Best Mini PC

Technology is making homes more efficient and comfortable all the time. A premium also is placed on efficiency in the workplace.
Increasingly, efficiency seems to go hand-in-hand with smaller electronic devices. 
Computers in decades past needed to be housed in massive rooms. Now, devices with the same computing power fit into the palm of your hand.

This is certainly the case with the mini PC. Of course, it is still possible to buy a traditional desktop PC with its relatively bulky case, but then you’re forced to find a place to store it. What if you need a PC to use at a kiosk or at the receptionist’s desk at your office? What if you want to mount a PC behind your television to use it for streaming? What if you work at a start-up that’s stuck in a tiny office?
In any of these situations and others, a mini PC may come to the rescue. Just use a mounting kit to place that PC anywhere you like. You’ll have much of the same desktop PC advantages in a much smaller package.

Why a Mini PC?


Some people want a PC that they can pick up and take with them. They prefer a conventional keyboard and mouse, which means that a laptop or tablet isn’t exactly what they want. What they are looking for is the ability to plug in their PC to any television or monitor that happens to be available. Once they connect a few peripherals, they are ready to hit the ground running.

Mini PCs frequently come with operating systems, security mechanisms, graphics capabilities and much more. By examining the best mini PCs, it quickly becomes clear why these machines are becoming so popular.

Best for Total Portability: Azulle The Quantum Access


EHU Rated: 4.5 stars
Price: $$$

Azulle The Quantum AccessThe Quantum Access is a mini PC stick that retails for less than $150. It includes a 32-bit version of Windows 10 in a startlingly small package. In fact, it resembles an oversized USB flash drive. Nonetheless, it’s equipped with a quad-core Atom Processor. Giving it an advantage over the competition is the availability of an Ethernet port, which many users discover provides a better Internet connection than Wi-Fi. However, it only boasts one USB port so options for peripherals are necessarily limited.

Assuming the shape of a black rectangle, The Quantum Access has a ribbed design and a slot for reading micro SD/TF cards. This is a serviceable, inexpensive but relatively barebones model. The single USB port is a bit of a drawback because you’ll need to use a Bluetooth connection if you want to connect a mouse and a keyboard at the same time. The Quantum Access features a fanless design, and the absence of a fan did not appear to inhibit performance. While it would be preferable for this model to support dual-band Wi-Fi, some users may find that the inclusion of the Ethernet port makes up for this lack.

Features

  • Dimensions: 0.72″ by 1.54″ by 4.94″
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Processor: Intel Atom Z3735F
  • Processing Speed: 1.33 GHz
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel HD
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Number of Ports: One USB, one Ethernet
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet, LAN, Bluetooth

Azulle The Quantum Access

While The Quantum Access is a fairly basic PC, its processing speed is acceptable, and it also provides reliable functionality. Moreover, the Ethernet port is a definite advantage.

Best for Overall Features: Apple Mac mini


EHU Rated: 4.9 stars
Price: $$$

Apple Mac mini

A powerful PC packed into an incredibly small footprint, the Mac mini has it all in terms of performance. Of course, with all of its metrics off the charts, it stands to reason that this might also be a considerably more expensive option. The retail price on the base model is a somewhat-staggering $799. However, it’s not really fair to refer to the Mac mini as “base.”

With four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB 3 ports and one HDMI port, the connectivity on the Mac mini is unbeatable. The unsoldered SO-DIMM memory is a huge plus, and it’s possible to configure this mini PC for up to six cores or 12 threads.

If you want to make any expansions on the Mac mini, they’ll have to be external, but this is still an impressively powerful and functional product. Users can upgrade to 64GB of RAM by themselves, but if you want to upgrade to 2 TBs of SSD storage, you’ll have to enlist the professionals at Apple. The sleek, stylish look and “space gray” color scheme will make your desk look cutting edge.

