News Issues with ITX Market video from Hardware Canucks


Interesting video from Hardware Canucks looking at the direction of ITX and some of the current issues we have.

*Shamelessly copying the timestamps here*
0:00 - ITX Market is Broken!
0:56 - Issues since the beginning
2:40 - The ITX balance
4:52 - Of the best ITX cases but more challenges
6:25 - ITX Compatibility Issues
9:02 - Riser Cable Dilemma
10:11 - THIS is how you Fix It!
 
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Skripka

Cat-Dog Perch Manager
Bronze Supporter
May 18, 2020
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Over in the "What did you do today" thread there was a digression about this. Thinking about it...a few hot takes:

A) Half of what makes SFF fun--is that it has historically been a challenge. Parts selection, thermal management of those parts, cabling etc. A bit of exclusive club, and not for everyone. And because of that exclusivity--end results varied quite a bit.​


Think pre-digital-radio R/C aircraft. It used to take a ton of know how and skill and patience to be in that hobby. Even 15 or 20 years ago. First you were generally scratch-building kit planes--you needed to know carpentry or learn it. Second you had to have a modicum of electronics know how, or learn it. 3rd you had no computers controlling anything behind the scenes--and had to manually manage flight yourself--or you destroyed your creations and had to rebuild them. You also need brains to operate them safely. You met people in that hobby--and they knew their stuff.

Versus today. You can buy a quad-copter on Amazon that is solid-state-gyro stabilized that takes no skill or brains to operate...you meet people now in that hobby--and overwhelmingly they don't have a clue and they fly dangerously in crowded areas around people without consent or being informed etc. Yes there was a great expansion of the accessibility of the hobby...OTOH the result was that every-day idiots are now the majority-- kids flying in residential neighborhoods, endangering others or outright being creepers and the like.

A similar analog has been happening with SFF....Here on SFF.NET it is still a fairly diverse club where you see varying build logs, compared to say r/sffpc which has basically become a daily dose of NR200 builds and SSUPd etc. in the last year. There was an LTT video building in WinterOne, and Linus seemed shocked or surprised that stock cales are too long on SFX PSUs for most properly SFF cases--one of those 'duh' things a bit of research would have told him.

B) ITX was an historical footnote. Until vendors saw MATX take off.....with MATX taking off the NCASE project on [H]ardForum became a thing to really expand SFF and show that there is a market potential there. Now the MATX market has basically been devoured by ITX.​


IMHO, ITX is probably going to get sunk by STX before too long. It largely depends on what happens with ARM.....and how badly Microsoft fumbles ARM yet again. TBH, my ideal SFFPC would be a PC but Mac Mini size but with a dGPU. Someday, we'll probably be there, without giving up lots like the Intel NUCs with laptop procs.

C) Performance and thermal problems are an industry problem. It is just most evident in SFFPC.​


We have GPUs now that by themselves pull more power than an entire desktop computer. I remember the days with a AMD dualie-radeon card thinking that 2x8-pin power was insane. Shoot I remember when PEG power first started needing to be a thing. CPUs are mostly in the same envelope they've been before with some exceptions (Phenom I or Bulldozer)...but GPUs have gone off the deep-end of IDGAF power-hunger.

We're basically numb, now, to how ridiculously large air coolers have to be. We don't even go WTF at the NH D15 being as large as it is-people instead view it as an inconvenience they won't fit.
 
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Phuncz

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May 9, 2015
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While the issues being highlighted in the video are true, it depends on what you think about building a normal gaming PC and what you are trying to achieve from your SFF build.

I switched to SFF when I figured out the large/huge cases that were popular 10-20 years ago were meaningless with only one GPU and every expansion card being offered onboard. When breaking it down, most builds are just boxes filled with a lot of dead space and have a very inefficient layout. Lets take a look at the Cooler Master NR200, one of the popular brand mITX cases that's actually smaller than an mATX case. There's a lot of standard hardware that's compatible and it still is a small case. Want to go smaller ? Physics say not everything is compatible.

mATX being replaced by mITX is also not very accurate. mATX still is very popular in the OEM market and most mATX boards from the last five years were mainly low cost boards. mATX only reduced the footprint of a standard gaming PC build a little. Going from ATX to SFX PSUs allowed much more reduction in volume.

SFF builds could become much easier if manufacturers made some standards/guidelines on sizing. GPUs used to conform to PCIe/ATX sizing guidelines but nowadays every dimension is fair play to oversize.
 

