Today's 12 Best Mini PCs

Goodbye big gray closet! You really don't have to fill your desk with a huge computer anymore, it can all be done much smaller. Mini PCs are today's computer cases. Versatile, just like a regular desktop, but much more compact. Easy if you have limited space, and ideal if you find the screen of a laptop way too small and appreciate the comfort of a larger monitor. You can also use them for many other tasks. Your creativity is the only limit!

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The structure of a computer is now much simpler and more compact than it was ten years ago. No tangle of wires and all kinds of plug-in cards with. We owe this change mainly to the increasingly powerful laptop technology. Smaller parts, economical processors and compact SSDs and hard drives. But they do not have to be directly connected to a battery and a screen, a box and an adapter are also fine! And that's exactly what you see with the mini PCs.

In many cases, these computers are based on the technology used in laptops. This offers considerable advantages: not only does it result in a considerably more compact housing, it also ensures that less heat is generated. This means that less intensive cooling is required, making the average mini PC very quiet. The small size also makes mini PCs very suitable for placing next to a television, ideal for making a truly smart smart TV.

What are the points to keep in mind if you want to switch to something smaller, without too many compromises? We give some general tips and compare 12 models.

Compact

Some models are so compact that they can also be mounted behind a monitor. A bracket is often supplied for this that can be placed on the vesa mounting points of a screen. This way you can easily make your own all-in-one, which is often more powerful and versatile than an all-in-one that you buy as a complete computer from a store.

Cons

Mini computers do not only have advantages, of course. The disadvantage of a small computer is that there is much less space for connections. If you compare it with a regular desktop PC, the number of USB connections is often much lower. On a large PC, you soon have eight or more of those connections at your disposal. With a mini PC it often remains at only four. Even if you look at the number of monitor connections, the small ones often have less to offer, usually there are two. Sufficient for most usage situations, but if you want an extensive screen setup, you often end up with a regular desktop cabinet.

Prefer a slightly older model? Last year we did the same test. These were the results then.

Pure power

You also sacrifice pure power with a smaller PC. If you need an extremely fast PC with a dual video card and a processor with ten computing cores, then you will really end up with a classic desktop. Most mini PCs are based on mobile processors, which are slower than standard desktop models. You notice that when you work with heavy software such as video and photo editing. For games, the performance is also not sufficient in most cases. Another disadvantage is that there is usually hardly any room for extensions. You may be able to upgrade the memory once or change the drive with another, but that's about it.

Disadvantages

Mini PCs from the entry-level segment are often equipped with very minimalistic specifications. For example, they are equipped with an Intel Celeron processor or a Pentium; chips that are only suitable for very simple tasks. If you are looking for a computer that you only use for some internet browsing, then you can use it just fine. But if you want more, you need a faster machine. For example, based on a chip from the Intel Core series. Please note, in general the following applies: the more efficient a processor is, the slower it is. A Core processor from the Y-series is the slowest, the U-series processors are slightly faster, the T's even more powerful and without addition or with the letter K the fastest. Unfortunately, some manufacturers also choose to provide their mini PCs with a hard disk. That makes them annoyingly slow. It is better to choose a model that has an SSD. It often offers considerably less storage space than a variant with HDD, but the higher speed makes it a much nicer PC to work with.

Appearances

You have mini PCs in roughly three different forms: nuc, barebone and stick PC. Nuc is a term from Intel and stands for 'next unit of computing'. The appearance of a small square box has been imitated by many manufacturers and that means that you can not only go to Intel for a computer in the nuc category.

Newer are the stick PCs. These are computers in the form of a somewhat large USB stick. Instead of a USB connection, they have an HDMI connector. They are intended to be connected directly to a monitor or television. They are so small that they become virtually invisible behind the screen.

A more classic form is the so-called barebone. The best-known manufacturer of these is Shuttle, which makes mini PCs with mature expansion options. In such a barebone fits a real desktop processor, a video card and much more. More expensive, bigger and more powerful. Ideal for demanding users!

Ockel Sirius B Black Cherry

The Ockel Sirius B Black Cherry is the newest member of the Ockel line, which even fits in your pocket. It is equipped with an Intel Atom X5-Z8300 and 4 GB of RAM and has a built-in eMMC from Samsung of 64 GB for storage. This can be expanded with a micro SD card of up to 128 GB. All of this is sufficient for most common computing tasks, such as text and image editing, and music and video playback. There are only two USB ports, one of which is of the 3.0 type. We recommend a USB hub to connect more than just a keyboard and mouse. Due to the small size of the Sirius B Black Cherry, a network connection is missing, but fortunately it does have a WiFi-ac module on board. It has no active cooling and is therefore completely silent.

