When it comes to buying a PC, something which is not portable, and stays on your desk, like forever, there are tons of options available. These kinds of PCs take up a lot of space, and in the age of portability, devices shrinking in their sizes, having a bulky PC just doesn’t seem to fit, even in one’s imagination.
This is what gave birth to Mini PCs… but what are they actually? While they do almost the same job as any PC out there, they are noticeably smaller in size, and the best part is you can build one of your own, and make it high end if you have a good idea about on starting with the basic model.
However, stay warned that MINI PC doesn’t mean that it comes cheap. Since you are building it, you will mostly start with a bare configuration, and upgrade when you need. A simple example would be that most of them don’t come with cables, keyboard, mouse and other peripherals.
So, you see, it’s not about saving money, but more about flexibility. Not all mini-PCs are cheap, they rather fall into the category of custom PC, but smaller in size.
Below is the list of Mini PC’s you can have a look at, and then pick one depending on what suits you best. We have tried our best to give you options based on Budget, Configuration and even thought about the looks.
Entry Level Mini PCs ($100-$200)
This category is barebones boxes. You get the basic framework, and rest is up to you to build. These are great for those who want to just build a small PC for their home, mostly for casual browsing, watching movies, and nothing heavy.
Intel NUC NUC5CPYH Kit
Priced at $125, this brick is powered by Intel Celeron processor N3050, houses Intel Wireless-AC and Bluetooth 4.0, VGA port, TOSLINK optical audio jack, One HDMI 1.4b display port supporting 8 channel digital audio (7.1 surround sound), and an Intel Gigabit LAN.
It also has One DDR3L SO-DIMM socket and a SATA3 port for connection to 2.5″ HDD or SSD. This is the catch. It doesn’t have a RAM installed out of the box, but you can squeeze in up to 8 GB, 1333/1600 MHz into it. You will also need to buy an affordable SSD or HDD for your storage space.
What I think is that NUC is great for those who want to just build a small PC for their home, mostly for casual browsing and basic multimedia.
MSI Cubi Intel Celeron 3205U
This version of MSI Cubi has one thing that Intel NUC doesn’t, the Looks. Powered by Intel Celeron 3205U (Broadwell) it comes with DDR3L SO-DIMM x 2 slots ( 8GB Max). It supports mSATA SSD slot x1 + 2.5″ HDD/SSD expansion x1.
When it comes to connectivity, and ports, you get Intel WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0 (included), an HDMI out, mini Display port out with 4 USB 3.0. A VESA-mount Bracket is also included
Mid Range Mini PCs ($200-$500)
When you are looking for a better processor, and features, you will need to break the barrier of $200 to get something more powerful and has more features.
Most of you would easily pick this model primarily for one major reason, its processor which starts with Intel i7 5500U with 3.0 GHz. The device comes with two fans which will make sure the temperature is lowered when you start with your heavy duty work. It has 2 slots for DDR3L SO-DIMM which supports up to 16G. It supports 4K display.
Note: Looking at the reviews posted by the buyers, MSI Cubi is picky about the OEM it supports for RAM. As per one of the customers, Kingston RAM didn’t work, but Hynix and Samsung modules run just fine. Make sure to check which RAM to pick up from here
For fast data transfer capabilities, it supports Intel Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0. It also supports one detachable 2.5″ HDD/SSD drive.
HP Pavilion 300-230 Mini Desktop
I am sure you are already bored by looking at this boxes, so here is something to bring back the smile. Priced at $349, HP Pavilion 300-230 gets you keyboard, a mouse, and good looking box. It is powered by Intel Celeron 3205U 1.5 GHz Processor, Intel HD Graphics, houses a 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 SDRAM Memory, a 32GB Solid State Drive.
When it comes to ports and connectivity, you get 4x USB 3.0, 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, 1x headphone/microphone combo along with Bluetooth 4.0 and Wireless LAN 802.11b/g/n.
However, all this comes at a price. There is no option to upgrade, and you get Celeron processor. As per specification it doesn’t fit the price, but having a keyboard, mouse adds to the benefit.
High End Mini PCs ($500+)
Intel Skull Canyon NUC
Looking to build a powerful PC, but still need a compact box? Intel Skull Canyon NUC is a great option except for gaming. This good looking Mini PC is powered by Core i7-6770HQ quad-core processor, Iris Pro 580 graphics, USB-C Thunderbolt 3 and Gigabit Ethernet.
It supports up to 32GB of DDR4 SO-DIMM RAM in dual-channel and an option to plug in 2 SSD drives. When it comes to ports & connectivity, you get 7.1 multichannel digital audio via HDMI or DisplayPort signals, 4K video support, Thunderbolt port, Intel Wireless-AC 8260 soldered-down, IEEE 802.11ac 2×2 + Bluetooth v4.2, internal antennas. These along with 4 USB 3.0 Ports is a steal.
Lenovo ThinkCentre M700
This mini PC has its own business looking class, especially with the configuration it comes along with. While it does look better than Intel Skull Canyon NUC.
It is powered by Intel Core i3-6100T Dual-Core 3.2GHz with integrated Intel HD 530 graphics, 4GB RAM, and 128 GB SSD. This configuration is like buy, and get started with it without worrying much about buying additional hardware. Fast boot-up is built into the system.It is possible to expand up to 32GB. You can extend the storage as well with those 4 USB 3.0 ports.
When it comes to ports & connectivity, you get front and back sound headphone/sound jack, Ethernet Port, 802.11ac wireless connection, multiple monitor support with 2 HDMI ports.
The box can stand up vertical, and as per one reviewer, it packs in Mouse, and keyboard as well. Though nothing is mentioned in the product listing.
IMO, this is the probably the best of all High-End options at $459
Acer Revo One mini-PC
Similar to HP Pavilion 300-230 Mini Desktop we mentioned above, Acer’s Revo One Mini-PC is a good looking lad in the group of high end. It is powered by 5th Generation Intel Core i5-5200U Processor 2.2GHz with Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.7GHz, Intel HD Graphics 5500, comes with 8GB DDR3L SDRAM Memory, houses a 1TB 5400RPM SATA Solid State Hybrid Drive.
Sounds good? You also get
- HD audio support with Digital Media Card Reader,
- 802.11ac WiFi (Dual-Band 2.4GHz and 5GHz)
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE
- 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN (RJ-45 port)
- 2 – USB 3.0 Ports (Rear)
- 2 – USB 2.0 Ports (Rear)
- 1 – HDMI Port
- 1 – Mini Display Port
- Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
It also comes with wireless Keyboard, and Mouse.
So what’s the drawback? You cannot expand or change anything when you want. Though the configuration you have here, I doubt you will ever want to.
If you read till down here, I am sure you now know how varied the mini PC market is, and trust me, it’s even bigger than what I have covered in this post. That said, are you looking to build one of your own? What are you starting with?
Note: this post contains affiliate links.