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.

---

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?
 

IntoxicatedPuma

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I would argue that SFF shouldn't be limited to a displacement size, but rather cramming as much stuff in as small of a space as possible (hehe). I'm not a big fan of the Manta and would never call it SFF, but something like the Fractal Define Nano S I would argue could be SFF if it's crammed full of radiators. Some ATX cases I would also argue could be SFF, like a Jonsbo RM2 with a pair of video cards and some other high end hardware. As for non SFF cases, I'm find with people posting stuff. It's nice to see what people are doing and ITX is related to SFF so we can observe and learn from his build.
 

K888D

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A sub forum sounds like a good idea. The word 'compact' to me describes something that is considered small for its capabilities but at the same time does not mean it actually has to be small.
 

PlayfulPhoenix

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So far, the general consensus seems to be that we should have a subforum for "Not-so-SFF" builds, which is fine, but a bit complicated to implement in practice. It will only really work if we have a categorization or some rules/limits on what can be posted elsewhere on the forum.

What do you all think that limit should be? What should determine whether something should be posted in this section, versus anywhere else on the forum?
 

iFreilicht

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What do you all think that limit should be? What should determine whether something should be posted in this section, versus anywhere else on the forum?

That's actually the same question we had in the beginning, we just pushed it back by one step :D

For users, the easiest way would of course be to just post wherever they think it makes the most sense, and the staff occasionally moving threads to the Not-so-SFF forum on their discretion.

I feel like the limit of 20L for normal builds would work, for ATX and larger board builds we could maybe add an exception for up to 25L or something like that. Everything larger than that should generally be posted as Not-so-SFF, but can still be moved on staff's discretion.
 

confusis

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Well, the IDC definition of SFF is sub-19 litres so that could be an official, published, line to work with. It does leave out impressively packed ATX systems though :/
 
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QinX

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For ITX systems you could remain true to IDC <19L guidelines, but if a 19L ITX system is SFF why would a 25L or 30L mATX not be?

I hard rules aren't the way to go, but a sticky with some examples, images, of what is and isn't considered SFF would work best, posters can take a look and see if it fits. And for edge cases mods would have the final say.
 
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Soul_Est

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Well, the IDC definition of SFF is sub-19 litres so that could be an official, published, line to work with. It does leave out impressively packed ATX systems though :/
That it does. Perhaps we should add that the system should technically be possible to move without doing a full-body lift or requiring two or more people to lift?

For ITX systems you could remain true to IDC <19L guidelines, but if a 19L ITX system is SFF why would a 25L or 30L mATX not be?

I hard rules aren't the way to go, but a sticky with some examples, images, of what is and isn't considered SFF would work best, posters can take a look and see if it fits. And for edge cases mods would have the final say.
Those are excellent points and great suggestions.
 
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EdZ

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Maybe add a "used volume" excpetion above 19L: A 30L case packed to the gills with multiple GPUs, drives,and radiators may qualify as SFF, whereas a 25L case with a stock ITX board sitting in the middle would not.
 

Phuncz

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But is a packed system SFF ? I could fill a 40L case with enough radiators, fans and HDDs along with my mITX build that fits in a 12L case, but is that still considered SFF ? Would a second GPU and an mATX board make it SFF ? I would expect the word "Small" in SFF to still mean something other than 'Stuffed".

It was mentioned earlier in this topic I believe and it seems to me to hold the most logic:
mITX: 20L or smaller
mATX: 30L or smaller
ATX: 40L or smaller

It would mean a BitFenix Prodigy (mITX), a Corsair Air 240 (mATX) and a Silverstone FT05 (ATX) would fall out of the category SFF, but still allow even slightly efficient cases like a Lian-Li PC-Q33 (mITX), Silverstone SG10 (mATX) and NZXT S340 (ATX) to be included.

Personally I feel that 15L, 25L and 35L should be the volumes to call something SFF, because I feel SFF should be more than just a happy coincidence.
 

iFreilicht

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But is a packed system SFF ? I could fill a 40L case with enough radiators, fans and HDDs along with my mITX build that fits in a 12L case, but is that still considered SFF ? Would a second GPU and an mATX board make it SFF ? I would expect the word "Small" in SFF to still mean something other than 'Stuffed".

