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The best mini PCs in 2020

Best mini pc
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Some of the most impressive technology around can be found in the best mini PCs, which shrink the bulky desktop computer into a size small enough to hide behind your TV or slip into a pocket.

We test each mini PC we review to get a clear picture of how well it performs, what uses it's best suited to and what sort of capability you get for the price. These tests include synthetic benchmarks to measure system speed and graphics capability, as well as number crunching with large data sets to measure processing power in a way that can be easily compared across a wide variety of mini PC systems.

From storage speed to gaming chops, we test every aspect of a mini PC's performance to tell you exactly what it can do, and what it does well. Most importantly, we use each mini PC for several hours, trying out its unique features and any preloaded software.

Among the best mini PCs we've reviewed are the Apple Mac mini, which updates the classic compact Mac, and the Azulle Access3 stick PC.

And new mini PCs are on the way, with the recently announced Intel NUC 9 'Ghost Canyon' gaming miniPC. And check out our recent review of the Asus ProArt PA90 workstation, one of the most powerful mini PCs we've ever tested.

The best mini PCs to buy now

Best mini PC - Apple Mac mini (2018)

(Image credit: Future)

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

Same compact dimensions with a space-gray finish
Upgradable RAM
Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
Healthy 4K display support
Impressive performance
Improved Mac OS Mojave
Limited upgradability
Very limited internal access
Can get pricey

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. It's the best mini PC overall based on our testing.

Read our full Apple Mac mini (2018) review.

Azulle Btye3 Fanless Mini Desktop PC

(Image credit: Future)

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

Great for 4k streaming
Fanless design is silent
Upgradable design
Good port selection
Better than expected performance
IR remote included
Lousy multitasking
No RAM upgrades available
Included remote is sparse on features

The Azulle Byte3 is the best mini PC for home entertainment, with a compact fanless design that will easily fit into your entertainment center. It's a great tool for media streaming and provides 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.

Intel NUC (Hades Canyon)

(Image credit: Future)

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

Impressive graphics performance
Compact, attractive design
Tons of ports
Customizable RGB lighting
Expensive after adding parts

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. It's the best mini PC you can get for gaming without compromise.

Read our full Intel Hades Canyon NUC review.

Azulle Access3

(Image credit: Azulle)

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

Elegant design combines fanless cooling with stylish looks
Improved port selection boasts USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet
Zippy performance
Supports 4K video at 30Hz
Slow data transfer speeds
Optional bundled keyboard is clunky

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, and the best mini PC you can slip into your pocket.

Read our full Azulle Access3 review.

HP Z2 Mini G4

(Image credit: Future)

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

Powerful processing and graphics hardware
Internals are easy to access
Category-leading performance
Highly configurable components and ports
Security is built in
Cooling fans get loud
Windows 10 Pro still includes dumb bloatware

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. It's also the best mini PC you can get for workstation performance while maintaining that compact size.

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.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny

(Image credit: Future)

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

Compact design
Plenty of ports
Strong performance
Integrated graphics only

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. 

It's the best mini PC for most office users. 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.

Acer Chromebox CXI3

(Image credit: Future)

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

Compact design can be mounted or stashed out of sight
Includes plenty of ports
Has excellent performance
Runs cool
Limitations of Chrome OS
High price

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.

For one of the best mini PC designs without the bloat of Windows, there's no beating the Acer Chromebox CXI3. Plus, it’s cheaper than any similarly equipped Windows machine.

Read our full Acer Chromebox CXI3 review.

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

(Image credit: Future)

8. Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

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

Significantly more powerful than past models
USB 3.0 ports
supports dual 4K video output
Convenient USB Type-C power
Not compatible with older Raspberry Pi cases
Potential compatibility issues with some USB Type-C power cables
Software compatibility is hit or miss

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. 

If you want to do something different with your technology, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the best mini PC for tinkering and experimenting. 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.

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.

  • seoguy
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-2611604/mini-pcs-2015.html
    Reply
  • Cam P
    The Voyo V3 seems pretty good. 128GB SSD, an Intel Atom X7, 4GB RAM, and its really really small and thin for $200.
    Reply
  • stinkyjak
    It would be nice if you showed some specs. This is just fairy dust without it.
    Reply
  • rgd1101
    21069563 said:
    It would be nice if you showed some specs. This is just fairy dust without it.

    did you read the article, there are some spec.
    Reply
  • hanishling
    The Alienware Alphas have apparently been discontinued. It makes me wonder if they were discontinued last night since this article was dated yesterday!
    Reply
  • isotope235
    Alienware Alpha R2 is no longer available from Dell. As the post is tagged "Best Mini PCs 2018" by 'Brian Westover Aug 27, 2018, 9:53 AM', as of Oct 2nd, it is outdated. This list needs updating.
    Reply
  • RS7
    This article needs some corrections.
    Some of the listed prices are incorrect. E.g. the HP Z2 MINI G4 is reported for €64,17 at amazon.it, but the link is to a memory card.
    Also, the comment link is to the Best mini PC 2015 thread, but I clicked it on the 2019 review.
    Reply