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Best Desktop Mini PC for Your Computing Needs in 2018

A mini PC is a great alternative to the bulky, space-consuming form factor of the contemporary desktop computer. Many companies are adopting mini PC usage for its space-saving and cost-effective benefits.

As technology shrinks, mini PCs continue to become more and more powerful. We’ve entered an era in which certain mini PCs can outperform mid-ranged desktop computers.

Best Mini PCs Reviewed

To get the one that suits your needs, we’ve reviewed the 5 best mini PCs in the market right now. These include basic function mini PCs, rudimentary mini PCs, and high-end gaming mini PCs as well.

Our Top Pick

Our Top Pick

Intel NUC7i5BNH

The Mainstream Mini PC

The Intel NUC7i5BNH mini PC is the standard in the niche. It has a 7th Generation Core i5 with 8GB DDR4 RAM and 128GB SSD. You get great performance, and the modular design allows you to upgrade the computer’s storage and RAM when required.

Intel’s mainstream NUC line of mini PCs are the reference point for all other manufacturers. If you’re looking for the mainstream mini PC for basic computer tasks, this is the way to go.

Premium Pick

Premium Pick

HP Elite Slice

The Best Business Mini PC

The beautiful, sophisticated looking HP Elite Slice is what most people want a mini PC to look like. This square slab of elegance is power-packed with a Core i7, 16 or 32GB of RAM, and plenty of storage space. Its modular design allows users to add various business and media accessories such as speakers and more.

HP Elite Slice is the best business-focused mini PC out there, capable of performing all regular and business computer tasks without any hiccup.

Intel NUC7i5BNH

IntelNUC7i5

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-7260U 2.2GHz (Turbo Boost to 3.4GHz)
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • GPU: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro 64bit

Who better than Intel in understanding how to make a great PC. This mini PC from Intel is one of many Intel NUC computers the company offers. It’s a compact, modular system that offers plenty of power and great performance with its dual-core Core i5, 8GB RAM, and 128GB SSD SATA III drive.

You also get WiFi, Bluetooth, a USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 connection, and ability to support dual monitors. There are also 4 USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI port, a card reader, and a headphone/microphone combo jack. You can even add an additional storage drive if you wish.

Intel takes the top pick because of its simplistic modular design and fantastic support. It’s one of the best combinations of price and performance out there. There’s no bloatware installed, and you get a streamlined, plug-and-play computer.

The Intel NUC computer comes with a three-year warranty. It has the tendency to run hot though and the fan can get rather loud when it does. However, if you don’t mind that bit of noise, the Intel NUC is the best mini PC you can buy right now due to its balance of power, price, and support.

Pros

  • Simple design
  • Good price for the performance
  • Excellent Intel support
  • Easy to upgrade
  • Plenty of connectivity options

Cons

  • Can run hot
  • Loud fan when hot

HP Elite Slice

HP Elite Slice

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6700T 2.8GHz
  • RAM: 16GB/32GB DDR4
  • Storage: 256GB SSD / 1TB HDD + 256GB SSD / 512GB SSD
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics 530
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro 64bit

The HP Elite Slice is what we all want our ideal mini PC to look like. This stunning piece of black and gold is one of the most powerful mini PCs you can buy for mainstream use. It packs everything you’d want from a powerful PC in a form factor that is so small it could fit in one of the pockets of your laptop bag.

This 6.5-inch piece of powerful tech features a high-end CPU. You get 1 USB Type-C port for charging, one 1 USB 3.1 Type-C port for regular use, and 2 USB 3.1 Type-A ports. Additionally, there is 1 DisplayPort, 1 HDMI port, 1 Ethernet port, and a headphone microphone combo jack.

The Elite Slice is different from other HP mini PCs of the past years because it doesn’t come with all the bloatware the company was notorious for. The modular mini PC also supports separately sold Bang and Olufsen speakers that can be attached to the bottom.

It’s a little expensive, but this is the ultimate premium mini PC out there for business and processor intensive tasks. It combines a great design with plenty of power and connectivity options.

Pros

  • Beautiful design
  • Very compact
  • Very powerful
  • Great connectivity options
  • Additional modular options

Cons

  • Expensive

Zotac ZBox CI325

  • CPU: Intel N3160 Quad Core
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 32GB SSD
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics 620
  • OS: Windows 10

The Zotac ZBox is an absolute barebone mini PC. You don’t get much power from it or any storage space, but you get an incredible value. It’s a PC that works well as a backup computer if you’re happy browsing only two or three tabs at a time.

Very basic tasks such as composing emails, text editing, and watching Netflix are all possible with this tiny computer. It also comes with native 4K support. It won’t replace your desktop the way other mini PCs on this list will, but it behaves well as a media server for your home.

Multitasking isn’t possible, but it isn’t designed to be a full-fledged computer but a more rudimentary mini PC for media and basic tasks. And it provides that experience at an affordable price for around $250. It is also completely noiseless because the ZBox uses passive cooling instead of a fan.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Noiseless operation
  • Good for rudimentary tasks
  • Compact and lightweight

Cons

  • Mediocre performance
  • Very limited application

Intel NUC Hades Canyon

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8809G
  • RAM: N/A (supports DDR4)
  • Storage: N/A
  • GPU: AMD Radeon RX Vega M 4GB
  • OS: N/A

When beefed with a fast drive and high quality RAM, the Intel NUC Hades Canyon can match some high end desktop computers in videogaming performance. This incredible machine is as barebones as it gets, offering you a set of connectivity ports in a sleek chassis that houses a powerful Intel Core i7 8th Generation processor and a 4GB Radeon RX Vega M.