Ockel Sirius B Black Cherry

Price

Website

  • Pros
  • Compact
  • Quiet
  • Negatives
  • Few USB ports
  • No network connection

MSI Cubi N-033WE

For a price of just under 250 euros, this mini computer from MSI is yours. For that money you literally and figuratively get a minimalist computer. It is powered by an Intel Celeron N3060 processor. That is a chip from the grab bag at Intel and incredibly slow. That is somewhat compensated by the storage. That's only 32 GB in size and based on flash. That is admittedly less fast than a real SSD, but it ensures that the Cubi works quite smoothly. Due to the limited capacity, there is hardly any space for your files. If you are handy you can still replace it with a larger one. The interior has room for both an mSata SSD and a 2.5-inch drive. The small standard storage is quite a drawback. The working memory also fills up quickly, which measures only 2 GB. Only the old 802.11n standard is used for the connection to a wireless network, wired networks can be made via gigabit. In total, the box offers four USB3.0 connections and there is HDMI and VGA for a connection with a screen.

MSI Cubi N-033WE

Price

Website

  • Pros
  • Can't get any cheaper
  • Negatives
  • Very slow
  • Minimum specifications

Acer Revo Base

This small cookie jar has been given a stylish appearance. The combination of white and silver means that it can be placed in plain sight without any worries. Although the Revo Base is brand new, it has relatively old technology on board: a Core i5-5200U. That is a chip from the fifth generation, while the seventh is already on the market. Despite this, this is still a fairly smooth processor. The working memory is 8 GB, more than enough and the storage is very spacious with 1 TB. Unfortunately, it is a normal hard drive and that makes it slow in practice. With four USB3.0 ports, you have easy connection options at your fingertips. Networking is possible via gigabit and 802.11ac, and screens can be connected via HDMI and displayport.

Acer Revo Base

Price

€ 599,-

Website

www.acer.nl

  • Pros
  • Looks nice
  • Smooth processor
  • Negatives
  • no ssd

4Launch Mini PC NUC 220 i3 120

Despite its mini appearance, we are dealing with a smooth machine here. That's thanks to the Intel Core i3-6100U processor. That is a mobile chip, from Intel's Skylake generation. In this case, it is combined with 8 GB of RAM, which means that it does not immediately start to stutter, even if you perform a somewhat heavier job. The storage is also smooth, because a 120 GB SSD from Kingston has been chosen. If you have a lot of photos and videos, you will quickly run into that limited storage capacity. We are very pleased with the connectivity options. Four USB 3.0 and two screen connections (HDMI and mini-displayport). Networking is possible via a fixed gigabit connection and 802.11ac WiFi.

4Launch Mini PC NUC 220 i3 120

Price

€ 549,-

Website

www.4launch.nl

  • Pros
  • Nice and fast
  • Sufficient connectivity options
  • Negatives
  • Limited storage capacity

HP Elite Slice

The HP Elite Slice is a very special computer, because you can stack it. The Slice comes standard with a Core i3-6100T processor, 4 GB memory and a slow 500 GB hard disk. You can also opt for a 220 euro more expensive variant with an i5 processor and a 256 GB SSD. You can stack the mini with a Bang and Olufsen audio module, DVD-ROM module and a vesa plate for mounting. What is special is that the slice can be secured using the built-in fingerprint reader. You can connect peripherals via the trusted USB connections. In addition, it offers twice USB-C, and HDMI and displayport are available for monitors.

HP Elite Slice

Price

€ 725,-

Website

www.hp.nl

  • Pros
  • Stackable
  • usb c
  • Negatives
  • no ssd

Lenovo ThinkCentre M700

This mini PC is intended for the business market and has therefore been given a less frivolous appearance compared to the other models in this article. This means that it can be delivered not only with Windows 10, but also with Windows 7. The older version of Microsoft's operating system is still used in many companies. As standard, the M700 is simply equipped with a Core i3-6100T processor and a 128GB SSD. That makes it a smooth work tray for not too heavy tasks. For only about 100 euros extra you have it with a much faster i5-6400T. There are also hard drive variants, but we would not recommend them.

Lenovo ThinkCentre M700

Price

€ 549,-

Website

www.lenovo.nl

  • Pros
  • Lots of connections
  • Negatives
  • boring appearance

Intel Compute Stick STK2M364CC

It is arguably one of the most remarkable mini PCs in this test. We are talking about the Intel Compute Stick STK2M364CC. Where most of these stick computers are powered by super slow Intel Atom processors, this model has a real Intel Core processor on board. It's a Core M3-6Y30. That is a chip that is also used in many slim laptops. These are often passively cooled, unfortunately this stick is not. Every now and then you can hear the little fan whirring. If money is not a problem: it is also available with the faster Core M5, which costs about 200 euros extra. The storage is only 64 GB in size. Insufficient for many media files such as movies, photos and music. Connectivity options are limited. There is a usb3.0 connection, micro-sd and of course hdmi. It is powered via USB-C and there are two USB 3.0 connections on the adapter. Handy for an external hard drive, for example. Of course you can also connect the stick to a wireless network, for which it has a fast 802.11ac adapter on board.

