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New to Small Form Factor, seeking suggestions

I recently got a job that requires me to travel long distances and live in hotels. I miss my desktop PC and I don't feel like buying a gaming laptop due to the awkwardness of the keyboard when gaming. A friend suggested that I build a small form factor PC so I can transport it easier while maintaining the average performance of a desktop PC. After all, it would look rather silly to carry a desktop rig into an airport when I need to fly. I can probably fit a SFF case and monitor in a bag much easier.

The dilemma I'm having is the case, mostly due to never having built a SFF PC. I figured micro-ATX is probably the right form-factor. Most of the cases I have seen include drive bays that seem excessive. I only plan on putting a SSD in the case for storage, so one or two 2.5" bays is enough. I figure I can buy an external CD drive if I really need one. I'm not really sure how a decent gaming video card and power supply fits in a case like this, though:

If anyone has experience with building SFF PCs, I would appreciate advice or even an example build. Photos are awesome too!
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More about small form factor seeking suggestions
  1. If all you're really worried about with a gaming laptop is the keyboard, why not just get a standard USB keyboard to go with it?

    -Wolf sends
  2. But what about the screen?

    You will need a laptop, unless you can build yourself this:
  3. That suitcase computer looked interesting. I didn't see a video card installed, unless I missed it. Integrated graphics = eww.

    A true gaming laptop can easily cost $1100. For that price, I would rather have the power of a gaming rig. Laptops also tend to not last as long as desktops, in my experience. When a part goes bad on a desktop, I can usually fix it myself. On a laptop, I can only hope a drive or RAM is bad. In addition, I can get exactly what I want in a system if I build my own.

    I already have a monitor. The only issue I have to worry about is transporting it safely. I'm sure I can find a box and packing materials to keep it safe, though.
  4. I don't think a gaming desktop which is move around a lot is going to last longer than a laptop. You are not going to carry the desktop all the time and require other people to carry it for you right? then you should look at this:
  5. I plan on carrying it myself when possible. Obviously, some flights may require me to check it, so I will have to look into a rugged system.

    I think I've decided on building my own case out of a hard suitcase or similar carry-on sized case. The main issue is moving a monitor around with the desktop and there are no affordable manufactured PC cases which include monitor mounting for portability. This will take a lot of work and planning to make it rugged enough for air travel, but I'm willing to put the effort into it, especially if I can make something better than a laptop for half the cost.
  6. Although I think you are better off with a gaming laptop, it looks like you are determined to have a "portable" gaming build instead. In that case, lets start putting parts together. First off, the case you choose use picopsu. You are not going to power gaming GPU with that. You need something like this:

    And for that case, you need a slim DVD drive, a GPU shorter than 12 inch (maybe a 6950), an mini-itx mobo, etc...

    Do some research, choose your part and post back.
  7. The largest monitors available on laptops are 18.6 inches diagonal. I want something bigger, and I want it to be almost as portable as a laptop. I had a hard time finding cases with integrated monitors for a reasonable price, so I'm set on building my own.

    I put everything together in Google's SketchUp to make sure a motherboard, GPU, power supply, and hard drive could fit under the footprint of a 22" widescreen monitor laid flat on its screen. I think I could change it to a full-sized ATX motherboard and not have issues. The challenge will be finding a good case at exactly the right size for me to build this in, then designing the mounting hardware around it.

    The parts I intend to use are fairly simple. I want at least a 200GB SSD and I will likely get a Mushkin 240GB one. I plan on using one of the new Zambezi processors -- probably the FX-4100. I already have a GTX260 in my current computer that I can use until the next line of Radeons comes out. The motherboard will have to support 6 Gb/s SATA and the AM3+ socket, so that limits my selection to a handful. The power supply and RAM are fairly easy to pick, so I haven't looked into them yet.

    I will have to shop around for a case of some sort. If you know of any good places to look for durable cases that can be modified, I would like to know. I'm referring to hard-sided luggage and large briefcases, not standard computer cases.

    I will post pictures if I get this working.
  8. Best answer
    Ok. For suitcase, check your local op shop.
  9. Here are the specific parts I am looking at buying. I will probably order them tomorrow.

    My public Newegg wishlist

    The only part I'm not too sure about is the SSD. The reliability on it doesn't seem so great from the reviews, but the price beats all other similar-sized (and performance) drives by almost $100. That's probably enough to justify the potential headache of dealing with customer support and RMAing it if I happen to get a bad one.

    The case can't be purchased until I get all the other parts and figure out how to arrange them and how much space I need. I want the biggest monitor I can fit in the case, so that will be my final part to buy.

    I plan on shock-mounting everything to minimize the chance for damage if it happens to be dropped when moving it. I expect to put a decent amount of work into the case.
  10. I promised a picture when I got this thing done, so here it is. It performs like a dream computer and the price was reasonable. The SSD made all the difference.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  11. Best answer selected by jraake.
  12. The build looks good!
  13. This topic has been closed by Pyree
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