Building a Small Form Factor PC - December 2018
Published December 5, 2018
If you're looking to build a Small Form Factor (SFF) PC and need some help getting started, you've come to the right place! Our comprehensive set of component buyer's guides and hands-on builder's guides will help you create the system of your dreams, whether it's a budget-friendly kitchen PC or an ultra-high-end, yet still portable, gaming system. We publish these guides because we think SFF systems are the future of desktop computing, and once you've built your own SFF PC, we're confident you'll agree! If you're ready to take the plunge, keep reading and you'll find all the information you need.
For December 2018, we continue to profile ten distinct compact PCs, all under 25 liters in volume (our cutoff for what qualifies as SFF), 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, our most popular model lands right in the middle: our $1,500 Ultra-Compact Mini-ITX Gaming PC, shown above. Using the affordable SilverStone SG13 chassis, there's practically no limit to what it can do! Also proving extremely popular recently is our $500 Home Office PC, shown below, which uses a compact mATX chassis and standard-sized components. It's perfect for anyone who wants a system that will let them get a lot of work done without taking up a lot of space.
The big news this month is that AMD continues to gain market share for low-cost and mid-range builds, now that Intel has abandoned its Pentium line of processors due to production problems. AMD has the answer at every pricepoint up to $200, starting with its new budget-wonder, the $55 Athlon 200GE. Fully half of our SFF systems are now powered by AMD, which is a huge deal when you consider that two years ago, not a single AMD processor was featured in our DIY PC build guides. With that said, Intel has finally made good on its "October" release of the gamer-friendly Core i7-9700K, which hit the street in late November and is now available in good quantities. That chip along with the fire-breathing GeForce RTX 2080 8GB video card are the featured components in our $2,500 Ultra-Extreme Mini Gaming PC, shown below, which is a showcase of the best in SFF performance and design.
Note that although both Intel and Nvidia have higher-spec'd chips (the Core i9-9900K and RTX 2080 Ti, respectively), we don't believe either belong in a true SFF system due to their enormous heat output. The "95W" Core i9-9900K actually uses more like 145W, while the RTX 2080 Ti is the most power-hungry GPU ever released. Fitting them both in a compact chassis simply will not work without serious performance and/or acoustic degradation, so we aren't featuring them in our guides.
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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