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Laptops are great portable computers as you can take them everywhere with you. The problem with laptops is that their upgradability is severely limited. The best you can do is maybe swap out RAM or storage. CPU or GPU are often soldered to the machine so you can’t swap them out. Mini PCs are the solution to this.
These compact computers combine the portability of a laptop with the performance and upgradability of a desktop. With recent advancements, a mini PC also packs powerful specs that you can even do high-end gaming on it. Read more to find out how this is possible and what factors make the best Compact desktop computers.
As the name implies, a compact computer AKA mini PCs take very little space. Thanks to their small size, they could be fit into your bag or pocket; thus, allowing for ease of transportation. Before you buy one, though, let’s take a look at some considerations that will help you make the right purchase.
1. Barebone vs Pre-Configured
The first choice you should make regarding compact computers is barebone or ready-to-go. You need to know the difference between these two before buying to make sure you don't buy one by mistake.
Only basic components such as the case, the process, and the motherboard are included in a barebone kit. The RAM and storage are not included and you have to buy them separately. Due to lacking these parts, its price is cheaper than the pre-configured option. If you have spare parts lying around or want to use a specific component, a barebone like Intel NUC NUC6CAYH is a great choice.
As mentioned above, ready-to-go kits are somewhat more expensive than the barebone option. A pre-configured kit works out of the box with RAM and hard drives included. It is great for those who don’t want to tinker with computer parts or lacking spare parts. One major advantage of this type is that it often has pre-installed operating systems. For example, Lenovo ThinkCentre M720s offer various specs options with Windows 10 Pro pre-installed.
What are you going to use your compact computer for? It’s important to know your needs and wants before making any purchasing decision, not just computer buying decisions.
For media streaming or home entertainment purposes, you don’t need a high-specs PC. A basic PC will do the work just fine. Low-end CPUs like Intel Celeron, Pentium, Atom are good as they are powerful enough for 4K streaming and energy-efficient. As for RAM, 2GB is enough for such light usage, although 4GB is better. This Terryza Fanless is ideal for plugging in your TV, forget about it, and just enjoy your favorite movies.
If you want to do some office or productivity work, an Intel core i3 or ryzen 3 and 8GB RAM is adequate. For better performance and smoothness, you can go up to Core i7 and Ryzen 7 and 16GB RAM. This UM300 fit the bill.
For serious gaming and media creation, the bar is even higher. You should go for high-end CPUS such as Core i9, Xeon, Ryzen 9, and Ryzen threadripper. As a minimum, 16GB RAM is good but you should go higher than that. 32GB and more will last you at least three years. Intel NUC NUC8I7HNK is worth checking out since it boasts high-end specs.
As for storage, here’s my advice: SSD is the number one choice. In terms of speed, traditional hard drives can’t hold a candle to this solid-state drive. For light usage, find at least a 128GB SSD. As a minimum for productivity, find a computer with at least 256GB SSD, such as Dell OptiPlex 3070.
Some small-size computers can be attached to the back of the monitor or on the wall. This feature allows for more flexibility and ergonomics to your desk space.
If you want to attach your computer to the back of the monitor, look for the VESA mount standard. It is a set of standards in which any devices with appropriate weight and size can be installed on the back of the screen. So if your chosen device, such as ACEPC T11, complies with this VESA standard, you can install it.
4. Connectivity & Peripherals
You need to think about what kind of other accessories and peripherals you are going to connect to your PC. Therefore, you need to look out for the numbers and types of connectivity options available on your compact PC. Don’t skimp on this.
First and foremost, check the USB ports. As you will connect keyboard, mouses and storage devices though these ports, you’ll need as many of these as possible.
Remember to check the USB types, too. USB 2.0 is slow but adequate for plugging in keyboard and mouse. USB 3.0/3.1 is faster and therefore better for data transfer. USB type C and thunderbolt are the latest connectors and offer extra speed and features. Mac Mini is great as it has four Thunderbolt and two USB 3 ports.