You’ll need to add your own RAM, Storage, and operating system, but once you do you’ll be able to match performances of a mid-ranged fully built desktop in a great form factor.

This mini PC is a great upgrade over most gaming laptops because of its lighter weight and on-par performance. You get plenty of connectivity options with 2 USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 connections, a whopping 5 USB 3.0 Type A sockets, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A, one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, two Ethernet ports, two mini DisplayPorts, and two HDMI ports.  You also have wirless 802.11ac wireless connectivity.

The Intel NUC Hades Canyon mini PC can fit in two m.2 NVME SSD and SATA drives if you wish as well, and the dual channel RAM is supported up to 32GB at 2400MHz.

It’s a fantastic skeleton to build a great mid-to-high ranged gaming computer in a mini PC form factor. The Radeon RX Vega M can compete with the GeForce 1050Ti in performance, which should give you an idea of what to expect from this mini behemoth.

Pros

  • Very powerful
  • Great build and design
  • Lots of connectivity options
  • Makes a great portable gaming rig

Cons

  • Expensive barebone mini PC
  • Not cost-effective when RAM and SSD are added to it

Lenovo Legion C530

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-8400 / Core i7 8700
  • RAM: 8/16GB DDR4 2666MHz
  • Storage: 1TB 7200 RPM+16GB Optane Memory / 1TB HDD+128GB PCIe SSD
  • GPU: AMD Radeon RX 570 4GB / GeForce GTX 1050Ti 4GB / GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro 64bit

The Lenovo C530 falls in between a mini PC and a full-on desktop. It uses a lot of desktop components in a very small form factor that is larger than mini PCs but can still be qualified as one. This box of joy comes with 8th generation Core i5/i7 processors. The notable thing about these processors is that they are desktop processors that have been underclocked.

Additionally, you get three graphic card options. These are full-fledged graphic cards inside the box instead of soldered chipsets. Another fantastic aspect of this case is how efficient its cooling system is. It uses a dual-channel thermal system that provides efficient airflow without trapping heat inside the box.

We find the Core i7 and GeForce GTX 1060 combination to be of incredible value for money, as it costs just above $1000 and offers performance of a high-end gaming rig in an excellent form factor.

This is our favorite gaming mini PC out there because of its cost effectiveness and form factor. It does however lay on the border between a regular PC and a mini PC and isn’t as portable as the latter despite its compact nature.

Pros

  • Full-fledged computer
  • Very powerful
  • Excellent cooling system
  • Makes an incredible portable gaming rig

Cons

  • Large for a mini PC
  • Processors are underclocked

Buyer’s Guide

    You’re obviously buying a mini PC for its size. A single regular desktop tower could probably fit in a dozen mini PCs in it, so the big discrepancy in size is what makes mini PCs so attractive. Such a size affords more portability freedom.

    Certain mini PCs even have VESA mounts compatible with them. You can then screw at the back of your monitor and forget they were even there. Mini PCs are popular because they give you the ability to maximize the efficiency of your workspace, and that’s what you should be looking for.

    Not even the best mini PC will be able to compete with a mid-to-high end computer, but a lot of them are more than capable of handling everyday tasks and basic processor-intensive functions. You want to aim for specs that will serve exactly your requirement and no more.

    There are a lot of powerful mini PCs that can cost as much as a laptop or a high-end gaming rig without giving you the same performance. Unless it’s what you’re looking for, you shouldn’t spend on specs that you probably won’t ever use.

    Your mini PC should have all the ports you’d expect in a regular desktop, including the most modern ports. This includes USB Type-C, USB 3.0/3.1 Type A, HDMI, DisplayPort, and Ethernet port. These are the vitals and shouldn’t be compromised on, because you will need them to connect other peripherals such as monitors, keyboards, and router to your mini PC. You should also look for one that has Bluetooth and WiFi compatibility.

    Why do I need a mini PC?

    You’d think the mini PC market would be deserted because of how powerful laptops are nowadays, but many individuals prefer a desktop configuration without a gigantic tower. More importantly, such configurations are invaluable in hospitals, superstores, general helpdesks, and business offices to conserve space. All these factors have made mini PCs surprisingly popular.

    Are gaming mini PCs good enough to run AAA games?

    Mini PCs like the Intel Hades Canyon can play most games at medium to high settings. Don’t expect them to perform like full desktop computer though. However, the Lenovo Legion is in a league of its own as it can outperform many mid-to-high end computers, though whether it qualifies as a pure mini PC is up for debate.

    Why not Raspberry Pi?

    Raspberry Pi is incredibly cheap and offers a surprising amount of power for how much it costs, but it’s not designed for mainstream users as it requires a lot of tinkering and technical know-how. It’s a popular choice among educators, hackers, and IT professionals, but it’s not a PC designed for the average user.

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