let us take a journey on the road of discovery, where you will find intriguing Micro Desktop PCs, on this journey you would be wowed at their incredible speed, the features they come packed with. Some you will find are bear-boned, others fully packed with features and ready to power up and blow your mind. This journey promises to be captivating. Let us dive right in.
HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY A MINI PC
Since the 70’s Micro Pc’s have been in existence, they were in form of personal computers, which were downright smaller in size as compared to the mainframe computers that stood like the tower of Babel. Moving down many years later we discover significant change, much of this change is directed at Desktop PCs which have happened between the last 6-7 years and yet there is still much work left to be done. You could find almost anywhere you go PC’s with incredible video cards and numerous drives. But our focus here will be the “Small Form-Factor “(SFF). PC sizes have been drastically reduced from compact cube-like sizes to even the sizes of USB flash drives. Much of this change is fueled by the fact that the graphics acceleration of these PC’s and their core features that are normally executed by chips that are bulky in size all have been incorporated into the CPU.
MINI PCS AND THEIR VARIOUS DEGREE OF SMALLNESS
Due to all of these factors stated earlier, a ranking order in the world of PCs has been established. You will find that the smallest of these PCs have been labeled the “Stick Class” which is been lead by the Atop,-CPU. Next in line is the “NUC Class (Next Unit Computing)”. This was started by the giant Chip manufacturers Intel who released a series of NUC-branded mini-PC kits in its own line and other companies in the industry have toed the line, to mention but a few are the Asus VivoMini and the VivoPC’s the Brix minis as well. Theses NUC’s are usually measured around 5-6 square inches.
Another in line is the Zotac’s. They play an important role in this industry with mini PC’s whose size ranges from smartphones to small Discman and are a little smaller than the Apple Mac mini.
BARE BONES OR PRECONFIGURED?
Micro Pcs come in different forms, sometimes you get what we call a PC kit with a motherboard encased in it and its processor in place, with wireless connectivity sometimes built-in. it then is your duty to complete the kit by shopping for storage HDD or SSD and RAM modules so that you can install your operating system. This is what we refer to as a “bare-bones PC” my advice is that if you want a bear-bones PC, you should have at least a general knowledge of what you are getting into. So that you can factor in the cost of getting the required parts and also a windows license, except you prefer to use a Linux OS. However, you should remember that the parts that you purchase should be those found in a laptop and not a desktop. Based on this you will need to have a hands-on knowledge so that you can configure the mini PC to get it running. Some of the benefits include the fact that it gives you much room for you to handpick the components however, there is a downside with the bare-bones PC compared to the preconfigured PCs is that you will have to install windows OS, updating it and its drivers.
DEDICATED OR INTEGRATED GRAPHICS
A lot of the Mirco PCs have the basic-grade graphics acceleration which enables them to perform basic tasks such as work and video outputs built into the CPU. They do not have seperate video video cards. However, there are a few such as the Zotac’s Zbox Magnus Models that have the inbuilt dedicated graphics chip such as a dedicated GeForce Graphics that is strong enough for enhanced gaming with seriously detailed settings at 1080p (1,920 by 1,080).
Earlier in the year 2018, an amazing model the INTEL NUC KIT NUC8i7HVK (“Haydes Canyon”), a micro PC debuted that was around the first half of the year 2018. This model uses one of Intel’s ground-breaking processor “Kaby Lake-G”. This processor was developed in collaboration with AMD. This is a chip that combines the Intel’s Core i7 silicon for CPU portion and also the AMD’s peppy Radeon RX Vega M graphics acceleration on the system, which is not the norm for Intel whose initial Intel NUCs depended on its one integrated HD Graphics or Iris solution.
