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If you’re considering downsizing your desk, or are tired of bulky towers taking up precious floor space, it may be time to pick up a mini PC. Don’t be fooled by the size — the best mini PCs contain a full desktop computer inside, freeing up more of your workspace and letting you easily take it with you as well.
What Is a Mini Computer?
Instead of a traditional tower-type hard drive for a desktop machine, a mini PC contains everything in a simple space-saving little unit, which you then hook up to a monitor, keyboard and mouse. They’re much more compact, and give you the option of an entire desktop computer that you can now carry around with you, or sometimes even mount to the back of the monitor itself.
What is a Mini Computer Used For?
While most any mini PC can handle the basics of everyday internet life, such as web browsing, streaming, and social media, anything beyond that is something you’ll want to check the stats for, to see if your mini computer can deal with what you need. For example, heavy gamers using a mini PC with an average RAM and processing speed would face lots of annoying lag and latency, not to mention a unit that’s at risk for overheating (and gets obnoxiously loud when the cooling fans kick in).
But for regular usage, like school work, spreadsheets and office tasks, getting a beefed-up machine with loads of storage would be a waste, as those type of applications don’t weigh down the CPU processing and put much of a strain on it.
There’s also the customizable aspect too. While many of the best mini PC brands let you choose between a few pre-built ones that are ready to go right out of the box with varying storage and memory amounts, others are designed to be further customized once they arrive, as more experienced users add their own parts and remove others.
What Are the Best Mini PCs?
There are a lot of good mini PCs available, and shopping for one can be overwhelming. So we’ve selected four of the most accessible and versatile computers to get you started. Read on to find out what’s going to work for you, your online and offline lifestyle, and your space – both physical and memory-wise.
1. HP ProDesk 600 G4 Desktop Mini PC
This shiny mini PC features Intel’s Core i3-8100T, with their UHD Graphics 630 and 3.1 GHz of processor speed. Dual-band wireless and Bluetooth provide a quick and secure connection. At 6.5 pounds, it’s the heaviest of the bunch here, but also contains a lot: 2666MHz of memory speed, a 500GB HDD, 4GB RAM, and probably the best and most plentiful port selection too (the dual audio input jacks are a nice bonus).
Windows 10 Pro is the OS of choice here, and there’s even an HP keyboard and mouse included.
2. ASUS CHROMEBOX3-NC356U Mini PC
There’s nothing “sus” about the ASUS. This sleek machine runs on Google’s Chrome OS, with a fast Intel Celeron processor that can handle 4K movies without lag, as well as 4GB DDR4 of memory.
Graphics look great when plugged into a monitor, and it can even handle two screens at a time using HDMI and DisplayPort over a USB-C connection. All Android apps are fully supported, and there’s built-in Bluetooth, WiFi, and and a gigabit LAN port for a faster connection.
Startup is swift, it’s near-silent when running, the OS is user friendly, and it barely takes up any space on your desk. It’s also well-protected against malware and viruses, automatically installing the latest software updates and bug fixes to keep your stuff secure.
3. Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit
Fueled by a quad-core 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor with 2.7gHz of speed, there’s a lot packed in to this little unit. And it’s up to you what exactly goes in, since it’s customizable to your lifestyle, particularly how much memory you’ll need.
Intel’s Iris Plus Graphics 655 look vivid and sharp, and can support triple displays – all in 4K Ultra HD. Audio sounds great as well due to the eight-channel output. There are plenty of ports too, including Thunderbolt 3, two 2.0 USB, HDMI 2.0a, DisplayPort 1.2 via USB-C, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
While fast, responsive, and portable-ish (at three pounds), this is recommended more for users who have built and maintained machines before, as it might be confusing or overwhelming for newbies. It can handle regular internet usage and mild gaming no problem, but heavy gamers will probably need something more powerful and with better response to overheating.
4. ACEPC AK1 Mini PC
The Intel 2.3GHz Celeron Apollo Lake Quad-Core J3455 powers this unit, and setting up dual displays is easy due to the double HDMI outputs. 4K HD video looks great, and 4GB of RAM keeps everything running pretty smoothly.
The 2.5G and 5G WiFi options provide a strong and steady signal, and build is small and light enough (just 1.3 pounds) so it can attach to some monitors for increased space on your desk. But if you want more (virtual) space, there’s a slot for a microSD card up to 128GB, and extra customizable options to make sure you’re getting the exact specifications that are going to fit what you need.