Are you looking for a stylish version of the desktop PC, but don’t want to dig as deep into your pocket as when purchasing a notebook? You don’t want to compromise on the functionality, features and performance of the device? Then you should take a closer look at the Mini PC.
In the Mini PC Test we will answer what the differences are compared to the desktop PC, what advantages the Mini PC has over a laptop and whether you can also use the Mini PC for gaming and streaming without any problems.
We not only provide you with informative background knowledge about possible operating systems and processor types for Mini PCs, but also help you decide whether a ready-to-go version or barebones are more suitable for your needs.
- Mini PCs are very similar to classic desktop PCs. They only differ in the size of the mainboard, the power consumption and the quietness of the work process.
- In principle, a distinction is made between two types: the barebones and the ready-to-go variant. With the latter, the mini-computer is immediately ready for use, whereas barebones first have to be configured in a complex manner.
- High-quality mini PCs with a fast CPU (processor) and a good graphics chip can also be used as gaming PCs. Otherwise, the small power packs are mainly used in the office or in the living room for streaming films and videos (multimedia center).
Best Mini PCs
HP Business Desktop ProDesk 400 G5
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This Mini PC is completely ready to use as soon as you unpack it. It has the following interfaces: 4 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x VGA, 1 x DisplayPort, 1 x LAN RJ-45, 1 x microphone – input – 3.5 mm and 1 x audio / microphone – 3.5 mm Combo. Its dimensions are 175 x 34 x 177 mm. Its weight of 1.3 kg is very light.
The scope of delivery includes the PC, power cable and the product key (the sticker is on the housing). Windows 10 64Bit is preinstalled including the option to restore to the delivery state.
ACEPC T11 Mini PC
No products found.
It is a small but powerful PC that can be used as a media center, HTPC or office PC. This can also be used as an entertainment solution, POS or thin client. The PC includes a pre-installation with Windows 10, it is also equipped with the latest Intel Atom x5-Z8350 quad-core processor with up to 1.92 GHz, 4 GB DDR3L and 32 GB eMMC, so it also offers a good multitasking Fluidity.
The particularly slim design saves space. With the dimensions 20.6 x 14.6 x 5.4 cm and the weight of 608 g, this PC is particularly small and light – it hardly takes up any space on your desk.
U500-H Mini PC
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The MINIS FORUM brand Mini PC is available with various processors. This has a significant influence on the functions, performance, speed and also the price of the Mini PC.
The following processors are available: Intel Core i3-5005U, Intel Celeron N3060, Intel Celeron 3867U or Intel Atom X5-Z8350.
The most powerful, but also the most expensive Mini PC is the one with the Intel Core i3-5005U processor. This has an 8 GB DDR3L memory (expandable up to 32 GB) and 128 GB SSD.
It has 3 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB Type-C port, 1 Mini DP port, 1 Micro SD card slot and an HDMI port. The Mini PC with this processor supports the following operating systems: Windows 10 Pro 64-Bit, Linux Support and Chromium OS.
Frequently Asked Questions: Mini PC
What exactly is a Mini PC?
Often more stylish than a desktop PC, but cheaper than a notebook: Mini PCs are small powerhouses. Their performance is suitable from simple office use to advanced gaming platforms.
But all models have one thing in common: They are compact and inconspicuous.
So you don’t have to hide mini PCs under your desk. In terms of their functionality, you can place them between laptop and desktop PC.
All features of a full-fledged PC are supported and the operation is similar to desktop PCs with an external mouse and keyboard.
The first mini PCs, for example, were composed of several cabinet-sized components or were even so small that they could be placed on a stable desk.
What are the differences compared to the desktop PC?
A Mini PC is basically very similar to a desktop PC in terms of its features. So you need a monitor and an external mouse as well as a keyboard to operate.
Thanks to SSDs and multi-core processors, the small cubes are in no way inferior to their large desktop equivalents in terms of performance.
Both PC types are offered as compact, fully equipped personal computers, but can also be configured by the user on the basis of a barebone.
The most important differences compared to the desktop PC are in terms of performance and size of the housing.
The motherboard in a Mini PC can be of different sizes. It is available as a Mini ITX with 17 x 17 cm, as a Nano-ITX with 12 x 12 cm and as a Pico-ITX with 10 x 7.2 cm. The latter is hardly bigger than a small paperback.
