Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS
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The past few years have seen the rise of a new form factor in personal computers: the mini-PC. Moore’s Law and the miniaturization of motherboards What Makes Mini PCs so Small? And, the Best Mini PCs You Can Buy Today What Makes Mini PCs so Small? And, the Best Mini PCs You Can Buy Today A new generation of mini PCs is making its way into our homes and offices now. Read More have made computers smaller than ever before. And it’s slowly replacing the good old beige box.

Rightly so, when you consider that mini-PCs today are powerful enough to serve the needs of most users. Both Intel and AMD have powerful APUs What Is the Difference Between An APU, A CPU And A GPU? What Is the Difference Between An APU, A CPU And A GPU? Over the last five or more years, there have been a number of different terms swirling around to describe computer hardware. Some of those terms include but aren’t limited to APU, CPU, and GPU. But... Read More now that take care of the graphics requirements for any non-gamer, and hard drives and SSDs are cheaper than ever.

In case you’re looking to buy a new desktop, or perhaps build an HTPC for cheap, you should first check out some of these awesome mini-PCs. They might just be a better deal. But before you take the plunge, consider the limitations of Mini-PCs 10 Things About Mini PCs You Should Consider Before Buying 10 Things About Mini PCs You Should Consider Before Buying If you're in the market for a new desktop PC, it makes sense to consider the new line of mini PCs over a giant tower. Read More .

Cheapest Barebones Intel Mini PC: Intel NUC5CPYH

Intel NUC NUC5CPYH, 4K Support via HDMI, Intel HD Graphics, SATA3 for 2.5-Inch HDD/SSD BOXNUC5CPYH Intel NUC NUC5CPYH, 4K Support via HDMI, Intel HD Graphics, SATA3 for 2.5-Inch HDD/SSD BOXNUC5CPYH Intel Braswell Celeron processor (N3050). Buy Now At Amazon $126.39

When you want to keep the budget as low as possible, a barebones mini-PC is your best bet. “Barebones” refers to what the package comes with: a processor fit into a case, and nothing else. This means you will have to add a hard drive and RAM of your own.

Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS mini pc intel nuc small 670x463

Intel’s NUC (Next Unit of Computing) series of mini-PCs are quite good. The NUC5CPYH is powered by an Intel Celeron N3050 processor. Installing the drive and RAM is easy. Plus, Intel’s NUCs have great support on technology forums, in case you need any help.

It’s not the fastest CPU out there, but it’s good enough for basic computing. In case you need a boost, consider one of the fastest SSDs you can buy The Fastest SSDs You Can Buy in 2017 The Fastest SSDs You Can Buy in 2017 Solid State Drives, or SSDs, improve performance over mechanical hard drives (HDD). However, if you want the fastest SSD around, you need to know two things: the connector and protocol. Read More . Heck, even as a basic media player for your TV, it supports 4K resolution output. Still, if you need more power, there’s another option.

Best Barebones Intel Mini PC: Intel NUC7i5BNK

Intel NUC mini PC kit NUC7i5BNH (Intel Core i5, Tall version) Intel NUC mini PC kit NUC7i5BNH (Intel Core i5, Tall version) 7th Generation Intel Core i5-7260U Buy Now At Amazon $344.00

For a little more money, you get a far more powerful CPU in an Intel NUC box. Meet the NUC7i5BNK (tall version), with a 7th generation Core i5-7260U processor.

Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS mini pc intel nuc tall 670x464

The big deal about this is not only that it’s faster, but its graphics chipset is much better. The i5-7260U boasts of an Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, which is enough even for basic Photoshop.

Since this is the tall version of a NUC What's a NUC and Why Would You Want One? What's a NUC and Why Would You Want One? NUCs can best be described as barebones, small form-factor PCs -- and they're pretty awesome under the right circumstances. Read More , you also get two slots for RAM instead of the default one. That means you can add up to 16GB of memory, not just eight. And add a hard drive or SSD in the bay for it.

Customize the PC however you want, install your parts, and you’re good to go. But if you don’t want to tinker at all, then look for a non-barebones model like those below.

Cheap, Ready-To-Use MSI Mini PC: MSI Cube

MSI Cubi N-049US Mini PC (Black) MSI Cubi N-049US Mini PC (Black) Processor: Intel Pentium N3710 Quad Core (1.6-2.24 GHz) | Operating System: Windows 10 Pro Buy Now At Amazon $299.99

Without installing anything, the old MSI Cube is a solid mini PC that gets the job done. It’s good enough for basic office work and internet browsing, but don’t expect to run games or edit movies here.

Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS mini pc msi cube 644x500

The Pentium N3710 processor is decent, aided by the 4GB of RAM. Thankfully, MSI has gone in with hybrid hard drive 101 Guide To Solid State Drives 101 Guide To Solid State Drives Solid State Drives (SSDs) have really taken the mid-range to high end computing world by storm. But what are they? Read More . There’s a 32GB solid-state drive for the preinstalled Windows 10 operating system, slightly boosting the speed. And then there’s the 500GB drive for all your storage.

It’s a simple, no-nonsense box to run Windows without any hassle. And boy, is it tiny!

Best HP Mini PC on a Budget: HP Pavilion Wave

HP Pavilion Wave Premium Mini Desktop (Model), Intel Core i3-6100T 3.2GHz, 8GB DDR4 RAM, 1TB 7200RPM HDD, HDMI, 802.11AC, Bluetooth, Wireless Keyboard and Mouse, Bang and Olufsen Audio-Win 10 HP Pavilion Wave Premium Mini Desktop (Model), Intel Core i3-6100T 3.2GHz, 8GB DDR4 RAM, 1TB 7200RPM HDD, HDMI, 802.11AC, Bluetooth, Wireless Keyboard and Mouse, Bang and Olufsen Audio-Win 10 6th Gen Intel® Dual CoreTM i3-6100T processor 3.2GHz (3M Cache), 1 TB 7200 RPM Hard Drive, No Optical Drive Buy Now At Amazon $469.00

Compared to media streaming sticks and other devices, an HTPC (Home Theater PC) offers much more. Sure, you could make one with a Raspberry Pi The Raspberry Pi Home Theater: What You Can And Cannot Do The Raspberry Pi Home Theater: What You Can And Cannot Do If you’ve been following our recent articles about the Raspberry Pi, you’ll know that it can be set up as a media streaming client with a dedicated XBMC build and you should also be aware... Read More , but that mess of wires and connected drives never looks good in the living room. Instead, check out the HP Pavilion Wave.

Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS mini pc hp pavilion wave 615x500

It’s a gorgeous mini PC that can sit proudly in your living room, while people ask you what it is. And you’ll explain how it comes with Bang and Olufsen audio, and is powered by an Intel Core i3 processor with 8GB of RAM. Oh yes, you can store all your movies and shows on the 1TB hard drive.

The Pavilion Wave even has a USB Type-C port What Can You Shove In a USB C Port? What Can You Shove In a USB C Port? Look closely at the ports on your laptop. If you bought one in the past year, you'll notice a tiny, rectangular port you've probably never used. That's the USB C port. Read More to go with three other regular USB ports. And HP has thrown in a wireless keyboard and mouse too. This Windows mini PC meets all the requirements of a nice HTPC, except for an optical drive. Would a Blu-ray drive have killed you, HP?

All-Rounder Mini PC With Gaming: Asus VivoMini VM65N-G063Z

ASUS VM65N-G063Z VivoMini PC with Intel Core i5-7200U and NVIDIA GeForce GT930M Graphics ASUS VM65N-G063Z VivoMini PC with Intel Core i5-7200U and NVIDIA GeForce GT930M Graphics VM65N-G063Z VivoMini PC with Windows 10 features a 6th-generation Intel Core i5-7200U processor (3.10 GHz, 3M Cache), 8GB DDR4 memory, and 1TB HDD for exceptional performance Buy Now At Amazon $559.10

The Asus VivoMini is another excellent contender for an HTPC, as well as a good mini PC in general. It also adds a dedicated graphics card to boost gaming performance.

Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS mini pc asus vivomini 670x420

The Core i5-7200U processor and 8GB of RAM handle everything you throw at it. There’s a 1TB hard drive for all your storage needs. The Nvidia GeForce GT 930M graphics card should handle basic gaming needs, as well as photo and video editing.

And it’s all put together in a tiny package. The VivoMini doesn’t make much sound. It’s among those tiny, silent, and green PCs Tiny, Silent and Green PCs That You Can Build Now Tiny, Silent and Green PCs That You Can Build Now This article covers component selection for assembling fanless and green PCs, allowing you to make your very own silent, eco-friendly computers. Read More too, using only 90W of power. Not bad at all.

