Building a Small Form Factor PC - November 2020

Published November 13, 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 November 2020, things have become pretty exciting, and perhaps a bit confusing, in the PC market. Both Nvidia and AMD have announced brand-new high-end video cards that break new ground in terms of performance, while AMD has likewise released several new CPUs based on the cutting-edge Zen 3 architecture that truly leapfrog Intel's existing offerings. The trouble is that when great new products arrive with such improved specs, demand outstrips supply, and that means it's challenging to actually find these products anywhere, and we mean that quite literally. We have actually been on waitlists since September for a wide range of Nvidia GPUs, and have thus far only been able to purchase one at retail. This product shortage is no joke!

Luckily, for a number of our SFF builds, none of this is an issue, because they use lower-cost CPUs that are in good supply, as well as built-in graphics or mid-range video cards that haven't been impacted by the commotion at the top of the product stacks. We've selected specific models that suit each use case, and Intel in particular has great options in its low-cost CPUs with built-in graphics. We particularly like Intel's 10th-Gen CPUs for lower-cost mini PCs, like our popular $750 Small Office ITX PC. Intel is also still quite competitive in the high-end gaming market with its Core i7 and Core i9 models, which actually offer better price/performance than AMD's hard-to-find Zen 3 processors. We would never have imagined this role switch... Intel being the value offering, wow! In terms of GPUs, Nvidia has just announced some amazing RTX 3000-series models, but like we said, you can't buy them as of our most recent update. For our high-end gaming PC buyer's guides starting at $1,500 and up, we suggest a number of possible solutions for anyone eager to get their hands on this next-gen level of performance. 

By the way, as always, we continue to test all the new SFF gear we can get our hands on, and the following two YouTube videos showcase our latest findings!

Here's our review of SilverStone's ultra-high-end Sugo 15 mini-ITX Chassis, arriving on store shelves in late-November:

And here's our roundup of all the best ultra-low-profile coolers 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!