Form factor? - lack of bulk?

Thomas Tompion

Senior Member
English - England
I recently came across a computer which described itself as SFF, Small Form Factor, i.e. small for what it does, I said to myself. I didn't think much about this expression until this morning when reading about a monopod; I came across this: the size of the ball-head is particularly small, which is understandable given the form factor overall. In this same article, listing the advantages of this monopod, it says Excellent form factor.

Am I right in thinking that this is referring to a sort of size/effectiveness ratio, like a power/weight ratio, or a value for money index? Asian Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) can carry more than 100 times their own weight; this should mean that they have an impressive form factor.

The expression is new to me. Have I understood it correctly?

Does it therefore mean more than lack of bulk?
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The expression's new to me, too, TT.

    Googling define: form factor throws up several definitions: some concern ratios, some refer simply to size (and some I can't make head nor tail of:().

    Hopefully, someone more technical than I am will come along....


    ____

    EDIT: And he did!:D
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I don't think the term "form factor" has anything to do with the "size/effectiveness ratio": it simply refers to dimensions. It comes to us chiefly from PC manufacturing and design. Form factors are standard formats (dimensions and proportions) dictated by the size of the largest components (mainly the motherboard, but the power supply is also significant) and are denoted in the PC manufacturing industry by codes: AT, ATX, ITX, etc. (and various sub-forms), referring to the motherboard (main circuit board) design and dimensions.

    I think in the topic case "form factor" may really just be a jargonized way of saying "proportions" or "dimensions", unless there are industry-recognized standard "form factors" for monopods or tripods.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Never having heard or read the term before, I did a quick internet search and found this suggestion from Wikipedia's entry for "form factor": The geometry of a product, especially in industrial and engineering design,...

    None of the other definitions in the article made any sense when applied to a monopod.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    So do we think it's a form factor which is small, or a factor which is small-form? What is factorish about it? I think it's this last question which troubles me most. A factor is surely something which does something, considering its etymology?
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The writer is saying that a tripod has one form factor, while a monopod has a different form factor. This is due to the fact that a tripod has three legs and a large joint to join them. The three legs of a tripod cannot be much smaller than the single leg of a monopod so any folded tripod is necessarily at least 3 times as big around as a similar monopod. The ball-head of a tripod can be as wide as the folded legs or the joint joining them while the ball-head of a monopod needs to be about the width of one leg.

    Monopod: - = ball-head, | = leg
    -
    |

    Folded Tripod: - = ball-head, | = leg
    ---
    | | |
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I still don't understand the meaning of form factor here, Myridon:(. Unless it's just jargon for "size"?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It's related to both size and proportion. Size generally measures one or two dimensions, but things change in three dimensions. Sometimes things are "measured" by a quality that is none of the actual objects dimensions.

    Say that you have two six-foot camera stands - a tripod and a monopod - and let's assume that the legs don't telescope. The monopod has one leg that is six feet long and is the piece that the camera connects to is about as wide or a bit wider than the one leg. The monopod stored in its case will be about 6 feet long plus the top where the camera connects and a bit wider than 1 leg. The tripod is six feet high when it's _unfolded_ (/\ legs are longer than | leg) so folded in its case it might be 7 feet long plus the top and much bigger around. A 6-foot tripod is bigger than a 6-foot monopod.

    For another example, in computer data drives, the form factor is given as the size of the disk, i.e. a 3-1/2 inch floppy drive is not 3-1/2 inches in any of its dimensions, however it must be a certain width, one of two heights, and any length less than some maximum length in order to fit into a full-height or half-height 3-1/2 inch floppy drive bay (the bay is also not 3-1/2 inches in any way).
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Just in case anyone is tempted to think that monopods all do the same thing, I'll say that there is usually a trade-off in monopods between lightness (desirable for taking on a walk with a camera) and ability to support the weight of a camera + lens: the lighter the monopod, the less efficiently it can support a good weight. This is why they are now made in expensive light strong materials, like carbon fibre.

    There is a third consideration, how high or low it will go, and these tow things can be variously related to the first two.

    This may explain why I thought that by excellent form factor the chap meant that monopod would carry a good weight for its bulk.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I've been hearing "form factor" for years, and considering the wide range of products it's applied to I think of it as shape. It depends on adjectives to tell you more.

