Computer Security

Small Form Factor PCs

Copyright 2010 by Stephen Vermeulen
Last updated: 2010 Sep 02
Computer Software

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See also:


  • 2010-Sep-02: The Zotac Zboxes, reasonably priced are small devices that are media-friendly through an Ion chip set. [9359]
  • 2010-Apr-21: The VIA ARTiGO A1100 is a nettop aimed at DIY home PC builders. This is built around a VIA Nano processor with their VX855 media processor which can produce 1080p output over an HDMI connector. [9077]
  • 2010-Apr-20: Converting an Acer AspireRevo into an HTPC playback box using the XBMC software. Some discussion of doing this here and here with unRAID. [9075]
  • 2010-Apr-20: An overview of the 2010 crop of Atom-based mini-ITX form factor motherboards which are good for building low-power appliance servers. And an idea for building a small NAS out of the Supermicro X7SPA-HF and a Lian Li PC-Q08. [9074]
  • 2010-Jan-12: The SheevaPlug is an embedded Linux device from Marvell Semiconductor that will deliver a low cost, low power, platform for working with ethernet and USB devices. It gets discussed here on Slashdot, here on Make and here on SlashGear. It is what the Pogoplug is based on. Attaching something like phidgets to it would allow for some home automation functions to be implemented, but as the device contains some IO lines it would make more sense for someone to build a version that includes analog and digital IO interface circuitry. This is now available (see GlobalScale and, Slashdot discusses what to do with it. It appears that Seagate is making a NAS adapter for their FreeAgent portable drives that is based on the Pogoplug system. After about a year the second version of the Pogoplug got announced. An updated version with a 2GHz processor was announced at the start of 2010. [7642]
  • 2009-Dec-28: The NorhTec Gecko Surfboard is a keyboard PC, so I guess that makes it the ultimate SFF PC. At $99 for the Linux version its certainly in the impulse buy range and has an Xcore86 1GHz processor with 512MB of RAM. Might make for a reasonable kitchen PC. [8879]
  • 2009-Dec-24: 2009 saw the small form factor PC niche expand a bit with the nettop computer category, such as the Viewsonic VOT132 which has an ION chip set for 1080p video. [8860]
  • 2009-Nov-20: How to turn a Dell Mini 10v into a Snow Leopard Netbook, a good Hackintosh experiment. Looks like Apple is intentionally making OS X not run on Atom chips, this gets further discussion here on Slashdot. A good video that shows how well a Dell Mini 9 works as a hackintosh. A hack to allow OS X to run on Atom chips has been released (and according to the comments there are some other approaches that work too). [8673]
  • 2009-Nov-20: Psystar's Rebel EFI Hackintosh tool gets reviewed and discussed here on Slashdot. Pystar is loosing its court battle with Apple. [8680]
  • 2009-Nov-13: Slashdot discusses low-power home Linux servers. One recommendation is for the micro server products based on Xcore86 from NorhTec. [8744]
  • 2009-Oct-26: Slashdot discusses ideas for low-powered home Linux servers. [8674]
  • 2009-Sep-29: The ACER Aspire Revo is a nettop computer built around the NVIDIA Ion chip set for improved video performance. At $199 it is a pretty low-cost system. [8581]
  • 2009-Aug-27: The Ion 330-BD nettop from ASRock appears to be a pretty capable small form factor device. It gets a positive review here. [8163]
  • 2009-May-22: The FitPC a low-power design (drawing only 5W) gets reviewed here and discussed here on Slashdot. fit-PC has introduced another version, the fit-PC Slim which is available in a very small case (probably less than a bare 3.5 inch hard drive). This is priced from $220 to $335 depending on the options selected and the operating system. The new version gets reviewed here. A new version of this gets an Atom processor for a bit more speed. More details on the fit-PC2 here with pricing starting at $245 for a disk-less model. [3437]
  • 2009-May-07: The Eee Box 206 is an update for the ASUS Eee Box small form factor PCs which brings the ability to play HD content. This can be mounted on the back of an LCD display. This will likely be followed by the Eee Box B208 which will have a dual core Atom and ATI Radeon HD 4350 graphics, so could function quite well as an HTPC. It looks like the Eee Box 206 is not up to the task of playing high-def media. [7686]
  • 2009-Mar-05: The MSI WindBox (also here) will be a small desktop system designed to be VESA-mounted to the back of an LCD monitor, priced in the $199-299 range. This is getting closer to shipping. Engadget spotted it at the 2009 CeBIT. [7278]
  • 2009-Mar-03: The ASUS Eee Keyboard puts a different twist on the small form factor PC by packing the PC into a keyboard. It also includes a small 5-inch touch sensitive LCD instead of the number pad. [7673]
  • 2009-Mar-01: The Robin Z510 and Z530 computer modules are credit card sized computers that have an Atom processor, up to 7 USB ports, and on-board video, 2GB flash disk and 512MB of RAM for $164 to $227. [7663]
