Looking for a small form factor PC

Stéphanie will move up here in less than two weeks time, so we’ve started looking for a new PC for her. It’s easier to buy a new than transporting the old one from Switzerland to Denmark.

Because we want to be cool and hip we’re looking for a SFF PC, a so-called small form factor PC. It’s those nice little boxes pioneered by Shuttle (they apparently call them XPC now). The system will not be used for games, but for office work, photo editing, etc. I’m thinking something like this:

  • SSF: Shuttle SD11G53,500 DKK ($600). This box includes a motherboard with integrated graphics card and a sound card.

  • CPU: Pentium M 730 1.6 GHz900 DKK ($155). Nice ultra-cool CPU that consumes a maximum of 27W under full load. It should be fairly fast too.

  • RAM: 2 GiB Dual DDR II SDRAM — 1,000 DKK ($170). I don’t care so much about the brand, but Stéphanie says that size matters :-)

  • HDD: Samsung SpinPoint P120 SP2514N 250 GB600 DKK ($100). I have two of these already and I’m quite satisfied with them. Silent PC Review recommends them too for their quiet operation.

  • DVD: Burner for ±RW — 300 DKK ($50). Again I don’t really care as long as it can read and write on all the silly plus and minus formats.

  • LCD: Samsung SyncMaster 204B4,000 DKK ($685). I hope this is a good 20 inch LCD monitor… I think it looks good and I’ve read positive comments about it, but I would very much like your input on this! So please leave a comment if you have any experience with this monitor or know about another good monitor in the same price range.

Please note how I managed to find three letter acronyms for all the components :-)

If you know of other good SFF systems then let me know! I like the Pentium M based system because it is low noise (when the computer has to be right there on the table it has to be quiet). But maybe this isn’t necessary? Tell us what you think.


  1. Mikkel:

    Looks pretty neat. And that certainly is a lot of RAM for simple office work :)

    I don’t know the LCD myself, but I can give you this bit of advice - make sure you don’t end up with dead pixels. Some stores have nice rules about returning hardware even after you’ve tried it.

  2. Martin Geisler:

    Yeah, two GiB is a lot of RAM… But RAM is cheap today and the system benefits from it. I’m using 1.5 GiB right now with just a couple of programs open: Emacs, Firefox, two Eterms, mplayer — streaming music from DR, hehe! :-) That’s the running programs, then there’s all the daemons and the filesystem cache.

    Stéphanie will probably have to run Windows to be able to run her statistical programs, and they can take up huge amounts of RAM. She had problems with it crashing on her because it ran out of memory on her laptop. So this time we want to be on the safe side :-)

    You’re of course right about the dead pixels… but when we buy over the ‘net it’s no problem — I assume you know we have the nice Danish consumer protection laws that unconditionally allows us to return things within 14 days of use.

  3. Mikkel:

    Yeah I know about that, but that’s only if you order by mail. Some will even let you return it when you pick it up yourself. On the other hand, if you buy it from a normal store, your situation will almost certainly be much worse. Of course you’ll be ripped off as well. Good thing we have Internet stores.

    By the way, I think I’ll buy more RAM myself. 1 GiB is pathetic :)

  4. Martin Geisler:

    Yeah, I knew you knew :-) And this will certainly be by mail order — I don’t have a car, and it seems that the components aren’t available in Århus.

    And you’re right, 1 GiB is for loosers :-)

  5. amix:

    If I should recommend something then it would definitely be Apple’s Mac Mini! It’s dual core sweetness. It has some really nice applications (iLife - kick ass) and Mac OS X is absolutely a fantastic system (Windows XP is also supported, but running XP on Mac Mini would be lame). You would also save around 1000 kr. and get some extra things like WiFi and Bluetooth - - and a remote ;)

    And: Chicks dig Apple!

    Mac mini is also totally noise free.

  6. Martin Geisler:

    I’ve been looking at that one too… but as far as I know it will be somewhat more expensive: we’re talking 14,000 DKK for the model with a 20″ display. And that’s not even a 1600×1200 display (it has the abnormal 1680×1050 resolution), and you only get 512 MiB of RAM?!

