I brought a mini PC with me on my last trip and now I can't imagine traveling without one

The ACEMAGIC F2A next to a passport for scale
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I love traveling but one thing that always irks me before a big trip is having to leave the comfort of my home office.

I’ve been working from home for the past six years and in that time, my desk setup has seen a number of changes. From upgrading to an ultrawide monitor to working at an electric standing desk in a nice, comfy office chair, my home office has become somewhat of a sanctuary for me. 

When I’m on the road for work though, I have to leave it all behind. While my trusty ThinkPad hasn’t let me down yet, downsizing from a 34-inch monitor to a 13-inch laptop screen just throws me off. To cope with this, I’ve started bringing a portable monitor with me in my tech bag.

However, taking a laptop out of my bag and plugging it in once I reach my hotel room slows me down, especially when I’m ready to get some work done at the end of a long day. That’s why on my most recent trip to Taiwan for Computex, I decided to bring one of the best mini PCs with me.

If you’ve grown accustomed to working from home but get thrown off while traveling, here’s why I’ve started setting up a separate workstation in my hotel room instead of just relying on my laptop.

Never my intention

A Microsoft Surface on a table with a mechanical keyboard and a mouse

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Back when I first started writing, I bought a cheap laptop with the intention of using it just for writing articles. It wasn’t the best computer but it served its purpose well. However, around that time I was also working on learning Korean and as I wanted to practice writing Hangul, I decided to get a Microsoft Surface so that I could work and study from the same device.

While there was a lot I liked about my Surface Pro, I could never stand its keyboard. I had just fallen down the mechanical keyboard rabbit hole and unlike with a traditional laptop, the best 2-in-1 laptops pair perfectly with an external keyboard. I got used to carrying this setup around, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch to swap my laptop for a mini PC with a portable monitor.

A Zotac mini PC with a portable monitor set up in a hotel room

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A few years later, I went on one of my first work trips and it was then that the idea of having a separate setup to work on in my hotel room struck me. That way, I could use my laptop during the day and be able to get right to work once I got back to my hotel with a few creature comforts from home.

The setup pictured above is over five years old and in the time since, wireless mechanical keyboards have really come down in price and I’ve started using trackball mice exclusively. Likewise, you no longer need to worry about bringing a separate power cable and an HDMI cable for your portable monitor since most of them can now do power and video over a single cable using USB-C.

Taking things up a notch

A mini PC in a case next to a trackball mouse and a mechanical keyboard on a table

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Unlike when I brought a mini PC with me on a work trip all those years ago, this time I was ready. Not only did I have a case for the mini PC, I was able to tuck all the cables I needed inside it along with the Opal Tadpole webcam just in case I needed to do some video calls back at my hotel.

For my display, I used the UPERFECT UStation Delta ($399, UPERFECT) portable monitor since it actually has two screens and folds up like a laptop for traveling. I paired it with a mini trackball mouse from ELECOM and a low-profile mechanical keyboard I picked up recently ($40, Amazon). I really like this keyboard since it feels like a more budget-friendly version of the Nuphy Air75 V2.

UPERFECT UStation Delta dual-screen portable monitor: was $499 now $400 @ Amazon

UPERFECT UStation Delta dual-screen portable monitor: was $499 now $400 @ Amazon
This portable monitor has two, 15.6-inch displays with an FHD resolution that fold closed to protect them while traveling. A built-in kickstand lets you prop it up on a table or desk but there are VESA holes at the back in case you want to mount it instead. Besides two USB-C ports (one for power) there are also two mini HDMI ports and built-in speakers. With the UStation Delta you can have a multi-monitor setup with you wherever you go.

I actually hadn’t planned on bringing a mini PC with me to Taiwan until the ACEMAGIC F2A ($799, Amazon) showed up at my door while I was packing. With 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and Wi-Fi 7 support, it’s a powerful mini PC in its own right. However, since it also features an Intel Core Ultra chip, it’s actually the first AI mini PC.

The front ports of the ACEMAGIC F2A

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Despite its small size, the ACEMAGIC F2A has plenty of ports. Around back, there are two USB-A ports, two HDMI ports, a 2.5 gigabit Ethernet port and a power port. Meanwhile at the front, you have a headphone jack, two more USB-A ports and a USB Type-C port.

After unboxing this new mini PC, I wanted to spend some more time testing it and using it for work. However, as I was about to leave for a week for Computex, I decided to take it along with me and I’m glad I did.

A mini PC with a portable monitor set up at the airport

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

During a long layover in Seattle where I ended up picking up Apple’s cheapest accessory to use my wired headphones on the 13-hour flight to Taiwan, I also got a chance to test out my new mini PC-powered mobile setup. 

