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Top 12 Best Mini PCs of 2021

The best mini PCs are small and quiet, but provide enough power for everything from web browsing to gaming in sizes much smaller than a bulky PC tower. Mini PCs leverage the small, energy-efficient components found in laptops to provide a surprising amount of power in a size that can be hidden behind a monitor, with compact designs ranging from smaller desktops to stick PCs that can be slipped into a pocket. With mini PCs designed for everything from media streaming to gaming and virtual reality, there’s a stick PC or mini desktop for almost everyone.

We uncovered the best mini PCs for everything from home entertainment to gaming and professional workstations. Every review includes extensive testing and hands-on evaluation so that we can tell you which systems are the best. We put each mini PC on this list through its paces and found the best models available today.

How to Pick the Best Mini PC?

Mini PCs range in price from under $50 (£50/AU$75) for small project PCs to compact desktops that can cost $1,000 or more. Stick PCs are the most versatile, costing between $100 (£100/AU$150) and $200 (£200/$AU300) and working with the majority of TVs or monitors. Mini PC prices vary greatly depending on the hardware.

Determine what you want: Knowing what you’re looking for is the first step in finding the best mini PC for you. Do you want something small enough to tuck behind a TV as a dedicated streaming box, or do you want something with gaming capabilities? Do you need a simple internet-browsing machine, or do you require serious processing and graphics power? Our top picks above do an excellent job of highlighting the use-cases that various systems are best suited to.

Determine the appropriate size: Then there’s the matter of the form factor. Mini PCs are all small, but there are a variety of options within the category, ranging from stick PCs small enough to slip in your pocket to desktop towers small enough to stow out of sight. You’ll give up power for a smaller system, but even if you’re looking for gaming or workstation performance, you can get a capable desktop that’s small enough to carry in a backpack.

Check that your configuration and upgrade options are satisfactory: Finally, consider configuration options and upgradeability. Many mini PCs have two or three configuration options, which can alter everything from the amount of storage included to the presence of high-end processors and discrete graphics cards. There is also the issue of upgrades.
Many of the smallest mini PCs have no room for future hardware upgrades, but others are designed to allow you to add memory or storage, or even have ports for an external GPU for increased capability. When in doubt, consult our reviews, which include configuration information and will discuss the possibility of future upgrades.

Keep an eye out for new and upcoming products, such as the recently announced Zotac Magnus One gaming mini PC or the Raspberry Pi 400, which integrates a Pi 4 mini PC into a keyboard.

What is CPU and GPU?

1. CPU:

Intel Core processors are the industry standard for most desktop PCs, and they continue to appear prominently on our best mini PCs list. An i3 processor represents entry-level performance, whereas an i5 processor is a larger CPU that sits in the middle of the road and is suitable for gaming and serious productivity. A few desktop PC models include an i7 processor: a serious piece of hardware capable of running games at high settings and handling more serious software without loading and stuttering.

However, because mini PCs are designed to be lightweight and low-cost, many people prefer lighter CPUs. The Intel Celeron and Atom series processors offer extremely low-cost performance that is ideal for everyday tasks such as checking emails, writing in a word processor, and browsing the web.

2. GPU:

Even the best mini PCs aren’t typically designed for serious gaming or running high-end software, so a lack of serious graphical performance on mini PCs isn’t a big deal. Almost all mini PCs will include an integrated graphics card. On the downside, these GPUs aren’t particularly powerful, and they must share RAM with the CPU. On the plus side, graphics cards aren’t that important outside of gaming, so the best mini PC won’t suffer too much from a lack of serious performance.

1. Apple Mac Mini PC

When Apple releases a new device, you can be sure of two things: it will have some of the coolest design and smartest features available, and it will be quite expensive. 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 in the MacOS ecosystem but don’t have the money to invest in a new MacBook.

Above all, the specs of this mini PC are designed with creatives in mind. And, while it’s not the easiest mini PC to upgrade, that shouldn’t be a problem. The specifications on display here are of high quality and should last most users for many years. This is a mini PC designed with creatives in mind first and foremost, and it has specs to match.