CONNECTIVITY AND MOUNTABILITY
Micro PCs are big on saving space, as a result, a lot of them come with kits which enables you to attach them to the back of your LCD monitors. So you should look out for this if you are big on saving space. You should check the back of your LCD monitor for mounting holes. You could also check to see if it comes with your standard 802.11 Wi-Fi, as this is a standard feature, some even come built in with a Bluetooth, you should check if these are available or you will have you will have to buy a Wi-Fi card that will fit into the Mini-PCI Express or M.s form factor.
CPU POWER IN A SMALL FORM-FACTOR PC
In real sense despite the fact that the mobile-grade CPU chips are good for basic productivity work such as emailing, web browsing etc, with the exception of the Core i5 – Core i7 which can do a reasonable amount of media-crunching but they cannot at any point replace Desktop chips. This is because the Desktop chips have got the required muscle for media pros. When you are looking at the overall cost of owning a micro PC, the CPU is the biggest factor in the cost, so if you looking to win big on performance, then you should keep an eye out for the performance numbers on this review. if you are looking to do light work such as surfing the web, doing basic office work, your Core i3-, Pentium-, Celeron-based Micro PC should do, also the Atom Chips are another option that can be used for light work because they do not have a demanding display.
Below is a list of the top Micro desktops available in the market, if you are looking to shop for one of the Mini PCs I assure you that this recommendation will go a long way to giving you a system that will suit your needs and probably save some cost.
The Azulle Byte3 has been the promoter of the Mini sized PCs, our focus is on its latest model the Byte3. It is powerful enough to be able to run on the Windows 10 Pro OS, adequate RAM, and storage for light multimedia task. It is affordable for a windows desktop.
The Byte3 runs on the Celeron with 4GB of RAM and the option of 8GB available, it comes with a 32GB eMMC storage which is a flash memory that is found in Chromebook. The Byte3 measures 5.6 inches in length and 4 inches in height, it comes packed as a complete kit, with the exception of the Mouse, keyboard, and monitor. One of the intriguing things about the Byte3 is its range of ports available on the sides and the back of the system, also available on the Byte3 is its antenna for the 802.11 ac Wi-Fi reception, Bluetooth 4.0; an Ethernet jack as well the fact that it is VESA compatible.
• It has got 4k video Capability.
• It is big on connectivity (five USB Ports).
• HDMI 2.0.
• Infrared Red remote Controls available.
• The RAM cannot be upgraded
In summary the Byte3 is a small PC, but yet it is adequately powerful enough to run a windows 10 Operating System.
Small in build but towering in power, you will find the HP Z2 MINI G3 Making its name as the most compact SFF workstation available, it comes preconfigured with an Intel Core or Xeon processor and the Nvidia Quadro GPU which is fairly strong. It is ISV-certified and is sufficient for the likes of engineers and financial analyst who often uses softwares such as CAD/CAM AutoCAD, Revit, and Solidworks. Measuring a 2.8 by 8.5 by 8.5 inches (HWD).
It has got a headset jack, two USB 3.0 ports, and two USB-C ports; four Display ports; an Ethernet jack. The combination of its Nvidia Quadro M630 GPU and its four display ports makes it powerful enough to drive six screens. On the inside it has got a RAM, an M.2 SSD it comes with all necessary parts in-play, however, there is an option for available for you to add or upgrade to whatever you like. It comes packed with the Core i7-6700 processor, and the Quadro as earlier stated.
• Great design which is compact and strong.
• Packed with Certified ISV hardware
• Powerful GPU that supports up to six displays
• Big on connectivity, supports USB-C
The HP Z1 Mini G3 is a powerful workstation that is ISV certified for professional who require less use of workspace no more no less.
