An Introduction to Building a Small Form Factor PC

Published July 8, 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 July 2018, we profile ten distinct compact PCs, and thankfully, with falling prices on video cards and memory, and an all-out price-war on solid-state drives, you can build a better SFF PC today for less money than ever before! We're also seeing some renewed competition in the SFF case market, meaning there are plenty of premium models to choose from, which hasn't always been true. A great example is the sleek glass-and-steel-clad SilverStone LD01 mATX case, shown above and featured in our $1,400 Compact MicroATX Buyer's Guide. And while RGB lighting hasn't made major inroads in the SFF market, due in part to the limited exterior real estate on SFF cases, SilverStone delivers here as well with the RVZ03, shown below, which is listed as an option in our $2,500 Ultra-Extreme ITX Buyer's Guide.


One issue we should mention is that despite the intense competition between Intel and AMD in the CPU market right now, only one of our ten SFF systems uses an AMD CPU, specifically our $1,100 High-End Home Theater PC. And that's specifically because it's not a true SFF PC, it's actually an ultra-compact ATX system. Unfortunately, despite AMD's great selection of 2000-series CPUs, the selection of ITX and mATX motherboards compatible with these CPUs is extraordinarily limited. Nearly all AMD SFF motherboards today use older B350/X370 chipsets, which do not offer guaranteed compatibility with AMD's current 2000-series processors. Because TBG wants every PC builder to have a positive experience, we won't recommend AMD for SFF builds until the rumored B360 motherboards arrive.

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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