Best mini PC 2021 • 7 mini PC Reviews
Mini PCs are a fantastic alternative to traditional desktop computers, especially when it comes to tasks that don’t require very powerful equipment. They are an exciting option for users looking to browse the Internet, perform basic office tasks, and, above all, have a multimedia center. This is why it isn’t surprising to see that most computer manufacturers include these devices in their catalogs. To ensure that you’re buying the best mini PC, we’ve spent a good amount of time testing each of the items in the product table below making a comparison. Throughout our guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about these affordable computers.
mini PC Leaderboard 2021
What is a mini PC?
Also called nettops, they are compact computers with much smaller dimensions than traditional desktop models. They generally integrate the essential hardware components only. While they certainly stand out for offering great connectivity options, mini PCs often give few possibilities for expansion.
They share many features with desktop computers, but their lack of power means that they are tailored to less demanding tasks. This is why many people use them as multimedia centers or for office and web browsing activities.
Advantages and disadvantages of a mini PC
These small computers offer a wide range of benefits that more than make up for the limitations linked to their compact size.
- They are more affordable than traditional desktop computers
- You can save space on your desk
- They allow you to transform your TV into a fully equipped multimedia center
- You can transport them much more easily than standard computers
- They are very energy efficient
- They tend to be quieter
- Their performance rarely matches that of other desktop models
- Most of them do not include a graphics card
- Their expansion possibilities are reduced
- Some models lack active cooling
Shopping Criteria for the best mini PC
Our only goal is to make your purchasing process as smooth as possible. To do so, we have delved into the main shopping criteria that you should evaluate when you’re browsing the market for your new mini PC. You can learn all about these key aspects in the section below. We guarantee that you will be on the right track to find the perfect model for you once you analyze the following factors:
- Personal Use
- Operating System
- Storage Capacity
- Connectivity Options
Are you looking to turn your TV into a multimedia center with the help of a mini PC? Then you’ll want to opt for a model with a decent graphics card and a quality sound card. If, on the other hand, you want a nettop to use as a generic but more compact computer, we recommend that you purchase one with a good processor and enough RAM.
In that regard, office automation tasks don’t require very high technical specifications. Use in stores and businesses rarely need demanding programs either. If you’re thinking of purchasing a mini PC to play video games, we strongly encourage you to opt for a more specific device. You can learn more about them in our guide on gaming PCs.
The Android operating system should be your preferred option if your mini PC is destined to become a multimedia center. For any other type of task, you will want to focus on Windows or Mac OS models. In that regard, your decision will certainly be influenced by the ecosystem you prefer – either Microsoft or Apple.
While this is already a key hardware component in standard computers, it becomes absolutely fundamental in mini PCs. Two brands dominate the market: Intel and AMD. Both of these manufacturers offer a wide range of processor chips, so don’t hesitate to do more research about them before making your purchase.
Broadly speaking, nettops tend to integrate single or dual-core processors. But that number isn’t everything; you should also consider the frequency at which they work and whether or not they have multithreaded technology. The latter allows them to manage two processes for each core simultaneously.
As you may know, the RAM is the most important hardware component of any computer, along with the processor. Today, you shouldn’t have anything inferior to 2GB. If you don’t want to end up with limitations performing specific tasks, however, we advise you to choose a mini PC with at least 4GB of RAM. You might also want to check whether or not the device offers expansion possibilities to increase its capacity in the future.
The storage capacity isn’t as important an aspect as it is for desktop computers. However, we still want to go over the two options available to you. On the one hand, you have traditional physical hard drives (HDDs); on the other, you find solid-state drives (SSDs). In addition, you can generally complement them with SD cards.
It could be a deciding factor in your purchase, so don’t forget to check if the device you’re interested in has an SD card slot, as well as its maximum capacity. If it does, a 64GB hard drive may be enough, depending on how you intend to use it. In any case, remember that SSDs allow you to boot the mini PC faster.
Since these computers are so small, the connectivity options they offer are critical. You will want to have as many as possible. Start by checking how many USB ports your device features, as well as their type. The latest and fastest version is the USB Type-C.
But quantity isn’t everything; their location is also key. Having a couple of connectors on the front of the mini PC will come in handy. If you want to play content in resolutions superior to Full HD, you will need HDMI and/or DisplayPort connectivity. Last but not least, your nettop should allow you to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet port.
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For whom are mini PCs designed?
A wide range of reasons can lead you to want to purchase one of these devices. To begin with, they are a fantastic option for anyone with a limited budget. Their compact size also makes them particularly interesting to use in stores and offices. As we mentioned earlier, mini PCs are an excellent choice for anyone looking to turn their TV into a multimedia center.
What are the most common uses of mini PCs?
Today’s nettops have become increasingly versatile. Here is a list of their primary applications: -Multimedia: This is probably their most popular use. You can connect your mini PC to any television to turn it into a powerful smart TV that can double as a multimedia center. -Office automation: Nettops are also great for this type of tasks since programs like Microsoft Word or Excel do not require powerful specs. Besides, they allow you to take your office with you anywhere you go. All you have to do is connect your mini PC to a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse, and you’re ready to work. -Video game emulator: If you enjoy classic consoles like the PSX, the Super Nintendo, or the Sega Genesis, mini PCs are a great choice. You can install an emulator on them, connect your gamepad, and play your favorite games. -Server: Advanced users often turn their nettops into Apache, VPN, NAS, or DNS servers.
What operating systems do mini PCs run?
Depending on the model you purchase, it can come with different operating systems such as Windows 10, Mac OS, various versions of Linux, or even Android or Android TV Box. The latter is perhaps the easiest to use and the most suitable if you want to have a mini PC as a multimedia center. The other three are best for office tasks.
Can I play video games on my mini PC?
As you can imagine, this will depend on the model you purchase and the games you want to play. But, as we briefly explained earlier, one of the primary applications of today’s mini PCs is as emulators of older generation video game consoles. In fact, and unlike what many believe, you can find models designed for playing in 4K resolution at 60 frames per second (FPS) and with a decent performance in the latest games. That being said, keep in mind that this isn’t what mini PCs were initially designed for.
The product recommendations in this article are made solely by the sponsor and are not recommendations made by VentureBeat.