Building a Small Form Factor PC - May 2020

Published May 6, 2020



If you're ready to build your own dream Small Form Factor (SFF) PC and need help from the experts picking the perfect parts, you've come to the right place! We've been publishing our comprehensive SFF component buyer's guides and hands-on assembly guides since 2013, so no one else can get you up and running in the world of SFF PCs better than we can! Whether it's a budget-friendly kitchen PC, a compact yet powerful small office or content creation PC, or an ultra-high-end gaming system, we've got you covered. We think SFF systems, which we define as having a total volume of under 25 liters, are the future of desktop computing, and once you've built your own SFF PC, we know you'll agree! So, if you're ready to take the plunge, keep reading and you'll find all the information you need.

For May 2020, there are a lot of updates to share. First of all, there's been a big run on PC components since the Coronavirus pandemic began, and while it's affecting every product line, SFF component supplies are under the least amount of strain. Perhaps we can be thankful that mainstream buyers haven't caught on to how great SFF PCs are yet! In other news, we've been busy testing new gear, and that has informed some major updates to our guides. For example, the $1,500 Mini-ITX Gaming PC Build, our most popular ITX buyer's guide, now features liquid cooling, a change based on the testing we did while putting together our new hands-on build video for that build, which you can catch right here:

But there's so much more to report! While all eyes are on Intel's coming release of "Comet Lake" desktop CPUs and motherboards, you can already take advantage of next-gen gear in Intel's NUC desktop PC, shown below, which provides a huge boost in performance per dollar versus previous-gen NUCs, thanks to a much faster dual-core CPU in the budget range, and a massive six-core CPU in the high-end Core i7-based NUC. You can learn more about our recommended NUC builds in our NUC Buyer's Guide. Speaking of Intel, we recently brought Intel's venerable Pentium CPU lineup back, where it finds a home in our $500 Mini-ITX Family/Office PC. Honestly, there is no other CPU to consider for this cost-conscious build, as the $60 Pentium Gold packs a punch that even AMD can't counter! Another change we made was to bring back the venerable Fractal Core 500 case, which is now featured in our $2,500 Ultra-Extreme Mini-ITX Gaming PC Build. The reason is simple: the latest ultra-high-end CPUs from AMD (and no doubt those coming from Intel soon) simply require liquid cooling when used in SFF systems, and the Core 500 can fit massive radiators despite its sub-20-liter form factor. That means you get amazing processing power and keep your SFF form factor for a win-win!!!  

10th-Gen Front Canyon NUC

As you consider building your own SFF system, keep in mind that every compact case is unique, so no single build guide can tell you exactly how certain components will fit together in that case. SFF cases often arrange components in a way that makes it difficult to install otherwise standard PC parts. That's why in addition to our many SFF Buyer's Guides, we've worked hard to put together a comprehensive set of step-by-step assembly guides covering a wide range of case layouts. We believe these are the most comprehensive step-by-step PC building guides you'll find anywhere! By the way, at TBG, we pride ourselves on always keeping our readers apprised of the latest and greatest in SFF gear. We'll continue to feature reviews and builds on our YouTube channel you won't find anywhere else, so don't miss out - subscribe now!

All of our Buyer's Guides shown below provide direct product links to Amazon, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, and Amazon Germany, with regional substitutions made where necessary. If you purchase any of the components profiled in this guide, please use our links, which helps support continued development of this guide.

Scroll down to find your dream system!