Form Factor Options

Form factor refers to the physical class, or type of computer. Manufacturers use different terms for the same groups. Below you will find how CoastIPC divides computers into groups. Common sense interpretation of other names will indicate similar form factors. Some computers can have two or more classifications. 


A design where heat dissipation from the CPU and other components is transferred to a large, finned heat sink on the external chassis. The large surface area is sufficient to cool the system in ambient air. Some fanless computers might have a fan as part of a separate compartment in the chassis. For example, a cassette with PCIe (PCI Express) slots is integrated into the chassis and has a small cooling fan for added components. In this case, the cassette and the compute section of the computer are separate, and therefore the computer is still considered fanless. 
Compact- Computers typically under 5 liters in volume. They can be din rail mounted or wall mounted. They typically require a power supply of 120W to 280W and can accommodate a small GPUs, frame grabber card, and/or other small/medium expansion cards. Many rugged compact computers have a built-in cassette that isolates the compute section from a small expansion card.


The smallest classification of industrial computer used for low power locations, small spaces, and specific limited I/O. These computers are typically less than ½ liter and are used in robotics and edge locations.


As the name implies, but more the size of a breadbox than a shoebox. These computers have a “fanless” portion for the compute elements, and these sections are not separated in the same way as those classified as fanless/compact. Shoebox computers typically offer multiple PCIe slots of various lanes. They are effective with powerful GPU computing or applications requiring multiple expansion cards. Power supplies are external. These computers range from 12 to 21 liters in volume.

Panel PC

A monitor and IPC combined into a single unit. Sometimes these are integrated into a single chassis, joined in an external housing, or joined by brackets. They are designed to be treated as one unit and can be panel mounted or vesa mounted. They vary in IP rating and power. Most are touch panels used in factory settings, control locations, and harsh environments.


One of the most misunderstood and litigated classifications. Waterproof and water resistant are sometimes used as synonyms. It is best to refer to the IP rating to determine the degree of moisture resistance and for how long the device can hold specification. Ports are waterproofed and special cables may be required – see accessories in product listing.


These are the oldest and most common consumer and commercial form. Also referred to as a “tower” this configuration can be set to its side and used as a monitor riser. It is characterized by a metal frame with ample mounting space for a motherboard, power supply, and components to be added at will. They are cooled by large fans pulling ambient air over the components. They are not necessarily less expensive than other industrial form factors and are sensitive to the surrounding environment.


Similar to the desktop, this configuration is built on metal frame with components added by selection. These computers are all “rackmount” width (19.5”) and designed to bolt into a shelf or rack frame. The height of a rackmount computer is measured in “U” with 1U the smallest and the 4U most common to house GPUs and highly specialized PCIe cards. Each U adds about 1.75” in height. Unlike desktops, rack mounts can also be defined as one or more fanless IPCs on a tray, or rugged components designed to fit.

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