I know from experience that a laptop with USB-C can power both of the UStation Delta’s displays but I hadn’t tried it with a mini PC yet. Much to my surprise, once I plugged in the ACEMAGIC F2A and turned it on, the portable monitor came to life and I could see my desktop on both screens. I worked like this for a bit but then it was time to catch my connecting flight.

My home office away from home

A mini PC with a portable monitor set up in a hotel room

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Once I checked into my hotel, the first thing I did was get all of my tech set up. I planned on doing most of my work from the desk in the corner, so I plugged in the mini PC there and used a single USB-C cable to connect it to the portable monitor.

What I like about doing things this way is that I can easily disconnect the portable monitor and take it with me when I need to. I ended up doing this several times during the week at Computex and on those occasions, I used the UStation Delta with my laptop. However, the mini PC was always there and ready to go right when I got back to the hotel.

ACEMAGIC F2A AI Mini PC: was $799 now $599 @ AmazonIFBEMFTY

ACEMAGIC F2A AI Mini PC: was $799 now $599 @ Amazon
This mini PC comes equipped with 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and an Intel Core Ultra 5 125H processor with built-in Intel Arc Graphics, Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4. You can also open up the ACEMAGIC F2A to add another SSD later. This is a fast little mini PC for both work and some light gaming and if you use the coupon code IFBEMFTY at checkout, you can get 25% off its normal price. 

If you’re wondering why I didn’t just hook up a mini PC to the TV in my hotel room, it’s because I wanted to be able to sit comfortably at a desk and work. The desk was also by the window which gave me plenty of natural light and a nice view of Taipei.

As for the TV, I did end up hooking up a computer to it but not in the way that you’d think. I brought my Nintendo Switch to kill time on the plane ride over and to use it on the TV in my hotel room, I also brought along the Genki Covert Dock. Besides the Switch or even the Steam Deck, you can actually use this dock with your laptop and that’s just what I did. In fact, I tuned into this year’s Xbox Showcase very late one night at the end of my trip and watched it on the TV this way.

Worth the extra weight

A mini PC on a desk surrounded by other travel tech

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For most people, bringing a laptop or even just a tablet on their next trip will probably be enough. Then there are those who like to leave their devices behind when they travel for a bit of a digital detox. I’m not one of those people though and even if this wasn’t a work trip, I still probably would have arrived in Taiwan with a bag full of tech.

Bringing a mini PC only took up a little bit of extra space in my backpack and unlike other times when I’ve brought computers through airport security, I didn’t even have to open it up or get it tested. Instead, I took it out as I went through security and put it right back in my bag when I was done. 

Working with it and a larger, dual-screen portable monitor at the airport was a bit silly in retrospect but I was excited to test out my new mini PC-powered mobile workstation before using it all week in my hotel. Surprisingly, I didn’t even get any odd looks when doing so.

Whether it’s the ACEMAGIC F2A or another similarly-specced machine, I’m definitely bringing a mini PC with me on my next trip. I already bring a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse with me when I travel, so adding a mini PC to the mix seems only natural. 

I am an outlier when it comes to traveling with tech but if you want a way to try and replicate the home office experience in your hotel room, a setup like this one can’t be beat.

More from Tom's Guide

Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home. 

  • CajunMoses
    Mini-PC. Oxymoron.
  • jakesnod
    This just feels like an advertisement article for all those accessories. Lets be real, the laptop would work just fine if not better than a mini PC in every scenario you mentioned. All you need to do is bring the laptop and the external kb/m and if absolutely necessary, the external monitor. There is no use case I can see that would benefit from having a mini PC instead of a laptop, especially if you're just typing!!!
  • Anthony Spadafora
    jakesnod said:
    This just feels like an advertisement article for all those accessories. Lets be real, the laptop would work just fine if not better than a mini PC in every scenario you mentioned. All you need to do is bring the laptop and the external kb/m and if absolutely necessary, the external monitor. There is no use case I can see that would benefit from having a mini PC instead of a laptop, especially if you're just typing!!!
    So this is the second time I've done this and I'm leaving for a family trip tomorrow and plan to do something similar. While some people can easily work from a laptop, I've always preferred using a desktop instead.

    I did a bring laptop on this trip which I used while out and about at Computex but when I got back to the hotel, it was nice to sit down in front of a desk setup that felt closer to what I use at home. Part of the reason I brought all that gear to Taiwan is that I wanted to improve upon a similar setup I took with me to California back in 2019 that's pictured in the article. The arrival of that mini PC right before I left just pushed me over the edge to give it another try on this trip.

    Sure, it was a bit ridiculous and going through airport security required three separate bins but I don't think I would have had such a great time in Taiwan or gotten as much done if I was stuck with just a laptop. For shorter trips when traveling light, a laptop would be fine. However, as I was there for a week working the whole time, I wanted a more permanent setup and it was a great way to test multiple devices at the same time.