The average Mini PC measures 17.5 cm in width, 18 cm in length and approximately 6 cm in height, which is less than half the size of a desktop computer.
The small dimensions are therefore a big plus point of the Mini PC. Due to the small size of the housing, active cooling is (almost) always avoided and annoying buzzing and noises are therefore eliminated.
Modern and elaborately produced computer games, however, put the work performance of the tiny ones in distress. The “Project Quantum” from AMD plays a special role:
Despite the mini ITX form factor, this technology demonstrator achieves a 3D performance that puts most high-end game computers in the shade. It will take some time before it is ready for the market.
Who should use a Mini PC?
For some time now, the market share of conventional desktop PCs with large cases has been shrinking continuously. Many users, apart from avid gamers, simply don’t want to have a big box on or next to their desk anymore. Often there is simply a lack of space.
The notebook is simply handier, smaller and can be used on the go. A better alternative is the mini PC: Here the monitor, mouse and keyboard can be adjusted to your own needs.
With barebones, the components can even be designed individually. In some models, memory, RAM and Co. were not even integrated. So all options are open to you – very practical if you like tinkering and want to choose all the PC components yourself.
Furthermore, a mini PC solves many space problems due to its small dimensions and is therefore ideally suited for the average citizen.
A popular place for a mini PC is the living room. There are compact and stylish computers that you can connect to your TV using an HDMI connection.
They are suitable as a universal media player, surf station and game box and are ideally operated via a wireless keyboard. A remote control is included with some mini PCs.
Due to its small dimensions, a mini PC is also suitable as a multimedia center for the living room and for connection to the television. This can be upgraded to a smart TV using the mini computer if the required connections are available.
Ultimately, a mini PC is also suitable for you if you have little space in your apartment and don’t want to do without a computer. You hardly need any space for a Mini PC and you can often even connect it to other devices.
Why should I choose a mini PC instead of a desktop PC or laptop?
To be clear, each of these computers has advantages and disadvantages. Which computer is best for you depends on what purpose you plan to use it for. However, the Mini PC has several advantages over desktop PCs and laptops.
As mentioned earlier, the minicomputers are quite small – even smaller than most laptops. They also work quietly because they usually use passive cooling instead of a fan.
The mini-computers are also economical in their energy consumption.
The values for the power consumption are always well below the level of a desktop PC, typically at a maximum of approx. 65 watts under full load.
The mini PCs can be set up in different places, for example behind the television.
Thus, the minicomputers need minimal space compared to desktop computers and laptops. Furthermore, they can be easily transported.
Another advantage of minicomputers is that they are relatively inexpensive and typically cost less than a desktop computer or laptop from the same manufacturer.
The advantages of mini PCs summarized again:
- Energy saving
What should you look out for in a Mini PC?
Mini computers can be very useful. However, there are a few things to look out for before buying. A Mini PC has no keyboard, no mouse, no screen and usually no speakers.
The screen is connected to the minicomputer by a mini HDMI output cable. However, it may be that there is no HDMI port. In this case you need an HDMI DOI for the conversion.
It is connected to the Mini PC either via USB or Bluetooth. The microcomputers do not have a PS / 2 port.
You should also note that a Mini PC can only be updated to a limited extent. I.e. you can only upgrade the memory and hard drive, not the CPU.
In addition, the microcomputers only support laptop RAM. Lastly, if you want to connect your Mini PC to a TV or screen, look for VESA-compatible monitors.
What can I use a Mini PC for?
The areas of application for Mini PCs are versatile and they can take on a variety of tasks. Especially the latest models of mini-computers are impressive.
Several types of minicomputers appear to replace traditional desktop computers within the next few years. Now to the question of what a mini PC is good for:
The micro PCs are suitable for most tasks and definitely for pretty much every private use.
It is therefore easier to say what the compact computers are not good for. The mini PCs are not for complex 3D computer games and very high-performance areas of application such as professional Photoshop processing in an office.
