Refurbished name brand SFF PC as starter?

AirCool2

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Oct 24, 2020
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I own 2 HP Slimline PCs as I like its form factor. Over the years, I have done various upgrades. From adding RAM and SSD to replacing its entire motherboard. Lately, one of the Slimline using original motherboard seems to be acting up. It could be because my repeat failed attempt to upgrade its CPU. I had 3+ unexpected bluescreen/freeze (stuck in POST) in the last 3 months.

I am now thinking of moving on. I want to keep my existing slimline PC untouched and buy a refurbished desktop and start over. I will likely go with just SSD and RAM upgrade and maybe later the CPU when price get lower. I know this may not be a popular option in this forum but I like the idea of having a working system without worrying about a Windows 10 license. I am wondering if you guys have any suggestion about which name branded SFF model is good? I am not going for 3D gaming and have no plan on adding graphics card. My requirement is it should have room for 1 SSD + 1 HDD (existing) and reasonably quiet. I want something in the $200 range that has a good upgrade path.
 

Kardonxt

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Any of the off lease \ refurbed Dell, HP, or Lenovo SFF systems should be pretty similar. Just find one with the specs and price you like and go for it. Upgrade path is going to be pretty much the same on anything with the same mobo chipset. (once you find one you like it's worth still looking up supported CPUs just to be safe, but they will likely be similar.)
 

slavie

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In the $200 budget, you're looking at used stuff. From my experience, the cheapest stuff is what's currently being decommissioned by businesses and sold by resellers/dismantles on eBay. We're talking Dell/HP hardware around 5y mark. Older stuff is more expensive because there isn't much of it, newer stuff is more expensive because there's still more demand than supply for it.
I just picked up a Skylake (Intel Core 6th gen) HP AIO for my parents for $150 delivered. Add $30 256GB P981 SSD, $20 8G stick of ram, kickass system for $200. I was pleasantly surprised by having modern features - USB-C, NVMe drive support, DDR4, USB3. I got one with Core i3 6100, have room to upgrade all the way to i7 6700, 32GB or RAM, whatever NVMe drive I want
There's still plenty of older 4th gen stuff, but I'd avoid it at this point - it's too old.
Non Dell/HP is hard to find, as not many businesses use them. There may be some Lenovo, but there's so few that I could never find a decent deal.
You may get lucky at an auction and spring for Intel 7th or 8th gen box under $200, but you'd need to fish around for that or maybe go for an i3 CPU with the eventual plan to upgrade a few years down the road.
Hope this helps.
 
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slavie

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Also, for Windows, any of these OEM systems will come with embedded digital key. Win10 Home, or Win 10 Pro (sometimes in higher end configs). You can just install Windows 10 on those and it'll automatically activate using the embedded license. Do a quick search, it's really straight forward.
If it comes wiht Win7 license, Win10 will take it and give you the same edition. All legitimate keys, no monkey business involved. Microsoft has finally made Windows activation really simple as long as you are ok with Win10.
If you were hoping to just plug the existing OS drive into a new system, it likely won't work. You'll be missing USB3 drivers or worse, so plan on installing fresh OS. That's what happened to me: new system was USB3 only and old win didn't have USB3 drivers or network drivers. I could not get the USB3 drivers installed without mouse or keyboard, windows could not automatically load anything because it was also missing network drivers, and I couldn't remote into the system without network. Fresh OS it got...
 
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AirCool2

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Thanks guys. I am thinking of 2 routes right now. Either a Dell Optiplex SFF with *lake (most likely Skylake) processor. This costs ~$200 and it comes HDD/8GB RAM/DVD and CPU with passmark ~5-6K.

Or gut my motherboard and replace it with a AM4 paired with an Ryzen APU. For some reasons, the price of Ryzen is through the roof. Its price has easily doubled in 3 months. If I can get one with motherboard for $150, I can build one for ~$200 reusing my SSD/HDD.

I haven't heard of the USB3 driver problem but I happened to have USB3 PCIe card installed. I am more concerned over upgrades since Windows will detect that I have switched motherboard.
 

defaultluser

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Thanks guys. I am thinking of 2 routes right now. Either a Dell Optiplex SFF with *lake (most likely Skylake) processor. This costs ~$200 and it comes HDD/8GB RAM/DVD and CPU with passmark ~5-6K.

Or gut my motherboard and replace it with a AM4 paired with an Ryzen APU. For some reasons, the price of Ryzen is through the roof. Its price has easily doubled in 3 months. If I can get one with motherboard for $150, I can build one for ~$200 reusing my SSD/HDD.

I haven't heard of the USB3 driver problem but I happened to have USB3 PCIe card installed. I am more concerned over upgrades since Windows will detect that I have switched motherboard.

