Let’s talk small. A beefy desktop PC is a thing to behold, but unlike other computing devices like tablets and laptops, they take up an awful lot of room. Mini PCs offer you an alternative.
An alternative that doesn’t involve spending a premium on laptops, but still gets exceptional power in devices that can fit the palm of your hand. These types of computers have been around for a few years now, and the latest model comes with enough power to replicate the full desktop experience.
But in genuinely tiny form factors.
We take a look what gets you what if you’re in the market for a Windows 10 powered mini PC.
HP Elite Slice
Intel Compute Stick
MSI Cubi 2
ZOTAC Magnus EN1060K
InFocus Kangaroo Mobile Desktop
Shuttle XPC Nano Ultra-Slim
Normal PC Users
Before we get started with the list, it merits a mention that many of these mini PCs use laptop components like low-power processors to keep things cool and quiet. And since you will also not be paying for other attachments like a display or keyboard, these devices are considerably cheaper.
That said, mini PCs is very much an umbrella term.
In that, it covers a wide range of devices, a full array of form factors. There are maker boards like the popular Raspberry Pi, you have the Intel Compute Stick, and even some mini PCs that are designed with gaming in mind, packing in powerful graphics chips for console-quality gaming.
These mini PCs that are designed to run Windows are much closer to desktop and laptops, with proper SSDs and hard drives, removable RAM, faster processors, and a range of external ports for connectivity of devices and displays.
Below you will find the best ones that are on the market right now.
This attractively versatile mini PC gets you dedicated graphics, excellent storage and extensive connectivity, in a compact design. The ASUS VivoMini family comes in a ton of different configurations, starting with Intel Celeron all the way up to an Intel Core i5 processor.
The model we reviewed sits near the very top, offering a dual-core Intel Core i5-7200U chip, 8GB of RAM, both a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard disk, along with a dedicated graphics chip in the form of the hearty NVIDIA GeForce 930M.
As you can see, this powerful combination of hardware results in fast operation of Windows, and it’s much more manageable using this device as your primary computer thanks to a massive 1TB hard disk. The included GPU also made this mini PC an adequate tool for light gaming, mostly on low settings.
All these components mean that the VivoMini does have a significant footprint — it’s quite tall and wide. But at the same time, with a weight of under 1.2 kg, it is also light enough to be attached to the back of a monitor or the underside of a desk.
Ultimately, unless you have the need, and are willing to pay substantially more for a mini PC with more horsepower, the ASUS VivoMini offers you a perfect balance of processing power and value. It’s entirely okay for home office use has plenty of storage, and provides easy upgradability.
Never the one to be left around, HP is here with Elite Slice, a uniquely smart modular PC that allows you to add various bits of hardware by stacking block shaped modules on top of each other. Acer Revo Build tried this first, but the HP Elite Slice gives you a sleeker, flatter, and more powerful option.
Designed as a business PC, this one comes with Windows 10 Pro instead of Windows 10 Home. You also get additional security features like built-in drive encryption. Despite its business credentials, the Slice did well in our gaming tests, putting up a good show when running modern titles in medium settings.
That’s because HP has prioritized performance with the Elite Slice. The included 256GB SSD helped with faster booting and application loading, and the quad-core Core i5-6500T CPU breezed through tasks, even as it trades off some speed for lower power consumption.
As for the modular system, each module shares the same length and width and comes in a matte black finish like the PC proper. The modules are thin, but only a few are available right now — including an audio module with Bang and Olufsen speakers and a DVD-RW drive.
And while this may be the best implementation of a modular system, all this comes at a price. The HP Elite Slice is an expensive proposition, and the performance it offers comes at a high cost when compared to a full desktop. This configuration makes it an excellent mini PC, just not a great one.
If you’re in for something that is fast enough, but as small as possible, then the Intel Compute Stick merits a look. It comes in pocket-sized form factor, meaning it can find a happy home behind your monitor or even TV. And you can take it with you wherever you go.
About the size of a premium chocolate bar, this new model of the Compute Stick is more prominent in size than the first-generation device that launched in 2015. The idea behind this creation is simple — it is designed to be plugged straight into an HDMI port, which instantly turns it into a Windows PC.
It can be handy in both a business environment or at home, where you can quickly get it up and running on a TV without having to mess around with cables. That said, the Intel Compute Stick is also very appealing to home users that want basic computing in a small and tidy package.
There is some reliable power available here, with Intel offering this with various CPU options, ranging from the Intel Atom x5 to Core m5. Throw in 4GB of RAM into the mix, and you get the potential of a midrange laptop from a few years ago squeezed into something that you can slide in your pocket.
As you may expect, while the Compute Stick performs fine in regular use, it struggles to juggle multiple tasks at once, due to the low amount of RAM. The puny Intel HD Graphics 515 also falters in gaming, which is a letdown as it could have been a fun way to enjoy some light PC games in the living room.
