While Chromebooks and netbooks currently dominate the market for lightweight machines built for everyday needs, there’s an alternative that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. The mini PC – or “Nettop” PC – is designed to take up less space in your home or office, cost less money, and use less power than a desktop PC. If you spend most of your time browsing the web and watching videos or if you’re looking to outfit an entire office with cost-effective solutions, a mini PC is one of the best options to go for.
Whether you’re new to the world of mini PCs or just looking to track down the best models currently available, we’re here to help. We’ve put together no-nonsense reviews for 10 of the best mini PC models along with a full shopping guide to help you shop smarter.
TL;DR - 10 Best Mini PCs :
- HP ProDesk 405 G4 Desktop Mini PC
- Apple Mac mini
- ASUS Chromebox 4
- CHUWI HeroBox Pro
- Acer Chromebox Mini PC
- HP Pavilion Wave Compact Desktop Computer
- Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny Mini PC
- Intel NUC8 i5 Slim Mini PC
- Azulle Access4 Mini PC
- Beelink GK55 Mini PC
1. HP ProDesk 405 G4 Desktop Mini PC
Making the Most of the AMD Chipset
Anyone who's ever used a Hewlett Packard machine will be happy to know that their mini PCs can easily keep pace with their laptops and desktop PCs. They're also proof that if you need a mini PC on a budget, the use of AMD processors is a perfectly feasible option. Both a Ryzen 5 CPU and a Radeon GPU are included for some pretty respectable workplace performance and the capabilities to even run some less power efficient software.
Best of all, this mini PC has an incredibly compact design. With a weight of less than six pounds and dimensions of only 1.33 x 6.88 x 6.96 inches, it can easily be packed in your bag and hidden away from your desk. If you want an entry-level mini PC that really bridges the gap between portability, price, and functionality, then this might be the model for you.
2. Apple Mac mini
Apple's Trademark Design, Just Smaller
When Apple releases a new device, you can be assured of two things: that it will offer some of the coolest design and smartest features around, and that it will cost quite a bit of money. Fortunately, the value you get with this mini PC is well worth it, and it's an especially strong choice for those who are used to running on the MacOS ecosystem but don't have the money to invest in a new MacBook.
The specs of this mini PC are put together with creatives in mind above all else. And while it's not the easiest mini PC to upgrade, that shouldn't be a big deal. The quality of the specs on display here should last most users for a good few years to come. This is a mini PC built with creatives in mind first and foremost, and it has specs built to match.
3. ASUS Chromebox 4
Making the Most of What Chrome Offers
With the ability to provide quality performance with low pricing and portability in mind, Chromebooks and mini PCs seem like a match made in heaven. And if all of them were built like the ASUS Chromebox, they would be. The Intel i3 processor is very fair for the budget price range, and it's more than enough to handle most of the apps that can run on Chrome OS natively.
And while this mini PC uses an integrated graphics card, it's still capable enough to play videos in 4K UHD resolution. And with the Chrome OS interface, you can set up some very precise configurations. Whether you're looking to expand on your video editing rig, create a media server for your home, or create a kid-accessible way to get on the internet and watch videos, all the tools are at your fingertips.
4. CHUWI HeroBox Pro
Impressive Specs on a Tight Budget
For a lot of users, having a mini PC is all about getting the basic fundamentals of a PC without having to spend much money. The CHUWI HeroBox will more fit that bill. It pairs capable specs into a small, lightweight, and portable package and does so for less than $200.
While the specs here are far from the best we've ever seen, CHUWI has taken some smart steps to ensure that there's still room to grow without having to raise the price tag. The base storage alone is pretty impressive at 256 GB but can also be expanded up to 2 TB. A plethora of handy ports and native 4K support help turn this handy little machine into a real bargain powerhouse.
5. Acer Chromebox Mini PC
A Beefier Approach to the Chrome OS
The Acer Chromebox is a model that runs on the Chrome OS, but unlike many other models that bear the "Chromebox" moniker, they're more about performance than about savings. The Core i7 chip goes well above the standards of even many of the best mini PC models, and if you really want to make the most of the specs, running a dual boot of Linux is actually highly recommended here. It's actually a pretty beefy PC once you look past the self-made limitations.
