John’s Weekly Mini-Rant – SFX, The New Standard

This is one of a series of weekly mini-rants by your faithful correspondent, John Morrison. These is a regular series focusing on issues in the SFF niche. All content is entirely opinion of John, not of SmallFormFactor.net, and should not be taken as fact.

Silverstone and Lian-Li have made this rant possible by releasing what I consider the tipping point for SFX – capacities greater or equal to 700w. It’s at this point that the ‘bigger is better’ community (those with CaseLabs cases, etc) will hopefully stand up and take a second look at what they are doing. 700 watts should be enough for all but the most extreme overclocked or 3+ GPU systems.

Using Outervision.com’s PSU calculator, I have worked out that even moderately extreme systems fit in under 700w, with room to spare. For example;

  • FX-8350 overclocked at 1.5v to 4.5GHz
  • 4x 8GB DDR3 DIMMS
  • 2x GTX980 GPUs

The above config is around 610 watts, giving a moderate headroom in the wattage.

Where We Are At Now

Most mainstream cases on the market today support ATX power supplies, even the ones aimed at the SFF market. Even Silverstone’s Sugo range, what would be considered the benchmark for the SFF Cube style chassis, mostly use the ATX form factor power supply. I consider this a bit odd, as Silverstone has been one of the leaders in SFX and SFX-L units. I would consider the leading factor behind this decision to be around market perception – the general consensus is that SFX is not enough, or is too loud, due to the smaller fan.


SFX-L went somewhat towards allaying this fear though, with 120mm fans and most (if not all) being of a modular format, allowing you to use the bare minimum of cables to reduce airflow restrictions. But, still, very few new SFX based chassis were forthcoming.

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Recently, 700 and 750w power supplies were launched, featuring 80+ Titanium and Platinum ratings and fanless modes. The power supplies in question came from Silverstone and Lian-Li, renowned SFF case manufacturers, however we are yet to see any innovative new products from them supporting the PSU, just more of the same slim towers or cubes. In fact, at the time Silverstone launched their 700W SFX-L PSU, they also launched a variant of the Raven RVZ-01 that supports an ATX power supply. A step backwards? Are they unsure as to where SFX fits in the market?


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What I Would Like To See

Simple: More SFX cases, more SFX power supplies, passive SFX power supplies.

Oh… and work towards more efficient and higher power on the next smaller step – Flex-ATX.

SFX needs to replace ATX as the go-to power supply. Push the mainstream towards smaller systems, even just by a small amount. ATX has it’s place – triple or quad SLI/Crossfire, dual CPU systems. We now have the hardware to make SFX the standard power supply.

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What are your thoughts on the lack of SFX cases? Discuss them in the forum here.