Help me get a SFF gaming PC with grunt

As much as I love my 24" iMac, the GForce 7600 in it just met Oblivion at 1920x1200 and, well, that’s the end of that. I need a SFF gaming pc with some balls, but I don’t want to spent a ridiculous amount on money on it.

I love this Aopen Cube, but can’t see if it will accomodate a two-slot PCI-x card, let alone power it effectively with the 275w power supply.

Shuttle’s P2 line offers Core 2 duo, 2GB RAM and an 8800 GTS with 640MB: but that takes the base $1,600 model to $2100!

It looks like I can configure a near-identical machine with a barebones Shuttle P2 at Newegg, and save $500 or so. But, will that barebones version of the box hold that card? Maybe when you ask Shuttle for that big-ass card, they also use a different power supply, or somesuch. Reviews indicate it’s definitely able to take 2 slot cards, but isn’t the 8800 GTS kind of long (if not as long as the GTX?)

Or am I barking up the wrong tree with Shuttle?

Try turning the graphics down first? I don’t think anything less than a 8800 will play Oblivion well at that resolution. Even my X1900 XT starts to chug a ‘tiny’ bit every so often (not very often, but still) at 1650 x 1024.

I know, It’s just that I thought that after years of building monstrous PCs, I could segue into a post-hardcore-gamer Mac-based dilattente existence where middling performance will do.

It doesn’t.

I know you want something [b]really svelte[/b], but consider building a MicroATX system using the Silverstone SG01 case and any of a number of MicroATX boards.

I’ve used the Asus P5B-VM with good results, or if you want to go the Athlon 64 route, the MSI K9AGM2 is a decent board.

You can have a double-wide graphics card and still have room for a PCI sound card. These cases don’t take up much more room than a P-series shuttle box, either.

Honestly, I think building gaming PCs around SFF boxes is a big mistake unless you absolutely need the small form factor. I did it a few years ago and everything was great until a year later when I wanted to do upgrades but couldn’t find anything to fit in the case short of doing an entire system upgrade. They can be practically as bad as laptops when upgrading time rolls around.

They are fine for general PC use, especially if you don’t mind using the on-mobo video, etc, but IMO they suck for gaming and should be avoided.

You’re right – there’s an SFF box built exactly like the new one will be, in the closet. It’s perfectly good for a 2-year old gaming PC, with an ATI X800 XT PE, 2GB DDR RAM and an AMD 3800. But hopelessly unupgradeable thanks to the case-specific topped-out Socket 754 mobo and AGP slot.

That’s kind of why I want it to be reasonably balls-out, with a dual slot 8800 or x1950XTX or whatever: so It’ll do me long enough so I’m not tempted to upgrade any part of it until I just get to buy-a-new-one time in a couple of years.

Why do you want an SFF box, Rob? You don’t actually say.

Personally I was tempted by SFF in my last major system build. Then I actually built the thing, with an Antec Sonata (thanks stusser), and I’m a crappy enough cabler and builder that I was very glad I didn’t have to cram everything into 1/3 the space.

Why not just go with the Big Box? Get some nice long cables and stick it in a ventilated cabinet or something, and you don’t even see it at all.

I just had big fridge-PCs for so long, everything has to be small and neat and tucked away these days.

Why not just go with the Big Box? Get some nice long cables and stick it in a ventilated cabinet or something, and you don’t even see it at all.

I might – I still have a Lian-Li case that’s pretty, if ginormous, and then I can stop worrying. I found someone at Hexus.net who reports 8800GTX in tat Shuttle p2 barebones works fine.

Anyone see any gotchas in this list? Newegg Wish list

FYI the retail ATI X2900XTX is 9.5" long and takes up two slots. The OEM one is 11.5" and a single slot, I think.

The 8800GTS is 9.5-10" long IIRC, and the GTX is an obscene 11", both taking up two slots.

Oh yeah, one final thing – Shuttle has a x16 PCIe upgrade to that chassis out, but it’s another $100. The one listed here is x8. Now, running an x16 card in an x8 slot doesn’t make for a perceptible perfomance drop, I read – is that true?

Eek. Most of the websites that have said things like that, were saying so under the assumption that the user would be upgrading his older system to a new Core 2 system, and keeping their old obsolete card. It was like saying “well, it’s a slow card anyway, so he won’t notice the difference.”.

I’d feel pretty odd about getting such a high end card with such a mediocre motherboard. It’s like buying a Core 2 Duo Extreme and pairing it with the cheapest, slowest ram you can find. Probably works ok, but it seems to be working cross-purposes.

Of course, if I reuse my Lian-Li fridge with a new motherboard (instead of plunking $500 for some fancy shuttle barebones) the whole deal, 8800 included, comes under a grand. SFF is expensive.

Right now yes, later maybe not. With 1GB RAM on the latest ATI part coming out, I have to imagine the extra bandwidth would be very nice.

I did SFF for a while… It was fine when the machine was just used for MAME and media center, but once I started gaming on it (read: got my DLP TV) and upgraded it a bit, the heat/fan noise issues just got too frustrating.

Got a Sonata mid-size case and never looked back.

Even a MicroATX setup’s going to be a lot less problematic than a shoebox… That 8800GTS runs hot. Even if heat’s not a problem, I’d be surprised if it’s half as quiet as my Sonata.

Yeah. Tallying everything up makes a good 8800GTS system, with a E6600 core 2 duo and 2 GB RAM about a $1,200 if I skip Vista for now. Shoeboxing it brings that to about $1,500. Buying a ready-made shoebox from Shuttle and it’s $2,100.

As much as I loathe big cases, I can’t justify to myself the extra expense.