ML09

This guide will show you how to build an ultra-capable, ultra-compact PC perfect for either small office or home theater PC use. Whether you need a powerful, slim system to sit next to your high-resolution display, or you want a PC capable of streaming to your 4K UHD TV, this system is the one for you! 

For October 2019, this build gets some nice upgrades thanks to continued price drops on a number of components. It still features our personal favorite slim case, the SilverStone ML09. We believe that in the post-hard drive era, an inexpensive office PC or HTPC should be quiet, capable, and most importantly, compact. Put another way, it's time to say "honey, I shrunk the PC!" Trust us - this is going to be a win not just for you, but for everyone else in your household! But this PC isn't just small, it's also extraordinarily powerful for its size and a fantastic bargain. It starts with AMD's awesome Ryzen 5 2400G, a four-core, eight-thread powerhouse that can boost up to 3.9GHz. It has built-in RX Vega 11 graphics, which is vastly superior to anything available from Intel CPUs, and is on par with a stand-alone $100 GPU. Paired with an advanced B450-based motherboard, it will output 4K/60Hz deep-color video via HDMI 2.0, which you need to properly drive a 4K UHD TV or ultra-wide monitors. And thanks to those price drops we mentioned, we can also equip this system with 16GB of ultra-fast DDR4 RAM, a blazing-fast 500GB PCIe-based solid-state drive, a 2TB laptop-style hard drive for file storage, and a fully-modular Gold-rated power supply. And if you still want access to physical or recorded media, don't worry: this system can fit a Blu-Ray drive plus up to four 2TB hard drives, bringing the total capacity to a whopping 8TB plus the SSD.

With all of that said, we know there a lot of HTPC users out there who still want to use add-in graphics cards for gaming, video capture cards for media, and a rack of large hard drives for storage. For all those folks, we have our much larger $1,250 High-End HTPC Buyer's Guide, which is based on the SilverStone GD05 case, shown below. It uses a micro-ATX motherboard and provides space for up to three 3.5" hard drives and plenty of full-size expansion cards, all without approaching the size of typical ATX cases!

gd05

To see previous versions of this build, simply flip to the Home Theater PC Archive. By the way, any HTPC needs a good set of peripherals to get the most out of it, so definitely scroll down to the end of this guide to see our favorite multifunction accessories, including wireless keyboards and universal remotes.

We use Amazon's real-time pricing engine, so prices in this guide are always up-to-date. We also include local Amazon links for our readers in the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, and Deutschland (Germany), making regional substitutions as necessary. If you decide to purchase any of the products listed below, please use the links provided, which helps support continued development of this guide.

The $750 Home Theater PC - October 2019

    CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

    The Ryzen 5 2400G APU is by far the best solution for a budget-friendly home theater PC. It has four cores and 8 total processing threads, runs at 3.6GHz with boost to 3.9GHz, and being an "APU" rather than a CPU, includes the powerful RX Vega 11 graphics chip for true gaming and video decompression capability. The Vega 11 is actually equivalent to a $100 GPU on its own!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This APU's 55mm-tall Wraith Stealth cooler could fit in this system with minor modifications, but we suggest a much quieter, more compact cooler later in this guide.

    Motherboard:

    Gigabyte B450 I Aorus Pro WiFi

    You get a lot for your money with this B450-based mini-ITX board. It boasts built-in 802.11ac 5GHz networking, Bluetooth, six USB ports, high-end audio, and an M.2 slot for a solid-state drive. The best part of this board is that it includes an HDMI 2.0 port, allowing for true 4K/60Hz output.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that like all current B450 boards, this one will not support the latest generation of AMD 3000-series processors without a firmware update. Therefore, don't make the mistake of buying the newer, more expensive 3400G. Not only is it only 5% faster, but it won't boot on any current mainstream ITX boards!