Analogue Blacksheep

King of Cable Management
Original poster
Bronze Supporter
Dec 2, 2018
627
447
I agree with most of the points in the video, but I disagree with Dmitry's points about Flex ATX. Yes, it's very loud, but as I have mentioned in previous threads I believe it is where SFX was about a decade ago. Flex ATX and U1 PSU's are very popular with cases from China and I think GaN might be the magic bullet that can fix the noise issue. I think combining it with a Pico styled plug in unit might be the answer for the modular cable issue.

***

Edit - Basically this.
 
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lozza_c

Trash Compacter
Aug 26, 2020
37
24
This.

I believe for a number of people it is hard to get excited with those.
Homogeneity appears to have ruled the roost on r/sffpc for some time now. Truly innovative ideas are few and far between the mass of posts of the same 5-6 cases.
 

Skripka

Cat-Dog Perch Manager
Bronze Supporter
May 18, 2020
273
328
While the issues being highlighted in the video are true, it depends on what you think about building a normal gaming PC and what you are trying to achieve from your SFF build.

I switched to SFF when I figured out the large/huge cases that were popular 10-20 years ago were meaningless with only one GPU and every expansion card being offered onboard. When breaking it down, most builds are just boxes filled with a lot of dead space and have a very inefficient layout. Lets take a look at the Cooler Master NR200, one of the popular brand mITX cases that's actually smaller than an mATX case. There's a lot of standard hardware that's compatible and it still is a small case. Want to go smaller ? Physics say not everything is compatible.

mATX being replaced by mITX is also not very accurate. mATX still is very popular in the OEM market and most mATX boards from the last five years were mainly low cost boards. mATX only reduced the footprint of a standard gaming PC build a little. Going from ATX to SFX PSUs allowed much more reduction in volume.

SFF builds could become much easier if manufacturers made some standards/guidelines on sizing. GPUs used to conform to PCIe/ATX sizing guidelines but nowadays every dimension is fair play to oversize.

So....Standards

The OEM players are going to make for some hard decisions soon....Originally Intel said ATX 12VO was intended for OEMs only. I wondered, "Why would it stay that way when it makes basically zero economic sense for all OEMs for their to be two simultaneous PSU standards?"....and it seems all the OEMs had their analysts wonder the same thing. Which will cause problems for SFF and AIOs--unless AIOs go to being powered by motherboard headers and not SATA power.

Right now is basically the worst time to contemplate PC building and future compatibility of stuff...not only because nothing is in stock, but all the 'standards' are probably going/gone away. What with:
  • GPUs being too hot and power hungry for 'standard' form factors, necessitating massive coolers that are so massive they deflect under gravity
  • Powering those high-end/halo single cards requires a 'nuclear-reactor' wattage PSU...needing >750W in SFX, oy.
  • PSUs, for everyone, dropping 3.3 and 5V rail support...because keeping them around makes very little large-scale economic sense for OEMs
  • ITX being 'too small' for the additional VRM components
  • USB becoming the utter non-standardized disaster it was supposed to replace. Calling it 'universal' is a joke, due to dozens of different protocols that you cannot tell looking at the jack if it supports.
  • Then there's ARM ...which I'd short-sell my entire future income on Microsoft screwing up, for the umpteenth time. Apple pushing ARM could really improve efficiency--and really bury Microsoft, given their inability to herd their developers into caring about it.
  • NVME 2.0 is coming, and I'd not wager on it being backwards/forwards compatible, unlike PCIE
Hate to say it...as incompatible mechanically as things can be right now...it isn't getting better.
 

thelaughingman

SFF Guru
Jul 14, 2018
1,264
1,371
A similar analog has been happening with SFF....Here on SFF.NET it is still a fairly diverse club where you see varying build logs, compared to say r/sffpc which has basically become a daily dose of NR200 builds and SSUPd etc. in the last year. There was an LTT video building in WinterOne, and Linus seemed shocked or surprised that stock cales are too long on SFX PSUs for most properly SFF cases--one of those 'duh' things a bit of research would have told him.

This.

I believe for a number of people it is hard to get excited with those.

Homogeneity appears to have ruled the roost on r/sffpc for some time now. Truly innovative ideas are few and far between the mass of posts of the same 5-6 cases.
what else do you guys expect? it's a commodity market, not artistic / artisanal ones. before it was r/Ncase M1, r/Ghost S1, after this wave it will be r/Meshlicious and so on and so on.

personally I don't get why it's so bad? SFF is still a niche within a niche (PC building) so the more it becomes mainstream the better it will be for everyone, or no? or should it be reserved to only the 300-400-500 USD batch of 10s cases?
 

