Building a Small Form Factor PC - March 2021

Published March  8, 2021

 

 

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 March 2021, navigating the GPU market has gotten pretty much impossible, as the entire worldwide supply of all GPUs (not just high-end models!) has been absorbed by the cryptocurrency mining craze. The last craze occurred almost exactly 3 years ago, and this one is even wilder, as we've never seen $100 GPUs sell out entirely (or sell for double the MSRP!). In any event, what this means is that if you want to build a gaming PC or a high-end content creation PC, well, you're not going to be completing your build this month. But the good news is that if you go with one of Intel's 10th-Gen Core CPUs, which have been discounted a lot lately, you can use the built-in video until GPUs return to store shelves, likely in June. Intel actually offers better price/performance than AMD's hard-to-find Zen 3 processors. We would never have imagined this role switch... Intel being the value play, wow!

For everybody else just interested in a small form factor home office PC, GPU availability is not an issue, because these systems can get by just fine with built-in graphics for the long haul. For example, our $500 Home Office ITX PC uses a Pentium, and our popular $750 Small Office ITX PC uses a Core i5. And by the way, a new 11th-Gen NUC is in the works from Intel, and while it's officially been "launched", we don't expect retail availability for a while. We'll be sure to update our buyer's guide when these new NUCs hit store shelves!

As always, we continue to test all the latest and greatest SFF gear we can get our hands on, and we have some awesome new content up for you to check out. Most recent is our buyer's guide to Small Form Factor CPU coolers, which gives you the best options for your system based on size and performance:

We also had one of the world's very first reviews of the new premium S620 ITX case from Sliger, which is probably the best all-around high-end ITX chassis on the market:

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 Newegg, 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!