One of the hottest developments in do-it-yourself PC building over the last couple of years has been those little, cube-like, small-form-factor PCs. Yes, SFF PCs have been around in a variety of shapes and sizes for several years, but at first they came with too many sacrifices for serious PC enthusiasts. Some used half-height expansion cards, which severely crippled video and audio card options. Some didn't have a power supply sufficient for the latest processors. Just recently, small-form-factor PCs have become no-compromise solutions.
When Shuttle originally unveiled its XPC line, enthusiasts saw potential, but the system's critical flaw--no AGP graphics slot--kept sales down. It didn't take long for the company to release an XPC with an AGP slot, and the rest is history. XPCs flew off the shelves, and many other motherboard and case manufacturers started cranking out similar little cube PCs.
Over the last couple of years, we've reviewed many of these little wonders. We've seen systems that place a premium on being small and quiet and others that emphasize performance or flexibility. Since you can still buy some of the first SFF PCs reviewed here (often at a substantial cost savings over newer models), we've decided to put all our reviews into one place for easy access.
SFF PCs are almost always sold bare-bones--kits that include a motherboard, case, power supply, and CPU cooler. The rest of the system components you have to buy and attach yourself. As you read through the reviews, you'll notice the capabilities and design of the SFF cube PC grows and changes over time, but what doesn't change is the utility of a no-compromise PC in such a small box. Take it to a LAN party, put it in your entertainment center, stick it on grandma's desk: The beauty of the SFF PC is having a full-fledged desktop PC you can take anywhere.