Arboreal

Master of Cramming
Silver Supporter
Oct 11, 2015
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snip

Right now is basically the worst time to contemplate PC building and future compatibility of stuff...not only because nothing is in stock, but all the 'standards' are probably going/gone away. What with:
  • GPUs being too hot and power hungry for 'standard' form factors, necessitating massive coolers that are so massive they create their own gravitational field

    FTFY 🤣

    /snip
 

Elaman

Average Stuffer
Sep 13, 2020
87
54
Summary: GPU is the elephant in the room here.

Yes, we are looking at a specific case with a specific look, and for that you have to search and pay and wait some extra. But we also want some specific components in it, specific power draw, (probably somebody specific volume in liters that this should fit under...) etc. I don't think that compares to what's going on with GPUs.
Many will go further with a specific color combination, in the case, in the peripherals, the leds, etc, all of which will cost some extra.
I will go even further and say I want to be able to use a specific controller and so the game must be compatible with it.
The way I'd summarize it is going in as a consumer saying "I want this, and I want it exactly this way, and it should work like this. And I want to mostly make it myself".
As a consumer I consider this a well spent "extra". Time spent tinkering, contributing to smaller projects in one way or another, maybe figuring out something that helps somebody else.

- In the video at 1:58 "yes, but". No, but, we cannot gloss over GPU like this. GPU is harder to find. GPU is more overpriced. Nothing compares to GPU.
We cannot be seriously discussing 20$ difference in power supplies and 100$ difference in case price when NVidia can launch a card at 1200$ MSRP (for the ones who don't know, this translates to a 2000€ AIB card in Europe if/when you get it) and yet people still won't hesitate to queue in front of the stores.
As a consumer I consider this a not so well spent "extra".
 

Tonkatsu

Average Stuffer
Jul 18, 2020
80
43
what else do you guys expect? it's a commodity market, not artistic / artisanal ones.
I strongly disagree, to me - and I want to believe I'm not with an unsignificant minority - SSF PC has to encapsulate the whole definition of design, not just stop at utility (volume x performance)
In my mind it's like Hi-Fi, AV and various electronics from back in the 20th century, real high-end products purposes aren't just to fill charts with higher figures and upgrade-update, they're an experience that go further than schematics born exclusively from performance logs and calculations.
Many case manufacturers, designers and vendors seem to agree with builders who seek more than that, and I think quite a number of people were attracted to SFF with similar motives (+ anyway lets not lilmit it to SFF: it's not everyone but PC builders quite commonly care about their computer's design/looks along the other usual concerns)

before it was r/Ncase M1, r/Ghost S1, after this wave it will be r/Meshlicious and so on and so on.
This is the sad and unappealing vision to me, I didn't step into SFF for that. For instance sandwich factor is the last thing I want on my desk, and in general almost completely featureless all-black/white/metal monoliths are not welcome either.
Minimalism is fine, but right minimal style is done with careful flair and originality applied.
I felt a bit disappointed since I've started SFFing, to see a boring, uniform, style-less, unimaginative trend is dominant in the field/hobby.
Heck, the same builders even typically try to make the insides uniform and undistinctive, why...are theirs souls so dark !? 😱 :gitgud:

If this is the majority's idea of SFF well then why isn't a store selling them pre-built? after all even if it's PC parts store employees doing the building; people would all get the same nearly identical builds anyway. ¯\(°_o)/¯

I genuinely don't understand the interest of an SFF hobby if it's concentrated into 2~3 'blank' ultra-generic looking cases, pre-thought and ready for the latest components on the market, with little if no room left for the builder's taste an imagination, when it should be a buffet of baroque creativity.

personally I don't get why it's so bad?
I'm convinced it's a turn-off for a portion of many potential newb candidates, for the reason I've given, but also because when they join communities it is almost inevitable they'll be greeted by that crowd first, even SFFn though being more diverse is like that, here too the 'high-end same-monoliths' ideology dominates a good portion of the exchanges.
Which might either make the curious newbs run away, or too quickly persuaded to abandon the maybe naive but more original 'dream build' ideas they had in mind when they stepped in.

Trust me, when you're freshly registered in an SFF joint but the standard monolith isn't what you're after...you quickly feel lonely in the commmunity.

SFF is still a niche within a niche (PC building) so the more it becomes mainstream the better it will be for everyone, or no? or should it be reserved to only the 300-400-500 USD batch of 10s cases?
I never said it has to be expensive, quality and satisfaction are far from being functions of price.
As I've mentioned some times in this community, I think it's the lack of enough information and exchange that generates extra expenses that beginners in particular might easily regret.