In my opinion, the most significant factor to opt for the INTEL NUC KIT NUC6CAYS aside its obvious rating is its upgradability, all-round functionality. When compared to other NUCs which mostly come as bear-bones, the INTEL NUC KIT NUC6CAYS with all that is required to run it, from memory, storage, down to even the operating system (Windows 10). Also, it has a lot of connectivity options available and if required, adequate room to upgrade. Measuring at 2 by 4.5 by 4.3 inches (HWD). Packed with an Intel Celeron J345 processor, and the integrated Intel HD graphics 500 and about 32Gb of flash storage which can be upgraded by any HDD or SSD measuring 2.5inches. when cranked open, you will find underneath the motherboard with 2GB of RAM installed on one of the two DDR3L SO-DIMM slots and can be upgraded to 8GB if you so desire, with an array of connectivity options ranging from the four USB 3.0 ports on the sides to the headset jack as well as the HDMI ports supporting 4K and a VGA connection. Also available are the Ethernet jack, 802.11 ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. one of the things I love about the INTEL NUC KIT NUC6CAYS is the availability of a mic that allows you to efficiently make use of the Cortana’s feature on the Windows 10.
• A large array of USB connectivity Options.
• Upgradable Storage and memory.
• Also available are 4K, HDMI, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi built-in
• Comes packed with only 2GB of RAM and 32gb of flash storage, (although it is upgradable).
The INTEL NUC KIT NUC6CAYS is obviously not a powerhouse as it is not built for tasking 3D programs or even gaming, but it gets the job done, despite its size it has got the features of a much bigger machine and it is based on the speed that allows it to be set as a secondary media streamer if you so desire.
The name Shuttle is one that is most common amongst the bare-bones circles, however, the SHUTTLE XPC NANO isn’t one of them as it comes fully built with an Intel Celeron 3205U processor and an Intel HD graphics, 2GB of RAM, a 32GB M.2 SSD storage and a pre-installed 64bit Windows. One of the pecks of the SHUTTLE XPC NANO is that it can be connected to a TV set for online media streaming. Measuring just 1.14 by 5.6 inches (HWD). Its connectivity features a slot for an SD card, two USB 3.0 ports located at the front and a USB 2.0 as well as an HDMI port; also an Ethernet jack, headset jack, a mini-Display Port; 802.11 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth available. However, you will provide your keyboard, mouse and display devices.
• Expandable RAM and storage Memory
• Features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth.
• Large range of input and output
• Comes with 2GB of memory and 32 GB in SSD storage, (expandable).
• Does not come packed with a mouse and a keyboard.
The bottom line is that if you are looking for a Small-form-factor PC to connect to your HDTV for streaming purposes and cloud access then the SHUTTLE XPC NANO is the perfect choice for you.
With dark charcoal-gray exterior, the HP ELITE SLICE is rounded along the sides measuring 1.4 by 6.5 by 6.5 inches (HWD). This small-form-factor desktop has got a Conference sound bar with an audio conference control panel and it is fitted with a dual array of microphones with Bang and Olufsen speakers making it perfect for meeting rooms. It is also great for playing music and videos. The HP ELITE SLICE has got an Intel Core i5-6500processor with 4GB of RAM which is expandable up to 32GB, a 500GB HDD that can be replaced with either a SATA or an SSD. However, there are some preconfigured versions aside from the Meeting Room Variation which comes with a Core-i3-6100T processor, 4GB of ram that can be expanded up to and a 256 GB SSD, but they all come without the Audio Module.
The HP ELITE SLICE comes with the Intel unite which allows it to share resources such as Projectors, Video Cameras, and also displays in conference rooms. a unique feature of the Unite present in the HP ELITE SLICE has the capability to access connections from other laptops wirelessly on all the systems hook up to the Unite client app. A code is displayed on the shared monitor which then allows all users to run presentations, interact via Skype and even share the screen of various laptops all possible when all participants are on the same local network or VPN.
• Eye-catching compact body.
• Produces excellent sound.
• Above average connectivity
• Only a few modules are available.
• It uses an HDD in place of an SSD
• Only 4GB of RAM
The HP ELITE SLICE combined with the Unite is a formidable Mini-PC as standalone desktop or a shared conference resource. With great maneuverability switching between a conference room resource and desktop PC in mere seconds is a great feat not many small-form-factor PCs can achieve.
