Building a Small Form Factor PC - February 2019
Published February 3, 2019, Updated February 13, 2019
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 February 2019, 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. Our personal favorite is the $1,500 Ultra-Compact Gaming PC, shown above, which is housed in the positively tiny 11.5-liter SilverStone SG13 chassis. With that said, one of our most popular models at the moment serves a distinctly different audience: our $500 Home Office PC, shown below, 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 Intel has completely abandoned the low-end CPU segment due to its production problems - all available manufacturing capacity had been allocated to higher-margin CPUs. Therefore, all of our recommended budget PCs rely on AMD's Ryzen cost-effective lineup, including our bookshelf-sized $500 ITX PC, which uses AMD's brand-new Athlon 240GE. At the high end, we also have some great news: Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2080 8GB video card and Intel's Core i9-9900K are now both in good supply, and they are our picks for our $2,000 Ultimate ITX Gaming PC, as well as 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 Nvidia has a higher-spec'd GPU (the RTX 2080 Ti), we don't believe it's ideal for a true SFF system due to its enormous heat output. Most models have such large heatsinks that they wouldn't even fit in a SFF build. With that said, we have just purchased at retail the smallest RTX 2080 Ti on the market, the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Black Edition, in order to perform testing on behalf of the SFF community. Update: the results are up, and in short, it works! With that said, the choice of case is pretty important, and we're still not confident that there's a way to combine the 2080 Ti and a Core i9-9900K in a true SFF case. Stay tuned for more info on that!
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!