Introduction

It has been quite a while since we had regular SFF reviews here at AnandTech, but that's all about to change. We've been working for a few months on getting all the parts necessary for testing, and now we're ready to "re-launch" the Small Form Factor review section! Initially, we had thoughts of trying to get all the units that we currently have tested and reviewed, but that would not only take a long time to complete, but it would also make for one massive article. In order to get things out in a more digestible form and in a timelier manner, we've decided to break up our initial roundups into three groups.

This is the first part of what will be a three-part series of SFF roundups. For this installment, we're including all of the socket 478 and 754 units that we have in our possession, and the platforms should be roughly comparable in terms of features and performance. While the platforms are a little older, don't let that deter you. The newer platforms tend to be more expensive, and while performance may be higher, performance is not everything. We'll continue with a roundup of socket 939 units and finish up with socket 775, so if those platforms hold more interest for you, stay tuned.

Before we get into the actual units themselves, it is important to lay the groundwork for how these reviews will be conducted. SFF units are a bit differnt from many of the other components that we review. For a motherboard, we're generally looking at performance and features. The same goes for graphics cards and processors. Cases are a different story, as performance isn't typically a concern. What we're looking at there is ease of use, aesthetics, noise levels, cooling, expandability, and features. Not surprisingly - given that an SFF is part case, part motherboard - SFFs contain elements of both types of components. That means that we have to look at the performance and features offered, but we have to look at the overall design as well, like we would with a case. Their small size also makes them potentially useful to other markets that would not normally consider purchasing a large PC case; for example, the Home Theater PC crowd.

Recently, we did a First Contact article on the topic of who might want to look at Small Form Factor systems. If you haven't ever given the subject much thought, we suggest that you start there to get some idea where we're coming from and whether or not you would be interested in such a case. There are definitely individuals who would have issues being "forced" into a SFF system, but for most people, they offer everything that you would need.

Reviewing a Small Form Factor System
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  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - link

    #21 - We're working on getting the Iwill dual-CPU system. We'll see what Iwill has to say. :)

    #19 - The unit reviewed was the EA65-II. There is an EA65-IIa as well as an EA65-IIa 2.0. The only difference between the IIa models is the version of InstantON included, and I believe you can download the latest version and turn the IIa into the IIa 2.0. Does that make sense? Also, I don't think the IIa is available in the US yet, but should be within the next month or two.

    If you don't mind a spoiler (yeah, right), the Pentium M desktop/HTPC that I have for review is louder than the SFFs in this roundup (other than the e-bot). However, it is a fully configured and loaded system with two HDDs, a 6800GT, etc. I've checked with the manufacturer about the noise levels and will see if I can get it reduced. Right now, the HSF is really huge - it looks like a Pentium 4 HSF, which is probably overkill for the Pentium M 2.0.

    On a side note, if you haven't seen the die of the Dothan, it's REALLY SMALL! About half the size of a dime. Pretty crazy to see that much power in such a small size.
    Reply
  • SUOrangeman - Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - link

    Request the Iwill ZMAXdp ($675 at NewEgg) for the next SFF piece! :) Reply
  • GoatHerderEd - Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - link

    NM, the firewire is on the front. I still thing there should be a port or two on the back though. Reply
  • silentcomputing - Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - link

    Nice job, Jarred.

    I am interesting in the Aopen EA65-IIa, but got confused about the new model name. You mentioned the new model is EA65-IIa first, but followed by EA64-IIa.... Is it a typo or is Aopen going to release AMD64 version of the EA in the near future.

    When do you think you can have the P-M on desktop review?? I can't wait to have one... enough for the noise from any of my computers...including Shuttle and Dell..... :(
    Reply
  • GoatHerderEd - Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - link

    #12, Wow, I got the Shuttle SN95G. But I really want that Iwill dual Opteron! That thing looks so sweet! No fire wire though )=

    #8, Why do you say the SN95G is unreliable? I think its pretty good. Boot up time isnt as fast as my Nforce2 XP 1800+, but its faster otherwise.
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - link

    Now that it looks like AMD is coming out with additional Socket 754 Sempron CPU's, the Biostar really looks like a good choice. It's not like one needs huge CPU power for a HTPC, as long as it does a good job of encoding/decoding, and the Sempron should also run fairly cool. Add a Hauppauge WinTV PVR-150/250 and a discrete ATI graphics card (for additional hardware-assist MPEG-2 playback and VIVO) and it looks to be a really good choice. Reply
  • smn198 - Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - link

    I've said it before but would it be possible to present the non-linear noise measurements on a non-linear scale?

    That would more accurately show that with the IGP, the foxconn is over twice as loud as the others.

    Don't mean to seem critical. Great read. That is why I keep coming back.

    #3. Read the first few paragraphs of the review. Besides, it is very cheap now.
    Reply
  • smn198 - Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - link

    "Shuttle is able to use a single fan to fool both the CPU as well as the case"

    I've been trying that for years but have never successfully managed to fool them both at once!
    Reply
  • CrystalBay - Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - link

    Thanks JW, Iknow it's a lot to ask. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - link

    11, 12 - I'll have to see about those two units. For the Iwill, at least, they would either need to send processors or I would have to get some sent from AT HQ. I don't have any server parts at my location for testing. Reply

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