Best compact home office pc build

If you want to build the smallest high-powered PC available for $500, this is the guide for you! Based on the compact mini-ITX form factor, it packs in everything you need, and nothing you don't. This ensures that you get a system that can be tucked away anywhere or put on display as a conversation starter!

The December 2019 edition of this guide continues to feature AMD's budget-friendly Ryzen 3 2200G APU, which boasts 4 fast cores plus AMD's potent Vega 8 graphics solution. Thanks to a big price drop, it's an absolute bargain, selling for the same price as dual-cores were going for just a few months ago. It's paired up with a fantastic B450-based mini-ITX motherboard that has a huge range of great features, including built-in 802.11ac networking. Also ensuring that you have a flawless computing experience is 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a 500GB solid-state drive. The system is housed in the excellent In-Win BQ656 case, a version of which we reviewed right here. This system can even fit a slim optical drive and a 2TB hard drive, which we list in the optional upgrades section at the end of this guide.

You can browse the various past versions by flipping flip to The Archive. As always, please keep in mind that your use of the links we provide below helps support further development of these guides.

The $500 Home Office / Theater Mini PC - December 2019

  • CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

    There's no better low-cost CPU for a mini system than AMD's Ryzen 3 2200G. Sporting four high-speed cores, along with Vega 8 onboard graphics, it's a complete solution in an ultra-efficient, compact package. It can even allow you to play games at moderate settings, which you simply can't do with Intel's CPUs. Note that the 55mm-tall cooler that comes with this CPU won't fit in this build, which is why you must purhcase the aftermarket cooler we list later in this guide.

    The Guru's Tip:

    WARNING: the newer Ryzen 3 3200G will not boot on any existing low-cost ITX motherboards without a firmware update, so don't buy it! Some of our readers are ignoring this advice, and you know what happens? They build a system that won't boot and end up returning the whole thing. If you want a faster CPU, go for the Ryzen 5 2400G, which is vastly superior to the 3200G.

  • Motherboard:

    ASRock B450 Gaming-ITX/AC

    This board is the perfect backbone for a compact system. It offers both HDMI and DisplayPort outputs for the built-in graphics, along with six USB ports (including a Type-C port!), a USB 3.0 header for the system's front USB ports, and plenty of SATA ports. It also has an M.2 slot on the back of the board, which you'll be using for this system's solid-state drive. This board even has built-in WiFi!

    The Guru's Tip:

    WARNING: this motherboard likely will not boot using the Ryzen 3 3200G or Ryzen 5 3400G! Yes, eventually all manufacturers will ship their current motherboard lineups with the proper firmware, but because we can't tell you when every unit in the retail channel is updated, we don't suggest you take the risk. Want the best CPU/GPU combo that it definitely supports? Go for the Ryzen 5 2400G.

  • Memory:

    Ballistix 2x4GB Sport LT DDR4-2666

    For this build, we recommend an economical but fast 2x4GB kit. The CPU and motherboard easily support DDR4-2666 RAM, and that's what we go with here. Note that we specifically recommend equipping this system with two RAM sticks rather than one, as it results not only in 2-3% faster CPU performance, but also a very significant 20-25% boost in graphics performance.

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you'd like to completely future-proof your system, go for the 2x8GB version of this kit. 16GB is probably more RAM than you'll need now, but with current prices, it's very tempting to buy yourself a bit of future-proofing.

  • Solid-State Drive:

    Western Digital Blue 3D 500GB M.2

    There's no better way to make a PC feel really fast than to equip it with a fast solid-state drive, and this SATA-based model from WD blows away the competition in terms of performance per dollar.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Going with a 500GB model provides more space than you need for typical office and "kitchen PC" duties, but larger SSDs are also faster than their smaller cousins, and cost less per GB. We think it's a good investment.

  • Case:

    IN-Win BQ656 Mini-ITX Case with 150W PSU

    You'll wonder why you ever had a giant tower PC on your desk after seeing this little guy in person. It's the perfect home for any family or small office PC. It has space for a mini-ITX motherboard, a single 2.5" drive, and a CPU cooler up to 47mm tall. The best part is that it has a 150W power supply built in!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that while this case has support for an optical drive, we're not including one in the basic build, as most people don't need it. With that said, we've listed one in the optional component section of this guide in case you're interested.

  • CPU Cooler:

    ARCTIC Alpine AM4 LP

    Cool your Ryzen APU with this ultra-slim heatsink, measuring just 42mm tall. It will fit with just a few millimeters to spare in the case, which has 46mm of clearance, while providing excellent and quiet cooling. Note that this is not an "optional" upgrade - the 55mm-tall cooler that comes with the Ryzen APU is far too big to fit in this system.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This cooler also provides the benefit of nearly silent operation!

  • Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Flash Drive

    Windows 10 was released way back in July 2015, yet Microsoft is adding new features to it all the time, with complete OS updates every spring and fall. It's a truly stable, powerful OS, and one that will go down in history as a true success story, much like the pioneering Windows 95.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This USB 3.0 version of W10 will load in under 5 minutes!

Optional Components

  • The Basic Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Combo:

    Logitech Wireless Combo MK270

    Complete your system with this incredibly-economical wireless keyboard and mouse system from Logitech!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This combo uses a single tiny USB receiver, ensuring you'll still have plenty of USB ports left over for other devices.

  • CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

    Get a huge performance upgrade for just $40 with the 2400G, which offers four cores, 8 threads, and the Vega 11 graphics chip, making it 30-50% faster than the 2200G.

    The Guru's Tip:

    We've said it before and we'll say it again: our readers who buy the 3200G or 3400G for this system just because they are newer are in for a nasty surprise: they will not boot with current B450 ITX motherboards!

  • Hard Drive:

    WD Blue WD20SPZX 2TB 2.5"

    Want to turn this tiny system into a home server? No problem - just add this high-capacity 2TB hard drive to your build!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This is the largest capacity you'll find in any 2.5"-class drive that fits into standard 12mm-thick drive bays. All 2.5" drives with higher capacities are much thicker and won't fit in this system.

  • Optical Drive:

    Lite-On DS-8ACSH DVD Burner

    Want to be able to use optical discs with your system? Then add this DVD burner to your build!

    The Guru's Tip:

    The case and motherboard include all the cables you'll need to install this drive (yes, even the slimline SATA adapter that most mini cases leave out!).