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Buying new desktops - which chassis to choose

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Buying new desktops - which chassis to choose

Chrisfc
Hi,
Until recently, I had been looking at buying Dell's rather space saving USFF (ultra small form factor) chassis for new computers. They hinge on the back of the screen, so are easy to move around. We have a few.

Great from a sysadmin point of view, until I started considering what I do when the warranty runs out. These are pretty tight pieces of kit, it's not going to be easy changing out a hard drive or memory if they fail, not compared to a desktop anyway. However i have three years before anything could potentially fail.

What's everyone's opinion on this? Worth worrying about, or is the 3 year warranty sufficient...
Chris.
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    tony

    I dislike most of the kit from the big guys - they often have quirks that are a killer when out of warranty. I have just had to ditch a Fujitsu-Siemens at a small company because it had a non-standard power supply and motherboard. I couldn't even fit a replacement motherboard.

    If you like small form factor, take a look at the Shuttle PC - a mate of mine has ended up supplying these more or less exclusively to small businesses and home users. There is a good range, but you do end up with a package of case and motherboard.

    Another alternative is to take a look at some of the cases for media PCs - some of these are quite small form factor, and designed to run quietly. Many will take standard motherboards, and with motherboards having pretty well everything you want on board now, and Firewire and USB2 poviding expansion for most things, you do not need a great deal of space for expansion.

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    lindsay.leung

    I had a Shuttle until it died (mobo or PSU I think). It served me well for just over a year, but I wouldn't get one again, namely because:
    1) While the design and compactness is great, it suffered from overheating; and
    2) Decent parts are hard to come by. For example an 8800GTS video card will not fit, nor will a standard PSU. I also had to buy a special 'Shuttle' wireless module that fitted in the case.

    I've since replaced it with a Silverstone case. Still SFF, but not quite as small as the Shuttle. It looks great, and I've managed to fit in all normal sized parts.

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    ulugor

    if memory and HDD types are wide-spread ones, go for that solution. there also HP's dc7100 SFF or dc5750 to consider. plus add Care pack to entend warranty and on site support to 5 years.

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    johnc

    I have been using HP SFF machines for some years now and they are easy to work on.
    I have been taking them with a 3 year warranty, but as we have had so litte trouble with them I have decided with our new purchases of DC7700 to take the 5 year warrenty option, at very little extra cost.

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    tlabs

    The whole line of Optplex is FUBAR I work for a company who has the support contract for Dell and Gateway. I do mostly replacement MOBOs on the optiplex line the 270-280 **** Caps realy bad and I am seeing the boards I replaced a year ago blowing caps again. Now I see the newer Optplexes 600-700 series starting the same thing, if you need a box machine and are looking @ Dell go to the Dimension Line they have at least reliable Mobos not the crap in the optiplex line.

    Now people say Gateway stinks but the hardware is actually really sound, just the customer service sucks, the support gets the EU so flipping mad when I get there I have to tell the EU that I am not working for Gateway I am just a contractor. But if you get a lot of GWs (100+) you may get a bit better service but not nearly the service plans Dell provides Next business day support the next day. GW NBD is usually 2-4 days and you need to have a credit card on file for them to send you a part

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    1 Votes
    R_Snyder

    They have been around for years. Nice tight package. I have a very old one that is still running 95 to support an application. Never had a prolem with it all these years. New ones look much better.
    http://cybernetman.com/

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    0 Votes
    brodden

    My company purchased two of these machines about 3 years ago and since then we have been standardizing all of our computers to have two monitors so that employees can be more efficient. This has caused a problem with these two machines because I have tried and been unsuccessful and finding a dual video card for them or making a single pci video card and the Onboard work together.

    Just my two cents...

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    w2ktechman

    riser cards to fit full size video cards. Also, most can use half height cards.

    though, I do prefer full size desktops over these mini versions.

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    0 Votes
    dicklaw

    Look back at what Compac did for so many years, the only replacement that would fit and/or work was a house item. When that Compac item became unavailable or over priced you were stuck.
    Never again for me.
    Richard E Law (A dinasaur veteran).

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    0 Votes
    cbraatz

    Having worked as a contractor doing hardware warranty work on Dell machines,in the past. I've done a few of these machines. Memory was not hard to change, Hard drives are more of a standard laptop hard drive. Both you just remove a cover and there it is. There is another model that you just split the case, and remove memory and hard drives. Standard desktop issue in this case. Easy to do.
    Motherboards take some work, until you have done a few and learn a couple tricks.
    As for adding a second monitor to one, there are several after-market devices that allow you to do just that.

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    info

    I'll never buy the Ultra Small Form Factor PCs again. They don't have adequate cooling for the HDD and they get clogged up with dust too quickly.