    Memory:

    Ballistix 2x8GB Sport LT DDR4-3200 CL16

    For this build, we're going with 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, which will ensure you never run out of memory, while maximizing the performance of the Ryzen platform. Note that we always recommend the use of "single rank" memory with the Ryzen platform for greater compatibility, and Ballistix is one of the few makers of such memory.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To attain this kit's full speed, remember to select the AMP profile in the motherboard's UEFI BIOS.

    Solid-State Drive:

    WD Blue SN500 500GB NVMe

    A massive price war in the SSD market is leading to better values every month, and the latest star is the SN500 from WD, by far the best drive at its pricepoint! It features TLC NAND and the ultra-fast PCIe interface, allowing it to blow past similarly-priced SATA drives!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This drive will fit right into the M.2 slot on the motherboard we recommend, and to make installation easy, you'll want a jeweler's-type screwdriver.

    Hard Drive:

    WD Blue WD20SPZX 2TB 2.5"

    If you have a large media storage, you'll want a high-capacity hard drive, and we recommend the latest version of WD's Blue 2TB 5400RPM drive. It's quiet and reliable. You can add up to four of these drives to this system, for a total of 8TB of storage!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Given that a lot of HTPC users are switching to streaming content, we no longer view a large hard drive as mandatory, especially in a lower-cost HTPC like this one.

    Case:

    SilverStone ML09B

    Silverstone has done some serious engineering work here, and there's simply nothing else like it on the market today. Despite its compact dimensions, the ML09 can fit a mini-ITX motherboard, a low-profile dual-slot video card, four 2.5" drives, and an SFX power supply.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that you'll need to remove the included 120mm fan from this case to fit the CPU cooler. The case has just 47mm of CPU cooler clearance when using either an optical drive or slim fan, and 70mm with nothing above To get more tips on how to build it up, check out our hands-on review.

    Power Supply:

    EVGA Supernova 450 GM

    This amazing Gold-rated SFX PSU is equipped with a 92mm fan, which has the power to push a lot of air at load, while being very quiet at idle. While you can theoretically fit a longer SFX-L unit in this build, it would require removing the 2.5" drive cage.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that as with all power supplies, tariffs are taking a major toll on availability, so grab this while you can - it's likely to sell out or go up in price soon!

    CPU Cooler:

    Noctua NH-L9a-AM4

    While the AMD processor includes a decent 55mm cooler, this slimmer 37mm cooler is required if you want to use the case's included 120mm fan or the optional Blu-Ray burner listed later in this guide. The other major advantage of the NH-L9a is that it's infinitely quieter than the stock AMD cooler - in our testing, it was practically silent.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Learn more about this great cooler in our full hands-on review.

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Flash Drive

    Win 10 is by far the best OS Microsoft has ever produced, and it's updated ever Spring and Fall with major new feature releases and security enhancements.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This USB 3.0 version of W10 loads in under 5 minutes!

Optional Components

    Optical Drive:

    OSGEAR Internal Slim Blu-Ray Burner

    Tap into your catalog of DVD and Blu-Ray discs with this slimline Blu-Ray burner, which can read CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays, and can write to all of them as well. Note that to use this drive in the slim case we recommend, you have to add two additional components, the adapter listed below, as well as the slim Noctua cooler we recommended earlier in this guide. The stock AMD cooler will not provide sufficient clearance to mount a disc drive.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To play commercial movies, you'll need licensed software, and we recommend Cyberlink PowerDVD 18 Ultra.

    Cable:

    Startech Slim-Line SATA Adapter

    To connect the Blu-Ray drive, or any slim optical drive, you'll need this adapter, which converts the drive's laptop-style power connector for use with a desktop-class power supply.

    The Guru's Tip:

    We've also tried Startech's all-in-one adapter, but find that it can cause clearance problems.

    The Home Theater Keyboard/Trackpad Combo:

    Logitech K600 TV Keyboard

    Want a great HTPC keyboard to go with your new PC? Then go for Logitech's new K600. It has two modes of navigation (touchpad and joystick), and uses Logitech's proven wireless connection system.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model even works with Smart TVs and phones, making it a universal input device!