For multimedia, firewalls, file servers or e-mail servers, on the other hand, most minicomputers can be used without any problems. To summarize the areas of application of the Mini PCs:
- Internet browising
- Play and burn DVD
- Everyday office tasks
As you can see, the modern mini PCs are very powerful. When it comes to gaming, however, there are a few things to consider. Even today, mini PCs are still not the best models for computer games.
3D games are problematic for Mini PCs, especially when it comes to graphics quality. However, if you don’t have very high demands on it, a mini PC for gaming should be sufficient.
A tip if you want to use your minicomputer for gaming and watching movies: Choose a mini PC with an AMD CPU instead of an Intel.
Does a Mini PC have an operating system with it?
Mini PCs are available with very different operating systems such as Android, Linux (Ubuntu, SteamOS), Windows (8.1, 10) & OS X from Apple.
Every operating system has its advantages and disadvantages, so that there cannot be a general recommendation here. When in doubt, choose a Mini PC with the operating system you are already familiar with.
Nevertheless, we would like to briefly introduce you to the various operating systems and their advantages:
Android: This operating system is suitable for smartphones and tablets and is already used in a wide variety. It is relatively open and flexible, which is very convenient for the user.
- The source code is open (development-oriented), so apps can be easily written and published in the Google PlayStore
- Webkit Browser (based on Google Chrome) guarantees easy surfing
- Android is a very customizable system
Linux: The Linux operating system started in 1992 as a Unix-like system, which mainly uses the C programming language. In this context, Unix refers to a multi-user operating system for the computer.
- Mostly free software
- You have system control even if a program crashes
- The user interface can be designed individually
- Linux Ubuntu is very reminiscent of a Windows system and is therefore easy to understand
Windows: The Windows operating system comes from the American company Microsoft, whose history begins in 1975. The mission of founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen was clear: every household should have a computer on the desk. One of the first operating systems was “MS-DOS” in 1981.
- Often already pre-installed with a new purchase
- Optimized software and hardware support
- High compatibility, is well suited for playing various computer games
- User-friendly system
OS X: The operating system from Apple is called OS X, formerly also known as Mac OS X. Officially, it may only be used on Apple devices – this is what the license conditions want. The Unix-based OS X operating system enables various Apple hardware components to communicate with one another easily. Of course, the OS X operating system also offers some advantages:
- Apple devices work well together within the system (iPhone, iPad, Mac etc.)
- High security
- Ease of use
Which accessories are advisable for a Mini PC?
To operate a mini PC, you definitely need a suitable screen (or TV), a computer mouse / remote control and a keyboard. Common computer accessories such as printers, scanners or flat screens can be used without any problems.
Mini PCs can also be expanded with additional accessories:
- Hard disk expansion with USB sticks or USB hard disks. 2.5-inch models do not need their own power supply. 3.5-inch hard drives must also be supplied with power, but offer more storage space.
- More additional connections through a USB hub. Ideal for mouse, keyboard, hard drive, printer, scanner, TV stick, WLAN and camera docking station.
- A USB TV card offers digital aerial television (DVB-T) and analogue cable reception. Models for cable or satellite reception are a little more expensive.
- Wifi retrofitting makes sense for all mini PCs that lack a wireless network card. This is done using a USB WLAN stick.
Types of Mini PCs
Are you looking for a minicomputer or do you want to find out more? No matter whether you are very familiar with computers or are a beginner – with us you will find the most important information about mini PCs explained in a simple and clear manner.
If you want to get yourself a Mini PC, there are two alternatives you can choose between:
- Ready-to-go variant
The different types of Mini PC each have different advantages and disadvantages. They differ in price, in the personalization options, the number of connections and, ultimately, in the time until you can use them for the first time.
In the end, it is especially important for barebones that you have enough technical understanding to assemble your Mini PC yourself. With the following section we would like to make your decision easier.
Barebone Mini PC: Advantages & Disadvantages
The barebone minicomputer is a raw version. A barebone computer consists of a housing, motherboard and processor. So there is no memory, hard disk and operating system.
A barebone mini PC therefore requires more work and knowledge before you can use it. The barebones are therefore more suitable for people with advanced computer skills.
Often, however, there are also building instructions on the Internet (e.g. on YouTube) that you can copy relatively easily.