That i7 processor also means this ranks among the best mini PC gaming models around, although it could get a little bottle-necked by the inclusion of an integrated rather than discrete graphics processor. The Chromebox is small enough to attach to the rear of your monitor and stay out of sight, and fast and secure enough to serve as a dedicated office PC.
6. HP Pavilion Wave Compact Desktop Computer
The Pavilion series from HP has an expansive grip on the market, covering everything from gaming rigs to productivity machines, but the one thing all of these models share (including the Pavilion Wave Compact) is their overall quality. The design here is a far cry from most desktop PCs, and even most mini PCs for that matter. Created to work as both a speaker and a PC, it operates admirably as both. And the understated design means that it will fit aesthetically in practically any space.
In short, you can think of this model as a supercharged alternative to a traditional voice assistant speaker like the Amazon Echo Dot. But the specs here go well beyond what you'd expect from a home speaker. The i5 processor makes this one of the best choices for everyone from gamers to professionals, but it can also serve as a great media playing platform.
7. Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny Mini PC
A lot of mini PCs are designed to be small both in terms of size and performance, but not the ThinkCentre. The ThinkCenter has the heart of a heavyweight desktop PC in the body of a feather-light mini PC. The Intel i5 processor is seventh-gen and combines well with the middleweight performance of the Intel integrated graphics card. It's not the best performance for the size, but it's more than respectable.
Lenovo has been generous with compatibility here, too. In addition to a full six USB 3.0 ports, you'll also find a pair of microphone and headphone ports, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, and an antenna for wireless 802.11ac Wi-Fi support. Podcasters, content creators, and DJs, and musicians will find this to be a reliably dedicated mini PC catered to their specific needs. This model comes with both a mouse and keyboard along with Windows 10 pre-installed.
8. Intel NUC8 i5 Slim Mini PC
The Intel NUC8 i5 Slim represents a very capable workhorse for business, gaming, content streaming, and content creation, all in a minuscule package. Who better than Intel themselves to gleen the best possible performance out of their own components? In pairing an Intel i5 processor with Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655, an impressive 16 GB DDR4 RAM and 256 GB SSD, this is a mini PC capable of taking on the best of the best.
A healthy host of ports allows users to benefit from wide connectivity, and native 4K support means you can stream all your favorite content in its best resolution, or even make your own Ultra HD content. It wouldn't be a mini PC without the option to easily take it with you on the go, but the small form factor and lightweight design here makes it very easy to take your PC with you for business travel or as a portable entertainment powerhouse.
9. Azulle Access4 Mini PC
The Azulle Access4 isn't built like a traditional mini PC. Instead, it follows in the trend of stick-type streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. But just a slightly greater investment will give you a stick PC that can serve as both your entertainment hub and a way to browse the web and make use of common office documents directly on either your TV or your desktop monitor.
And since this is a stick PC that runs the full Windows 10 operating system, you can carry all of your entertainment or work related documents comfortably in your pocket. Unfortunately, the flash storage is a little tight, but it's easy to upgrade. All you need is an SDXC card to improve your capacity to over a quarter of a terabyte, and if you want to get involved in some light gaming, it can run 4K at decently high frame rates.
10. Beelink GK55 Mini PC
While the overall design of the Beelink GK55 is nothing to call home about, it manages to pack a lot into its small form factor. The Intel Celeron J4125 processor may not be the best around, but it's paired with a very capable 8 GB RAM and a base 128 GB SSD that can be upgraded to 2 TB. The silent heat sink fan on this mini PC allows for efficient heat dissipation while keeping noise to a minimum, making it ideal for quieter office environments.
This is a mini PC build with productivity in mind, too. The abundance of ports allows it to support up to two monitors at the same time, and it's capable of playing 4K UHD content in its native resolution. While it isn't the best option for heavy-duty content creation or intensive gaming, the Beelink GK55 is a capable powerhouse for both productivity and entertainment.
Mini PC Buyer’s Guide
Even the best mini PCs are generally going to offer specs that are much lighter than the traditional PC or laptop. The advantage here is portability and price, and while that makes it very useful for a small segment of the population, it’s still a pretty niche audience. We’ll help you set your limitations by outlining the common specs below and help you understand if a mini PC is going to be the best choice for your home or office.
