Building a Small Form Factor PC - November 2018

Published November 13, 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 November 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 very popular lately is our bookshelf-friendly $500 Home Office PC, shown below, featuring the In-Win BQ656 case. 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.


In other news, there have been some big-name product releases in the past month. First up, there's a new quad-core Intel NUC that comes in at the same price as previous-gen dual-core models, making it must have for fans of that ultra-compact form factor. For high-end gamers, Nvidia's new RTX series of video cards and Intel's 9th-generation Core processors promise ever-higher performance, and we've incorporated the high-end GeForce RTX 2080 8GB and Core i7-9700K eight-core processor into our $2,500 Ultra-Extreme Mini Gaming PC, shown below, which is a showcase of the best in SFF performance and design.


Note that while both Nvidia and Intel offer even higher-end parts, they aren't without major drawbacks. First, each company appears to have pushed past their own manufacturing limits, as Nvidia's $1,200 GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB video card, launched on September 27th, and Intel's new $530 Core i9-9900K, launched on October 6th, have been essentially impossible to actually purchase since release. Second, these components aren't just pushing performance to the max, they're pushing power use to the max. The RTX 2080 Ti would be a challenge to utilize in any SFF case without severe thermal throttling, and the Core i9-9900K runs at nearly 50% above Intel's advertised "95W" power limit (it's more like 140W), which makes it a non-starter for most SFF builds.

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!