Building a Small Form Factor PC - June 2019
Published June 5, 2019
If you're ready to build your own dream Small Form Factor (SFF) PC and need a bit of help selecting the perfect parts, 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've got you covered. We think SFF systems represent 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 June 2019, we now profile eleven distinct compact PCs under 25 liters in volume, which is the cutoff we've set for what qualifies as a true SFF machine. Our builds come in at seven pricepoints: two $500 models, two $750 models, two $1,000 models, and one each at $1,250, $1,500, $2,000, and $2,500. Our goal is to provide you the best alternatives at each pricepoint, whether your goal is to build a small office PC, a home theater PC, or a full-on gaming machine. Starting with our $500 Office PC model, we've concluded that the best approach today is to choose a low-cost Intel NUC ultra-compact "barebones" PC, shown above, as a starting point. It harnesses the power of Intel's high-end laptop CPUs, allowing the NUC to be smaller than anything you can build yourself, while offering more performance for the money as well, which is a true win-win. Just one issue to note is that Intel's production shortages mean all of its products are in short supply, so don't be surprised if you have to backorder a NUC to get your hands on one!
We've continued the trend of downsizing with our $750 Home Theater PC, which has recently moved from the micro-ATX form factor to the mini-ITX form factor, using the gorgeous aluminum-clad In-Win Chopin case shown here, along with a highly-capable AMD Ryzen 5 2400G APU. Given that modern media is much more likely to come in streaming formats than discs or ripped 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're always trying to meet our readers demands, so we also list the $1,000 Ultra-Slim HTPC, which uses a much more powerful add-in video card and has space for twice as much storage, as well as space for an optical drive. We've also down-sized our $1,250 High-End Home Theater PC, which previously didn't meet the cutoff for SFF classification, but now comes in at just 22 liters despite plenty of room for full-size components.
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 have five dedicated gaming systems to choose from, starting with our $1,000 portable eSports PC, and going all the way up to our top-end $2,500 Ultra-Extreme Mini Gaming PC, which uses the awesome GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB video and Intel's Core i9-9900K eight-core processor. New from the ground up this month is the $2,000 Ultimate Gaming PC, which has dash and flash in equal measure, thanks to the combination of a Core i7-9700K, RTX 2080 8GB GPU, and the eye-catching SilverStone RVZ03 ARGB case, shown here. 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 this month. TBG will be one of the very first outlets to get a review unit, so stay tuned for our thoughts on whether its the new "best in class" ITX gaming case!
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.
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