Forget about clearing off desk space for your next desktop PC. Today, the best mini PCs pack the power of a desktop PC into the size of a peanut butter sandwich, or smaller. Whether you're trying to save space at home, fit more computers into your office or squeeze a media server into your entertainment center, there's a mini PC made for you.
Expect some seriously strong mini PCs in 2020, including the Intel NUC 9 'Ghost Canyon' which the company just revealed at CES 2020. It's the first to support discrete graphics. And check out our review of the Asus ProArt PA90 workstation, one of the most powerful mini PCs we've ever tested.
What do mini PCs cost?
Mini PCs range from small project PCs for under $50 (£50/AU$75) to compact desktops that can cost $1,000 or more. Stick PCs are the most versatile, and generally cost between $100 (£100/AU$150) and $200 (£200/$AU300), and will work with most TVs or monitors. Mini PC prices vary considerably based on hardware.
Our favorite mini PCs
The Mac that helped introduce the mini PC is back and better than ever. The Apple Mac mini (2018) has a new look and excellent performance. The new design stays cooler, runs quieter, and offers more power, putting up impressive performance results despite using an 8th-generation Intel Core i3 processor. Putting better-equipped systems to shame, the new Mac mini (2018) is a no-brainer for any Mac mini user looking to upgrade, and a smart choice for anyone else.
The Azulle Byte3 is a perfect fit for cord cutters and streaming fanatics, sinc ethe compact mini PC is small enough to add to an home theater system, but capable of streaming 4K video without hiccups. The fanless mini PC runs silent, the packs an Intel Apollo Lake Celeron processor (perfect for streaming, but not for multitasking productivity) and lets you add storage after purchase. It even comes with a slick remote control for easy control from the couch.
The Azulle Access3 is the best we've seen with the stick PC design. The tiny PC has an Intel Gemini Lake Celeron N4100 processor, giving it the power to run your day-to-day apps and browse the web with capable comfort, and a built in micro SD card slot lets you bolster the included 32GB of eMMC storage. But small touches like a positionable Wi-Fi antenna, built-in Gigabit Ethernet port and speedy USB 3.0 ports make this one of the best mini PCs around, regardless of the design.
If you're more concerned with getting online than with having a full Windows experience, consider a Chromebox. Built around Google's Chrome operating system – the same OS used on Chromebooks – it uses web apps like Google Drive and Google Docs instead of traditional software. As an inexpensive way to get online and get things done, Chromeboxes are a great option. Our favorite is the Acer Chromebox CXI3.
Want something for hardcore gaming? Check out the Intel Hades Canyon NUC because of its compact, console-like design; speedy performance; and support for the fastest solid-state drives. It's its Intel Core i7-8009G/AMD Radeon RX Vega M GH hybrid chip is not only up for gaming, it can even handle VR.
For the office, there’s the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny, which puts a whole lot of desktop hardware into its compact 7 x 7-inch chassis. The little work PC offers plenty of configuration options, several handy accessories and even the option to turn it into an All-in-One PC with Lenovo’s Tiny-in-One monitors.
If you need even more horsepower, the HP Z2 Mini G4 packs a workstation PC into a compact size. Built to support AutoCAD and other demanding applications, the Z2 Mini boasts an Intel Xeon processor and Vendor-certified Nvidia Quadro graphics. It's the most powerful mini PC we've reviewed, and the smallest workstation we've seen.
If DIY projects are more your style, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the best single-board computer we've seen for makers and project use. Of the dozens of things you can make or do with a Raspberry Pi, the latest Pi 4 does everything better, thanks to improved performance and a better port selection.
1. Apple Mac mini (2018)
Best Mini PC Overall
Size (Inches): 7.7 x 7.7 x 1.4 | Weight: 2.6 pounds | CPU : Intel Core i3-8100B | Storage: 128GB SSD | Geekbench 3 Score: 12,844
Apple took its sweet time updating the Mac mini, but the Mac mini (2018) was well worth the wait. The new Mac mini has a slick new look and a speedy collection of ports, and even offers (a bit) of upgradability. Despite rocking an older 8th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, the littlest Mac managed to put up numbers that bested better-equipped systems, and offers a surprising amount of power in a pleasantly compact design.
Read our full Apple Mac mini (2018) review.
2. Azulle Byte3
Best for Home Theater
Size (Inches): 5.6 x 4 x 1.5 | Weight: 14 ounces | CPU: Intel Celeron J3455 | Storage: 32GB eMMC | Geekbench 4 Score: 4,011
The Azulle Byte3 is a mini PC with a compact fanless design that will easily fit into your home entertainment setup, providing a great tool for media streaming and a full PC experience on your TV. With an Intel Apollo Lake Celeron processor, it's perfect for streaming 4K video and offers all the connectivity you need with a healthy selection of ports.
The small size of the Byte3 (5.6 x 4 x 1.5 inches) will easily mount to the back of a TV or monitor. The compact design still offers options to upgrade after purchase, and the slick looks means that even though you can easily hide it away, you might not want to. If you want a great mini PC for home entertainment use, the Azulle Byte3 mini is our favorite.
Read our full Azulle Byte3 Mini PC review.
