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A mini PC is a great alternative to the bulky, space-consuming form factor of the contemporary desktop computer. Many companies are adopting mini PC usage for its space-saving and cost-effective benefits.
As technology shrinks, mini PCs continue to become more and more powerful. We’ve entered an era in which certain mini PCs can outperform mid-ranged desktop computers.
Best Mini PC Reviews
To get the one that suits your needs, we’ve reviewed the 5 best mini PCs in the market right now. These include basic function mini PCs, rudimentary mini PCs, and high-end gaming mini PCs as well.
Our Top Pick
Intel’s mainstream NUC line of mini PCs are the reference point for all other manufacturers. If you’re looking for the mainstream mini PC for basic computer tasks, this is the way to go.
- CPU: Intel Core i5-7260U 2.2GHz (Turbo Boost to 3.4GHz)
- RAM: 8GB DDR4
- Storage: 128GB SSD
- GPU: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
- OS: Windows 10 Pro 64bit
Who better than Intel in understanding how to make a great PC. This mini PC from Intel is one of many Intel NUC computers the company offers. It’s a compact, modular system that offers plenty of power and great performance with its dual-core Core i5, 8GB RAM, and 128GB SSD SATA III drive.
You also get WiFi, Bluetooth, a USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 connection, and the ability to support dual monitors. There are also 4 USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI port, a card reader, and a headphone/microphone combo jack. You can even add an additional storage drive if you wish.
Intel takes the top pick because of its simplistic modular design and fantastic support. It’s one of the best combinations of price and performance out there. There’s no bloatware installed, and you get a streamlined, plug-and-play computer.
The Intel NUC computer comes with a three-year warranty. It has the tendency to run hot though and the fan can get rather loud when it does. However, if you don’t mind that bit of noise, the Intel NUC is the best mini PC you can buy right now due to its balance of power, price, and support.
- Simple design
- Good price for the performance
- Excellent Intel support
- Easy to upgrade
- Plenty of connectivity options
- Can run hot
- Loud fan when hot
For those who just cannot compromise and want an Apple Mac Mini on a low budget, there is a lower-priced variant also available with lower specs.
- CPU: Intel 8th Generation Core i5 6-cores 3.0GHz (Turbo Boost 4.1GHz)
- RAM: 8GB DDR4
- Storage: 512GB SSD
- GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 630
- OS: MacOS
There were two variants in the market available, but we wanted a PC that could handle tasks easily, so we opted for the 8th Generation i5, with 6-cores that clock at 3.0GHz and with Intel Turbo Boost, you can get boost clocks of 4.1GHz. This variant was really powerful and loaded everything within minutes without problems.
The only problem in the Apple Mac Mini was that for graphics you only get the Intel UHD graphics 630, which is not that great compared to a discrete GPU that you can find in the HP Z2 on our 3rd pick. But with the processing power behind it, you can still use it for considerable tasks.
For memory, you have 8GB DDR4 RAM along with a 512GB Solid State storage capacity for ultra-fast boot times and loading speeds. Working on it was a breeze thanks to the SSD storage with fast read and write speeds.
You get plenty of Thunderbolt connectivity with 4x Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports on the Apple Mac Mini along with 1xHDMI 2.0 port and 2x USB 3.0 Ports. You can connect up to 3 screens on this mini PC without any issues and the best part, you can carry this small PC anywhere.
For more power, there was 6 core i7 CPU available on Amazon with Turbo Boost of up to 4.6GHz and had 16 gigs of DDR4 memory. It was a bit expensive but if you want power, you have to expand your budget accordingly.
- Very Slim
- Plenty of Thunderbolt 3 Connections
- Great Design
- Solid State Storage
- No Discrete GPU
- CPU: Intel N3160 Quad Core
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 32GB SSD
- GPU: Intel HD Graphics 620
- OS: Windows 10
The Zotac ZBox is an absolute barebone mini PC. You don’t get much power from it or any storage space, but you get an incredible value. It’s a PC that works well as a backup computer if you’re happy browsing only two or three tabs at a time.
Very basic tasks such as composing emails, text editing, and watching Netflix are all possible with this tiny computer. It also comes with native 4K support. It won’t replace your desktop the way other mini PCs on this list will, but it behaves well as a media server for your home.
Multitasking isn’t possible, but it isn’t designed to be a full-fledged computer but a more rudimentary mini PC for media and basic tasks. And it provides that experience at an affordable price for around $250. It is also completely noiseless because the ZBox uses passive cooling instead of a fan.
- Noiseless operation
- Good for rudimentary tasks
- Compact and lightweight
- Mediocre performance
- Very limited application
- CPU: Intel Core i7-8809G
- RAM: N/A (supports DDR4)
- Storage: N/A
- GPU: AMD Radeon RX Vega M 4GB
- OS: N/A
When beefed with a fast drive and high quality RAM, the Intel NUC Hades Canyon can match some high end desktop computers in videogaming performance. This incredible machine is as barebones as it gets, offering you a set of connectivity ports in a sleek chassis that houses a powerful Intel Core i7 8th Generation processor and a 4GB Radeon RX Vega M.