- Inexpensive to purchase, since most of the hardware is missing (but follow-up costs)
- High personalization options: Free choice of operating system, software, connections and hardware
- Choice between different hardware components for gaming or office mini PCs
- Setup and assembly take a relatively long time
- Hardware components have to be procured separately and costs can easily add up
- Technical knowledge or instructions required
Barebone Mini PCs are more suitable for you if you are an experienced hobbyist. You can adapt your Mini PC optimally to your purpose (gaming, multimedia, office).
Here you can not only get to know the mini model better in terms of system and composition, but also install high-quality parts to increase performance or storage capacity.
Perhaps you also enjoy assembling and marvel at your finished result.
Ready-to-go Mini PC: Advantages & Disadvantages
The ready-to-go mini PCs are already fully equipped – you don’t need to worry about the memory or the operating system.
So if you just want to get into the field of mini PCS, the ready-to-go variant is a good choice for you. The setup manager of the operating system accompanies you through to the end, so that this is very easy and you don’t have to bring a lot of know-how.
Your Mini PC is then ready for use so that nothing stands in the way of using it.
- Quick and easy setup without technical knowledge
- Operating system often pre-installed. Quick start
- Can also be bought without an operating system, Linux or Windows can be installed by yourself
- Often connections and memory have to be expanded. This is only possible with separate accessories
- No hardware personalization options. Decision for gaming, office or multimedia mini PC
- Opaque overview of built-in components and price-performance ratio: Differences in the hard drive, processor, graphics card and sound card have to be compared at great expense
Before you buy your Mini PC, you should also be clear about its purpose. For gaming purposes, the Dell Alienware Alpha is suitable as a ready-to-go version or a barebone configured by you. Ultimately, it’s also a question of price.
There are also other uses for the Mini PC, for example as a multimedia center for the living room or as a mini server.
The Mini PCs can therefore be divided into performance classes within the main groups. A distinction is made between the following four performance classes:
- Mini PC as a gaming mini
- Mini PC as a desktop replacement
- Mini PC as mini server
- Mini PC as a multimedia center (HTCP)
The difference between these performance classes relates to the intended use. As the names suggest, these four performance classes of mini computers take on different functions.
The Desktop Replacement Mini PC can replace a desktop computer and is quite similar to it in terms of technical properties.
The desktop replacement minicomputers have sufficient RAM, an SSD with at least 64 gigabytes and a fast processor. In extreme cases, some of them even have active cooling.
The mini server is an incident and has neither a lot of storage space nor a particularly fast processor. The primary service use of this performance class is a low power server. A good example of this is the Rasperry Pi. The HTPC performance class is intended for low demands, but works quite well for playing media.
Mini PC: Purchase Criteria
In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate minicomputers. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular computer is right for you or not.
In summary, these are:
- Storage space
- Hard disk
- Graphics quality
- Dimensions / weight / design
- Other equipment / connections
- scope of delivery
- Power supply
In the following paragraphs you can read about what the individual purchase criteria are and how you can classify them.
The performance of your future Mini PC is arguably the most important factor to which you should pay attention when comparing and evaluating the different mini computers. Good performance means your minicomputer can do all the functions you want it to do quickly and effectively.
Therefore, it is important that you think carefully about which tasks your microcomputer should solve. For example, you don’t need a very expensive, high-performance mini PC to send emails and watch Netflix.
Now to the question of what PC performance is and how you can measure it. A computer’s performance is related to the performance of its processor. This can be measured in several ways.
First, you can read a lot of information about the processor from its name, and second, the processor speed is always given. The processor speed is measured in GHz (gigahertz) and the values for most computers are between 1.6 and 2.8 GHz.
Of course, the processor speed can be higher, for example 4.2 GHz. In short: the higher the GHz number, the better.
A processor speed between 1.6 and 2.2 GHz is perfectly adequate for everyday functions such as surfing, writing or streaming videos. Computers for gaming or complex tasks should offer higher speeds.
Now about how you can decipher the processor names – it can seem complicated to normal users. We’ll show you that it’s not that difficult. The processor name is usually given in this format: brand and type + processor number + suffix.
So that it doesn’t get too abstract, let’s take this processor as an example: Intel Core i5-4200U. The brand is Intel, the processor type is Core i5, the processor number is 4200 and the suffix U.