Features

  • Dimensions: 7.7″ by 7.7″ by 1.4″
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-8100B
  • Processing Speed: 3.6 Ghz
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630
  • Operating System: Apple macOS Mojave
  • Number of Ports: Four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB 3 ports, one HDMI 2.0 port
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet

Apple Mac mini

With excellent ports and connectivity, the Mac mini is a force to be reckoned with in the mini PC field.

Best for Customization: Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit


EHU Rated: 4.9 stars
Price: $$$

Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit

This is an option for those who want the opportunity to build their own mini PC. With the NUC 8 Mainstream Kit, you’ll be able to hit the ground running. It’s a barebones kit, but that’s perfectly fine if you want to do your own customization. Thanks to the Core i7 processor and the Intel Iris Plus graphics, you’ll have plenty of power at your disposal. Upgrades are made easy with support for Thunderbolt 3. The NUC 8 Mainstream Kit can hold as many as two drives, one a 2.5-inch and the other an M.2.

The absolute base model of the NUC 8 Mainstream Kit costs $275. From there, you may add your choice of operating system, storage and memory. Of course, you may opt for a more feature-packed version, but it may cost you considerably more. Each unit is equipped with a slot for a microSD card and security lock slot as well as an audio in/out jack. Everything on the NUC 8 Mainstream Kit is easy to access so that you can customize it however you want.

Features

  • Dimensions:
  • RAM: None
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-8559U
  • Processing Speed: 2.7 Ghz
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel Iris Plus 655
  • Operating System: None
  • Number of Ports: Four USB ports, one Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI port
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet

Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit

The design of the NUC 8 Mainstream Kit is unremarkable. Nonetheless, if you factor in the cost of the storage, memory and OS of your choice, this can be a powerful mini PC.

Best for Expansion Ports: Azulle Byte3 Mini PC


EHU Rated: 4.4 stars
Price: $$$

Azulle Byte3 Mini PC

The Byte3 Mini PC has five USB ports, an HDMI 2.0 port and is 4K video capable. Moreover, it comes with an IR remote that performs without a hitch. Costing about $200, this mini PC is almost a standout bargain. The one drawback is that it’s impossible to upgrade this unit’s RAM.

Small enough to fit into your palm, the Byte3 Mini PC has many of the same components as a tablet. Nonetheless, it’s capable of running the Pro version of Windows 10. If you’re looking for a mini PC that can handle light duty at home or at a kiosk or if you’re interested in a machine that’s dedicated to low-level multimedia projects, this may be the way to go.

The Byte3 Mini PC has a totally respectable Intel Celeron processor, and the base model boasts 4 GB of RAM. You can upgrade to a model that has 8 GB, but it will cost you almost an additional $140. If you’ve already got a monitor, keyboard and mouse, you’re ready to go with the Byte3 Mini PC. This model even has an SD slot.

Features

  • Dimensions: 5.6″ by 4″ by 1.5″
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Processor: Intel Celeron N3450
  • Processing Speed: 1.1 GHz
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 500
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Number of Ports: Three USB 3 port, one USB 2 port, one USB-C port, HDMI 2.0 port, VGA port, Ethernet port
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet

Azulle Byte3 Mini PC

The Byte3 Mini PC from Azulle has impressive extras like a remote, 4K video playback and an astonishing number of expansion ports. For the price, it’s tough to beat.

Best for the Office: Lenovo ThinkCentre M720


EHU Rated: 4.7 stars
Price: $$$

Lenovo ThinkCentre M720

Digital security is incredibly important in the modern workplace. Fortunately, the ThinkCentre M720 includes numerous security features that are designed for business. With quiet operation and numerous ports, the ThinkCentre M720 also is a rugged option that looks pretty cool on any desktop.

The barebones model of the ThinkCentre M720 costs less than $400. It is possible to load it with considerable upgrades at the time of purchase. This is a wise idea because upgrades after this point are difficult or impossible. Designed to sit horizontally on a desktop, a mounting kit makes it possible to stand the unit on end for even more space-saving appeal. A different mounting kit enables you to store the ThinkCentre M720 under the top of your desk. This also is an incredibly quiet mini PC. Those who are working in tiny offices and accordingly value keeping noise to a minimum will definitely appreciate this model.