2. HP ProDesk 405 G4 Desktop Mini PC

Anyone who has used a Hewlett Packard machine will be relieved to learn that their mini PCs can keep up with their laptop and desktop PCs. It also demonstrates that, if you need a mini PC on a tight budget, AMD processors are a viable option. A Ryzen 5 CPU and a Radeon GPU are included for respectable workplace performance and the ability to run less power efficient software.

The best part is that this mini PC is extremely small. With a weight of less than two pounds and a maximum dimension of eight inches, it is small enough to fit in your bag and keep hidden away from your desk. If you’re looking for an entry-level mini PC that truly bridges the gap between portability, price, and functionality, this mini PC is a better option.

3. Intel NUC 9 Pro Mini PC

The Intel NUC 9 Pro is a workstation mini PC with a surprising amount of upgradeability. A workstation desktop is a common offering in the PC world, as they are the industry standard for many computationally demanding applications ranging from architecture to animation. What’s unusual about this level of performance is that it’s packed into a tiny design that’s smaller than a 5-liter SFF desktop.

With space for massive amounts of RAM, additional drives, and up to an 8-inch graphics card, the Intel NUC 9 Pro is a rare beast indeed. And that’s before we get into Intel’s ground-breaking Compute Element motherboard, which combines the modularity of the motherboard with the built-in cooling and self-contained design of a GPU to create a one-of-a-kind foundation for a truly powerful PC. When you add it all up, it’s undeniably the best workstation available in mini PCs today.

4. Azulle Access 3 Mini PC

The Azulle Access3 takes our favourite tiny stick PC and improves on it. The Access3 gets a faster processor, faster USB 3.0 ports, and adds Gigabit Ethernet for better performance and connectivity than any other stick PC we’ve reviewed, all in a compact design that’s almost small enough to fit on a keychain and flexible enough to be used with any monitor or TV. The quick performance even allows for 4K video output, making it ideal for streaming.

The Access3 pushes forward in a form-factor that larger manufacturers have largely forgotten, whether it’s for use in your home theatre, powering digital signage, or simply giving you a way to watch Netflix on your hotel TV. The Azulle Access3 is our new favourite stick PC and the best mini PC you can slip into your pocket. We liked it so much that we recommended it as the best mini PC in our Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

5. Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra Mini PC

Our new favourite office desktop performs a cool disappearing act, with a unique design that conceals the powerful mini PC within a specially designed monitor stand, transforming it into a low-profile all-in-one PC. The Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra is a cool twist on the mini PC in the workplace, packing plenty of capability into its small size and offering a modular solution for offices that want to upgrade frequently.

The mini PC is so thin that it could be mistaken for a laptop battery pack or a desktop dock, but it houses an Intel Core processor, up to 64GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of storage. It has a plethora of ports and performance that places it among the best productivity-focused mini PCs available.

6. Intel Hades Canyon NUC Mini PC

The Hades Canyon NUC from Intel is a mini PC that delivers desktop-gaming-grade performance in a chassis the size of a book. The Hades Canyon NUC can handle AAA games and VR in a small, black brick that can be tucked into a backpack or added to a home entertainment centre 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.

Despite its small size, the Hades Canyon NUC has a plethora of ports, including Thunderbolt 3 ports and HDMI output. If you buy the barebones kit, you’ll need to provide your own memory and storage, as well as your own Windows installation, but this tiny gaming machine can compete with an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti-powered gaming tower, and it even handled some VR. It is, without a doubt, the best mini PC for gaming available.

7. Acer Chromebox Mini PC

The Acer Chromebox is a model that runs the Chrome OS, but unlike many other models that bear the “Chromebox” moniker, it is more concerned with performance than with cost savings. The Core i7 chip outperforms even many of the best mini PC models, and if you really want to maximise the specs here, running a dual boot of Linux is actually highly recommended. When you get past the self-imposed limitations, it’s actually a pretty powerful PC.