It was mentioned earlier in this topic I believe and it seems to me to hold the most logic:
mITX: 20L or smaller
mATX: 30L or smaller
ATX: 40L or smaller

It would mean a BitFenix Prodigy (mITX), a Corsair Air 240 (mATX) and a Silverstone FT05 (ATX) would fall out of the category SFF, but still allow even slightly efficient cases like a Lian-Li PC-Q33 (mITX), Silverstone SG10 (mATX) and NZXT S340 (ATX) to be included.

Personally I feel that 15L, 25L and 35L should be the volumes to call something SFF, because I feel SFF should be more than just a happy coincidence.

15, 25 and 35 sound reasonable to me. A 40L ATX build isn't really a challenge, just like a 20L ITX one. Those are the ones that can be posted in the Not-so-SFF forum. They are an effort to make a change, but not all that small. Pretty much exactly what we're looking for.
 

janas19

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15, 25 and 35 sound reasonable to me. A 40L ATX build isn't really a challenge, just like a 20L ITX one. Those are the ones that can be posted in the Not-so-SFF forum. They are an effort to make a change, but not all that small. Pretty much exactly what we're looking for.

I agree and also like these definitions as an arbitrary standard. From my knowledge and experience, this strikes a good balance between what is practical and what PlayfulPhoenix described as the philosophy of Small Form Factor. There's certainly some good logic behind it. Above 15L in ITX cases, you start getting things like ATX size PSUs, 5.25 drive bays, and custom watercooling brackets. These things just are not necessary in Mini-ITX for the large majority.

Maybe one or two years ago when the market was in it's infancy was an ATX PSU truly needed. But things are changing and that just isn't the case anymore. IMO a bit of forward thinking and discrimination are necessary. There is no point in trying to make everyone happy, so I say divvy it up and push everyone outside those guidelines into a "Not So SFF" sub.
 
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EdZ

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An engineer-satisfying but practically inconvenient measure would be IF (case bounding box volume) : (combined bounding-box volume of individual components) < (certain value) THEN it's small-form-factor.
 

NFSxperts

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I'm open to the idea of a 'Not-so-SFF' subforum.

I agree with everyone that said a separate subforum and maybe split into 2 categories.
Somewhat Small Form Factor
- Compact builds (>20L)
- Space inefficiency builds (>30L that only supports m-itx)

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.

I think the keyword here is 'small'. You can't just use up space in an ATX case and call it small. It's like shoving 5 extra seats into an SUV to use up all the space and than call it a compact car.
idc has a definition for sff.


Well, the IDC definition of SFF is sub-19 litres so that could be an official, published, line to work with. It does leave out impressively packed ATX systems though :/
Yea, keep with the IDC definition. I had a poll on ocn and the majority of the votes agreed the definition should be less than 20L.
 

iFreilicht

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I think the keyword here is 'small'. You can't just use up space in an ATX case and call it small. It's like shoving 5 extra seats into an SUV to use up all the space and than call it a compact car.

It would be a compact van, though. And if you really need space for so many people but want a compact car because your garage won't fit a big van, that's the smallest you can go.

The definitions of the IDC are fine, but they don't apply to the reality of things. In the end we'll have to make a poll anyway to decide upon the system that's going to be used.
 

QinX

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Mar 2, 2015
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Let's try to not hammer on the IDC definition too much. The IDC is perfectly fine. It states that a computer that is under 20 liters can be designated as SFF, Small Form Factor.
We are talking about basically about EFF, Efficient Form Factor.

You can have a 15L SFF case with only a NUC PCB inside it and be fine. That person would still pointed to the fact that a 15L SFF case with a NUC inside it isn't EFF.
 
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IntoxicatedPuma

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To be fair I guess, a Nuc could be more powerful than an ITX build using a core2duo and 9800gt. I think a few years from now even more powerful than some recent gaming PC.
 

jØrd

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would a not so SFF tag be a better option than a sub-forum? The latter might end up turning into a ghost town pretty quickly