    Note that this is a self-arrived-at definition.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've been hearing "form factor" for years, and considering the wide range of products it's applied to I think of it as shape. It depends on adjectives to tell you more.

    Note that this is a self-arrived-at definition.
    Monopods are straight, Copyright. There's nothing special about their shape; how can a monopod have an 'excellent form factor'? Maybe the person writing wasn't using the expression correctly.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Monopods are straight, Copyright. There's nothing special about their shape; how can a monopod have an 'excellent form factor'? Maybe the person writing wasn't using the expression correctly.
    Ah, Thomas, it depends on how closely you look at your monopod.

    My Manfrotto has protruding side levers that catch on everything, while my Gitzo has twist locks that are slimmer, sleeker and easier to use -- and that you can push into a pack and pull out again without pulling out half the contents of your pack with it (including any dirty laundry). :) Truly an excellent form factor.

    Another factor is length: How long is it extended? How short is it collapsed? It all makes a difference in the shape in its various uses.

    Remember that this description may be written for people who understand the design nuances of a product.
     
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    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    As I said, I think the use of "form factor" here is simply jargonizing, and the phrase is used inexactly.

    I'm not altogether sure what is factorish about the phrase (when correctly used); however, I would guess that it means that the form of the main board is a factor in making decisions regarding the design and sizing of the finished product: the "box" as the computer geeks call it (with uncharacteristic plain-speaking).
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thank you for your help, Mole.

    Are you saying then that, in your view, the term originated in the PC manufacturing industry, where it had a precise meaning, and that it has been adapted to other uses in an imprecise way by people who are attracted to complicated ways of saying simple things?

    I was a little concerned that in the last sentence of post 3 you seemed to be suggesting that the expression had an accepted use to mean industry-wide standard dimensions.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    So you're now saying it means design (?)
    I'm certainly not. I had hoped with "My Manfrotto has protruding side levers that catch on everything, while my Gitzo has twist locks that are slimmer, sleeker ..." to give the impression of shape.

    Here is the Manfrotto and the Gitzo -- they are substantially different shapes to those who carry them.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm certainly not. I had hoped with "My Manfrotto has protruding side levers that catch on everything, while my Gitzo has twist locks that are slimmer, sleeker ..." to give the impression of shape.

    Here is the Manfrotto and the Gitzo -- they are substantially different shapes to those who carry them.
    Does it then mean exactly the same thing as shape, for you? You talked earlier of nuances; are there subtleties I'm missing here? When would you talk about a product having a 'good form factor', rather than a 'good shape', or, as I would prefer, being 'well designed'?

    I wonder, you see, if the word 'factor' isn't being used in the sense of 'consideration' here? Taking the form into consideration. Yet Mole seems to be suggesting that it's altogether more technical and removed from ordinary speech, if I haven't misunderstood him as well.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Does it then mean exactly the same thing as shape, for you? You talked earlier of nuances; are there subtleties I'm missing here? When would you talk about a product having a 'good form factor', rather than a 'good shape', or, as I would prefer, being 'well designed'?
    Form factor essentially means shape to me, yes. But that's just what I surmise over the years by seeing the things it's being used to describe -- I'm not being a proponent for my made-up definition.

    Good design and good form factor are two different things in my opinion, although they can be related. A compact camera can have a good form factor in that it's slim and has no protuberances so that it slips into your pocket easily -- but it may not take good photos, or the dials and buttons on the back may be difficult to activate or hard to understand.

    I wonder, you see, if the word 'factor' isn't being used in the sense of 'consideration' here? Taking the form into consideration. Yet Mole seems to be suggesting that it's altogether more technical and removed from ordinary speech, if I haven't misunderstood him as well.
    I hadn't really thought about the individual words, but factor could mean what you say, yes. But I agree with MM that it's "jargonizing and ... used inexactly" and I would expect it in product literature rather than conversation -- when I hear it aloud, I tend to wince.
     

    Hrothgar31

    New Member
    English
    I suggest that using that term "form factor" is just a pretentious way of saying "shape", by folks who're more attuned to the nitty gritty of technology than they are to composing sentences in English....just open any "User Manual" for a new computer. It's why we see so frequently these plaintive requests for use of "Plain English" instead of ad hoc tech-ese.
     
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