MSI is not a company that dabs its hands everywhere, but they make sure that they do well when they go about creating something. The Cubi is one of the most reliable brands in the mini PC market, known for its low price and tiny form factor. And the Cubi 2 is no different.
It is a barebones system, meaning it arrives with the CPU already installed, but you will still need to provide your RAM, storage, and operating system. It makes the initial setup a lot more time to consume than merely buying a complete system at retail with Windows installed.
You get the dual-core Intel Core i5-7200U inside, and installing the other components is as comfortable as just removing the four screws on the underside and sliding the RAM and SSD in place. Once it is up and running, you can expect silent operation, true to its name.
Connectivity on the Cubi 2 is excellent. You get a USB 3.1 port at the front, which is joined by a combined mic and headphone jack. The back also houses another two USB 3.1 ports, and an HDMI and DisplayPort. This mini PC in a chassis that looks excellent with its premium brushed aluminum finish.
All said and done; while it’s a bit of an effort setting everything up, you get an excellent mini PC here that suffices both as a basic home office or home theatre computer. The Cubi 2 remains an endearing choice for those that want to build their own.
With no hard and fast rules on how big a mini PC can get, the ZOTAC Magnus EN1060K is as big as its name. This large barebones box focuses on gaming, but its powerful configuration makes it a very capable allrounder too.
The ZBOX comes with the specifications of a midrange gaming desktop. You get an Intel Core i5-7500T chip that combines with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 to deliver a stunning setup that outclasses most other mini PCs.
You’ll still need to buy sperate RAM, SSD, and install an operating system to get it working. But once you do, you can expect to fly through modern gaming titles at 1080p. If you want a mini PC that can play AAA games at their best, then you’d have to think hard to name a better choice.
The only real problem with this ZOTAC is the high fan noise, which is most noticeable during games. On the flipside, this mini PC offers an excellent selection of ports and jacks, with the mic and headphone conveniently placed on the front, and plenty of options on the back.
Upgrade potential on this one is a standard affair for a mini PC. At the end of the day, although the Magnus costs a pretty penny, you do get a lot of bang for your buck. There may be better choices for general home office use, but when it comes to gaming and multitasking, this one is a success.
The Kangaroo is an odd animal. It’s one of the most versatile mini PC around that you can use in a variety of ways. And the fact that it comes at an aggressive price point, just makes this a device that merits an in-depth look.
In a nutshell, the Atom-based Kangaroo Mobile Desktop is a mini PC that comes fitted with the full version of Windows 10 and an internal battery. Resembling an external, portable hard drive, it plugs into a small docking unit that enables it to connect to an external monitor and input devices.
What this means is that this device is not for single use. It’s flexible, and that’s what makes this device so compelling. You can use the Kangaroo at the office, or dock it near a monitor or TV at home, or even on an iPad as an external monitor — Windows 10 will run in a virtualized environment in this way.
That’s not to say this is a perfect device. Though it runs the latest Cherry Trail Intel Atom processor, the company had to cut some corners in design. The battery life is expectedly short at around 2.5 hours, you only get modest internal storage at 32GB, and there is no headphone jack or speaker here either.
Meaning the performance aspect of the Kangaroo did not offer much in the way of surprises. It performed as well as a low-priced laptop. But that may be more than enough for some users. Even if you are not immediately sure how to use it, the InFocus Kangaroo Mobile Desktop is still worth considering.
With a mouthful of a name, the Shuttle XPC Nano Ultra-Slim is a complete mini PC that provides ample prowess for most productivity and media tasks. That it does so with versatility and low price makes it one of the better mini PCs around.
This tiny and quiet box offers plenty of ports, albeit in a case that is somewhat difficult to open. But that’s probably all the negatives you may have with this device, as we found it to run Windows 10 very smoothly — at least for regular, everyday tasks.
That’s probably got to do with the Celeron processor from the Intel Broadwell family that keeps things running inside the Shuttle, and puts up a solid show for basic office tasks. The 1.5GHz Celeron 3205U chip is flanked by 2GB of RAM, a 32GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics.
It is the bare minimum, as you can see, but there is enough muscle here to power Windows and offer a satisfying experience, just as long as you don’t expect to run heavy tasks or intensive games. The trim chassis and understated design also come with a useful collection of expansion ports.
Still, the Shuttle XPC Nano Ultra-Slim is very cheap for a Windows 10 mini PC, and if merely browsing and document editing tasks are what you have in mind for it, then this one fits the bill. It also fares well as a multimedia box, as long as you keep your expectations in check.
Shawn is a WindowsChimp Staff writer, who is a fan of making lists and does the same on this site. He has a Contemporary Writing degree and been in technology niche since last 3 years.