You’ll need to add your own RAM, Storage, and operating system, but once you do you’ll be able to match performances of a mid-ranged fully built desktop in a great form factor.
This mini PC is a great upgrade over most gaming laptops because of its lighter weight and on-par performance. You get plenty of connectivity options with 2 USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 connections, a whopping 5 USB 3.0 Type A sockets, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, two Ethernet ports, two mini DisplayPorts, and two HDMI ports. You also have wireless 802.11ac wireless connectivity.
The Intel NUC Hades Canyon mini PC can fit in two m.2 NVME SSD and SATA drives if you wish as well, and the dual channel RAM is supported up to 32GB at 2400MHz.
It’s a fantastic skeleton to build a great mid-to-high ranged gaming computer in a mini PC form factor. The Radeon RX Vega M can compete with the GeForce 1050Ti in performance, which should give you an idea of what to expect from this mini behemoth.
- Very powerful
- Great build and design
- Lots of connectivity options
- Makes a great portable gaming rig
- Expensive barebone mini PC
- Not cost-effective when RAM and SSD are added to it
- CPU: Intel Core i5-8400 / Core i7 8700
- RAM: 8/16GB DDR4 2666MHz
- Storage: 1TB 7200 RPM+16GB Optane Memory / 1TB HDD+128GB PCIe SSD
- GPU: AMD Radeon RX 570 4GB / GeForce GTX 1050Ti 4GB / GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
- OS: Windows 10 Pro 64bit
The Lenovo C530 falls in between a mini PC and a full-on desktop. It uses a lot of desktop components in a very small form factor that is larger than mini PCs but can still be qualified as one. This box of joy comes with 8th generation Core i5/i7 processors. The notable thing about these processors is that they are desktop processors that have been underclocked.
Additionally, you get three graphics card options. These are full-fledged graphics cards inside the box instead of soldered chipsets. Another fantastic aspect of this case is how efficient its cooling system is. It uses a dual-channel thermal system that provides efficient airflow without trapping heat inside the box.
We find the Core i7 and GeForce GTX 1060 combination to be of incredible value for money, as it costs just above $1000 and offers performance of a high-end gaming rig in an excellent form factor.
This is our favorite gaming mini PC out there because of its cost-effectiveness and form factor. It does, however, lay on the border between a regular PC and a mini PC and isn’t as portable as the latter despite its compact nature.
- Full-fledged computer
- Very powerful
- Excellent cooling system
- Makes an incredible portable gaming rig
- Large for a mini PC
- Processors are underclocked
Mini PC Buyer’s Guide
You’re obviously buying a mini PC for its size. A single regular desktop tower could probably fit in a dozen mini PCs in it, so the big discrepancy in size is what makes mini PCs so attractive. Such a size affords more portability freedom.
Certain mini PCs even have VESA mounts compatible with them. You can then screw at the back of your monitor and forget they were even there. Mini PCs are popular because they give you the ability to maximize the efficiency of your workspace, and that’s what you should be looking for.
Not even the best mini PC will be able to compete with a mid-to-high end computer, but a lot of them are more than capable of handling everyday tasks and basic processor-intensive functions. You want to aim for specs that will serve exactly your requirement and no more.
There are a lot of powerful mini PCs that can cost as much as a laptop or a high-end gaming rig without giving you the same performance. Unless it’s what you’re looking for, you shouldn’t spend on specs that you probably won’t ever use.
Your mini PC should have all the ports you’d expect in a regular desktop, including the most modern ports. This includes USB Type-C, USB 3.0/3.1 Type A, HDMI, DisplayPort, and Ethernet port. These are the vitals and shouldn’t be compromised on, because you will need them to connect other peripherals such as monitors, keyboards, and router to your mini PC. You should also look for one that has Bluetooth and WiFi compatibility.
Why do I need a mini PC?
You’d think the mini PC market would be deserted because of how powerful laptops are nowadays, but many individuals prefer a desktop configuration without a gigantic tower. More importantly, such configurations are invaluable in hospitals, superstores, general helpdesks, and business offices to conserve space. All these factors have made mini PCs surprisingly popular.
Are gaming mini PCs good enough to run AAA games?
Mini PCs like the Intel Hades Canyon can play most games at medium to high settings. Don’t expect them to perform like the full desktop computer though. However, the Lenovo Legion is in a league of its own as it can outperform many mid-to-high end computers, though whether it qualifies as a pure mini PC is up for debate.
Why not Raspberry Pi?
Raspberry Pi is incredibly cheap and offers a surprising amount of power for how much it costs, but it’s not designed for mainstream users as it requires a lot of tinkering and technical know-how. It’s a popular choice among educators, hackers, and IT professionals, but it’s not a PC designed for the average user.