3. Intel Hades Canyon NUC
Best for Gaming
Size (Inches): 8.7 x 5.6 x 1.5 | Weight: 4.75 pounds | CPU : Intel Core i7-8009G/AMD Radeon RX Vega M GH | Storage: Bring Your Own
Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC is a mini PC that delivers desktop-gaming-grade performance thanks to its Intel Core i7-8009G/AMD Radeon RX Vega M GH hybrid chip, which combines processing and discrete graphics on a single chip. If you buy the barebones kit, you’ll need to provide memory and storage, and your own installation of Windows, but this pint-sized gaming machine can go toe-to-toe with an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti-powered gaming tower, and it even handled a bit of VR.
Read our full Intel Hades Canyon NUC review.
4. Azulle Access3
Best Stick PC
Size (Inches): 5.5 x 2.36 x 0.76 | Weight: 5.12 ounces | CPU : Intel Celeron N4100 | Storage: 32GB | Geekbench 4 Score: 4,541
The Azulle Access3 takes our favorite tiny stick PC and makes it even better. With a design small enough to slip in your hip pocket, and flexible enough to be used with any monitor or TV, the Access3 gets a faster processor, speedier USB 3.0 ports and adds Gigabit Ethernet for better performance and connectivity than any other stick PC we've reviewed.
Whether it's for use in your home theater, powering digital signage or just giving you a way to watch Netflix on your hotel TV, the Azulle Access3 is our new favorite stick PC.
Read our full Azulle Access3 review.
5. HP Z2 Mini G4
Best Mini Workstation
Size (Inches): 8.5 x 8.5 x 2.3 | Weight: 4.85 pounds | CPU : Intel Xeon E-2176G | Storage: 1TB HDD + 256GB SSD | Geekbench 3 Score: 25,064
The HP Z2 Mini G4 is an ultrasmall workstation PC, cramming workstation-level components and ISV-certified graphics into a desktop PC that's smaller than some books. Equipped with a beefy 6-core Intel Xeon E-2176G processor, 32GB of RAM and Nvidia Quadro P1000 graphics, the Z2 Mini easily handles workloads that other mini PCs struggle with, and is certified to work with a variety of mission-critical programs, from vendors like Autodesk, Avid, Siemens, Solidworks and Vectorworks.
Read our full HP Z2 Mini G4 review.
6. Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny
Best Office Mini PC
Size (Inches): 7.05 x 7.20 x 1.36 inches | Weight: 2.91 pounds | CPU : Intel Core i5-7500T | Storage: 256GB SSD | Geekbench 3 Score: 10,007
The Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny desktop puts business-grade productivity into a package that’s smaller than a paperback book. It offers all sorts of business-friendly features into it’s small, square chassis, with plenty of ports, speedy Wi-Fi, and options to add an optical drive or even transform the mini PC into an All-in-One desktop using Lenovo’s Tiny-in-One monitors. The small size belies the capabilities inside, with configurations that offer up to an Intel Core i7 processor, as much as 32GB of memory, choices of HDD or SSD storage (with Opal-compliant options), and accessories for added functionality.
Read our full Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny review.
7. Acer Chromebox CXI3
Best Chrome Desktop
Size (Inches): 5.9 x 5.9 x 1.6 | Weight: 1.2 pounds | CPU : Intel Core i5-8250U | Storage: 64GB SSD | Geekbench 3 Score: N/A
The Acer Chromebox CXI3 may be the best desktop version of Chrome OS available. Made for educational and professional use, the Chromebox CXI3 delivers everything that’s great about Chrome – ease of use, simple security, and all the online capability you want – in a mini PC that boasts plenty of ports, multiple mounting options, and speedy performance. Plus, it’s cheaper than any similarly equipped Windows machine.
Read our full Acer Chromebox CXI3 review.
Best for Tinkerers
Size (Inches): 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.4 | Weight: 1.6 ounces | CPU : ARM Cortex A72 | Storage: No onboard storage | Geekbench 3 Score: N/A
The Raspberry Pi ushered in a new era of DIY tech, and the latest model, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, pushes that to new heights with a more powerful processor, 4K video output and an improved part selection. The latest model, the $35 Raspberry Pi 4 Model B offers enormous value for projects ranging from simple to complex, from its enhanced processing and graphics to offering broad compatibility with older accessories. Whether you buy it alone or in a kit, the Raspberry Pi is hard to beat.
Read our full Raspberry Pi 4 Model B review.
How we test mini PCs
We put each mini PC we review through a series of tests to determine how it performs. Synthetic benchmarks Geekbench 4 and 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited provide scores that represent overall system speed and graphics prowess, respectively.
Our real-world Spreadsheet Macro test matches 20,000 names with their addresses to demonstrate productivity performance, and our File Transfer Test measures the hard drive or SSD's capabilities by copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. To see how well a mini PC plays games, we run Dirt 3 and other relevant games at various resolutions, including 1080p, and record the frame rate.
Most importantly, we use each mini PC for several hours, trying out its unique features and any preloaded software. If a system is sold as bare-bones (i.e., lacking RAM, storage or OS), we install 8GB of memory, a compatible SSD and, where appropriate, the latest shipping version of Windows (currently Windows 10).