Recommend an All-in-one or SFF PC for the spousal unit

My wife has been using my hand-me-down 5 year old PC and it's been acting up lately, plus it's bulky as all get-out and takes up a lot of the limited desk space she has.

I'm going to replace it, just not sure if I want to go the all-in-one route (like a PC iMac, not the touch screen crap) or SFF route (and build myself).

Uses would be web, office apps, and light gaming (GW2 or SWTOR, ie MMO's at medium settings let's say, but not cutting edge fps).

Anyone have any positive experience with either? I've built several PCs, but never anything SFF. Is it possible to do so and fit a full size GPU in there without extreme heat and fan noise issues?

Hmmm, if you're looking at self build SFF, that's either miniITX or microATX.

MiniITX seems to be really putting the small size at a premium, from what I've seen it's fairly standard stuff, but very limited expansion and a bit costly. ITX reminds me of my old shuttle (who are still around, might be worth a look) case, could be good if you know what you're getting in to and plan accordingly. The main limiting factor would seem to be the 300W PSU on most of the cases, although I was running a geforce 7800, dual core athlon64, 4GB ram, 2 hard drives and a DVD drive on my old shuttle comfortably.

MicroATX is much more standard, and will be pretty much a compact normal PC and priced 'normally' too.

Budget? I just built 2 SFF PC's one based on a Shuttle case..the other on a BitFenix Prodigy which I'm still fiddling with.. the Shuttle was a breeze as its basically complete.. you bring your own CPU, Ram, HD(s), and GPU. The BitFenix is like building your own PC.. I had to get a Mini-ITX mobo and you really need to think your innards to account for the tight space.

I've got about $1000 to work with max, though I'd like to spend as little as possible. I'm trying to find a good balance between small footprint, low heat/noise, low price, and ability to play medium intensity games (ie MMOs) at about 1920x1080.

I've never seen a Shuttle case in person, only in photos - are they small enough you could put them behind a monitor on a desk, say? What kind of builds did you put together, GG?

Heat and noise is one of the trade-offs you have to make if you want anything remotely powerful in a small case. Although many are smart with their cooling, the priority is on size.

Right now I'm running my microATX mobo in a midi full ATX tower, but if I could buy the case again now I'd look at something like this from antec or one of the mini cases from thermaltake, or a HTPC case.

I guess this is going into "is space an issue, does it have to be SFF?" territory, but is locating the base elsewhere a possibility? You mention it going on the desk, but with creative use of extension cords and USB hubs, do you have any alternative places?

Anandtech is a great resource for this sort of thing:

Specifically a gaming SFF roundup.
General itx cases and PCs.