Have you been looking to turn your futuristic dreams into a reality, your patience has been rewarded with the INTEL COMPUTE STICK which is a pocket seized PC, with this stick, you can convert your HDTV into a big screened desktop in a matter of seconds. Built with an Intel Atom x5-Z8300 processor, pre-installed with the Windows 10. Measuring a 0.47 by 1.5 by 4.5 inches (HWD). With a removable cap to protect the HDMI plug at the top when it is not in use, the casing makes a striking resemblance with a pack of chewing gum. It has got a USB 3.0 and a 2.0 port for a mouse and a keyboard to be connected, or if you so desire you can use the two in one wireless keyboard and mouse thereby plugging only one USB dongle leaving another space for external drivers. The INTEL COMPUTE STICK has got a Bluetooth 4.0 and an 802.11ac Wi-Fi. It has got a 32GB eMMC flash storage, pre-installed is a Windows 10 OS, there is room to add an additional storage via the MicroSD slot which can accommodate up to 128GB, the inbuilt storage can be supplemented with cloud storage.
The setup for the INTEL COMPUTE STICK is pretty simple, all you have to do is plug the Compute Stick into any available HDMI port on your monitor or HDTV, next you connect the AC adapter to the Micro-USB port device then you can switch it on using the systems power button.
• It is extremely lightweight
• Windows 10 plugged into an HDMI port, Monitor or HDTV.
• USB 3.0, 2.0 ports available.
• 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity available
• Good 3D performance.
• the Compute Stick requires a USB mouse to initially set up the Bluetooth device.
• An HDMI extension cable will be required in tight areas.
• Only 19GB of storage is available for use.
The INTEL COMPUTE STICK is an easy to setup device, but it leaves you in need of more improvements.
The most powerful NUC available in the mini PC world. The INTEL NUC KIT NUC8i7HVK is popularly known as the “Hades Canyon” built with Intel Core i7-8809G Quad-Core Processor, the INTEL NUC KIT NUC8i7HVK was born from the combined efforts of AMD and Intel that fuses the Core CPU with the AMD graphics silicon (Radeon RX Vega M GH). It has got the ability to power VR(virtual reality) with its 4GB of HBM2 memory. Once there is the mention of “kit” in the name of a Micro-PC indicates that it is a bare-bones PC. It comes without an operating System, memory and even storage pre-installed. However there are some who sell preconfigured, or you can just buy the kit and find cheaper parts to build your dream mini PC. It measures 1.5 by 8.7 by 5.6 (HWD), weighing just 2.4 pounds capable of fitting into a small bag designed to be end-user configured. Available on the board are two M.2 Type 2280 slots for SSD storage and also two 260 – pin DIMM slots for the laptop-style DDR4 memory. Based on its design the INTEL NUC KIT NUC8i7HVK has a variety of Ordinary USB ports and an HDMI outlet. Also available is the full-sized SD card reader slot.
• It runs silently.
• Outstanding GPU and CPU performance
• Virtual reality Capable because of the AMD Vega Graphics onboard.
• A wide range of connectivity options available
• Large external power adapter
The bottom line is that the INTEL NUC KIT NUC8i7HVK is a powerful system this fact is echoed by its Corei7 processor combines with an AMD Vega Graphics, giving you amazing power and a great connectivity at the same time.