  • 2009-Feb-26: The Hornet from Acer might be one of the first new Ion-based media PCs. [7650]
  • 2009-Feb-13: Silent PC review takes a look at the Apex MI-008 mini-ITX case, which looks like a reasonably priced small case including power supply. [7583]
  • 2009-Jan-22: Neuros is adding support for the Wiimote to their LINK. [7474] [1] [2]
  • 2009-Jan-17: The NVIDIA Ion platform may bring us some new, higher-performance, single board systems capable of playing most forms of video. [7455]
  • 2008-Dec-26: A new MSI Wind CD100-JP desktop system (that looks a lot like a Wii) is now available in Japan. This includes a slot-loading DVD drive. [7396]
  • 2008-Dec-10: The VIA ARTIGO A2000 (just like the old Amiga 2000...) is a small form factor bare bones unit that will be selling for $299 (see LogicSupply). [7329]
  • 2008-Dec-10: Shuttle is going to produce the KPC a low end small form factor box intended for use with Linux, complete at $199 and barebones at $99. Discussed here on Slashdot. There is some more information on this here, the complete system will have a Celeron processor, a 945GC chipset, 512MB of RAM and a small shard drive. From this it sounds like it might be using something like the Intel D201GLY2 mini-ITX form factor motherboard. Tom's Hardware has a look at this here. Some more coverage of this on The Tech Report. The Shuttle web site on the KPC, looks like it has gigabit ethernet and 5.1 audio but no DVI monitor port - just VGA. The KPC is finally ready to star shipping, Engadget reports it at $299 for the full unit (which originally was supposed to be $199), the Shuttle site does mention a $199 version but does not give any details yet. A review of this can be found here. Building a small home server with a KPC system. [4614]
  • 2008-Sep-17: Neuros is releasing a new version of their OSD device, this adds support for HD video encoding (including recording 720p from component inputs) and is built around a mini-ITX sized motherboard and enclosure. For the $250 price its actually pretty good value just for the case, power supply and motherboard alone. Note, this is not a general purpose motherboard, but does have a processor with 256MB or RAM and flash built in along with 100MHz LAN and hard disk interface so could well be used for other sorts of computer appliances. A good look at the inside of the device is here. The Neuros OSD 2.0 wiki has more information. [6868] [1] [2]
  • 2008-Aug-31: The 2go nettop is a small form PC that uses the Atom processor and has a case that is large enough to hold an optical drive for $149 to $299. [6775]
  • 2008-Aug-29: Shuttle's X27 mini PC is a small Atom-powered desktop unit. This should be priced at $189. [6721]
  • 2008-Aug-21: MSI is making a small bare-bones desktop, this uses an Atom chip set and for $139 you get everything except the drives, RAM and OS. [6712]
  • 2008-Aug-15: The ASUS Eee Box B202 is another small form factor PC from ASUS. Here are some photos of it. An early pre-production version gets reviewed here and discussed here on Engadget, it appears that the 1.6GHz Atom cpu does not have enough power to do more than 720P so you are not going to be using this as a HD media display device. This is supposed to be available in July'08 for a price of $299 with 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive and Windows XP (probably Home). A review of it can be found here. Another review here clearly shows it running 720P video but not being up to the task of 1080P. [6150]
  • 2008-Jul-29: Dell's Studio Hybrid PCs are quite small desktop units. [6602]
  • 2008-Jul-23: The Mini Chocolate from Ripple is a small, low power computer based on the Atom processor. [6572]
  • 2008-Jul-23: The CherryPal, a small PC based on a 400MHz processor and 256MB RAM. Slashdot discusses this very low power (2W consumption) device, apparently it is a minimized Linux to reduce local storage needs and will download additional applications and includes 50GB of storage on the Net. [6558]
  • 2008-Jul-08: The Acer Aspire X1200 is a small box that is suitable for home theater PC use. [6492]
  • 2008-Jun-20: Dell is going to be introducing a SFF PC with HDMI, DVI and S/PDIF output, which could make for a good media center PC. [6391]
  • 2008-Jun-18: CherryPal has announced a very small computer that runs debian and only consumes 2 watts. Might be just the sort of thing to drive a PhotoFrame that also serves as a simple document/web portal. [6374]
  • 2008-May-27: More internal details of the MSI Wind laptops and desktops. Apparently the Atom chipset will be enough to do 720P video but not 1080P - it was using 50% CPU to push out 720P. One nice thing about the Wind desktop board is that it is cooled by a passive heatsink - no more CPU/Chipset fan noise (though there may still need to be a case fan)! [6237] [1]