I have builds even if still WIP, with which the best SFF-ing moments I've had so far were NOT provided by what I paid the most for. Latest being a bottom end case I've paid peanuts and no one ever would have recommended.
In opposite I've experienced several occurences of other SFFers telling me to give up my ideas, go for one of the few standard monoliths, and spend in definitive much more...all to get basically the same builds they all own...

So you see, I believe my type of SFF mindset is maybe more compatible with cost-effectiveness, than that of the 'core' community's. Simply by result of broadening the view, the possibilities do to.

SFF is still a niche within a niche
Honestly I didn't expect it to be this niche, that was a surprise ! 😳
Maybe it needs to learn to be more appealing and welcoming (understand: sexier and more convenient for beginners) to attract a broader audience ? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I'm not sure this is what the 'core' of the hobbyist crowd wants though, in my experience niches are happy to remain niches and annoyed when sudden influx of foreign elements that might make too many waves occur.

PS: damn, posted an essay.
 

rfarmer

Shrink Way Wielder
Silver Supporter
Jul 7, 2017
2,223
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I'm not sure this is what the 'core' of the hobbyist crowd wants though, in my experience niches are happy to remain niches and annoyed when sudden influx of foreign elements that might make too many waves occur.
This probably best describes me, I enjoyed being part of a niche community. I started SFF in 2014 with a Jonsbo U2 which was an incredibly difficult case to build in with a specific build order, also probably the most satisfying. My thought has always been that SFF isn't supposed to be easy, it is supposed to be challenging. When you spend so much effort on part selection and component optimizing you are rewarded with a build that works well and you can take pride in. Like you say when you buy the latest steel box everyone else has and do the exact same build it is kind of hard to take any pride in that.
 

Phuncz

Lord of the Boards
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May 9, 2015
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I think the SFF community has enough to be both mainstream and niche, as long as we keep guard that it won't become purely one or the other.

Mainstream wants a lot of compatibility, a low price, an easy to choose range of products.
Niche wants focus, customization/personalization and unique features or design.

Both have their specific design choices but in my opinion the current SFF market is so broad we are in the spectrum from mainstream all the way to niche-of-niche. And pretty much everything in between. I feel we are in a good spot for this, though Dimitry has issues with the niche-side of this spectrum, which can be frustrating if you approach it from a mainstream perspective.
 
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tinyitx

Shrink Way Wielder
Jan 25, 2018
2,044
1,955
Probably the next 'big' change to the SFF market is the relocation of the PCIe slot to the edge of the ITX mobo, making the inserted display card to lie on the same plane as the mobo. This is, at least, according to what Wahaha360 said some time ago (a year ago?).
 

Goatee

King of Cable Management
Bronze Supporter
Jun 22, 2018
694
1,446
Probably the next 'big' change to the SFF market is the relocation of the PCIe slot to the edge of the ITX mobo, making the inserted display card to lie on the same plane as the mobo. This is, at least, according to what Wahaha360 said some time ago (a year ago?).

I agree PIO would be a massive step forward.
 

Choidebu

"Banned"
Aug 16, 2017
1,182
1,175
I never liked Hardware Canucks. Now, even more so.

Mate - curb your privileges.

I agree with most points but two:

ITX compatibility
Standards exists for a reason. Keep out zones is one of them, and if a manufacturer releases a product that does not adhere, they should state so. Somewhere. So this is one of an SFF builder's responsibility for due dilligence in research.

Riser problem
This is just beating a dead horse. Pcie 4 came out on mainstream not even a year ago. Not just riser card manufacturer, even motherboard bios maker gets it wrong. You want bleeding edge? Get ready to bleed then. Ffs.

It's like coming to a pristine beach expecting parasols and butlers.

You know what's broken? Influencers. Giving value to invalueable things. Youtubers pretending to care for their viewers.
 

K888D

SFF Guru
Lazer3D
Feb 23, 2016
1,463
2,924
www.lazer3d.com
We have GPUs now that by themselves pull more power than an entire desktop computer. I remember the days with a AMD dualie-radeon card thinking that 2x8-pin power was insane. Shoot I remember when PEG power first started needing to be a thing. CPUs are mostly in the same envelope they've been before with some exceptions (Phenom I or Bulldozer)...but GPUs have gone off the deep-end of IDGAF power-hunger.

I agree that the direction GPU's are heading is getting ridiculous, of just throwing more cores, bigger dies and higher power usage at them to increase frame rates. The problem is that there is extremely high demand for the highest end hardware, and that's where manufacturers can make higher margins/profits, so that's where they'll focus their efforts and resources so long as there's continued demand for it.