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    info

    Another reason not to get anything but the Mini-Tower is that Low-Profile add in cards are hard to come by.

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    Chrisfc

    Thanks for the replies. Judging from the responses, there's some good reasons for looking at Small Form Factor instead.

    I shall look at the Optiplex 745 SFF instead...

    Although I appreciate the comments on dell machinery, an upgrade to five year warranty covers most of my worries...

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    little wheel

    We have about 50 of the older versions of the 745 USFF, and have had minimal problems with them. The power supply/bricks are external, so that mitigates the heat issue to some degree. I never heard what you were going to do with the new unit, so am unsure of what to recommend. If you want a work box that does everything fairly well, our organization has had good results with Dells. The expandability of a USFF is extremely limited, hence our choice of using external enclosures for all of our ?added? toys. The toys are also portable, and I work in two locations, so they can be moved from one desk or location to another.

    For the power user, we are going with the SFF. I do not think replacement parts are astronomical in cost, nothing near the cost of a laptop, since neither chassis is meant to be carried about. Good luck.

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    NetSysCon

    Get the USFF for desk savings, Your people will love you, and after three years, re-up the maintenance for another two. Total of over five year machine. By that time you will need to upgrade to handle the new software anyway...

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    0 Votes
    little wheel

    Our staff have the predecessor of the 745 USFF. We have many SX280s for a business reason ? not enough counter/desktop space, and a standard office type software package. For the power users, we are going to use the replace the standard large desktop chassis with a 745 SFF. We define our power users by the complexity and amount of computing power needed to complete their job, as well as the number of additional peripherals they need. We have moved to the use of external drives (DVD Burners, CD Burners, Zip Drives), scanners, etc. rather than internal installation for expediency sake when we image new boxes. It is also easier to move these peripherals to where they are needed. In the end, we have more space for the added peripherals, but less space taken up by the original boxes. Our ratio of standard user to power user is about 90% - 10%. Most of the power users have a larger space to be able to effectively use the peripherals without enlarging the area.

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    0 Votes
    mbaker

    We just started buing Dell Optiplex 745's. Two memory slots and standard SATA drives, DVI on-board video. The way they get the case so small is you get an external brick for the power supply, with a special connector to the back of the unit. Have not had them very long, so not sure how reliability is going to be.

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    0 Votes
    ccarter

    I purchased over 75 of these for a lab setting about a year ago and now the mother boards are failing. Of course, they are within warranty, but in a lab situation, we expect the machines to be up 24-7. The other down side is the inability to add cards if needed.

  • +
    0 Votes
    tony

    I dislike most of the kit from the big guys - they often have quirks that are a killer when out of warranty. I have just had to ditch a Fujitsu-Siemens at a small company because it had a non-standard power supply and motherboard. I couldn't even fit a replacement motherboard.

    If you like small form factor, take a look at the Shuttle PC - a mate of mine has ended up supplying these more or less exclusively to small businesses and home users. There is a good range, but you do end up with a package of case and motherboard.

    Another alternative is to take a look at some of the cases for media PCs - some of these are quite small form factor, and designed to run quietly. Many will take standard motherboards, and with motherboards having pretty well everything you want on board now, and Firewire and USB2 poviding expansion for most things, you do not need a great deal of space for expansion.

    +
    0 Votes
    lindsay.leung

    I had a Shuttle until it died (mobo or PSU I think). It served me well for just over a year, but I wouldn't get one again, namely because:
    1) While the design and compactness is great, it suffered from overheating; and
    2) Decent parts are hard to come by. For example an 8800GTS video card will not fit, nor will a standard PSU. I also had to buy a special 'Shuttle' wireless module that fitted in the case.

    I've since replaced it with a Silverstone case. Still SFF, but not quite as small as the Shuttle. It looks great, and I've managed to fit in all normal sized parts.

    +
    0 Votes
    ulugor

    if memory and HDD types are wide-spread ones, go for that solution. there also HP's dc7100 SFF or dc5750 to consider. plus add Care pack to entend warranty and on site support to 5 years.

    +
    0 Votes
    johnc

    I have been using HP SFF machines for some years now and they are easy to work on.
    I have been taking them with a 3 year warranty, but as we have had so litte trouble with them I have decided with our new purchases of DC7700 to take the 5 year warrenty option, at very little extra cost.

    +
    0 Votes
    tlabs

    The whole line of Optplex is FUBAR I work for a company who has the support contract for Dell and Gateway. I do mostly replacement MOBOs on the optiplex line the 270-280 **** Caps realy bad and I am seeing the boards I replaced a year ago blowing caps again. Now I see the newer Optplexes 600-700 series starting the same thing, if you need a box machine and are looking @ Dell go to the Dimension Line they have at least reliable Mobos not the crap in the optiplex line.

