Taipei, Tuesday, March 31, 2015 04:07 (GMT+8)
partly cloudy
Taipei
21°C
The Small-Form-Factor trend: From concept to convergence
Vyacheslav Sobolev, DigiTimes.com, Taipei [Monday 31 January 2005]

Small-form-factor (SFF) desktop PCs are still a relatively new concept in the PC market. It was less than four years ago that Shuttle introduced its first SFF PC model, the PC-SV24. The company is now widely recognized as the pioneer of the SFF movement and the originator of the SFF concept.

Last year, Shuttle reported that it had shipped its millionth unit from its XPC family of SFF PCs. Currently the company has a comprehensive SFF PC product lineup, consisting of models for both the Intel and the AMD CPU platforms, based on chipsets from five vendors (Intel, VIA Technologies, SiS, ATI, Nvidia) and targeting various market segments from value systems to solutions for enthusiasts and “overclockers.”

Strictly speaking, there is no “classical” definition of an SFF PC. If the definition is a PC that is smaller than a regular desktop PC housed in a tower case, products that follow those criteria were available before the Shuttle PC-SV24. However, Shuttle was definitely the first company to come to market with a complete concept of a compact desktop PC and its own vision of the future of the product.

The Shuttle PC-SV24 featured the VIA Apollo Pro 133A chipset with integrated graphics and supported Socket 370 CPUs, though the system came with only one PCI expansion slot on the motherboard. The company had chosen its own proprietary form factor for the product, instead of an open standard. This began a trend towards non-standard form factors, with offerings from other vendors in addition to Shuttle. These rival motherboard vendors had recognized the benefits and potential of SFF PCs, and they entered the market with their own solutions based on their own proprietary form factors.

Currently, there are still a wide variety of form factors in the SFF PC market, from tiny boxes with a processor embedded on the motherboard to the larger-sized cases that offer more upgrade options. However, when the industry talks about SFF systems, the reference is normally to the more-or-less cubic designs, similar to the first model introduced by Shuttle in 2001. These products are still mostly sold as barebone systems, comprising case, power supply, motherboard (typically with integrated video, audio and LAN support), mouse and keyboard. Some vendors may also bundle their products with monitors, optical drives, or other components, though key components such as CPUs, DRAM memory modules and HDDs are usually sold separately.

Since Intel introduced its BTX (Balanced Technology Extended) specification at IDF Fall 2003, many vendors have also focused their efforts on bringing this form factor to the SFF PC segment. Until now, however, these developments have not actually resulted in many new products. It is interesting to note, though, how these efforts have also given new life to attempts to use other standard form factors to design SFF PCs, such as Micro ATX or Flex ATX.

The SFF market was also one of the first PC segments to understand that PCs are now morphing into consumer-electronics products, as the vendors offered customers more stylish designs and more accessible products. This general trend to the convergence of IT and consumer electronics is ongoing, and makers now devote as many resources to designing the outside of their products as they do the inside.

Over the next several months, DigiTimes.com will take a closer look at the products and vendors in the SFF segment, as well as the market in general, with the intention of providing a better picture of where the market stands and where it is heading.

Realtime news
  • Toshiba in talks to sell large stake of Egypt-based TV manufacturing facilities, says report

    Displays | 4h 58min ago

  • Asustek to add fingerprint ID function to ZenFone in 2H15, says paper

    Mobile + telecom - Newswatch | 5h 5min ago

  • IHS comments on Intel potential acquisition of Altera

    Bits + chips | 5h 7min ago

  • Epistar to start production of integrated power drivers based on Si substrates

    LED | 6h 2min ago

  • CPT reports decline for 2014 performance

    Displays | 6h 6min ago

  • Giga Solar Materials to deal out 2014 dividend of NT$15.00

    Green energy | 6h 8min ago

  • Asustek hopes to globally ship 30 million smartphones in 2015, says chairman

    Before Going to Press | 6h 16min ago

  • Inventec to set server production plants in Southeast Asia and Japan, says chairman

    Before Going to Press | 6h 17min ago

  • Taiwan market: Gogoro to unveil first e-bike in summer 2015

    Before Going to Press | 6h 39min ago

  • Lenovo plans to launch smartphones in Japan, says Nikkei

    Before Going to Press | 6h 40min ago

  • New government-sponsored technology research facilities kick off

    Before Going to Press | 6h 41min ago

  • Motherboard players already not expected to achieve shipment targets for 2015

    Before Going to Press | 6h 43min ago

  • IC distributor ANStek revenues and profits climb to 3-year highs

    Before Going to Press | 6h 44min ago

  • Niching 2014 profits hit 3-year high

    Before Going to Press | 6h 44min ago

  • Sony Mobile executive to visit Taiwan smartphone ODMs to enhance cooperation

    Before Going to Press | 6h 44min ago

  • China government to halt investments for BOE 10.5G LCD facilities

    Before Going to Press | 6h 45min ago

  • Health care remains a focus for wearable vendors

    Before Going to Press | 6h 46min ago

  • China PV makers expect demand to rebound in 2Q15

    Before Going to Press | 6h 47min ago

  • Samsung Display looking to revamp OLED TV panel production

    Before Going to Press | 6h 48min ago

  • Foxconn nets NT$8.85 per share for 2014

    Before Going to Press | 6h 49min ago

  • UMC snatches high-end 28nm chip orders from TSMC clients

    Before Going to Press | 6h 50min ago

  • Demand from China picking up, say IC design houses

    Before Going to Press | 6h 51min ago

  • Foundry chipmaker Powerchip rolls out solutions for IoT

    Before Going to Press | 6h 52min ago

  • Simplo pushing new businesses

    Before Going to Press | 6h 52min ago

Pause
 | 
View more
High-brightness LED market trends and forecast, 2015
Trends and forecasts for the China FPD industry, 2014-2017
Greater China touch panel shipment forecast through 2015
  • Wireless broadband developments in Southeast Asia markets

    As of 2013, the 10 ASEAN nations had a total of over 700 million mobile subscriptions, with the CAGR from 2003-2013 reaching 24%. This Digitimes Research Special Report analyzes the various mobile broadband markets in ASEAN and looks at the respective trends in 4G LTE development for those markets.

  • 2015 global tablet demand forecast

    This Digitimes Research Special Report provides a 2015 forecast for the global tablet market and analyzes the strategies of key market players such as Google, Apple, Intel, and Microsoft.

  • 2015 China smartphone panel trend forecast

    This Digitimes Research Special Report analyzes the strategies of key China-based major panel makers BOE, Tianma and IVO for attacking the different market segments through technology and pricing, and their relationship to local vendors Huawei, Lenovo, ZTE, Xiaomi and Coolpad.