Deploying the equivalent resources into low to mid tier cards would probably allow NVidia and AMD to meet most of the demand, but they wouldn't make as much money doing this, add scarcity into the mix from lack of supply resulting in inflated pricing (further profit), it's a win win for them. Whilst the average consumer who'd be happy with a GTX 3050 has to just sit by and watch those with more money than sense fighting over RTX 3080 Ti's!

This is the sad and unappealing vision to me, I didn't step into SFF for that. For instance sandwich factor is the last thing I want on my desk, and in general almost completely featureless all-black/white/metal monoliths are not welcome either.
Minimalism is fine, but right minimal style is done with careful flair and originality applied.
I felt a bit disappointed since I've started SFFing, to see a boring, uniform, style-less, unimaginative trend is dominant in the field/hobby.
Heck, the same builders even typically try to make the insides uniform and undistinctive, why...are theirs souls so dark !? 😱 :gitgud:

I run a small business making SFF PC cases that focus on extreme customisation, yet I would say that around 70% of our orders are for entirely black cases. I guess the majority of people prefer the simple yet stylish all black look, or perhaps they don't want to risk picking something a bit different only for it to go out of style or taste a year later when they've put so much time, money and effort into it, black is timeless I guess. You may get bored of it after a while but at least it won't go out of fashion, maybe lol.
 

Tonkatsu

Average Stuffer
Jul 18, 2020
80
43
Well, yes can't run out of style...if no style at all. 😆

Note I wasn't saying only just because of the colors, I insist on featureless being the problem. Basic black or white or metal box without anything to distinguish it from...a plain box.
That's what I dislike.
Again, minimalism is good assuming with taste - which isn't a easy I admit - but the popular incriminated cases aren't even that, they're less than anything on the outside, really just plain metal boxes, no shape or so little it's entirely missed, hardly a button and simple vents/mesh period.

Cases like that could be on sale @ IKEA part of the 'nihilism: because even lagom is too flashy!' collection.
Product description:
"Black rectangular box with a button and a usb port, because we couldn't come up with anything worthy of several grands in high-end components. Plus fancy design boutique~artisan cases are so expensive anyway dontcha think ?"


PS/ I perfectly understand the high compatibility and performance being rational choices, of course I won't dismiss such valid motives for choosing one of the nihilist monoliths. It's just too bad prominent case manufacturers won't do both. I acknowledge several artisan vendors we see here are continuously seeking designs achieving the best of both worlds, and of course that comes at a price, longer time, and typically still a number of physical-technical constraints.
 
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Questors

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Oct 28, 2018
106
49
Skipping the quoting of previous posts.

There is a mainstream who do not have the desire to create, if they even can. They want it created for them to piece together in a no-fail way. Next they show off their masterpiece while saying the built it.

In the early days of water cooling PCs we did all kinds strange things. Days of polishing hazy plexiglass to a glass like clarity and luster was the pain we took to make things look nicer. Make-shift water blocks with homemade sealing solutions and a variety of pumps not seen today was the norm. Tube from any number of sources and made from different materials was the standard. Making your own power cables was another lesson in pain we were willing to undertake. The variety of home-created fan and pump controllers that no longer exist today was the bomb. In the beginning there were a few companies, it seemed mostly individual enterprises making cases specifically for radiator fan/mount spacing. There was research, testing and arguments galore on what was best.

Then came some standardization. It was good, to a point. G 1/4, 3/8" (10mm) ID fittings. Silver kill coils. Better cooling liquids. Better quality tube that doesn't send plasticizer to gum up the pump and micro-channels of the water blocks. Specialty water cooling case makers gave way to mass junk. Small businesses fell to larger companies that had more dollar power. The custom and special had gone.

Remember distribution plates? People made them on their own. They were awesome because of the craftiness. The uniqueness. Now they are so common, they are the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry of PC water cooling. AIOs have bastardized what water cooling was intended to be by those who created the hobby.

Yet there is the mainstream who are not crafters. They are not customizers. They are not modders. They don't care about any of it. They just want a PC that looks good and is neat and don't want to do much to make it happen. Every hard line water cooled build looks the same these days. Perfect 90° angles. Straight as an arrow tube runs. Perfect length cable extensions. Yes, they do look good. All of them look good. One after another built exactly or close to exactly the same. Symmetry is there, but there is zero character. This is why complete standardization and mainstreaming is only good to a point.

Thank goodness for those who still rip, tear, drill, cut, fit, beat, pound, modify, solder and create rather than settling.