Computers have come a long way since the days when they took up an entire room or table. 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 the Kangaroo Mobile Desktop and the Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny.
Latest News and Updates (August 2018)
- 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.
- If you’re a diehard Google user, you’ll want to take a look at the Acer Chromebox CXI3, which we just named the best Chrome desktop yet. The tiny mini PC may run Google’s Chrome OS, but it boasts a powerful Intel Core i5 processor, plenty of ports, and a versatile design that mounts easily and stays cool.
- The latest Apple rumors point to a new Mac mini coming later this year. Apple’s tiny desktop hasn’t been updated since 2014, but current reports suggest that two models will be introduced in 2018, with basic and pro models reportedly in the works.
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 Kangaroo Mobile Desktop is currently our favorite mini PC overall, because it offers a wide range of unique features for less than $170. This half-pound Windows 10 PC includes a built-in battery for up to 2.5 hours of unplugged use, a fingerprint reader for quick logins, a removable ports dock and the ability to use an iPad as a screen. However, the Kangaroo is powered by an Atom processor with 4GB of RAM, which means it's not powerful enough to be your primary PC.
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 Alienware Alpha or Asus VivoPC X. If you don't mind bringing your own RAM, storage and OS, consider a bare bones mini PC like the Intel NUC because of its compact, console-like design; speedy performance; and support for the fastest solid-state drives.
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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