    Now people say Gateway stinks but the hardware is actually really sound, just the customer service sucks, the support gets the EU so flipping mad when I get there I have to tell the EU that I am not working for Gateway I am just a contractor. But if you get a lot of GWs (100+) you may get a bit better service but not nearly the service plans Dell provides Next business day support the next day. GW NBD is usually 2-4 days and you need to have a credit card on file for them to send you a part

    +
    1 Votes
    R_Snyder

    They have been around for years. Nice tight package. I have a very old one that is still running 95 to support an application. Never had a prolem with it all these years. New ones look much better.
    http://cybernetman.com/

    +
    0 Votes
    brodden

    My company purchased two of these machines about 3 years ago and since then we have been standardizing all of our computers to have two monitors so that employees can be more efficient. This has caused a problem with these two machines because I have tried and been unsuccessful and finding a dual video card for them or making a single pci video card and the Onboard work together.

    Just my two cents...

    +
    0 Votes
    w2ktechman

    riser cards to fit full size video cards. Also, most can use half height cards.

    though, I do prefer full size desktops over these mini versions.

    +
    0 Votes
    dicklaw

    Look back at what Compac did for so many years, the only replacement that would fit and/or work was a house item. When that Compac item became unavailable or over priced you were stuck.
    Never again for me.
    Richard E Law (A dinasaur veteran).

    +
    0 Votes
    cbraatz

    Having worked as a contractor doing hardware warranty work on Dell machines,in the past. I've done a few of these machines. Memory was not hard to change, Hard drives are more of a standard laptop hard drive. Both you just remove a cover and there it is. There is another model that you just split the case, and remove memory and hard drives. Standard desktop issue in this case. Easy to do.
    Motherboards take some work, until you have done a few and learn a couple tricks.
    As for adding a second monitor to one, there are several after-market devices that allow you to do just that.

    +
    0 Votes
    info

    I'll never buy the Ultra Small Form Factor PCs again. They don't have adequate cooling for the HDD and they get clogged up with dust too quickly.

    +
    0 Votes
    info

    Another reason not to get anything but the Mini-Tower is that Low-Profile add in cards are hard to come by.

    +
    0 Votes
    Chrisfc

    Thanks for the replies. Judging from the responses, there's some good reasons for looking at Small Form Factor instead.

    I shall look at the Optiplex 745 SFF instead...

    Although I appreciate the comments on dell machinery, an upgrade to five year warranty covers most of my worries...

    +
    0 Votes
    little wheel

    We have about 50 of the older versions of the 745 USFF, and have had minimal problems with them. The power supply/bricks are external, so that mitigates the heat issue to some degree. I never heard what you were going to do with the new unit, so am unsure of what to recommend. If you want a work box that does everything fairly well, our organization has had good results with Dells. The expandability of a USFF is extremely limited, hence our choice of using external enclosures for all of our ?added? toys. The toys are also portable, and I work in two locations, so they can be moved from one desk or location to another.

    For the power user, we are going with the SFF. I do not think replacement parts are astronomical in cost, nothing near the cost of a laptop, since neither chassis is meant to be carried about. Good luck.

    +
    0 Votes
    NetSysCon

    Get the USFF for desk savings, Your people will love you, and after three years, re-up the maintenance for another two. Total of over five year machine. By that time you will need to upgrade to handle the new software anyway...

    +
    0 Votes
    little wheel

    Our staff have the predecessor of the 745 USFF. We have many SX280s for a business reason ? not enough counter/desktop space, and a standard office type software package. For the power users, we are going to use the replace the standard large desktop chassis with a 745 SFF. We define our power users by the complexity and amount of computing power needed to complete their job, as well as the number of additional peripherals they need. We have moved to the use of external drives (DVD Burners, CD Burners, Zip Drives), scanners, etc. rather than internal installation for expediency sake when we image new boxes. It is also easier to move these peripherals to where they are needed. In the end, we have more space for the added peripherals, but less space taken up by the original boxes. Our ratio of standard user to power user is about 90% - 10%. Most of the power users have a larger space to be able to effectively use the peripherals without enlarging the area.

    +
    0 Votes
    mbaker

    We just started buing Dell Optiplex 745's. Two memory slots and standard SATA drives, DVI on-board video. The way they get the case so small is you get an external brick for the power supply, with a special connector to the back of the unit. Have not had them very long, so not sure how reliability is going to be.

    +
    0 Votes
    ccarter

    I purchased over 75 of these for a lab setting about a year ago and now the mother boards are failing. Of course, they are within warranty, but in a lab situation, we expect the machines to be up 24-7. The other down side is the inability to add cards if needed.