Building a Small Form Factor PC - March 2019
Published March 3, 2019
If you're looking to build a Small Form Factor (SFF) PC and need a jumpstart finding the perfect system, you've come to the right place! Our comprehensive component buyer's guides and hands-on assembly guides will help you build the system of your dreams, whether it's a budget-friendly kitchen PC or an ultra-high-end mini 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 March 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. We use it in a lot of our benchmark testing, and in fact we just tested the compact EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Black Edition in it to determine how this ultra-hot beast would fare in this little box. In a word, it works, and you can check out the results right here!
With that said, one of our most popular models at the moment is the $2,500 Ultra-Extreme Mini Gaming PC, shown below, which is a showcase of the best in SFF performance and design. It features an Intel Core i9-9900K CPU and an RTX 2080 GPU in its default configuration, but based on our RTX 2080 Ti thermal testing, we now officially endorse upgrades to the RTX 2080 Ti using this build!
Another PC that's becoming increasingly popular among TBG readers is the $1,000 eSports Build shown below, which uses the ultra-portable SilverStone ML08-H chassis (with included handle!), and for March features the brand-new Intel Core i5-9400F six-core CPU and GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB video card. For anyone competiting in eSports, or those who just want an ultra-portable, high-performance PC at a great price, this is a great pick.
In order to always stay on the cutting edge of SFF design, we are continually testing new products (like the RTX 2080 Ti mentioned above), and take every opportunity we can get to build and benchmark systems that you won't find anywhere else. So when AMD recently came to us and asked if we'd like to review their new Athlon 240GE processor (which is currently recommended in the $500 Home Office Mini PC Guide), we said we would on one condition: that AMD provide a matching ITX motherboard so that this budget-friendly CPU could be shown off in its natural home - a mini PC! Most other review outlets test these low-power chips in huge desktop towers using high-end gaming motherboards, often overclocked to the max, which we think is just a little bit silly. Luckily, AMD agreed that this request made a lot of sense, as the 240GE/ITX combo will be in our hands shortly. Look for a full Athlon-based ITX builder's guide to be published sometime next month!
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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