  • 2008-May-09: MSI's Titan 700 mini-PC is a mini-ITX based PC that uses a 2GHz VIA processor and has a 2.5 inch hard drive and DVD burner for $458. It looks like it has VGA, DVI and TV outputs; if so, this might make for a good media player computer, though it probably would not be up to full HiDef decoding. [6079]
  • 2008-Apr-28: Plat'Home makes some small Linux server boxes, including their (new in 2008) OpenBlockS. They get mentioned by The Register here with further discussion on Slashdot here. [5948]
  • 2008-Apr-10: The ASUS Essentio CS5110 is a small form factor box with plenty of capability, it would make an excellent PVR box if it had room for a TV tuner card - you could probably use a USB attached tuner instead. [5761]
  • 2008-Apr-07: The Everex MyMiniPC is a small (Mac Mini like) PC with a 1.86GHz Pentium and DVI output, running the gOS flavor of Linux. [5614]
  • 2008-Mar-20: The ASUS NOVA LITE Mini 2L is a low-end small form factor PC, there are several models, the lowest has a DVI output and one has an HDMI output as well, so these might be a good choice for a low end media display unit. [5316]
  • 2008-Mar-15: The ASUS EP20 could be a new low-cost small form factor PC for the home. It seems to be Linux based and possibly priced at about $300. [5283]
  • 2008-Feb-26: Ars Technica looks at building a green PC, discussed here on Slashdot. They build a lower power (say under 150W) box for game playing and then try to build an extreme green box which uses something in the range of 20-30W. On the extreme box they went overboard on the hard drive and used a 32GB SSD unit which cost $725, they would have done better to have selected a 2.5 inch laptop drive for about $100 (which would have used almost the same power) or found a way to use a 1.8 inch drive (or the kind intended for PMP devices), or use a 16GB CF card mounted in an IDE adapter (they talk about doing this later). [5161]
  • 2008-Feb-21: The Linutop 2 mini PC is another entry into the small Linux based green computing platform - though its more expensive than some of the competition like the Koolu. [5129]
  • 2007-Nov-11: Simplified Innovation has a selection of small form factor PCs. [4067]
  • 2007-Oct-13: The Koolu is a tiny computer based on the AMD Geode processor and drawing about 5W of power. They offer two versions and the RAM and disk space can be changed. This gets reviewed by a new monk (his Shades of Renunciation: An Inventory of My Remaining Worldly Posessions is worth a read too) and found to be comparable to a 666MHz Pentium III in an older PC. [3438]
  • 2007-Oct-13: Ewayco has a good selection of small, low-power, computer systems. [3440]
  • 2007-Oct-13: The decTOP is a very low cost, low power, computer. [3439]
  • 2007-Oct-09: Via's vm7700 is a compact computer built into a case that can bolt onto the back of any standard VESA type LCD monitor. The screws that hold the the PC in place actually go all the way through it, which makes mounting it to the back of the monitor very easy. Now that this approach has been publicized I would expect to see some other third party case manufacturers start making similar boxes. One potential application of this sort of thing would be as a DVR PC, allowing the PC and all its cables to easily be hidden behind a large flat panel TV system. [3047] [1]
  • Dell is building a mini-ITX based machine for the Chinese market, the EC280, which would be quite nice for a small home appliance type machine. [2653]
  • The SA800 from MiniPC is an interesting concept, a computer that is meant to be expanded by stacking additional modules onto it. [2652]
  • Slashdot book review of: Small Form Factor PCs, by Duane Wessels and Matthew Weaver. [2651]
  • A truly silent build-it-yourself, Linux based, home theatre PC, reviewed at LinuxDevices, available from These look quite nice, like a traditional AV component, and have all the front panel slots and ports you would need. [2650]
  • While not small, the home theatre-size PC case is another option.  Zalman makes one with a built-in 7in LCD for a control display. [2649]
  • In Feb'06 Shuttle started to show a new entry to the small form factor category, their XPC X100 box looks like it has about the usual foot print (width by depth) but its only 2.13 inches tall. [2648]
  • The AMD Turion 64 (another processor targeted at the laptop market) can also be used in a desktop application, particularly when the goal is to reduce power consumption (it uses about 1/3 the power of the equivalent Athlon 64). This artical also contains quite a bit of information about using the Pentium-M chip in a desktop application. [2647]
  • Bringing the Pentium-M into the SFF PC has some benefits, lower power, less noise, and perhaps even more performance. Of course the mobile chips are currently more expensive... [2646]
  • has information on the various case and motherboard sizes. [2645]
  • The KLOSS LK-I915A SFF box reviewed [2644]
  • Slashdot asks the question: are there any energy efficient and cheap small servers for home use? [2643]
