Taipei, Wednesday, August 31, 2016 10:14 (GMT+8)
mostly cloudy
Taipei
31°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
  • LTCC module maker ACX to see revenues high in August, 3Q16

    Bits + chips - Newswatch | 11h 54min ago

  • Smartphone vendors likely to follow Samsung Electronics to adopt IR LED-based iris recognition

    LED | Aug 30, 21:27

  • Samsung announces mass production of 14nm Exynos chips

    Bits + chips | Aug 30, 21:17

  • Hiwin Technologies expects robot business to begin to profit at end of 2016, says report

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 20:59

  • Acer sets up 2 subsidiaries to develop smart home and transportation devices

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 20:58

  • Orders for iris recognition chips to boost Xintec revenues in 2017, says report

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 20:50

  • Thermal module maker AVC reports earnings for July

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 20:50

  • Connector maker Alltop posts EPS NT$2.55 for January-July period

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 20:48

  • Mirle develops 3D curved glass forming equipment, says report

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 20:19

  • Tripod to post 5-8% revenue growth in 3Q16, says report

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 20:00

  • Taiwan market: LG launches X-series smartphones

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 19:59

  • Enterprise private, public cloud use on the rise, says VMware CEO

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 19:40

  • VMware unveils Cross-Cloud Architecture, Cloud Foundation at VMworld 2016

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 19:38

  • Taipei to host International Industrial Automation show

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 19:36

  • LG Electronics to launch 38-inch 21:9 Ultra Wide LCD monitor

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 19:31

  • NVM IP provider eMemory unveils EcoBit technology for RFID and NFC applications

    Before Going to Press | Aug 30, 19:30

Pause
 | 
View more
IFSEC
Wireless broadband developments in Southeast Asia markets
Analysis of China revised domestic semiconductor industry goals
  • 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.