAID... I don't RAID my computers, instead I use a fully automated backup infrastructure. As for the price difference between 2.5" SSD and PCIe NVMe, the gap is shrinking every day. Yes SATA SSD offer good speed (over mechanical drive), but for like 15% more, you can technically increase your speed by 300-400% so this may be a good (small) investment, as far as your motherboard support PCIe drive as well.
 

bit_user

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Hey, welcome in 1990 my friend! :ROFLMAO:Just kidding! :giggle:
The correct year for that would probably be about 2008 or so. That's when both BD-R burners and 2.5" SSDs were both on the scene. Back in 1990, CD burners were practically non-existent. Even CD-ROM drives were exorbitantly expensive.

And ripping CDs wasn't even a "thing" until the mid/late 90's, when MP3 hit the scene.

the only place I still use 3.5 HDD is in my QNAP 6x bays NAS where I have a 40 TB RAID... I don't RAID my computers,
Well, I didn't say I had all of those drives in all of my PCs. You said "nobody still use ...".

I had a NAS back in 2005. After being disappointed by its performance, I replaced it with a homebuilt fileserver, in 2010. To this day, I still use that fileserver instead of a NAS. I've replaced the drives, but the mobo and CPU are coming due for an upgrade, now that I've upgraded my network. Still, I'll never go back to using a NAS, not so much for performance reasons, but the complete control I have over all aspects of it.

Anyway, that's where my spinners are. I don't have them in any other PC.
 
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daniel_542

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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!
 
Apr 7, 2020
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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!
personally, for me, it has to be either itx or absolutely humongous server chassis. I'm pretty weird.
 
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jimmysmitty

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Moderator
personally, for me, it has to be either itx or absolutely humongous server chassis. I'm pretty weird.
I used to love full sized chasis that had so much room you could fit almost two motherboards in them. One of my first cases was a Thermaltake Xaser III which was all steel with an aluminum frnt swinging panel. Smashed my fingers many times. I also planned to go to the Xaser VI back in the day but never did and moved to mid-tower.

It does help when moving that your PC doesn't weigh nearly 100 pounds.
 
Apr 7, 2020
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I'm a fan of the ATX FF mainboard, however I've been using the Cooler Master HAF922 for about 14 years...lol just keep changing out the guts. Thing is a beast for space, and I've been using it more as a split between server/gaming rig lately. Fans for days!
 

Jack10525

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Nov 8, 2016
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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!

All in one!!!! Nuff said.
 

gondo

Distinguished
20 years ago, EATX Full Tower with 20 hard drives. Today micro-atx or smaller with no drive cages. No CD-ROM, no hard drive, just an m.2 style SSD on the motherboard. An empty case with room for a radiator and pump.
 
Reactions: bit_user

Plicker19

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Mar 22, 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!
When Building A Computer I Tend to Lean Towards the Mini Tower or Rack Mount Chassis, Mostly For Cooling and Space For Hard Disks.
 
Reactions: bit_user

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