ML09

If you're looking to build up a system to serve triple-duty as a home-theater PC (HTPC), media streamer, and gaming PC, while blending in nicely on an AV console, well, this is your system! It's equally at home hooked up to your 4K TV for watching or editing video content, running the latest PC game, or being used as an office PC on your desk. And what we really like about it is that it looks good enough to show off, rather than hide in a corner like most PCs! 

For December 2018, this build continues to harness the power of the best sub-$200 CPU, AMD's Ryzen 5 2600. It's an ultra-efficient six-core CPU with 12 processing threads, making it perfect for this home theater-focused system. It includes a 55mm-tall cooler, which will fit nicely into the slim case, the SilverStone ML09. Also on board is 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a fast 500GB solid-state drive, along with a 2TB hard drive for media storage. The CPU is paired with a B450-based motherboard that includes built-in 802.11ac networking and plenty of ports for drives and external devices, and of course a fantastic video card, namely the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB, the most powerful card ever released in the low-profile form factor that this system requires. Together, these components allow this system to provide impressive multi-tasking ability and responsiveness, along with excellent HTPC functionality, all in a low-cost, ultra-compact system. And by way, if you'd like to use this system for NAS duties, it's up to the task, thanks to its four 2.5" drive slots. Learn all about this fantastic case in our hands-on review, which will also provide plenty of build tips.

To see previous versions of this build, just flip to the $1,000 Ultra-Slim ITX Gaming HTPC Archive. And take note: this is just one of nearly a dozen compact PC builds we feature in our do-it-yourself PC guides. If this isn't quite what you're looking for, we have a feeling we have another solution that will for for you, so just flip over to our Introduction to Small Form Factor PCs to learn more about the other compact options.

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, Canada, and 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 $1,000 Ultra-Slim ITX Gaming HTPC - December 2018

    CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 5 2600

    For this system, you could probably scrape by with a dual-core processor, but why should you? Step up to AMD's awesome six-core Ryzen 5 2600, which can process a total of 12 threads simultaneously, while also offering huge overclocking headroom.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This CPU includes a 55mm-tall cooler in the box, which is the largest AMD Wraith series cooler that will fit in this system. All others are Wraith coolers are over 70mm, which is too tall.

    Motherboard:

    Gigabyte B450 I Aorus Pro WiFi

    You get a lot for your money with this B450-based board. It boasts built-in 802.11ac 5GHz networking, Bluetooth, six USB ports, and a front-mounted M.2 SSD slot for modern solid-state storage.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that the video outputs on this board only work when used with Ryzen APUs. The six-core Ryzen CPU spec'd for this build does not have a built-in video processor, so you need the add-in video card below.

    Video Card:

    Gigabyte Geforce GTX 1050 Ti OC LP 4GB

    Because the AMD Ryzen CPU does not have built-in video, you need to add a video card to this system, so why not go for the fastest low-profile card ever released, the GTX 1050 Ti LP?!? It will push this system's gaming capabilities to the max. With 4GB of video RAM on board, it's equipped for any modern video game, and its plethora of ports, including HDMI 2.0, provide all the connectivity you'll need.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This dual-slot, low-profile, 7"-long video card is absolutely the largest model you can fit in the case we recommend.

    Memory:

    Ballistix 2x8GB Sport LT DDR4-2666 SR

    For this build, we're going with 16GB of DDR4-2666 RAM, which will ensure you never run out of memory, no matter what task you throw at this system. The 2666MHz speed of this kit also provides a nice boost over standard DDR4-2133 kits, along with an excellent price.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that RAM prices have been dropping rapidly after rising for 18 months straight!

    Solid-State Drive:

    Crucial MX500 500GB M.2

    Given how quickly solid-state drive prices have dropped recently, you can now get a very quick SATA-based M.2 drive for next to nothing. The 500GB version of the Crucial MX500 will get your OS and apps running smoothly at a cost per gigabyte that's truly amazing.

    The Guru's Tip:

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

    Memory:

    WD Blue WD20SPZX 2TB 2.5"

    For 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 known for being quiet and reliable.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This drive will slot right into one of the four 2.5" hard drive bays in the case we recommend.

    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 ML09 can technically fit an optical drive, but not with the large CPU cooler included with the Ryzen CPU.

    The Guru's Tip:

    You'll need to remove the included 120mm fan from this case to make everything fit. To get more tips on how to build it up, check out our hands-on review.

    Power Supply:

    Corsair SF450

    Boasting Gold-rated efficiency and fully-modular cables, this is the PSU to beat in the SFX world. It's equipped with a quiet 92mm fan that shuts off (and is thus silent!) at idle, while having the power to push a lot of air at load.

    The Guru's Tip:

    While you can theoretically fit a longer SFX-L unit in this build, it would require removing the 2.5" drive cage.

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Flash Drive

    Win 10 is better than Windows 8.1 in every conceivable way. Thank goodness Microsoft listened to critics and came up with an OS that's actually easy to use!

    The Guru's Tip:

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