A processor speed of 1.6 to 2.8 GHz is sufficient for normal use. For more complex things, a higher speed is better.
Since all Mini PCs are in Intel’s product list, only Intel’s processor types are presented in this section.
- Core i3: pretty simple – entry level
- Core i5: Intermediate and better than i3
- Core i7: high-end and the best from Intel you can get on the market today
The most important difference between the processor types is the so-called Turbo Boost feature, which is available in the Core i5 and i7. There are also two budget variants: Celeron and Pentium. Both are rather slow, but cheap.
In addition to processor performance, storage space is also important when evaluating and comparing minicomputers. In principle, the memory can be divided into two groups: RAM and hard disk.
What is the difference between these types and how much memory do you need for your computer?
RAM (Random Access Memory) is the memory on the surface. Imagine your Mini PC is a desk – RAM would be the writing surface in this case.
RAM determines how many or how large programs you can operate at the same time. So a higher number means that your PC can work more and more effectively.
Today’s computers have between two and 16 GB (gigabytes) of RAM. How much you need depends on whether you want your computer to perform complex tasks, for example Excel spreadsheets for the office or Photoshop. RAM from 4 GB is suitable for normal users, 8 GB is optimal.
The hard disk (i.e. the hard disk) can be compared to the drawers of a desk. You can save everything that you are currently not working with, for example programs, music or pictures.
Modern computers have 120 GB to 700 GB of hard drive space. For everyday use, 120 GB is more than enough, provided you stream instead of downloading everything.
Incidentally, how full your hard disk is hardly affects the speed.
The storage space depends on the work you want to do with the PC. Complex tasks require more storage space.
Even if you want to save on the purchase of your mini PC, you should pay attention to the connections and a good hard drive. If you want to stream or download films in good HD quality, the hard drive should be at least 200 GB.
You also need an HDMI or Thunderbolt connection to be able to use the HD resolution on the TV or monitor.
There are also different variants of the storage type of the hard disk – SSD, HDD and SSHD compete with each other even with mini PCs and have their own advantages and disadvantages.
In terms of durability, however, there are hardly any differences.
HDD hard drives have a large storage capacity and therefore help store large amounts of data. SSD hard drive storage, on the other hand, is smaller. Instead, they offer the advantage that they can be accessed much faster.
The SSHD version is a hybrid hard drive, which enables fast access, but also offers sufficient storage space for films and the like.
If you want to spend more money and buy a high quality Mini PC, we can recommend Mini PCs with SSHD. These are especially suitable for demanding gaming.
Mini PCs with SSD, on the other hand, are perfectly adequate for simple mobile use. For use as a multimedia center, an HDD hard drive is a good choice, as it can store many films and music files and plays them back in good quality.
Mini PCs without a built-in fan and with passive cooling are currently all the rage – and that is completely understandable. After all, annoying noises and noise are a thing of the past.
In 2017, Intel launched the seventh-generation Mini PCs from the “Next Unit of Computing” (NUC) program for business customers for the first time. These mini PCs are ideally suited for fanless operation and especially ideal for offices of business customers. They are also energy-saving.
Nevertheless, high-end mini PCs in particular often have annoying fans. Especially with programs that render graphics in 3D, many a Mini PC is pushed to the limit of capacity.
Video games as well as video editing software or high-end image editing programs can demand a lot from the computer. This can often be heard. So that the CPU does not get too warm, the CPU fan is often automatically increased, so that at least the emergency shutdown of the PC is prevented.
Often little value is placed on a good graphics card in mini PCs. Most Mini PCs therefore only have an onboard chip on the motherboard, which acts as a Mini PC graphics card, but is not an independent graphics card.
This is completely sufficient for most purposes, unless you want to actively use your Mini PC for Photoshop editing, Netflix or gaming.
Intel HD Graphics (from 4400-6000) ensure that you can watch 4K films in great resolution. For gaming purposes you need at least one Intel HD Graphics 6000 or Mini PCs that are equipped with graphics chips from AMD or NVIDIA (e.g. NVIDIA GTX960).
Dimensions / weight / design
These criteria are less important compared to performance, graphics quality and storage space, but size and weight can be relevant if you are looking for a portable mini PC.
