Building a Small Form Factor PC - January 2021
Published January 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 January 2021, we have some good news, as well as quite a bit of bad news, and let's get that bad news out of the way first. Things were already tough enough in the SFF gaming market, as many SFF cases can't fit most of the gargantuan GPUs that have recently hit the market. But to make matters worse, there's currently zero supply of any of these GPUs, making it even harder to plan around the very few models that work with most of our SFF gaming builds. Due to immense demand, supply chain problems, and now cryptocurrency mining, we don't see any way this is going to resolve itself until Spring 2021.
So, with that out of the way, let's talk about what you can build today! For a number of our SFF builds, GPU availability is not an issue, because they use lower-cost CPUs with built-in graphics, or mid-range video cards that haven't been wiped out (yet) 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! For our gaming PC buyer's guides starting at $1,000 and up, well, you won't be buying a GPU anytime soon, but we suggest several possible solutions for anyone eager to get building their next-gen PC, namely going with an interim GPU from EVGA and using their Step-Up program, or just getting your system running off Intel's integrated video for now.
By the way, as always, we continue to test all the latest and greatest SFF gear we can get our hands on, and we have an awesome new premium ITX case from Sliger in the studio for review. Look for that in February. In the meantime, check out the case we'll be comparing it against, SilverStone's ultra-high-end Sugo 15 mini-ITX Chassis:
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.
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