Building a Small Form Factor PC – The October 2021 Update
By Ari Altman | Published September 30, 2021 | Updated September 30, 2021
If you’re ready to build your own dream Small Form Factor (SFF) PC and need help picking the perfect parts, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve been publishing our comprehensive SFF component buyer’s guides and hands-on assembly guides since 2013, so no one else can get you up and running in the world of SFF PCs better than we can! Whether it’s a budget-friendly kitchen PC, a compact yet powerful small office, or an ultra-high-end gaming system, we’ve got you covered.
We define SFF systems as anything having a total volume of under 25 liters, although that’s just a starting point, and every system in our guides at this point is under 20 liters! We fully believe these PCs represent the future of desktop computing. Once you’ve built your own SFF PC, we know you’ll agree! So, if you’re ready to take the plunge, keep reading and you’ll find all the information you need.
This Month’s Updates
For October 2021, there’s plenty of good news in the SFF market, with more competition than ever among case manufacturers to bring you the freshest, smallest, and highest-performing designs. We’re getting to the point where it’s not obvious what they’ll think of next, because seemingly everything has been optimized to the fullest! Of course, our high-end builds feature the very best cases on the market today.
Alas, the broader PC market continues to be hard to navigate, with GPU availability very limited thanks to the lasting effects of this year’s cryptocurrency mining craze. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, as a number of video cards are now available at retail, albeit at somewhat inflated prices. If you want to build a gaming PC or a high-end content creation PC now, you’ll have to pay a bit of a premium. In the context of a full PC build, however, it’s not that significant, adding perhaps 10-20% to the total cost.
One quick word on our Intel NUC guide… for years, this has been a big hit with our readers, but Intel has really fallen way behind AMD, and the 11th-Gen Intel NUC just isn’t competitive, so for now, we recommend AMD-based systems in our Intel NUC guide!
Our Latest Reviews and How-Tos
As always, we continue to test all the latest and greatest SFF gear we can get our hands on. Most recent is our YouTube buyer’s guide to Small Form Factor CPU coolers, which gives you the best options for your system based on size and performance. We’ll continue to feature reviews and builds on our YouTube channel you won’t find anywhere else, so don’t miss out – subscribe now! We also have a huge catalog of SFF review articles listed later on this page under the “Articles” tab.
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!
One last thing: all of our Buyer’s Guides shown below provide product links to select retailers. 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 the buyer’s guide for your dream system, and click on Articles to see our huge catalog of reviews and how-tos!