Because of the i7 processor, this is one of the best mini PC gaming models available, though it may be hampered by the inclusion of an integrated rather than discrete graphics processor. The Chromebox is small enough to attach to the back of your monitor and remain hidden, yet fast and secure enough to function as a dedicated office PC.

8. Lenovo ThinkCentre M710q Tiny Mini PC

Many mini PCs are designed to be small in both size and performance power, but the ThinkCentre is not one of them. The ThinkCenter packs a heavyweight desktop PC’s heart into the body of a featherweight mini PC. The Intel i5 processor is seventh generation, and it works well with the Intel integrated graphics card’s middleweight performance. It isn’t the best performance for its size, but it is more than adequate.

Lenovo has also become more accommodating in terms of compatibility. Aside from six USB 3.0 ports, there are also two microphone and headphone jacks, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, and an antenna for wireless 802.11ac Wi-Fi support. Podcasters, content creators, DJs, and musicians will find this to be a dependable dedicated mini PC tailored to their specific requirements. This model includes a mouse and keyboard, as well as Windows 10 pre-installed.

9. ZOTAC MAGNUS EK71080 Mini PC

Unsurprisingly, the company that made a name for itself by manufacturing miniaturized graphics cards is also well known for pioneering mini PC technology. The Magnus series is designed with hardcore gamers in mind, and the specifications reflect this: an integrated GTX graphics card, 32GB RAM, and a very powerful Intel Core i7 processor. The Magnus EK 71080’s design has a few drawbacks. For starters, the external power adapter is quite large for a mini PC and quite bulky.

Second, the lack of a front-mounted HDMI port makes using a VR headset with it difficult.
However, we can overlook these minor flaws in exchange for a mini PC that can compete with a full-sized tower in some ways. Something this powerful will set you back a pretty penny – barebones models (without storage or RAM) start at $1500 USD, and a fully-fitted model can cost up to $2400 USD. Still, for a PC that fits in your laptop case, it may be worth it.

10. ASUS CHROMEBOX 3-N017U Mini PC

Chromebooks and mini PCs appear to be a match made in heaven, with both focusing on the ability to provide quality performance while remaining affordable and portable. And they would be if they were all built like the ASUS Chromebox. The Celeron processor isn’t the best we’ve seen, but it’s very reasonable for the price range, and it’s more than enough to handle most of the apps that can run natively on Chrome OS.

And, despite the fact that this mini PC has an integrated graphics card, it is capable of playing video in 4K UHD resolution. You can also set up some very specific configurations using the Chrome OS interface. All of the tools you need to expand your video editing rig, build a media server for your home, or create a kid-friendly way to connect to the internet and watch videos are available here.

11. ZOTAC ZBOX CI325 Nano Fanless Mini PC

The honeycomb holes scattered across the Zotac Zbox give it an interesting design, but it’s primarily a practical choice. This mini PC doesn’t even need cooling fans because of the excellent ventilation. That also means it consumes very little power, making it an excellent choice for a small business that requires multiple PCs to run at the same time. And, when powered by an SSD, this micro PC is virtually silent.

Regardless, it’s a micro PC designed for productivity. It can support up to three monitors at once thanks to its abundance of ports, and it can play 4K content in its native resolution. The lightweight memory can be expanded by inserting any number of SD card formats, and there are a good number of outputs for connecting to a variety of different displays.

12. SMALLRT Fanless Mini PC

A mini PC is all about getting basic principles of a PC without having to spend a lot of money for a lot of users. This bill is the Guzila. Its light specs mean that it can maintain a small shape factor and does not even use a fan to work on it without the risk of overheating. But maybe the best thing here is that it is about a hundred bucks in retail.

And while the species are a long way from the best we have ever seen, Guzila has taken some intelligent steps to make sure that there is still space to grow without raising the price tag. The storage is light, but with a single USB drive, it’s easy to expand. This includes even installing and ready-to-go Windows Pro.

Conclusion:

If you enjoyed our mini PCs article, please share it with others and let us know what your favourite product is in the comments section below.

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