The Best Mini Desktop PCs

The Best Mini Desktop PCs

Our pick

HP ProDesk 600 G5

HP ProDesk 600 G5

The best mini PC

Good performance, lots of ports, a reasonably quiet fan, easy upgradability, and a three-year warranty make the ProDesk 600 G5 the best mini PC for most people.

Buying Options

$850 from HP
Processor: Six-core Intel Core i5-9500T Storage: 256 GB NVMe SSD
Memory: 8 GB Size: 6.97 by 6.89 by 1.34 inches
Front ports: Two USB 3.1 Type-A, one USB 3.1 Type-C, headphones, line-in Wireless: Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.1
Rear ports: Four USB 3.1 Type-A, three DisplayPort 1.2, Gigabit Ethernet Expansion: Two DDR4 RAM slots, two NVMe/SATA M.2 slots, M.2 Wi-Fi card, optional 2.5-inch SATA drive bay

HP sells several mini PCs with the same basic design, including the ProDesk 400 and EliteDesk 800, but the ProDesk 600 G5 offers the best combination of price and features. The front panel has one USB Type-C port for newer accessories as well as two Type-A ports for older cables and USB drives. On the back, the configuration we recommend has three DisplayPort connectors so you can easily use multiple monitors (though there are other options, including HDMI and USB-C). Its fan is nearly silent in everyday use and tolerable under more intensive workloads. And you need only to remove one thumbscrew to access its M.2 storage and two memory slots, for easy upgrades later on.

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Runner-up

Intel NUC10i5FNHCA

Intel NUC10i5FNHCA

Smaller and louder

Intel’s NUC is even smaller than the ProDesk 600 G5, and it was just as fast in our testing, but we like it a bit less because it has fewer ports and a louder fan.

Buying Options

$702* from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $697.

Processor: Quad-core Intel Core i5-10210U Storage: 256 GB NVMe SSD, 1 TB HDD
Memory: 8 GB Size: 4.6 by 4.4 by 2.0 inches
Front ports: One USB 3.1 Type-C, one USB 3.1 Type-A, headphones, SD card reader (left side) Wireless: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1
Rear ports: Two USB 3.1 Type-A, one Thunderbolt 3, one HDMI 1.4, Gigabit Ethernet Expansion: Two DDR4 RAM slots, one SATA/NVMe M.2 slot, one 2.5-inch SATA drive bay

Intel’s NUC mini PC, specifically the NUC10i5FNHCA, is even smaller than the ProDesk 600 G5, and even though it has a quad-core processor (instead of six cores), it performed identically in our testing. The NUC’s small size means it can’t fit as many ports on the front or back, and during our tests, in both regular and heavy use, its fan noise was higher-pitched and more noticeable. It’s the only Windows mini PC we tested, however, that includes a Thunderbolt 3 port and a micro SD card reader. We recommend the “tall” version of the NUC, which adds half an inch to the height of the computer and has both a 256 GB M.2 SSD (for fast booting and loading of apps) and a 1 TB laptop hard drive (for storing large video files and other media). If you don’t want the extra internal drive space, the shorter NUC10i5FNKPA is otherwise identical.

Budget pick

CTL Chromebox CBX1C

CTL Chromebox CBX1C

Affordable and surprisingly useful

CTL’s Chromebox has the same processor and ports as other cheap Chromeboxes but four times as much storage. Consider adding some extra memory to maximize its speed.

Buying Options

$250 from CTL
Processor: Dual-core Intel Celeron 3867U Storage: 128 GB M.2 SATA SSD
Memory: 4 GB Size: 5.83 by 5.85 by 1.62 inches
Front ports: Two USB 3.1 Type-A, microSD card reader, headphones Wireless: Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 4.2
Rear ports: Two USB 2.0 Type-A, one USB 3.1 Type-A, one USB 3.1 Type-C, HDMI 1.4, Gigabit Ethernet Expansion: Two DDR4 RAM slots, one SATA-only M.2 slot, M.2 Wi-Fi card

Thanks to Google’s Chrome OS, the CTL Chromebox CBX1C is faster than a similarly priced, $250 Windows PC at browsing the web, basic word processing, and playing movies. But unlike a Windows or Mac computer, a Chrome OS device (mostly) can’t use desktop apps. In fact, the app you use for almost everything on a Chrome OS device is the Chrome web browser, and you have to be connected to the internet for most tasks. The CTL Chromebox includes four times as much storage as other similarly priced budget Chromeboxes we considered, and it has plenty of ports. Chrome OS handles 4 GB of memory better than Windows does, but spending $20 or so on another 4 GB stick of memory will help it run even better—and that’s an upgrade most people with a Phillips-head screwdriver should be able to handle on their own.

Also great

Apple Mac mini (2018)

Apple Mac mini (2018)

The Mac option

The Mac mini is on the pricier end of mini PCs, and Apple doesn’t update it with new processors frequently, but the cheapest model is powerful enough for people who need or prefer macOS.

Buying Options

$800 from Apple
Processor: Quad-core Intel Core i3-8100B Storage: 256 GB proprietary SSD
Memory: 8 GB Size: 7.7 by 7.7 by 1.4 inches
Front ports: None Wireless: Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0
Rear ports: Four Thunderbolt 3, two USB 3.1 Type-A, one HDMI 1.4, headphones, Gigabit Ethernet Expansion: Two DDR4 RAM slots

If you prefer using macOS, get the Apple Mac mini (2018). The base model, which we recommend for most people, has a quad-core Intel Core i3-8100B processor, 8 GB of memory, and a 256 GB SSD. If you want a six-core processor like the one in the ProDesk 600 G5, buy the $1,100 Core i5 version of the Mac mini, which also includes 512 GB of storage. The Mac mini is larger than the Windows mini PCs we tested, but it runs silently and has a built-in power supply instead of an external power brick. The Mac mini offers four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, more than any mini PC we tested, as well as HDMI, two USB 3.1 ports, Ethernet, and a headphone jack. Unlike many of its Windows counterparts, the Mac mini doesn’t have any unnecessary preinstalled software, and macOS comes with useful software for editing documents, spreadsheets, video, photos, and audio, so it’s easier than Windows to set up and start using immediately. But the Mac mini is also a lot harder to upgrade after you buy it; DIY memory upgrades are difficult, and internal storage upgrades are impossible. Keep that in mind when deciding what you need.

Also great

Intel NUC10i5FNH

Intel NUC10i5FNH

For DIYers

If you want to pick your own storage, memory, and operating system, the barebones Intel NUC saves you money.

Buying Options

$426* from Amazon

*At the time of publishing, the price was $440.

Processor: Quad-core Intel Core i5-10210U Storage: None
Memory: None Size: 4.6 by 4.4 by 2.0 inches
Front ports: One USB 3.1 Type-C, one USB 3.1 Type-A, headphones, SD card reader (left side) Wireless: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1
Rear ports: Two USB 3.1 Type-A, one Thunderbolt 3, one HDMI 1.4, Gigabit Ethernet Expansion: Two DDR4 RAM slots, one SATA/NVMe M.2 slot, one 2.5-inch SATA drive bay

If you’d rather choose specific parts for your PC, or if you don’t need a Windows license, you can save some money with a “barebones” mini PC that includes a processor but no memory, storage, or operating system. For about the same price as the prebuilt version of the Intel NUC, you could buy the barebones NUC10i5FNH, a Windows 10 license, a 500 GB SSD, and 16 GB of memory—twice as much memory and storage as in the preconfigured systems we recommend. It’s not the best option for everyone, but putting it together is easy if you’ve ever built or upgraded a PC before.

source: hafta-ichi.com/wirecutter/

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