The 5 best mini PCs in 2021

Personal, courtesy of Acer

As microchips have become more and more powerful, the need for a large desktop computer has diminished, as has the size of the computers themselves. These days it’s possible to get a competent machine just over the size of a hardcover book, and there are even computers that can fit in the palm of your hand, although much less capable. . Known as mini PCs, these machines can handle most everyday tasks while taking up little space on your desk. So if space is limited and your computing needs are modest, a mini PC is a great way to get more bang for your buck than a laptop, especially if you don’t need portability ( although most of these computers are small enough to throw into a backpack if necessary).

What to consider

As when choosing a computer, the first thing you need to consider are your needs. How you will use your computer will help determine the amount of RAM (if you plan to do more than just browse the Internet and write emails, make sure you have at least 8 GB) and the type of inputs you need. Fortunately, most minicomputers offer a lot more flexibility than a laptop, and some are sold as kits that allow you to customize your machine to your exact specifications.

Cut

If you’re considering a minicomputer, the size and space your machine will take up on your desk are obvious considerations. Sure, it’s appealing to try to get the smallest machine possible, but usually with a smaller machine you’ll get less power and less flexibility when it comes to adding components, simply because there is less room to add them. But if you plan to use your mini computer just to stream music and videos, you should be able to get by with a small machine. Some mini computers can even be mounted on the back of your monitor, allowing them to take up no space on your desk.

Scalability

Like other desktop computers, most mini computers offer the option of adding components such as additional RAM and memory or a graphics card. If you’re more technical, some models are sold as kits that let you customize your own CPU, RAM, and storage. In such cases, you will need to review the slots available to ensure that they can accommodate your choices.

How we selected

We have reviewed a wide range of reviews from reputable sources such as Wire Cutter, Lifewireand PCMag to find a consensus on the best minicomputers. While there are mini computers specifically designed for DIYers to build desktop computers from scratch that require above-average technical knowledge, we looked for computers that most users would easily be able to build. install and operate. We also researched general-purpose computers for most everyday uses and chose not to include small computers suited only for specific uses and not powerful enough to meet the needs of the average user.

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1

Best overall

Apple Mac Mini with Apple M1 chip

Released last year, Apple’s latest Mac Mini sports the same M1 chip found in the latest MacBooks. As such, if portability isn’t a consideration (although at 7.7 x 7.7 x 1.4 inches and just 2.6 pounds it’s very mobile), the Mini is just as powerful. at about half the price of a MacBook Pro, though you’ll have to buy peripherals like a monitor and keyboard if you don’t already have them.

It has been praised for its performance on everyday and web tasks, and is even capable of light gaming and video editing. However, you won’t be able to upgrade it, so be sure to take that into account when selecting RAM (8 or 16 GB) and storage (256 or 512 GB) options.

  • Cheap
  • Very effective
  • User-friendly macOS
2

Best scalable

HP ProDesk 400 G6 Mini

While the 6.9 x 7 x 1.4-inch HP ProDesk 400 G6 Mini is fully configured and available in a host of iterations, one of the best things about it is how easily it can be swap components as your needs change. It also means that with a little know-how, you can buy the base model and then upgrade things like the SSD for less than what HP would initially cost you.

There are several different processors you can choose from, but we recommend using the 10th Gen i5 to run its Windows operating system, then select RAM, storage, and ports options as you see fit.

  • More expensive than similar machines
3

Best budget

Mini PC Acer Chromebox Premium CXI3

Like their Chromebook laptop brethren, Chromeboxes run on Google’s Chrome operating system and offer an inexpensive option for those who primarily use their computers for web operations.

Measuring 5.9 x 5.8 x 1.6 inches, this one from Acer is a favorite among reviewers for its plethora of ports and ability to sit horizontally or vertically, or be rear-mounted. of a monitor using its VESA mounting kit. Acer offers a variety of configurations; you can choose between Celeron, i3 and i5 processors, 4 to 16 GB of RAM and 32, 64 and 128 GB SSDs, depending on your needs. Plus, it comes with a keyboard and mouse, so the only other extra expense will be a monitor.

  • Equipped with the Google Assistant
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Mountable
  • Chrome OS may be limited
4

Best DIY

Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit

Launched in 2013, Next Unit of Computing is Intel’s line of small form factor kits. Each barebones kit comes with Intel’s latest processor. In this case, you can choose between a Core i5-9300H, a Core i7-9750H or a Core i9-9980HK.

From there, it’s up to you to buy your own RAM, storage and other components, which means that this computer will end up costing more than its already somewhat high price, but you’ll also end up with a computer specially designed for your needs. (For those less DIY-inclined, the NUC 9 is also available preconfigured.) As such, the NUC 9 gives you a solid foundation on which to build the mini computer you’ve always dreamed of.

  • Highly customizable
  • Can work as a compact gaming machine
  • Internal power supply
5

Ideal for home offices

Lenovo ThinkCentre M90q

Lenovo’s ThinkCentre M Series Tiny line of desktop computers has earned a reputation as top-notch minicomputers, especially for businesses with small offices. As such, they’re a great choice if you work remotely and have limited space in your home office.

One of its latest iterations, the 7.1 x 7.2 x 1.4-inch M90q, comes with a 10th Gen Intel Core i9 vPro processor and plenty of easily expandable RAM and storage options. Best of all, it’s equipped with Lenovo’s ThinkShield security so you can be sure all your business information is safe. Additionally, it can support up to three monitors and comes with a keyboard and mouse.

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