While laptop, desktop, and now tablet computers have dominated the marketplace as the preferred form factors for computing today, computer manufacturers have continued to invest in and develop the mini PC, leading us to believe that there is still a market for these tiny computing solutions.
Mini PCs might not be the most powerful computers out there, but they don’t have to be. These inexpensive computers are good enough to handle most basic computing tasks with ease, so they’re perfect for students, parents, and anyone looking for a simple computing solution.
Below is a list of some of the best Windows 8.1-powered mini PCs that you can buy today.
Dell has re-entered the Mini PC market with the recently announced Dell Inspiron Micro. This new mini PC follows in the steps of the long gone Inspiron Zino and Studio Hybrid that aimed to provide a capable computing experience in as minimal a footprint as possible.
The Dell Inspiron Micro comes with up to a quad-core Intel “Bay Trail” Pentium processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, 32GB of storage, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, and has a single DisplayPort, HDMI, Ethernet, three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, and one media card reader.
The highest-end model is priced at $229.99, but you can get the Dell Inspiron Micro for a mere $179.99 with lower specs. For $379.99, Dell bundles the device with a 23” display, and a wireless keyboard and mouse combo.
HP has impressed recently with its attention to design, and it’s good to see that quality come down to its mini PCs as well. The HP Pavilion Mini is certainly one of the best-looking mini PCs out there, and its bowl-shaped enclosure also packs some decent hardware underneath.
The top-end model comes with a dual-core Intel “Haswell” Core i3-4025U processor with Intel HD Graphics 4400, 4GB of DDR3 RAM that is user-upgradable to 16GB, a 1TB HDD, Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, four USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, a 3-in-1 memory card reader, and comes with a wireless mouse and keyboard combo.
This model is available for $449.99 but a lower-spec’d $319.99 version is also available. If you need something even cheaper for basic computing tasks you could opt for the identically designed HP Steam Mini that starts at only $179.99.
Asus is another OEM that’s very design-conscious. The company tends to use its signature spun-metal finish on its high-end offerings, and it’s also used on the Asus VivoPC. This mini PC packs a lot more punch performance wise, and is thus priced at a premium. But it still offers that performance in a small package.
The Asus VivoPC (VM62N) is packed with a dual-core Intel “Haswell” Core i5-4210U processor, an NVIDIA GeForce 820M with 1GB of graphics memory capable of 4K video streaming, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, also user upgradable to 16GB, a 1TB HDD or 256GB SSD, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0, one HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, separate microphone and speaker ports, S/PDIF, and a memory card reader.
You can get the VivoPC with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD for around $640 on Amazon, but other VivoPC models are available for less.
Acer turned heads with the Revo One, a mini PC that is both well designed, and has decent specs. You may say that it looks somewhat like the Apple Mac Pro, but it gives off less of a trash-can vibe, so it has that going for it too.
Acer provides the Revo One in several model across four price points. The highest-end model comes with a dual-core Intel “Broadwell” Core i5-5200U processor, Intel HD Graphics 5500, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a 1TB hybrid drive, and it comes with two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, a media card reader and an audio out port.
Prices for the Revo One range from $249.99 up to $579.99 for the model mentioned above. However, prices differ between online retailers so you might want to search around before you make a purchase if you’re interested in this device.
Admittedly, this last mini PC is not exactly intended for “basic computing”, but it’s still a mini PC, and is one that can also be relatively inexpensive. Unlike the mini PCs mentioned above, we’ll start by looking at what the lowest-end model has to offer.
For $499, the Alienware Alpha comes with a dual-core Intel “Haswell” Core i3-4130T processor, an NVIDIA GTX 860M with 2GB of graphics memory, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB HDD, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and one Ethernet, HDMI out, HDMI in, and optical audio ports. It also comes with an Xbox 360 controller, but no keyboard and mouse.
The Alienware Alpha is designed to be a console alternative, bringing PC games to your TV, but it works just as well as a mini PC for both work and play. Alienware being a gaming brand allows you to customize the Alpha with a quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 2TB HDD, and faster Wi-Fi ac, but that would spike the price up to $849.99.
Notable Mentions: GIGABYTE Brix & Zotac ZBOX
PC component-maker GIGABYTE offers a decent line of mini PCs worth mentioning. However, in an effort to keep the price down, GIGABYTE sells its Brix series as barebone devices, meaning that they are missing certain components that users will need to add on their own before the device is fully operational, like RAM and the HDD/SSD. Thankfully, they do come with a CPU and some even have dedicated NVIDIA GTX graphics preinstalled. There are too many different models to mention here so head over to GIGABYTE’s website to check them all out.
Another notable mention is the Zotac ZBOX. Even though the company is mostly known for its graphics cards, Zotac is not new to the mini PC market. It offers a wide range of ZBOX mini PCs featuring hardware from Intel, NVIDIA, and AMD. Zotac also offers a large range of models so head over here to check them all out. A personal favorite is the ZBOX O-series Sphere.
Do you own a mini PC or know someone that does? And do you think mini PCs still have a place in today’s world? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
NOTE: Many of the mini PCs mentioned above do not include a display, keyboard or mouse. So while the devices themselves may be inexpensive, you need to consider the additional costs required to take full advantage of them. Although, good PC displays, keyboards and mice don’t cost much these days.Further reading: desktop, Microsoft, mini PC, Windows 8.1