Forget about clearing off desk space for your next desktop PC. Today, you can get a powerful desktop PC the size of a peanut butter sandwich. 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. Our favorite mini PCs are Apple Mac mini (2018) and the Azulle Access Plus.
Latest News and Updates (November 2018)
- Apple has finally updated the Mac mini for 2018, with a new space grey finish, more powerful Intel 8th-gen processors, expanded memory and storage options, and a modernized port selection that include Thunderbolt 3 and Gigabit Ethernet, in addition to HDMI. Plus, it's ready to order now, starting at $799, with units shipping November 7th.
- Zotac's newest mini PC may be the smallest yet. The Zotac Zbox PI225 pico is almost as small as a credit card, giving you a full-fledged Windows 10 machine that can fit in your pocket.
- We’ve done the tests, and the results are clear; the HP Z2 Mini G4 easily replaces the 2017 model as our new pick for the best mini workstation. Keeping last year’s excellent design while bumping up to Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia Quadro P1000 graphics makes the Z2 Mini G4 the most powerful mini PC we’ve ever tested.
What Do Mini PCs Cost?
Mini PCs range from small project PCs for under $50 to compact desktops that can cost $1,000 or more. Stick PCs are the most versatile, and generally cost between $100 and $200, 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 Access Plus is the best we've seen with the stick PC design. The tiny PC has an Intel Atom x5-Z8350 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 and built-in Ethernet port 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.
How We Test
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 the latest shipping version of Windows (currently Windows 10).
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