For security, the ThinkCentre M720 features the company’s Smart USB Protection so that IT staff can restrict which USB devices are allowed to access the mini PC. Data encryption is provided by a TPM and there’s a locking notch as well.

Features

  • Dimensions: 7.2″ by 7″ by 1.4″
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-8400T
  • Processing Speed: 1.7 GHz
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Number of Ports: Five USB-A ports, one USB-C port, one display port, one HDMI port
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet

Lenovo ThinkCentre M720

Best for office settings, this is a secure, quiet and compact mini PC that delivers reliable performance.

Best for Entertainment: ASUS VivoMini UN650


EHU Rated: 4.7 stars
Price: $$$

Asus VivoMini UN650

With a mounting kit, it would be incredibly easy to conceal this mini PC behind your TV. It’s worth noting that it’s possible to upgrade this unit with as much as an extra 16 GB of RAM as well as the 2.5-inch SSD of your choice. With 4K UHD graphics and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, this is a great option for streaming movies and television.

The folks at ASUS clearly intended the UN650 to be used for media because it comes with the company’s streaming applications in addition to the Remote Go! apps. Some of this software may seem like bloatware if you already have preferred streaming and related apps. You can get a base model of the UN650 for just $409, and you can upgrade at the time of purchase or afterward. An SD card slot is found on the top of the UN650, and a wired keyboard and mouse are included in the kit. However, these are pretty no-frills items. You may already have better hardware that you’d prefer to use.

Features

  • Dimensions: 5.1″ by 5.1″ by 2″
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-6400T
  • Processing Speed: 2.2 GHz
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Number of Ports: Four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, one VGA port, one Display Port, one HDMI port, one microphone port, one Ethernet port
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet

Asus VivoMini UN650

The UN650 is a great choice for people who want a basic but still powerful media PC that can easily be hooked up to their HDTV.

Best for Chrome OS: Acer Chromebox


EHU Rated: 4.5 stars
Price: $$$

Acer Chromebox

The Acer Chromebox is a fantastic solution for those who aren’t so concerned about having Windows on their mini PC. With the barebones model being available for $239, this also is an economical choice for someone whose main interest is in browsing the web. When it arrives, the Acer Chromebox comes with a mounting kit, vertical stand, mouse and keyboard. This model also runs Android apps with ease through the Google Play Store.

With its square shape, rounded edges and black coloring, the Acer Chromebox is unassuming. Ports are found on the front and rear of the unit, consisting of USB 3.1, USB Type-A ports, a USB Type-C port, display output, an Ethernet jack, an HDMI output and more. It also comes equipped with a slot for a microSD card and a jack for headphones or a microphone. A one-year limited warranty offers some peace of mind.

Features

  • Dimensions: 5.9″ by 5.9″ by 1.6″
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-8250U
  • Processing Speed: 1.6 GHz
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • Operating System: Google Chrome OS
  • Number of Ports: Two USB 3.1 ports, three USB Type-A ports, one USB Type-C port, Ethernet jack, one HDMI port
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet

Acer Chromebox

For people who love the automatic updates and easy manageability that come with the Chrome OS, there are few better choices than this option.

Best for Fast Processing Speeds: ASUS VivoMini VC66


EHU Rated: 4.6 stars
Price: $$$

Asus VivoMini VC66

The VC66 is compact, has a fresh design and is compatible with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet. On the front of the unit, you’ll find a USB 3.1 Type-C port along with two USB 2.0 ports and USB 3.0 port. A headphone jack is located on the front of this mini PC as well. The back of the box features an Ethernet jack along with two more USB 3.0 ports. Additionally, an SD card reader is located here.

