Any compact desktop or small form factor computer, whatever you call it, is a small computer designed to deliver the same notch of performance any regular PC can, though in a small footprint and a few limitations. They are not as powerful as any prebuilt ATX PC tower but are able to conduct whatever task you may ask them to perform. We are here to discuss all those factors you should focus on while choosing the best mini PC for your purposes.
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What is a Mini PC?
Mini computers are the best alternative to traditional desktops. As a space-saving option, they are widely used among gamers and professionals and are ideal for small apartments, hostels, or room sharing peers.
Usually, a mini PC comes in 14 to 16 inches in height. They have all the proper hardware housing within this small computer like any other regular PC. It has a dedicated graphics card, processor, RAM and storage as well. However, they consist of a low-profile video card and a mobile processor due to the limited space available in the PC case. But that’s not always the case, the engineers have done some marvelous job that you can often find the latest GPUs and CPUs as well.
Let’s split the types of mini computers to help you distinguish between the options you might prefer to have.
Why should I buy a mini PC?
If you want a PC that takes a little space, at the same time can compete with a full PC tower as well, then a mini PC is the one to go with. It offers gaming, intense multitasking or editing, basic computing, streaming and every other thing you expect from an ATX PC tower. Nevertheless, they have very limited room for upgrading.
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Types of Mini PCs
1. Small form factor / SFF desktop
A small form factor or SFF desktop, also called a small PC tower is a compact desktop with a height of less than 14 inches. This type of computer offers a complete configuration like a mini PC, although in some cases you have to add an external drive for local storage.
These PCs are basically distinguishable not only on the basis of their height but the types of motherboards they are accommodating as well. If you are confused about any computer that may fall under this category or not, then just looking at the motherboard size can help you point it out.
For this, see the manual or description of the computer, if the desktop is housing any of Micro ATX or Mini ITX motherboards, then it’s a mini PC. As simple as that! Besides, let’s not forget the fact that SSF computers are less prone to upgrade, which is not such a cool thing to happen in the long run.
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Why should I buy a small form factor PC?
Those who need a small computer, at the same time need all the basic configuration but not so high end hardware installed, then an SFF PC is the one to go with. It’s very demanding in business sectors and for home entertainment.
2. Barebone Mini PC
Have you ever heard of barebone mini PCs? If not, then we can tell you, a barebone mini pc, as its name indicates, is bare with some hardware that requires the user to add them later before use and sometimes it can be used without it.
The most prominent example today is NUC (Next Unit of Computing) barebone systems, which usually lack a proper video card, RAM and storage drive. This type of mini PC is mostly hung behind the monitor or a TV on the wall and also placeable at the bottom of the desk.
The main purpose of a barebone mini PC is to stream or check emails, can do little computing like working on a spreadsheet, etc.
Why should I buy a Barebone mini PC?
When you want a computer just for streaming or to attach it to the monitor or a TV, where there is no need for storage or a hard drive, no need for a video card or a processor, then the Barebone PC is the best and most affordable option.
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Hopefully up till now, you have decided which mini PC is best for you and which one of these is good enough to fulfill your requirement. Now let’s sketch some primitive features you must not overlook while buying a mini computer.
Checklist for important properties of the best mini PC
A. Form Factor of a Mini Desktop:
Must decide the space you want to allocate to the mini PC you intend to buy. Before making any purchase it’s highly important to measure the height, width and depth of the computer. As mentioned earlier, we have a mini PC (a standard compact PC), a Small Form Factor (also known as SFF) and a Barebone mini PC (without RAM or HDD sometimes), between these three basic options, evaluate the need and preference of a computer and then make a decision.
Read also: How to set up and use a mini PC?
B. The processor of the Mini PC
If a user is requiring any intensive task to execute but is compromising on the size of the PC due to shortage of space, then he should look for a PC with a powerful CPU. There are many great options for a compact computer with an Intel i5, i7 or i9 processor. With this type of small PC, you can perform whatever task you may have. Including gaming, editing, 3D modeling, etc.
Read also: How do I upgrade my mini PC?
C. The Graphics Card of the Mini PC
This part of the system is crucial or should I say a mandatory element to consider if your entire job revolves around gaming and editing on a serious level. There are mini computers with integrated GPUs out there, this wouldn’t be the best option because an integrated graphics chip with shared memory is unlikely to deliver the best performance one may look for. Despite this, if you intend to stream or browse only, then a mini PC like Barebone mini desktop would be more than enough.
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D. RAM & Storage Drive of a Mini PC
This part of the configuration depends on one’s preference. For multitasking, gaming, and editing, make sure to get a PC with at least 8GB RAM and 500GB SSD (or 1 to 2TB HDD). Typically a mini PC is not able to upgrade because of insufficient space within the case, that’s why picking the right amount of RAM and storage would lead to the need of upgrading after a long time. However, apart from such types of tasks, for streaming or browsing, you don’t need a memory, in this way Barebone mini PC is clearly a wise choice.
E. Connectivity and Expandability of the Mini PC
One of the major aspects that must not overlook is the connectivity or ports of the PC. A mini computer does not mean anything less than a regular PC, it needs all the necessary peripherals, Wifi or Ethernet connections to tag along. Make sure the PC you pick has USB ports for keyboard and mouse, DisplayPort and HDMI to connect to the monitor or TV, whatever you prefer for display. Moreover, the USB ports are also important to expand the memory through the external drives, so later you wouldn’t regret buying a small PC.
F. Cost of a Mini PC
The best part of a mini PC one can avail is being the most affordable computer among those expensive brands of traditional desktops with fancy casing and powerful hardware. If you are suffering from a limited budget, then a mini PC is perfect for you, as this PC wouldn’t ask for a huge amount, rather it cost $1000 for a baseline feature and some are even under $500 as well. Thus, other than being a space saving computer, it undergoes budget desktops too.
The inability to upgrade and the unavailability of free peripherals are the only compromises you have to deal with if you intend to buy a mini PC. Putting these facts aside, these small PCs are wonderful devices for not just everyday use but are able to compete in the intense environment of gaming or multitasking. So make the purchase with full acknowledgment of the facts and features you will be facing in this process. Hope you have learned so many things up till now, ping us with any questions you may have and we will cover your back.