An Introduction to Building a Small Form Factor PC

Published August 2, 2018, Updated August 7, 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 $500 kitchen PC or a $2,500 ultra-high-end 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 August 2018, we continue to profile ten distinct compact PCs, and thankfully, with rapidly falling prices on video cards and an all-out price-war on solid-state drives, you can build a better SFF PC today for less money than ever before! Among our most popular models over the past few months have been the $1,500 Ultra-Compact Mini-ITX Gaming PC, housed in the SilverStone SG13 chassis shown above. This month, it's been upgraded to the Intel Core i7-8700K six-core processor, and continues to feature the potent GeForce GTX 1070 Ti 8GB video card. Another big winner among TBG readers looking for the ultimate compact PC is our $2,500 Ultra-Extreme Mini-ITX PC, housed in the SilverStone FTZ01-E chassis shown below. Beneath its sleek shell sits an Intel Core i7-8086K processor, the ultra-fast GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB video card, 32GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, and a Samsung 970 Evo 1TB SSD. We're talking the best of the best here!


The big news this month is that AMD's long-awaited B450 chipset has arrived. While we had hoped it would offer SFF shoppers a great budget option for use with AMD's Ryzen 3 2200G and Ryzen 5 2400G APUs released in Februrary, B450 appears to be a limited release, with ITX models coming in at slightly higher price points than anticipated. Our hunch is that AMD's board partners know that the market for AMD-based ITX PCs is very limited, and they've decided to better amortize their R&D investment by focusing only on high-margin products. In our discussions over the past few years with AMD's representatives, we've spent a lot of time pushing them for broader motherboard options, but it's just not happening yet. With that said, we've been able to find homes for AMD Ryzen processors in four of our builds this month. Our $650 Home Theater PC uses a Ryzen 2200G APU with built-in Vega graphics, while our $1,100 High-End Home Theater PC, $1,250 Slim Gaming HTPC, and $1,400 Compact Micro ATX PC use higher-end six- and eight-core processors.


On a more positive note, the ITX case market is more exciting than ever. We strive to turn out as many hands-on reviews of SFF cases as possible, and we're proud to offer our new review of the SilverStone ML09 mini-ITX chassis, shown here, for your perusal this month. It was so good that we decided to create a brand-new PC buyer's guide for it, which you can check it out right here!

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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