If you’re ready to build your own dream Small Form Factor (SFF) PC and need help from the experts 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 content creation PC, or an ultra-high-end gaming system, we’ve got you covered. We think SFF systems, which we define as having a total volume of under 25 liters, are the future of desktop computing, and 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. Let us discuss about Small Form Factor Gaming.
For July 2020, there are a huge number of updates to share. First of all, there’s been a big run on PC components since the Coronavirus pandemic began, and the components taking the biggest hit in the SFF market are AMD motherboards. They have essentially vanished. We have therefore worked overtime to move nearly all of our ITX bulds over to Intel’s latest 10th-Gen processors this month to make sure you can actually build yourself a Small Form Factor Gaming PC at some point this month!
As you consider building your own Small Form Factor Gaming 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! By the way, at TBG, we pride ourselves on always keeping our readers apprised of the latest and greatest in SFF gear.
All of our Buyer’s Guides shown below provide direct product links to Amazon, 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 the continue development of this guide.
The best Small Form Factor Gaming for gaming are:
AMD RYZEN 5 3400G MINI PC Small Form Factor Gaming
The best mini PC for gaming is this AMD Ryzen 5 3400G-based system.
The graphical power of AMD’s desktop APUs means you can build a 1080p compact gaming PC that doesn’t need to have a discrete graphics card plugged into it. The current Ryzen 5 3400G has a little extra graphical oomph, offering between a 6 and 17% gaming performance boost compared with the previous Ryzen 5 2400G. We’ve placed this small gaming PC build at the top of the list because it really does the best job at being mini without making too many performance sacrifices.
With this Ryzen 5 3400G build, you get a rig which is capable of topping 50fps on average in GTA V at 1080p on ‘high’ settings. With more modern games you’ll have to drop your resolution down to 720p to get some decent gaming performance. But if you’re just after this as an esports level machine then it will absolutely fly with Overwatch, LoL, and DOTA.
The ultra low-profile Noctua L9a is almost the only AM4 cooler we could have used for this machine because of the limited space available in our compact PC chassis. We’ve paired up this InWin Chopin case with the Gigabyte Aorus B450 I to create the smallest of our gaming rigs. We went for the Chopin as it comes with a built-in 150W PSU, which delivers just enough juice to keep the Ryzen 5 3400G APU running, even with both the CPU and GPU components overclocked.
For storage space we went for an NVMe SSD, primarily because they take up much less space. With the incredibly affordable and super-speedy Addlink S70 SSD you’re getting the best of both worlds.
RYZEN 5 3600 / GTX 1660 SUPER MINI PC Small Form Factor Gaming
The best mid-range mini PC for gaming is this AMD Ryzen 5 3600- and Nvidia GTX 1660-based system.
You might be surprised at just what you can fit in a chassis this small, but thanks to the advances in mini-ITX motherboards, high-capacity PSUs in a bitesize package, and the use of intelligent partitioning and ribbon cables, you can squeeze a high-end gaming machine into a mini gaming PC this small. This is the best small gaming PC build for those of you that want a discrete graphics card but still want to keep things cheap and cheerful in a compact PC.
To fit a discrete graphics card in while still keeping the build nice and small we went for Phanteks’ Evolv Shift chassis. The Phanteks case isn’t that much bigger than the InWin chassis, but the performance difference in the two compact PCs we can build out of them is massive. A key difference, however, is that you’re going to need a special SFX power supply as the Evolv Shift doesn’t come with one out-of-the-box.
By opting for an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU (the best gaming CPU by our reckoning) and Nvidia GTX 1660 Super graphics card, you get a pretty mainstream rig capable of playing all the latest games in a tiny chassis for a pretty small cost. These components give the machine twelve threads of processing power as well as some serious 1440p gaming chops. And with a 1080p screen you can play all the latest games at pretty much the highest settings without batting an eyelid. At 60 frames per second.
RYZEN 9 3900X / RTX 2080 SUPER MINI PC Small Form Factor Gaming
The fastest mini PC for gaming is this AMD Ryzen 9 3900X- and Nvidia RTX 2080 Super-based system.
If you’re not desperate to squeeze a mini gaming PC into a shoebox, and are prepared for a little heft without the full ATX tower aesthetic, then for a chassis the lovely NZXT H200i or slightly larger Fractal Design Mini C will be perfect.
Since we’re using a mini-ITX case we can use the same AMD motherboard for this compact PC that we have for the other three small gaming PC builds. We’re also using the same model of SSD, but this time with 1TB capacity instead of 512GB – the Addlink S70 1TB, which we reckon is the best SSD for gaming. The Fractal case will also take the larger micro-ATX motherboards, but because there are precious few mATX X470 boards around, we’re upgrading to an Asus Strix X470-I board. This will mean we can make the step up to an X470 board and a 24-thread Ryzen 9 3900X processor, and actually take advantage of it when combined with one of the best graphics cards for gaming: the Nvidia RTX 2080 Super.
That will give us a super-powerful mini PC for gaming and productivity that’s around $1,000 less than you’d spend on an equivalent Intel machine. But the real benefit of both these cases is that (motherboard aside) you can use standard scale PC components throughout. That means you can go for a full-size power supply, beefy graphics card, and more serious cooling. You can drop in a monstrous air-cooler or even a 120mm liquid chip chiller should you so desire. The excellent Fractal Design case will even allow for a 280mm Corsair H115i cooler to get all up in its front grill.
And that’s how easy it is to create a mini PC for gaming, whether you’re building on a budget or looking to create a monster rig with a miniscule footprint. The only thing standing in the way is your imagination. Well, that and your bank balance.