Here lately we are seeing more and more HTPC type mods. Small form factor is a relatively new medium in modding, thanks to manufacturers like Zotac creating pico itx motherboards. And with today's computing potential, some of us really never need anything larger. If you can skip the raw graphics power of a discreet display adapter, or tons of USM, E-sata etc then our in luck.

A quick look through some of the more popular modding forums, I notice about half of the mods are Small Form Factor (SFF). Why is that? Lets explore some ideas as to why we, as modders, are attracted to this platform.

First, and probably the most obvious is cost. SFF systems do not demand premium prices, and in most cases supply just enough computing to perform the task we are designing it for, such as a Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC).

Another reason is. We like to mod. We like to make things. And well, being that we're making computers, it kinda helps to have hardware to put into the case we design.

The small footprint in SFF hardware allows us to design enclosures that we can make semi-mobile, or to fill a particular niche in our home that we wish to put it in. Things like Servers, HTPC, file storage, backup and even a PC for guests and company when they visit.

What ever reason we want to use. It's not going away, the SFF case mods are becoming more and more popular.

Next lets look at Materials. I am sure you remember the days when all Plexiglass cases were all the craze. It didn't take long for people to realize that dust, smoke, cooking vapors etc would stain and turn what was originally a good looking design into something filthy. I can't say that I am hurt by that trend going away. But not completely. With new types of Plexiglass, lexan, etc We now have options of multipul colors. Even mirrored and smoked. Almost all new designs incorporate Plexi in one way or another. But we do still see, on occasion, a mod made of pure plexiglass.

Aluminum! It's malleable, easy to cut, file, shape, Inexpensive and light weight. It can provide an array of finishes, depending on your patience. Aluminum is the material of choice these days according to most of the mods in production. Because of it's innate attributes, we won't be seeing Aluminum designs go away, at least until scientists create inexpensive form of Carbon fiber.

Other materials we see a LOT of now is Wood. I never thought I would see wood becoming a popular material for a computer case, and I have to admit, when I first seen wood cases, I was completely turned off. In the early stages of modding with wood, people were still learning all the different ways of handling it. The way it was finished could make or break it. But today, we see a load of just perfect mods, made of wood. Take a look at dmcmcgrath's Mayan Mod http://tinyurl.com/6kkykaz This is a prefect example of how well wood can be incorporated into a computer case mod. Wood is inexpensive and very easy to work with, but takes more skill to incorporate it into a mod, and be done right.

Water Cooling. It seems no mod is complete without some over the top water cooling. Which I agree, adding loops radiators etc adds a kind of super-technical aspect about it. And with the new liquids created by Mayhem (www.wcdyes.com) it just adds even more depth to a mod. There exists no less than 4 companies out there (i.e. EKWB www.ekwaterblocks.com) that have achieved fortune by making, and selling water cooling products for the PC sector. People are water cooling everything, even systems that have no practical need for it, all for the sake of adding what the public sees as "geek factor"

Colors, oh boy. We have blacks, reds, blues whites, the list goes on and on, but not on enough. page after page shows red, black and blue as the most popular colors of any mod. This trend is pimped by manufacturers who include color LED's of those colors. Probably because the trend existed prior, so they add them to add value to their cases. I think that the hardest part of most modders is trying to find a unique color combination that will appeal to them, their design and to the people were showing it to. Obviously I would not want a pink case, but that does not mean my wife wouldn't. So color is a very subjective subject. So while I troll through the mods on over a dozen sites, I notice the ones that catch my eye are the ones with colors that are rarely or never used before. But we can not deny that Black, red and blue are THE most popular in 2011.

Lighting. In mods today, we light up everything we can. The trick has been is just how much lighting is enough and when do we go over the top? Do we want headlights flashing in our living room when were watching a great new movie on our newly modded HTPC? I sure don't. Carousing through the forums I see lighting added to things I never thought I would see. Lighting is an inexpensive way to add more personality to our mods, from dull to bright, to flashing to soft glow, it all adds in the sensationalism of our mods.

To Mod a existing case or create our own?

Happily a newer trend is custom fabrication of your own case. More and more modders are creating cases from scratch. Sometimes our ideas are just too different to be incorporated into a existing case. So we make our own. This allows us to think out side the box (pun intended). Nothing can express our designing persona, at times, better than just creating our very own case. We see them now from small SFF to extremely large cases capable of several motherboards. Very welcome trend indeed. The Jury is still out on the skill level on these. I think sometimes it's easier to create a case from scratch than to mod a existing case. Yet in some cases, creating your own case can be the hardest part of a mod.

Themes. Almost every modder had created a mod based off their favorite game, movie, or character. Either out of personal preference or in the case of modders for hire like, Device Unknown or MNPctech, we create themed mods to promote a product, usually a newly released product, such a Modern Warfare 3, or a new movie like Tron. What ever reason, this is a very popular method of designing. And what a great way to promote a product or promote your personal feeling and likes then creating a themed mod. We don't see this trend ever going away. Just too great a marketing tool.

With all the current trends, I wonder what the future will hold for us? In a shameless plug, us here at Device Unknown are focusing more on automation and electronic controls for case mods, only time will tell how popular this will become. I would like to see new materials introduced into modding, but we'll have to leave that to our scientists! Let us know what you think of new trends and how they will affect us in the coming years.