The ECS where originally know as motherboard makers, they decided to dive into the stream of PC manufacturers. Coming in bear-bones or pre-installed, depending on whichever model you opt for however neither of these options come with a pre-installed Operating System. ECS LIVA Z PLUS officially supports only the Windows 10 and comes Equipped with a Core i5 -7300U processor that clocks up to 2.6GHz and can be boosted up to 3.5GHz, an M.2 slot and a 128 SSD; a 4GB RAM. The ECS LIVA Z PLUS runs quietly and because of its fan-less design. Measuring 4.6x5x1.3 inches, it features three USB 3.0 ports and a USB Type-C port, a headjack. It however, does not have a VGA or DVI port and also it does not come packed in with a mini-to-full-size adapter. Containing two SO DIMM Slots, 4GB of DDR4 and can be upgraded to 8GB. Unlike a lot of Mini-PCs out there the ECS LIVA Z PLUS uses a true-blue 128 GB SATA SSD, whose speed can outmatch a regular eMMC storage. The ECS LIVA Z PLUS has got quite a handful of USB ports which you will discover are located at the front and not at the back of the ECS LIVA Z PLUS, this you will leave you with a stray of wires to deal with. However, it has got 802.11ac and 4.0 Bluetooth wireless technologies. It has got an in-built digital mic, that could be used for picking calls during your video and audio calls.
• Small sized.
• Supports VESA for mounting.
• Uses only M.2 SSDs that are short.
• No USB ports located at the back
• of the Mini display output
In all, this is a powerful Core i5 Mini PC that a mic built into it, and supports vPro and does respectably well when it comes to multitasking single office rooms or as a conference resource as it can also integrate with the Unite.
If not properly looked at, one can mistake the GIGABYET BRIX GAMING UHD for a coffee grinder, this deliberate design is all in a bid to make this PCs design different from the norm as it was built to save space. Designed to inhale hair from the bottom and exhaust that hot hair from the top this PC, stands at 4.3 inches square and could be placed beside your monitor or in the midst of your entertainment center. Located at the back you will find an array of ports such as the twin screw-on connectors for the Wi-Fi antenna, USB Type-C 3.1 ports; a two by two grid of USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet jack, mic, and headphone jack, also the power button while the video output ports are located by the side. The GIGABYET BRIX GAMING UHD is powered by an Intel Core i7-6700HG mobile CPU, and a GeForce FTX 950 graphics chip which is good for enhanced gameplay or 4k resolution as it supports several 4k displays through its four video outputs. Also available inside the case are slots for four drives, the M.2 SSD that is mounted on the motherboard and two Serial ATA(SATA 2.5 – inch drives), using SO-DIMMs DDR4 allowing you to install two modules of 16GB each reaching a total of 32 GB of RAM all to meets your gaming expectations.
• Simplistic and elegant design.
• In-depth look reveals that all spaces inside the chassis were judiciously used.
• High-end components for a PC of this size.
• Its gaming graphics cannot be upgradeable
• Installing components requires skilled hands
Despite the wonderful design and large storage capability, a lot of people would like to see the GIGABYET BRIX GAMING UHD with a Nvidia Pascal Chip rather than the GTX950.
Virtual reality is gradually been integrated into homes so the manufacturers of the ZOTAC ZBOX MAGNUS EN980 have decided to imitate the look of a home within a home look. It is a silver colored box measuring 5.04 by 8.86 by 7.99 inches (HWD) at the front of the box color black, you will find a big round power button, an SD card slot, one USB 3.1 Type-A, and USB 3.1 Type-C ports, also located there is a headphone and microphone jack. On the back panel, you will find just beneath the vents all the ports required for a VR headset which include four USB 3.), two fill-sized Display Ports and two full-sized HDMI port along with two Ethernet ports, two jacks for connecting wireless antennas. The ZOTAC ZBOX MAGNUS EN980 comes with an Intel Core i5-6400 and a Skylake CPU whose maxing capacity is four (4) processing threads, Nvidia GeForce GTX980. It comes with an 8GB of RAM and also two empty SSD storage drives of 120GB and a 1TB HDD, pre-installed is a windows 10 OS.
• A large array of ports for VR types of equipment and displays.
• Easy to upgrade components.
• System performance is not top notch.
• Uses the previous generation of graphics card technology.
• Uses two power plugs
The ZOTAC ZBOX MAGNUS EN980 is designed with the home VR in mind and this feat it has achieved nothing more.