Building a Small Form Factor PC - May 2019

Published May 8, 2019




If you'd like to build a Small Form Factor (SFF) PC and need help picking the perfect parts and getting the built up into your dream PC, you've come to the right place! Our comprehensive component buyer's guides and hands-on assembly guides will get you up and running in the world of SFF computers, whether it's a budget-friendly kitchen PC or an ultra-high-end gaming system. We publish these guides because we think SFF systems represent the future of desktop computing here today, and once you've built your own SFF PC, we know you'll agree! If you're ready to take the plunge, keep reading and you'll find all the information you need.

For May 2019, we continue to profile ten distinct compact PCs, all under 25 liters in volume (the cutoff we've set for what qualifies as SFF). Our builds come in at multiple pricepoints: two $500 models, two $750 models, two $1,000 models, and one each at $1,250, $1,500, $2,000, and $2,500. With that said, there are lots of changes afoot this month, as we say out with the old and in with the new, moving to ever-smaller systems at a number of price points. Starting with our $500 office model, we've concluded that your best bet is to use one of Intel's low-cost NUC ultra-compact "barebones" PCs, shown above, as a starting point. Harnessing the power of Intel's high-end laptop CPUs, the NUC is smaller than anything you can build yourself, and honestly offers more performance for the money as well, which is an absolute win-win.


We've continued the trend of downsizing with our $750 Home Theater PC, which moves from the micro-ATX form factor to the mini-ITX form factor, using the gorgeous aluminum-clad In-Win Chopin case shown here. Given how modern media is much more likely to come in streaming formats than discs or even saved video files, we think most HTPC users (and their housemates!) are going to be a whole lot happier going with an ultra-slim, stylish PC than an HTPC designed to mimic the look of older AV components. With that said, we still publish our $1,250 High-End HTPC Buyer's Guide, which will set you up with a full ATX system that will still fit on most AV racks. 


Of course, we know a lot of our readers come to TBG to learn how to build the very best gaming PCs possible, and we'd hate to disappoint, so we've reconfigured our top-end $2,500 Ultra-Extreme Mini Gaming PC, shown below, to fit in the awesome GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB video card, the very best gaming card on the market. Combined with the Intel Core i9-9900K eight-core processor that's custom-cooled with the best air cooling solution that will fit in the slim SilverStone FTZ01 case, this system represents the pinnacle of what can be achieved with off-the-shelf components! Looking ahead a bit, we're excited to get our hands on SilverStone's next-gen gaming ITX case, the LD03, which we profiled at CES 2019 and which will be coming to the US in June 2019. Stay tuned for our hands-on review!

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!

All of our Buyer's Guides shown below use Amazon's real-time pricing engine to provide up-to-date prices, and we also provide direct links to 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!