If you go Dell Optiplex SFF, just understand that they use a completely different motherboard layout from ITX/ custom PSU cnnector

You can use the provided Windows 10 Pro;the first thing I did was scrap the crappy Seagate hard drive and replaced it with an SATA SSD; I fresh-installed Windows 10 Pro (over USB, if you're worried about that), and it validated the key from the BIOS.

The performance is solid, and as long as you don't mind finding a half-height video card, you can easily add a GTx 1650 to the system.
 
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AirCool2

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If you go Dell Optiplex SFF, just understand that they use a completely different motherboard layout from ITX/ custom PSU cnnector
Wow, this sucks. That means I can't upgrade the motherboard easily? I have to account for this if I take that route.
 

Nobu

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Lots of cheap sff desktop PCs on tigerdirect, fwiw. Dunno how they compare price/perf wise to others, though.
 

defaultluser

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Wow, this sucks. That means I can't upgrade the motherboard easily? I have to account for this if I take that route.
https://www.newegg.com/p/2HK-001F-004H1

Yeah, I'm just treating this as a $150 case/psu that just happen to include an i5 6500. If it hadn't been that low, I wouldn't have bought one!

At least I can potentially use a PSU adapter if that part system ever dies. Maybe you can fit something tiny like 4x4 motherboard?
 
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AirCool2

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https://www.newegg.com/p/2HK-001F-004H1

Yeah, I'm just treating this as a $150 case/psu that just happen to include an i5 6500. If it hadn't been that low, I wouldn't have bought one!

At least I can potentially use a PSU adapter if that part system ever dies. Maybe you can fit something tiny like 4x4 motherboard?
A case that cannot fit a standard mATX or even mITX board is pretty useless to me. When the motherboard on my HP Slimline failed, I was able to throw in an mITX board and reuse it. If I can't reuse the case, it would be a big turn off for me.
 

defaultluser

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A case that cannot fit a standard mATX or even mITX board is pretty useless to me. When the motherboard on my HP Slimline failed, I was able to throw in an mITX board and reuse it. If I can't reuse the case, it would be a big turn off for me.


Yeah. you could go with later motherboard (seem to fit in the same case),

See Coffee lake here:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/GENUINE-De...rboard-Socket-LGA1151-DDR4-NC2VH/153394404225

You can get a single AMD model inn that same case from Dell , but only supports Ryzen 1 / Raven Ridge:

https://www.amazon.com/Dell-OptiPlex-Factor-Windows-Renewed/dp/B07VCHG23V

But there is no lans to support any other A MD products on optiplex.
 
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AirCool2

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Well, if you mean that I can only fit in Dell Optiplex motherboard, it is still way too restrictive. Besides, just about all of them sold are used. The Ryzen option is interesting but way too expensive.
 

slavie

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A case that cannot fit a standard mATX or even mITX board is pretty useless to me. When the motherboard on my HP Slimline failed, I was able to throw in an mITX board and reuse it. If I can't reuse the case, it would be a big turn off for me.
It's been a while since OEM's used standard MB setups. Most these days have custom boards going on. Even if you were able to fit mITX boards, the front IO is usually completely incompatible. Sure, you could identify the pins and hook up standard MB front IO headers, but it's going to be a lot of effort by that point. So, any OEM system you buy, expect the MB/PSU to be non-upgradable. Same goes for CPU HSF.

On the bright side, finding a replacement board on eBay is usually not a problem, since there's so many of these systems out there.
 

AirCool2

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Wow. Things must have changed a lot since my last build. CPU HSF? You mean I can't even buy a better HSF for the stock? That's really f**ked up.

I guess I will go with my plan B. Only thing is Ryzen CPU/APU prices are through the roof. Maybe due to crypto currency?
 

slavie

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Wow. Things must have changed a lot since my last build. CPU HSF? You mean I can't even buy a better HSF for the stock? That's really f**ked up.

I guess I will go with my plan B. Only thing is Ryzen CPU/APU prices are through the roof. Maybe due to crypto currency?
It all depends on the chassis, but yea, I wouldn't bank on it. Also depends on your definition of SFF: some are smaller than others and may have custom cooling solutions. Unless the replacement MB has CPU placed in exactly the same spot (not guaranteed in any way), it may not fit.
The biggest issue is front IO if you ask me. Some have custom PSU shenanigans going on.
An OEM SFF is not a bad route to go. It can be a fantastic solution, as OEM systems often have a good thermal and noise design. Just make sure you know what you're getting into and you're fine with the limitations. Download the service manual for whatever system you're considering and scroll through it. Find a pic of the MB online and check how similar or not it is to standard mATX or ITX boards.
 
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