In-Win

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!

We rolled out the July 2019 edition of this guide to bring you some big changes in response to price drops and product availability. We're now able to pack a tremendous amount of power into this system thanks to the return of Intel's Core i3-8100 quad-core CPU to the market (it's been missing in action for months), which is paired with a new low-cost H310 motherboard. Also ensuring that you have a flawless computing experience is 8GB of DDR4-2400 RAM and a speedy 500GB solid-state M.2 drive. The system is housed in the excellent In-Win BQ656 case, a version of which we reviewed in great detail right here. This system can even house a slim optical drive, which we list in the optional components 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 - July 2019

    CPU:

    Intel Core i3 8100

    There's no better low-cost CPU for a mini system than Intel's Core i3-8100. Sporting four high-speed cores, along with onboard graphics, it's a complete solution in an ultra-efficient, compact package. Even the cooler is ideal - at 47mm tall, it's the tallest that will fit in most bookshelf-size cases.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Be forewarned: due to Intel's production shortages, this CPU goes out of stock constantly. If it's unavailable at Amazon, we'll link to B&H Photo Video, which is another very reputable vendor.

    Motherboard:

    ASRock H310M-ITX/AC

    This board is the perfect companion to the Intel processor recommended above. It offers all the video outputs you could want (DVI, HDMI, and our personal favorite, DisplayPort, which can drive 4K monitors), along with four USB ports, and USB 3.0 header for the system's front USB ports, and plenty of SATA ports. Of course, it also has an M.2 slot, which you'll be using for this system's solid-state drive.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This board even has built-in WiFi, which is very rare at this pricepoint!

    Memory:

    Crucial 2x4GB Ballistix Sport LT DDR4-2400

    For this build, we recommend an economical but fast 2x4GB kit. The CPU and motherboard support up to DDR4-2400 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 in a few years, you'll be glad you have it.

    Solid-State Drive:

    Crucial MX500 500GB M.2

    There's no better way to make a PC feel really fast than to equip it with a really fast solid-state drive, and this one is the lowest-priced model that still offers class-leading performance.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This drive is barely any more expensive than a dog-slow 500GB hard drive!

    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.

    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, leaving you plenty of USB ports free on your 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!).