Intel Compute Stick STK2M364CC

Price

€ 299,-

Website

www.intel.nl

  • Pros
  • Low price
  • Great specs
  • Negatives
  • Fan makes noise

4Launch Mini PC NUC 230 i5 120

The basis of this mini PC from 4Launch is an Intel nuc. It features a fast Core i5-6260U with an Intel Iris Graphics 540. It does a lot better than the standard graphics chip in simpler Intel processors. If you're not too demanding, you can still get along a bit with gaming here. With this model, 4Launch has opted for an SSD of only 120 GB. If you order it, we would opt for a slightly larger one. 8 GB of memory and sufficient connection options are available. That makes it a practical mini PC that is suitable for many tasks.

4Launch Mini PC NUC 230 i5 120

Price

€ 649,-

Website

www.4launch.nl

  • Pros
  • Fast processor
  • Suitable for (entry-level) gaming
  • Negatives
  • Limited storage capacity

MSI Cubi 2-002EU

The Cubi 2 is of a completely different caliber than the also discussed Cubi N from MSI. The slow Celeron has been exchanged here for a brand new Core i5-7200U. It is standard equipped with, among other things, hardware decoding for Ultra HD video. That makes it interesting as htpc. As a work PC, we find it less interesting because of the only 4 GB of working memory. The SSD is also very small with only 128 GB. Despite the small size, the connection options are of a high level: four USB 3.0 connections, an extra USB 2.0 and USB-c connection on the front. On the back you will find two HDMI and displayport. A versatile device.

MSI Cubi 2-002EU

Price

Website

  • Pros
  • Lots of connections
  • Suitable as htpc
  • Negatives
  • Memory only 4 GB
  • Limited storage capacity

ASUS GR8-R124Z

A powerful game computer, smaller than a PlayStation. That's the ASUS GR8. It is only 4.4 cm wide, 23.8 cm high and 24.5 cm deep. The version we are looking at is the top model, equipped with a nice fast Core i7 processor. Unfortunately an older model, but nevertheless it still gets off to a good start. This is partly due to the 128GB SSD, unfortunately a somewhat limited storage space. The special point of this model is the GTX 750Ti video card. That is sufficient for not too demanding games on Full HD. Unfortunately, this is also an older model. For example, if you are looking for a compact computer for your TV to play games, then this is a very attractive choice. If you find the SSD too small, it is very easy to replace it with a larger one.

ASUS GR8-R124Z

Price

€ 899,-

Website

www.asus.nl

  • Pros
  • Fast processor
  • Decent graphics card
  • Negatives
  • Limited storage capacity
  • Pricey

Shuttle R8 1710GA

For those who really want the fastest mini, Shuttle has the R8 1710GA in the program. This is a very exclusive model and it is only manufactured to order. This is partly due to the price tag of almost two thousand euros. The specifications are to die for. A super-fast desktop Core i7 6700K (which you can overclock) and 16 GB of RAM mean that few tasks become too much for him. The graphic performance is in the hands of a GTX 1080. That is a top card and you can play very heavy games with it. The system offers more than enough space for your games: thanks to a 2TB hard drive and a 256GB SSD. The compact size also makes this an ideal system to take with you, for example to a LAN party.

Shuttle R8 1710GA

Price

€ 1894,-

Website

www.shuttle.eu

  • Pros
  • super specs
  • Ideal PC for a LAN party
  • Negatives
  • High price

MSI Trident-007EU

This is perhaps the most interesting bombshell in this test. The MSI Trident is a compact system that was conceived as a mini PC for your desk or as a Full HD game PC near your TV. The graphics power is thanks to a fast Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 video card, which is combined with an i5 6400, 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive for all your games, videos and other stuff. You can connect it wirelessly to your network thanks to the built-in 802.11ac adapter. There is also a more luxurious version with an i7 and 256GB SSD. It costs about 200 euros more.

MSI Trident-007EU

Price

€ 1299,-

Website

eu.msi.com

  • Pros
  • Compact gaming
  • Lots of connections
  • Negatives
  • Pricey

Conclusion

Mini PCs come in varying price ranges and for many different purposes. For less than 300 euros you have a great school or office machine that you can easily hide behind your monitor. But we've also seen that mini PCs don't have to have minimalist specs. If you spend a little more, then even good gaming will come within reach. The most powerful comes from Shuttle and that is the R8 1710GA, which is a super powerful machine, suitable for even the toughest tasks and games. However, if we also take a look with our wallet, the ASUS GR8 also looks good. It costs only 899 euros and still has quite a bit of graphics power on board, thanks to the GTX 750Ti. The ideal yet reasonably affordable mini PC for gaming is the MSI Trident. If you want a nice media player, the Intel Compute Stick with Core M is fine for a regular HD TV. Provided you don't get annoyed by the fan, because then you better shop at Ockel. If you need a little more power, for your 4K TV for example, choose the Cubi 2 from MSI with its brand new i7 on board.

In the table (pdf) you will find the test results of the 12 tested mini PCs.

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