  • IWILL has announced their ZMAXdp SFF Workstation, which is a small form factor box that contains a dual-Opteron system, its mentioned here on Slashdot. gets a chance to test this beastie. [2642]
  • Soltek makes a few mini-PCs, their EQ3701 is rather unique as it is a bit taller than most which allows it to have two 5.25inch expansion bays. Another of these is reviewed here by, who have reviewed a number of mini-PCs. [2641]
  • MSI's MEGA-400, which is an AMD based version of the MEGA-651 will be appearing soon, had a preview of it. [2640]
  • MSI's MEGA-651 is a small case design that even has a custom front panel display, its intended for use in home entertainment type applications. It is reviewed here by One thing that bothers me about this is MSI's statement: "Due to proprietary mechanical design, MSI only guarantees the compatibility of the MEGA PC with MSI's own Optical Storage Devices".  Another thing that bothers me is in's review they note that the hard drive mounting bracket actually positions the hard drive upsidedown and suggest drilling a new set of mounting holes to correct this. Reviewed here by SFF TECH, they also have a forum with some feedback about it and a knowledge base thread on it. Technology Review has a collection of links to other reviews of the MEGA. Apparently there will be an AMD chipset version of this box in the fall of 2003 as well. 3DVelocity reviews it here. [2639]
  • Here are some very small PC designs (for home made MP3 players), and this based on a set-top box. [2638]
  • The new ASUS DigiMatrix (Oct 2003) looks like it might be the first small form factor system to cover all  the home entertainment needs. [2637]
  • The ASUS Pundit (model: Pundit AB-P2600) looks like a nice SFF system. reviews it here. And SFF Tech reviews it here. If you don't want or need an AGP slot or need a CompactFlash slot (its built in 4 in 1 card reader lacks this) this would be a great unit. [2636]
  • Xenarc Technologies has several small form-factor PCs, including one that can be mounted in a car's standard radio/CD player slot and one that looks like the same the SaintSong computer. They also have a variety of small LCD monitors aimed at the car entertainment market. [2635]
  • Here are some self contained computers that are designed to fit inside of a standard 5.25" drive bay - sort of a mini rackmount system... [2634]
  • nOrhTech (a part of nOrh) is has a small "server" box and is preparing to produce a small form factor PC which will act as a DVD player without requiring the PC to boot. They also are looking at building a personal PC that is smaller than a laptop, so you can take this with you and just hook up a keyboard, mouse and display to have a fully functional PC. [2633]
  • Hushtechnologies makes some quiet, small, fan-less systems [2632]
  • The people at OpenBrick are making small fan-less systems that can run Linux. [2631]
  • The Soltek QBIC 3702M has a nice feature set for an SFF system [2630]
  • SFF Tech (30-Oct-03) has a very large report about all the new small form factor systems shown at the recent COMPUTEX show. [2629]
  • The JEM Report reviews the IWill ZPC, which is a very small form factor desktop PC (from the photos it looks about the size of a conventional 5.25" half height drive, but its really about 1 inch thicker and 1.75 inches wider), essentially a 2GHz Pentium 4 with the usual complement of embedded IO and specialized case which can take a single 2.5" hard drive and laptop-style compact CDRW/drive. [2628]
  • The ZEN (ST62K) from Shuttle further reduces the SFF size. [2627]
  • Biostar makes a number of SFF boxes. [2626]
  • The Shuttle SV24 is a very compact PC case, designed to hold a few drives and a very small form factor motherboard, such as the Shuttle FV24. Shuttle has produced a few more of these compact designs now, the latest is the SS51, reviewed here on AnandTech and here on Legion Hardware. The Shuttle SS40G is that same concept, except supporting an AMD Athlon motherboard. I would like to get one of these with two 5.25" front accessible bays... Shuttle now has some competition in this small case style, almost looks like a direct copy, except it is based on a different motherboard. Tom's Hardware reviews the JadeTec micro PC, this is smaller than the Shuttle mini PC units but contains a similar set of built in features, there is a good set of pictures comparing the various sizes of cases and how the micro PC is assembled. The IWill XP4-G reviewed on the JEM Report sounds like another interesting possibility (but is lacking firewire). The Shuttle XPC SB81P, reviewed here, (July 2004) improves greatly (it has PCI-Express) on the earlier XPC models. [2625]
  • This SaintSong company has some cute little PCs (barely bigger that a CDROM drive). They have added the TX2 which is shipped as a "u-build" system, where you add the processor, RAM and disk drive. This system now includes FireWire ports. [2624]

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