Another minor but vital factor is how these ports are placed. It is always more convenient when these USB or audio ports are within reach, favorability on the front panel. You don’t want to rotate the whole unit or bend yourself over the monitor just to reach that port.
Next thing you need to check is the display output. Video connection type determines the on-screen quality and resolution. For instance, HDMI and DisplayPort offer higher resolution and sharper images than VGA. You need to make sure that there is more than one display output if you want a multi-screen setup. Beelink GT-R is one great example as its interface design is rich with ports.
1. What are the advantages of compact PCs over standard tower PCs?
Compact computers have a lot in common with traditional PCs. They both have superior upgradability than laptops, mostly stationed at one spot, and boast considerable powerhorse. However, these are some things that the full or mid-tower PCs can’t keep up with:
Cost-efficient: Some people just need a machine to handle light task such as media streaming, email, web browsing, etc. they don’t need to pay the full price for a tower PC.
Space-saving: This is the obvious advantage. With compact size, these don’t take up much space on your desk or can sit quietly in your living room.
Portability: Not as portable as laptops but easier to carry around than tower PCs. Some even are small enough to put into pockets or bags.
Reduced power consumption: You can get your work done with much less power consumed. Thus, the longevity of the components is improved.
2. Which OS should I use for my mini PCs?
It all boils down to which OS you’re more comfortable with. Just go with the one you prefer personally. Having said that, some operating systems are more suitable for certain purposes than others.
Windows is the definite choice for business people and gamers. It has the largest library of programs and overall better apps compatibility.
Mac OS is the best for creative professionals. It offers superior options for content creation, editing, and digital productivity work.
As media streaming computers typically have low-end specs, Android and Chrome OS are the better choice in this case. These OS are the most suitable for light usage.
3. Can you upgrade a compact desktop computer?
Yes, you can. Just like any desktops, you can swap out parts. RAM and hard drive are especially easy and hassle-free to upgrade. However, some models have their parts soldered onto the motherboard. In this case, upgrading is harder and may be impossible. Another thing to look out for is the part compatibility.
4. Why choose a compact computer when a laptop is more portable?
It all comes down to purposes and needs when talking about decisions. A laptop is certainly better for those who are constantly on-the-go. But for those who don’t travel as much but still want something compact and powerful, compact desktop computers are more fitting. Even as somewhat limited as they are, compact desktops still offer far more upgrading options than laptops.
5. What can I use a compact PC for?
As stationary and compact as it is, mini PCs have various uses for different situations and people:
Business: These compact desktops are terrific for presentations, working online, and office work. For instance, a businessman can take one of these from his office to the client sites. He just hooks it up to the client’s monitor and begins his presentation within just a few seconds.
Home entertainment: You can tuck a small PC away in the corner of the living room or bedroom. With a remote or wireless mouse in hand, you can enjoy all the movies and TV series at an affordable price.
Gaming: Some compact desktops pack considerable powers to run even the latest game titles. A little monster PC is totally viable in this day and age.
Creative production: Thanks to its compact design, a mini PC can be hidden away from view and leaving more space and room for the workplace. Without cable-clustering or a huge box in the way, creative professionals may feel more refreshed at work. Thus, their inspiration and productivity may increase significantly.
Advertising: A small unit is more than enough to handle digital animation for advertising displays without spending a fortune.
The best overall compact desktop computer is Apple Mac Mini. This one comes with the latest Mac OS version, up to 512GB SSD and 8GB RAM. It also has plenty of ports and can support up to two 4K monitors and one non-4K monitor. The littlest MAC offers excellent power in compact design.
For business people, you can’t go wrong with Lenovo ThinkCentre V530s. These compact desktop computers offer many specification and price options to a varying degree. It features up to a 9th generation Core i7, 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD. This Lenovo’s little beast also has Windows 10 Pro pre-installed and 1-year warranty, saving potential costs. This is no doubt the perfect office PC.
And that’s all we have to say about choosing the best Compact desktop computers. Just like their full tower counterpart, compact PCs are no less diverse in specs and uses. I hope through reading this little guide of ours, you will be able to choose the accompanying little desktop for your needs.