The VC66 draws its power from an external power brick, which is one of the features that enables the unit to be so small. One of the things that makes this model so attractive is that it is so easy to upgrade it. Using nothing more than a screwdriver, you can easily gain access to the two RAM slots as well as the dual 2.5-inch bays for the drives.

You also have ready access to the M.2 slot, which means that you have plenty of upgrade options. Another advantage of the VC66 is that it’s fast. With a processor that routinely clocks in at 3.6 GHz, performance shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Features

  • Dimensions: 7″ by 6″ by 2.9″
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 7700
  • Processing Speed: 3.6 GHz
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 630
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Number of Ports: Two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C port, three USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet port
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet

Asus VivoMini VC66

When speed matters, the VC66 comes to the rescue with a blazing fast processor.

Best for Small Businesses: HP – ProDesk 400 G4


EHU Rated: 4.7 stars
Price: $$$

HP ProDesk 400 G4

This mini PC is actually more of a mini tower. With the right mounting kit, it can easily be stored out of the way and out of sight. The 256-GB SSD stands up to even the toughest of computing tasks, and it boasts two additional bays and two slots that are suitable for extra RAM or expandable storage. This provides the average user with plenty of options for upgrades.

The ProDesk 400 G4 certainly is larger most of the mini PC models on the market. However, this increased size gives it more power and makes it possible for the ProDesk 400 G4 to have no fewer than eight USB ports. This product also has some nice security features built in. Known as “Sure Click,” this technology helps to protect the PC against viruses and malware. Also included is HP’s signature client manager, an important factor in the fight against data theft. The HP Biosphere technology keeps everything up-to-date automatically and performs routine security checks.

Features

  • Dimensions: 6.69″ by 13.3″ by 10.79″
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 7500
  • Processing Speed: 3.4 GHz
  • Integrated Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 630
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Number of Ports: Eight USB ports
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet

HP ProDesk 400 G4

With a slim DVD writer and numerous extras, the ProDesk 400 G4 is suitable for any small business.

Final Thoughts


With space and resources at a premium in homes and offices, mini PCs are becoming increasingly popular. They offer less bulk, yet still plenty of computing power, making them ideal for someone who prefers to use a traditional mouse and keyboard. Many options are available, including some that are hardly larger than a flash drive up to models that are mini towers. Whether you want to stream TV or listen to your favorite tunes, a mini PC may be the way to go.

FAQs


Q: What is a mini desktop PC?

A: A mini desktop PC has much of the same functionality as a traditional desktop PC but in a smaller package. People who live or work in small spaces appreciate that these small computers take up so little area on their desks. Helpfully, a mini PC also may be used with a mounting kit to place it under a desk, behind a TV or on a wall. These mini PCs are perfect for surfing the Internet, streaming movies and television shows, sending emails or using basic desktop applications.

Q: What is the difference between microcomputer and minicomputer?

A: The terms “microcomputer” and “minicomputer” actually have nothing to do with mini PCs, which are considered a different technology altogether. Traditionally, “microcomputer” has been used to refer to personal computers that are relatively small, lightweight and portable. Confusingly, “minicomputers” were considered to be those machines that were smaller than a mainframe but larger than a microcomputer. Microcomputers are more powerful and capable of multitasking while minicomputers ordinarily are used for one task at a time.

Q: How much RAM do I need?

A: A minimum of four GB of RAM is considered adequate for basic usage. In general, the more RAM a computer has, the better and faster it will perform. People who notice that their computer seems to be working slowly may want to consider adding more RAM to their system. Most computers perform well with between eight and 16 GB of RAM, which is sufficient for running an OS, desktop applications, the Internet and basic games.

Q: Are mini PCs good?

A: Some mini PCs have better specifications than others. The ultimate test of whether or not a mini PC is good is to consider if it meets your needs. Are you looking for a PC with a tiny footprint that can handle basic computing tasks? If so, then several models may work for you. Keep in mind that while some mini PCs are ready to go, it is possible to significantly customize others to configure them to meet your needs.