    But it did get a very nice review on SPCR… but thanks for the hint, it’s good to have options.

  7. amix:

    You don’t have to buy an Apple display. It will work perfectly with the Samsung LCD. If ram is a problem, you can just buy more - Kingston ram will do fine with the Mac mini.

    Btw. the 5000 kr. model isn’t dual core, the 6800 kr. is.

    Anyway, remember that you will get 10% student discount. For the 6800 model you will save around 680 kr… Which is nice.

    Right now you will give 10300 kr. for you current setup.

    If you buy:
    Apple Mac mini core solo: 5.099 kr. -> 4 589 kr.
    Samsung SyncMaster 204B: 4000 kr.
    Kingston ValueRAM 1 x 1 GB: 500 kr.
    Bottom line: 9089 kr.
    Remember that you also get WiFi and Bluetooth, a controller, iLife and a kick-ass design.

    Anyway, I would give around 1800 kr. more and buy the core duo model. It is dual core and has a DVD/CD burner. If you do that you will give 10620, which imo is a way better setup than your 10300 kr. model.

    Read more about iLife here: http://www.apple.com/ilife/


  8. Martin Geisler:

    Hey, now you’re talking! :-) Thanks a lot for doing the detailed calculations… I of course just went to http://edbpriser.dk/ and found the iMac for the ~14,000 kr. I mentioned.

    Ups! I just realized that you’re talking abou the Mini and I’m talking abou the iMac. :-) Sorry about that.

  9. Martin Geisler:

    Another thing: from what I’ve read, then you can shrink the MacOS X partition and install Windows alongside? Stéphanie will most probably need that for her, ehh, legacy applications.

  10. amix:

    iMac is also nice, no doubt about that. But ,ac mini is also a pretty nice machine - especially the core duo model.

    To give you an idea of speed: The Mac mini core duo is around 5 times faster that my current iBook (which runs Mac OS X Tiger perfectly).

  11. amix:

    It is pretty trivial to get Windows running on a Mac these days.
    Apple has provided drivers and software, read more here:

    And you can wait something more: The rumors has it that Apple is going to make Windows applications run inside Mac OS X Leopard (they have also filled a patent for this new emulation).

  12. Martin Geisler:

    Okay, that’s good to hear. I don’t think we can wait until Leopard ships… but thanks for the tip.

  13. Dan V. P. Christiansen:

    You should be aware that it’s possible to get a one-time discount of 20% on a Mac system if you join the Apple Developer Connection as a student member. It’ll cost you $100 (~590 DKK) but the savings are pretty high :)

    See http://developer.apple.com/students/sthardware.html and http://developer.apple.com/students/.

  14. Martin Geisler:

    That’s rather cool, thanks!

  15. Janus:

    it has the abnormal 1680×1050 resolution

    Also known as widescreen.

  16. Martin Geisler:

    :-) I don’t know how bad it is to loose a row 150 pixels high, but I suspect that I wont like it. But of course it’s up to Stéphanie to decide.

  17. Janus:

    Having width is more important, IMO. At least that is the conclusion I came to when deciding whether to buy a Samsung 20″ or two (2ms) Samsung 17″. I ended up buying the 17″’s. Having been running in 1600×1200 for years thinking that nothing would beat it - 2360×1024 is so much more fun :)

  18. Martin Geisler:

    Wow, I didn’t know you had such a setup… you should post some pictures. I did use a dual-monitor setup at some point in high school, but for some reason I stopped. Maybe I should try again…

  19. Janus:

    I didn’t have this setup until recently when my good ol’ Samsung CRT 19″ monitor (best monitor I’ve ever had) started blurring the image.

    Having two 17″ in 1280×1024 instead of one 20″ in 1600×1200 actually gives you 701,440 more pixels to play with for about the same price. Dual monitor also gives you some added benefits that you wouldn’t have with a single monitor (movie on one screen, work on another and so forth…)

    I will make some pictures to show off later ;)

  20. Alex:

    Thank You

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