Mini Gaming PCs with VR: Zotac ZBox Magnus EN1060K

ZOTAC ZBOX-EN1060K-U-W2B MAGNUS Gaming Mini PC Intel Kaby Lake Core i5 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 VR Ready Windows 10 ZOTAC ZBOX-EN1060K-U-W2B MAGNUS Gaming Mini PC Intel Kaby Lake Core i5 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 VR Ready Windows 10 Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7500T (quad-core 2.7 GHz, up to 3.3 GHz) Buy Now At Amazon $1,119.61

If you’re part of the “PC Master Race” and believe you need a gaming PC instead of a video game console, you’re in luck. Zotac has built a couple of fantastic mini PCs for gaming.

Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS mini pc zotac zbox 1060 670x298

The Zbox Magnus EN1060K packs a Core i5-7500T processor, 8GB RAM, 120GB SSD, and a 1TB hard drive. For gaming, there is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with 6GB RAM, which is also ready for virtual reality games Best PCs for Virtual Reality Best PCs for Virtual Reality We've heard about the Oculus Rift for a long time now. HTC teamed up with Steam VR, creating the HTC Vive virtual reality headset. But what's the best PC to power them? Read More .

Despite this heavy hardware, the ZBox is surprisingly quiet when it’s running. It could happily sit in your home entertainment system without any fuss.

The Big Boy Gaming Mini PC: Zotac ZBox Magnus EN1080K

If price is not a factor, get the Zotac ZBox Magnus EN1080K. It’s the best mini PC on the planet right now.

Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS mini pc zotac zbox mini 1080 liquid 639x500

Zotac has upgraded the EN1060K with the powerful Intel Core i7-7700 processor. And the graphics card is the top-of-the-line Nvidia GeForce Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You? Nvidia Graphics Cards: Which One Is Right for You? Nvidia graphics cards are the most popular for a reason. But which model should you buy and why? We explain the jargon, the cards, and their performance. Read More GTX 1080. It will play every game at the highest settings without any stutters.

Such hardware usually causes a lot of heating, which in turn causes a lot noise with its fans. To keep things cool and quiet, Zotac has added liquid cooling What Water Cooling Is & Should You Use It? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Water Cooling Is & Should You Use It? [MakeUseOf Explains] Water is a great coolant. It’s plentiful, cheap and can be easily moved via pumps. The need for specialized hardware has often made this solution too expensive and too complex for mainstream users, however. That... Read More to the mini PC. This beast is flawless.

Best Chrome Mini PC or Chromebox: Asus Chromebox 2 G013U

ASUS CHROMEBOX2-G013U Mini Chrome OS Computer ASUS CHROMEBOX2-G013U Mini Chrome OS Computer Powered by Intel Core i3-5010U Processor to deliver the best performance for Chrome OS Buy Now At Amazon $339.99

On these mini PCs, Windows isn’t always the best choice. Due to the limited hardware, you’re better off running a lighter operating system. If Chrome OS suits you 5 Reasons Chrome OS Is Better Than Windows 10 S 5 Reasons Chrome OS Is Better Than Windows 10 S Microsoft has launched a new operating system – Windows 10 S. But is it good enough to grab a share of Chromebooks' ever-increasing market share and propel it into homes and classrooms around the country? Read More , then get the Asus Chromebox 2 G013U.

Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS mini pc asus chromebox 670x493

It’s important to note the model number here. There are several variants of the Chromebox with different specifications. What you want is the G013U with an Intel Core i3 5010U processor and 4GB of RAM. Anything less and your Chrome OS won’t be able to handle the demands of being used like a desktop PC.

Note that the Chromebox 2 has only 16GB of memory. You’re likely to need a portable hard drive The 8 Best Portable Hard Drives You Can Buy Right Now The 8 Best Portable Hard Drives You Can Buy Right Now Read More to go with it, if you plan on storing anything at all.

Best Android Mini PC: Jide Remix Mini

Jide Remix Mini 2GB RAM, 16GB Storage, True Android Desktop PC Jide Remix Mini 2GB RAM, 16GB Storage, True Android Desktop PC 1.2GHz quad-core with 2GB RAM, 16 GB internal storage, Up to 128GB expandable storage Buy Now At Amazon

Can you use Android as a desktop operating system (OS)? Sure, if you’re ready for a little customization. Meet the Remix Jide Mini, the only Android mini PC to turn the mobile OS into something usable on desktops.

Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS mini pc remix jide 670x494

Remix OS has changed the look and feel of Android A Real, Android-Based Alternative to Windows: Remix OS 2.0 A Real, Android-Based Alternative to Windows: Remix OS 2.0 Read More almost to a point where you won’t be able to recognize it. On top of that, you get several original apps that help make Android more usable with a keyboard and mouse. It’s actually a viable alternative to Windows.

With support for almost all the apps on the Play Store, the Jide Mini is one of the best mini PCs under $100 What's the Best Media Center Mini PC for Under $100? What's the Best Media Center Mini PC for Under $100? Media center PCs used to be impractical -- you needed to hook an expensive, full-size desktop to your TV. The mini-PC smashes down all barriers to entry, with small size and low-cost. Read More . But Android updates at a faster rate than what Remix OS does, so remember, you’ll be a little behind the curve at all times. Furthermore, Jide discontinued the consumer version of their operating system — meaning, no more updates. However, future versions of the desktop-optimized Phoenix OS Android operating system might work on the Remix Mini. (Remix OS can install A Real, Android-Based Alternative to Windows: Remix OS 2.0 A Real, Android-Based Alternative to Windows: Remix OS 2.0 Read More  on PC hardware.)

Best Apple: Mac Mini

It has been three years since Apple updated the Mac Mini. While Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly mentioned future update plans Apple Insists There's a New Mac Mini on the Way Apple Insists There's a New Mac Mini on the Way Apple has big plans for the Mac Mini, at least according to Tim Cook. While the company isn't ready to share those plans with the world, the Mac Mini isn't dead after all. Read More , who knows how long it will be till we see a new model? Which is why the Mac Mini is still a solid mini PC for anyone who doesn’t want Windows.

Best Mini PC: HP, Intel, and More with Windows, Android or Chrome OS mini pc apple mac mini 670x246

In fact, we’d go so far as to say that pound for pound, the Mac Mini would come out on top in its price range. If you’re considering a Windows mini PC in the same price bracket as the Mac Mini, take a bite of the Apple.

Even in terms of specifications, there is a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. And it’s easy to make it faster Want to Get More from Your Mac Mini? Start With These Upgrade Tips Want to Get More from Your Mac Mini? Start With These Upgrade Tips If you've just picked up a Mac Mini, here are some tips on what to upgrade and how to do it. Read More too.

Sticks and Portables

The next trend in the miniaturization of PCs seems to be in the form of stick PCs. There’s the Intel Compute Stick Buying an Intel Compute Stick? 7 Pros and Cons You Must Know Buying an Intel Compute Stick? 7 Pros and Cons You Must Know The Intel Compute Stick wants to be a truly portable PC in your pocket. Read More , or portable pocket-sized PCs like the Kangaroo PC.

What’s your take on Mini-PCs? Do you think they’ll replace your desktop?

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  1. dragonmouth
    November 27, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    And what's Linux, chopped liver?!

    How can you omit RaspberryPi running Linux? They are made for each other.

    • Mihir Patkar
      June 30, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      I love the Zbox series. IMO, the *best* design. And the 970 grpahics card is a sweet addition.

  2. HildyJ
    June 22, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    I only wish that two SSDs and mirrored RAID were an option. It would make a great NAS.

    • Clio
      June 23, 2016 at 1:12 am

      Look at the mini PC options from ASUS. Some models have those options.

    • Mihir Patkar
      June 30, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      I agree, but compact-ness is valued more here. I'm a little more inclined towards an external RAID myself though

  3. Andrew
    June 22, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Honestly, a Raspberry Pi 3 for doing really light browsing around, writing, email and stuff is drop-dead cheap, the size of a pack of Marlboros, and with a fast MicroSD - quick booting.

    Won't do everything of course, but on a REALLY tight budget, they're quite nice.

    • Mihir Patkar
      June 30, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Yup, we're big fans of Pi3 here at MUO. These are just a little more powerful and fill the Windows requirement that most of our readers have.

  4. RehabEng
    June 22, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    Infocus Kangaroo? Not only is it tiny but it has an internal battery that will run
    for a few hours. Ideal for sticking to the back of a TV.

    • Mihir Patkar
      June 30, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      I haven't heard good things about the Kangaroo from fellow reviewers. To stick to the back of a PC, you're again going to need its dock. At that price point, you can get good NUCs.