It’s also worthwhile to keep in mind that the best mini PC models can be quite different from one another in terms of specs. Everything from the processors to the storage capacity can vary wildly even within the same price range, so you need to pay more attention than you might when shopping for desktop PCs to focus your attention on the mini PC specs that matter most to you.
Intel Core processors are the standard for most PCs for the desktop, and they continue to feature prominently on our best mini PCs list. An i3 processor represents entry-level performance, while an i5 is a heftier CPU that occupies the middle of the road and is more appropriate for gaming and serious productivity. A few desktop PC models offer an i7 processor – a serious piece of hardware that can usually run games at the highest settings and handle more serious software without long loading times and stuttering.
But the lightweight and low-cost design standard of mini PCs means that many opt for more lightweight CPUs. The Intel Celeron and the Intel Atom series provide some super cheap performance that’s great for everyday work and perfectly suited to checking emails, writing in a word processor, and browsing the web.
Even the best mini PCs aren’t usually designed for serious gaming or running high-end software, so the lack of serious graphical performance on mini PCs isn’t that big of a deal. Almost all mini PCs are going to come with an integrated graphics card. On the downside, these GPUs aren’t very powerful and have to share RAM with the CPU. On the upside, graphics cards aren’t that important unless you’re gaming or using specialist software, so the best mini PC won’t suffer too much from the absence of serious performance.
Don’t get us wrong. Intel’s integrated graphics cards are okay for casual gaming, but there is another option if you’re a little more serious about gaming. AMD utilizes a technology called an APU that’s used in many mini PCs that splits the difference between a discrete and an integrated graphics card. If you want the best mini PC for gaming, a pair of dual-matched AMD chips is the best way to go.
You don’t need to worry too much about memory and storage on a desktop mini PC because upgrading them is pretty easy, but even the best mini PCs tend to be more lightweight on these specs than the alternative. The compact design of these mini PCs means there’s less room for fitting in hardware, and usually, the memory and hard drive are the first things to go when trying to cut corners.
In lieu of a traditional hard drive, many mini PCs utilize flash memory in place of a traditional SSD or HDD. That’s because these machines are built with the intention of saving most of your files and folders in the cloud. That said, they’re pretty easy to expand. A USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt 3 port can be used to connect an external drive, just as long as you don’t mind sacrificing the compact form factor of your mini PC.
Memory is equally stripped down for the sake of keeping mini PCs at about 2.5 inches in thickness. That said, most manufacturers are pretty good about making sure that the memory in their rigs is well balanced with the other hardware packed in. The models on our list actually cover a pretty wide variety in terms of available RAM. Models running on the Chrome operating system tend to be restricted to only 2 – 4 GB RAM, but the more beefy systems that run on Windows 10 can include up to 8 or even 16 GB.
Mini PCs are usually small enough to attach to the back of your monitor without having to sit on the desktop at your home or office, and that’s as much a limitation as the lower prices are in terms of packing in more hardware. Most will make use of a 2.5-inch drive, which is more commonly used in laptops than desktop machines.
In terms of the overall size, mini PCs can vary somewhat. While most are small enough to be taken away from the desktop and even carried in your pocket, the actual form factor can vary. The differences between models probably won’t be a big deal for most users, but if you want a mini PC that can easily fit in your pocket, you should look for one roughly 5 x 2.5 inches in size.
The same operating systems that are prolific in desktop computers are common in mini PCs, too. The same general rules apply. Windows 10 Pro is the most common desktop to run on, and MacOS is still only accessible on machines that are built by Apple. As always, Windows 10 or MacOS can be pretty easily replaced by Linux if you want an operating system that’s more open source.
As you might expect given the intentions of a mini PC, the Chrome operating system is pretty common for the mini PC market. This lightweight operating system really plays to the strengths of these machines. Since the Chrome operating system is a cloud-based system, the lack of storage isn’t a big deal, and just a few gigabytes of RAM isn’t too restraining. These devices are often a great alternative for those who like the format and compatibility of Chromebooks but also want to be able to make use of larger and more traditional monitors.
Our hope is that even if you’d never heard of a mini PC before coming to this guide, you’ll leave with all the knowledge you need to shop for one with confidence. And if you decide you want something a little more serious, we encourage you to check out our guides to the best budget computers.If you liked our article on mini pcs, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.