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View Full Version : Educate me about mATX & small form factor pcs



egon spengler
December 30th, 2005, 02:27 PM
In my room space is at a premium and I would really like to get rid of my massive tower for something a lot smaller (plus something less hideous would be nice too)

Currently I have Athlon Xp 1800 cpu, 512mb memory, cdrw, dvdrw, 120gig maxtor, 200gig seagate, soundblaster card, pci ethernet (waste of a slot, want to get a board with it built in), and nvidia mx 440 gfx card. I am confident of transferring all of these to a new case (I installed the sound card, dvdrw and seagate myself, piee of cake) but I don't know all of the considerations for small cases.

I think that ideally I would prefer the size of a barebones/small form factor pc but the flexibilty of a mATX appeals more and so I think I will go in that direction. One thing I have noticed while doing my research is that very few places (in the UK at least) seem to carry mATX cases and if they do then only 1 or 2. This somewhat gives me the impression that perhaps mATX is somewhat of an evolutionary deadend. I realise that with small pcs overheating can become an issue, the only part of my current hardware I might possibly upgrade in the next few years is the cpu, with my setup as it is it wouldn't require a massive psu would it?

Any info or direction towards helpful sites would be appreciated.

I did come across one forum at hexus.net that has a dedicated sff forum and what I noticed is that contrary to everything else I have read they seem to take an approach to components of "Yeah, just chuck it in,it won't be too hot/loud". I'm not sure of how large of a pinch of salt I should take things I read on there

bugaman
December 30th, 2005, 02:38 PM
Take a look at this stuff:

.http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/dsm1.jpg

In case you're wondering, the computer is that silver thing next to the CD...

That's what I would like to get some day!

http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/store/

M3ta7h3ad
December 30th, 2005, 02:55 PM
mATX is just a "slightly smaller than ATX" form factor. I'd be willing to bet that providing you bought your motherboard in the last 2 or 3 years you have a mATX motherboard already.

Almost every ATX case has mATX compatibility. If you mean "shuttles" or as most folk call them "shi**les", then they are propriatory motherboards, while they fit normal hardware, you will not be able to fit a normal mATX motherboard in one without a big struggle and some modding.

There is a half way house in the form of mATX cube cases that are slightly larger cases meant to take the mATX format motherboards, however these are extremely fiddly and often require low profile heatsinks to fit, they also run rather warm.

Then... for a final step the smaller end of the scale.. there is mini-itx and nano-itx the latter being no bigger than your average CD Jewel case. These are specialist bits of kit that often have their CPU's embedded onboard, support for PCMCIA cards, CF adapters onboard and to fit them into a specialist case they often require low profile ram, and half height pci cards. Advantages being they are smaller, they run from brick type powersupplies (the normal adapters you get for everyday things are a very close approximation) and they use less power, also able to be run from car's without too much trouble.

Another forum you might like to use: http://www.tekforums.co.uk

MetalMusicAddict
December 30th, 2005, 03:07 PM
I have a mATX HTCP. Its been great.

AMD 2100XP
1gig RAM
nVidia 5700LE (8x AGP though the board is 4x)
Firewire/USB2 card
SMC 10/100/1000 Nic
240watt PSU
20gig HD
Biostar Mobo
MadDog 5.1 Soundcard

Thats basicly it. I mostly run XP on it becaues thats what my HTCP software runs on. Games also.

Ive been playin with Ubuntu on it though.
http://www.ubuntuforums.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=4758&stc=1&thumb=1&d=1135221287 (http://www.ubuntuforums.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=4758&d=1135221287)
(click me)

No real heat problems. I have 3 fans in it. I have them on a speed controller and turn 'em down when Im not playin games.

If you want Ill take some pics of mine and post 'em.

egon spengler
December 30th, 2005, 03:20 PM
Yeah I know that the barebones/shuttles are generally proprietary boards which is what makes me lean towards getting a mATX case just so I don't get stuck with a case/board I don't want in the future. On the other hand I don't do anything cpu/gfx intensive so I don't think I'll need to upgrade for a long time, I may well get 2-3 years use out of a 150 shuttle


There is a half way house in the form of mATX cube cases that are slightly larger cases meant to take the mATX format motherboards, however these are extremely fiddly and often require low profile heatsinks to fit, they also run rather warm.

See the heat issue is one of the things that was causing some concern but I really do want the space back. Thanks for the link, I'll check it out

Rinzwind
December 30th, 2005, 03:24 PM
You might want to take a look at the new BTX standard.
Those cases are smaller than ATX and have a lay-out designed to limit the amount of fans needed.

prizrak
December 30th, 2005, 09:13 PM
BTX is hard to come by, my advice on this would be get a barebones shuttle, they are decent looking and AFAIK will fit all the hardware you got. I don't think they have heat issues. A really site for hardware reviews is www.tomshardware.com

WildTangent
December 30th, 2005, 09:20 PM
I love my mATX case :D Its called Fusion II, try googling it. It comes with a mATX power supply, and can take full height PCI cards.

Heres a pic:
http://longlivemarneus.serveftp.net/Justin/computers/chimera.jpg
http://longlivemarneus.serveftp.net/Justin/computers/chimera2.jpg

-Wild

M3ta7h3ad
December 30th, 2005, 09:25 PM
Toms Hardware is about as far up intel's (and other companies) **** as it can get, its rather renowned for poor, biased reviews.

Your better off taking a broad spectrum of reviews from a google search :)

prizrak
December 30th, 2005, 10:27 PM
Toms Hardware is about as far up intel's (and other companies) **** as it can get, its rather renowned for poor, biased reviews.

Your better off taking a broad spectrum of reviews from a google search :)
Hehe, interesting :) I know a few of my friends use it for reviews I generally use a Russian site I frequent or newegg.com customer reviews :)

majikstreet
December 30th, 2005, 10:30 PM
I dunno about mATX but heres a good site: http://www.mini-itx.com/ it also has a store.

egon spengler
December 31st, 2005, 06:45 PM
Well thanks for the feedback everyone, in the end I elected for this aspire qpack case (http://aspireusa.net/product.php?pid=185&xcSID=3a2f48ed51d4810f1b0a3dc2f2393abf). I couldn't find anywhere in London that I could pick it up from so I ordered it from ebuyer which I understand to be bit of a gamble. (To be fair though the one thing I did order from them a year ago arrived ok)

M3ta7h3ad
December 31st, 2005, 06:49 PM
Nice choice :) im liking that case! May have to pick one up for myself at somepoint :)

prizrak
December 31st, 2005, 08:18 PM
Cool case I seen it in a store around Brooklyn not too long ago it was pretty. :)