How big is too big? - Discussing large builds on SFF Forum

PlayfulPhoenix

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Hey everyone,

I'm a bit surprised (and, personally, a bit ashamed) to say that we, the staff, haven't intensely considered a scenario in which a user on SFF Forum would post a decidedly not-so-SFF build, but that day has come with @MunneY's recent build log post for the NZXT Manta.

Now, a lot of us may scoff at the Manta, given how massive it is, at over 40L in volume (even as it only supports mITX motherboards)... But if you look to the rules of the forum, we have no restrictions on size, form factor, or any such metric when it comes to what people can post about. This is partly because we wanted to keep the rules simple and the enforcement of those rules soft-touch. This is also partly because we knew we couldn't think through all the scenarios like this beforehand.

Anyways, though the snap reaction by some to the build log is understandable given that we're "SFF Forum", we're worried that certain posted content may be policed by community members whenever it doesn't fit their definition of what "Small Form Factor" is. Certainly, with the Manta, most will agree, but even in this more extreme example I have serious concerns that really awesome content (like this build log) will be brushed off or bullied away simply because it isn't in the wheelhouse of our most vocal members.

More importantly, just because SFF Forum is focused on builds that are small, that does not mean we should do so while willfully ignoring or excluding builds that aren't unilaterally focused on minimizing volume. Enclosures and computers exist on a continuum of sizes and space efficiencies, and I've elaborated before that the importance of SFF is the philosophy behind it, which is one of intense focus on the things that matter most to us. Sometimes, that means that the size becomes a reduced concern. Sometimes, that means you have large cases that are still incredibly space-efficient because of all the hardware that's inside.

TLDR: The question of "How big is too big" is actually pretty complicated. It doesn't boil down to one number.

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I'm taking the time out of my incredibly, incredibly busy day to write this because it's clear that a balance needs to be struck, whereby we keep the focus of the forum on "SFF" enclosures, while still empowering members to post builds and other things that don't quite fit underneath that umbrella when literally taken. This is incredibly important for us to get right, because improper handling of this will alienate community members and degrade the quality of the discourse on the forum - and those are all things that we have vigorously defended and tried to hold up to the highest of standards.

Internally, we've debated everything from hard limits/caps on build sizes, to no limits at all, to a global limit with a "Not-so-SFF" section where that limit is not in effect. But this is absolutely a consideration that we think the whole community should process and voice their opinions about, given the importance and relative complexity.

So, what do you all think? What's the most productive and community-positive way to handle this? And if there should be a size limit - what should the number or numbers be?
 

MunneY

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Feb 14, 2016
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Sorry for pushing the limits!

Honestly I understand the pushback. Its definitely not small by any means. It is small to me considering its the smallest case I've built in as of yet, but not for long (getting the cerebarus)

I'd say your likely to get more involvement in the forums if you don't hard limit it but just a "attempt to keep it small" as you put with the "not-so-SFF"

But thats just my .02
 

jØrd

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On topic: i'd say mITX, mATX or larger form factors done small (such as confusis's small form factor ATX mods). The risk of getting into the weeds w/ arbitrary limits on case volume and such is that it excludes people from contributing. Even if what their contributing now isnt strictly SFF by turning away their work it leaves open the potential that we will miss alot of creativity, ideas, novel approaches to problems and future contributions they might make that follow the definition of SFF more closely. One case that comes to mind (kind of the opposite of this) was the fury nano build log on [ H ] that was removed by staff there (because they were buthurt about not getting a review sample) w/ the reason given being their not an SFF focused site. Ultimately they came out of that looking like muppets in most peoples eyes. anything that touches on exclusion is a difficult line to walk.
 
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Stevo_

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Jul 2, 2015
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I think his handle is allanitomawesh on OCN but he'd always tell somebody that showed up with ridiculous huge case ; it's cool but it it better be packed. I'm of the same thought. Ok, that and it shouldnt look like a vacuum cleaner. Corsair 380 I'm looking at you ;)
 
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Phuncz

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The way to look at it may be what the Space Inefficiency thread is all about: if your case doesn't allow almost complete usage of the internal volume AND it's above 20-30L (open for debate ofcourse), I would say it's not SFF.

I have four computers at the moment with wildly different volume efficiency:
- Xigmatek Nebula C: it's 20L but with maybe 40% of it's volume unused but unusable due to it being a badly designed case.
- Ncase M1: 12L, it has much more usable room and it's also filled up to 95% or so.
- PowerMac G5 case: >30L it's an ATX-sized mATX-supported behemoth that I would never call SFF.
- Akasa Tesla H: 1,7L passive NUC case, but I don't see it as SFF, because half of the volume isn't used.

I could fill all those empty cases with HDDs but that's not SFF either.

Basically if the build could exist in a much smaller case (excluding cooling) I tend to think it's not SFF.
MunneY's build did leave me in a difficult position: he is trying to apply a large amount of watercooling and thereby filling the case. If it is going to perform better or make less noise than an a stuffed case, I would doubt but that is my personal preference.
 
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BirdofPrey

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Sep 3, 2015
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Well I don't have an sff build to actually show of, so whatever, but the main draw for me isn't as much the actual size of the build as the usage of space.
I think even larger motherboards with a lot of graphics cards can still be neat if there's no empty space in there.
 

iFreilicht

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Feb 28, 2015
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The overall sentiment is something I can get behind. It's more about spatial efficiency than the magical 20L line that is drawn elsewhere. The higher the volume gets, the more important the efficiency is to me.

We have to think about what we want this forum to be to users, and I felt like it should be a place to share, discuss and get advice on small PC builds and the reduction of the size of your build. The most important thing to me is the intention one is coming here with and their general behaviour and interaction.
 

QinX

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I tend to lean to a sub-forum that caters to those that are dipping their toes in the SFF space but aren't there yet. and I agree with @j0rd that if you have a Quad-SLI HTPX Dual CPU watercooled rig and you manage to completly fill out a case it can still be considered SFF for the relevant hardware inside it.

The sub-forum would not be to shun people away with their builds, but it would serve as a way for those that aren't quite ready to dive into the true SFF mindset to receive feedback for their next system and prepare them to enter the SFF main forum.

If the philospohy behind SFF is not make it smaller, but make more efficient use of the cases and hardware inside it.

The NZXT Manta is a case that can't be considered SFF unless modded to be mATX or ATX.
 
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EdZ

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May 11, 2015
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A sub-forum seems like a good solution. SFF usually ends up in its own sub-forum on other sites, so having the inverse here doesn't seem unusual.
 

iFreilicht

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Personally I like the idea of keeping it free and having the problem fix itself.

That's prone to introduce a lot of toxicity from parts of the community towards new users though, something we want to prevent by any means possible. We have to give support to those that are interested, but inexperienced, and to make that happen we also need to lower the barrier to entry by creating a safe space where new users can post their first steps without fearing instant backlash over how large their build is without opening the floodgates to all the Prodigy and Manta builds.

It seems like a subforum could be a good way to do this.
 
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Soul_Est

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I would prefer it to have a sub-forum for the reasons stated above. That said, @Josh | NFC has a point. I see this happen over on PCPP a lot where people post Build Guides asking for help on their Parts List, when there is a forum for that.