Most minicomputers weigh around 1 kg, some even less. The Zotac ZBOX CI323 Nano only weighs 300 g, which makes it the lightest Mini PC in our product list.
Mini PCs vary in size, but not very much. The smallest mini-calculator from the product list measures 11.7 x 3.5 x 11.2 cm, the largest 15 x 15 x 10 cm. As you can see, the differences aren’t that great.
The design is of course a matter of taste. Most Mini PCs are black, but there are also white or silver-colored models. Many experts believe that Apple minicomputers have the most beautiful designs. Everyone can decide for themselves whether this is true.
Other equipment / connections
Since you cannot replace any essential components on your Ready-to-go Mini PC and do not want to cut additional holes in the housing, your mini computer should have as many standard connections as possible.
Four times USB 3.0 is now a minimum. If you use wired peripherals, you have two connections for sticks and dongles. But other ports would not be to be despised.
By now, you should also be on the lookout for USB-C, USB 3.1, and Thunderbolt. The latter has the practical side effect that you can upgrade your Mini PC with an external graphics card.
In addition to the universal ports, HDMI is the standard for screen and sound output. One connection is sufficient for most users. However, if you want to use two or more screens, you should pay attention to additional connections. Some Mini PCs also offer Displayport outputs or even the slowly getting old DVI port.
Scope of delivery
As you already know, Barebone Mini PCs only consist of a case, motherboard and processor. So you still have to get and install a lot of hardware components – these include RAM, hard drive and operating system.
The scope of delivery for Ready-to-go Mini PCs is much larger. This is how you get a ready-to-use Mini PC and only have to pay attention to a few things:
- Make sure to use special brackets for the wall or flat screen. These are used to stow your Mini PC behind the TV and to prevent the clutter of cables and devices in your room or in conference rooms. You get a comfortable entertainment environment.
- In addition, a radio remote control is ideally suited to control your Mini PC as a multimedia center.
- The software (mostly Windows 10) should already be installed. Otherwise, it must be purchased separately.
An external power supply is required to operate most Mini PCs. Some mini PC manufacturers such as InFocus offer a mini PC with a battery.
You are relying on the Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn, which is best known for its partnership with Apple.
When buying a Mini PC, you are entitled to an individual manufacturer’s guarantee in addition to the statutory warranty claims.
This depends on the manufacturer and region and can often be extended for an additional charge (extended warranty up to five years). Manufacturers often restrict them in the warranty conditions.
The serial number of your product, which you often need to find out the term, can be found on the label on the back or on the product’s serial number sticker. 12M means 12 months, 24M means 24 months, and 36M means 36 months from the date of purchase or the date of manufacture.
So that you can fully assert your claims in the event of a problem, it is important to buy from authorized specialist dealers.
Important: Your guarantee will be limited or invalidated in the event of your own technical hardware or software modifications.
Facts about Mini PCs
How do I clean and care for my Mini PC?
The keyboard, mouse and monitor are best cleaned regularly with a little water and / or a light detergent.
Cleaning sets or screen cleaners with matching microfiber cloths are often sold on the Internet. Applying little pressure is important for gentle cleaning.
From now on we come to areas that should be done by experts in the office. You have to do it yourself at home. Connections for HDMI, USB or LAN can be cleaned with great care and a small, pointed object.
By plugging in and unplugging, the dust is enormously compressed and then it is carefully vacuumed.
In order to remove dust from the inside of the device after three to four years, you should carefully unscrew it and then remember exactly where which screws belong.
The cleaning is ideally done carefully with the vacuum cleaner. Feather dusters are taboo as they can become electrostatically charged and damage the hardware.
It is best to hold the fan tightly, because the propeller must not move during suction. Under certain circumstances this could damage the mainboard.
If this all sounds too complicated, a call to customer service may be advisable. This can often help out with external service providers.
Can I change components on the Mini PC?
The manufacturer’s guarantee is often void if hardware components are replaced without authorization. If this is not a problem for you and you have enough technical knowledge, you can replace the processor or the hard drive yourself.
It is important that there is enough space in the housing. With barebones, of course, you have a little more freedom right from the start.
Last product update on 2022-06-28 | Source: Amazon Affiliate