The 9 Best Mini PCs to Buy in 2018

The best compact options for business, gaming, streaming, and more

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: HP Pavilion Wave

At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the HP Pavilion Wave for a stylish Bluetooth speaker or digital assistant. It’s actually both of these things, but it’s also a mini PC packed with plenty of features. And that unique design serves a purpose — the top of the Pavilion Wave is a parabolic speaker that directs high-quality audio (from B&O Play) 360 degrees around the room.

The Pavilion is powered by a 7th-generation quad-core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and both a hard drive and solid-state drive that are 1TB and 256GB respectively. It delivers exceptional performance for the size, with plenty of power to spare for demanding tasks like video or image editing. This PC can easily handle 4K video playback, and multi-monitor support ensures that you can watch video on one monitor and multitask on another. Built-in Amazon Alexa adds voice control so you can check a calendar, create shopping lists, or ask questions without pulling up a browser.   

The compact design weighs a nominal six pounds and measures only 9.25 inches in height. 

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Apple Mac mini

Apple Mac mini

 Courtesy of Apple

While Apple’s laptops and all-in-one desktops get all the glory, the Mac mini is a sophisticated and compact desktop-class computer. As with most Apple products, the mini’s design is the first thing you notice — available in Apple’s muted Space Gray color, the hardware measures a mere 7.7 x 7.7 x 1.4 inches and weighs under three pounds. At that size, it seems like the mini might have performance limitations. But that’s not the case.

Apple’s move to a solid-state drive ensures the mini will run faster, cooler and quieter. Buyers can choose between two 8th-generation Intel processors (i3 or i5) as well as up to 64GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage. Note that the RAM is user-upgradeable after purchase, but the SSD is not. An Intel UHD Graphics 630 chip won’t satisfy most gamers, but it’ll work fine for basic gameplay and 4K video playback. Capable of powering up to three displays at once, the mini comes equipped with four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports alongside HDMI and dual USB 3 ports. 

Best Budget: Lenovo IdeaCentre 310S

Lenovo IdeaCentre 310S

 Courtesy of Best Buy

With a striking design and affordable price tag, the Lenovo IdeaCentre 310S is a compact PC the whole family can enjoy. Packed with 500GB of hard drive storage, there’s more than enough space for pictures, videos, and applications. The IdeaCentre 310S also includes 4GB of RAM, an AMD A9-series processor, and AMD’s Radeon graphics card that can handle 1080p video playback with aplomb but probably won’t be able to handle 4K streaming.

If the lack of 4K streaming isn’t a dealbreaker, then the Lenovo has plenty of other convenient features. For one, it’s tiny — nearly 50% smaller than the average desktop-class PC. Measuring less than 3.5 inches wide, the hardware is easy to fit on or under a desk. However, the small size didn’t prohibit Lenovo from cramming in a bevy of ports. The front of the computer is adorned with four USB 2.0 ports as well as a built-in media reader for a variety of memory cards. Lenovo has even included a DVD/CD burner, which is often only found on full-size desktop hardware. The addition of 802.11ac Wi-Fi standards ensures the Lenovo can browse and download at fast speeds. 

Best Alternative to Windows: Acer CXI3 Chromebox

If you’re looking for solid performance but don’t necessarily need Windows, the Acer CXI3 Chromebook is a terrific mini PC. It comes equipped with an Intel i7 processor (8th generation), 16GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Even browsing the web with 20 tabs open and streaming 4K video won’t slow you down. Chrome OS isn’t a gaming system, but it can handle some browser-based games.

The hardware itself falls firmly in the mini PC category. Measuring 5.9 x 5.9 x 1.6 inches in size and weighing only 1.2 pounds, it’s lighter than the vast majority of laptops, let along desktop units. The black plastic shell is low-profile and designed to hide the hardware components inside. The front of the computer is well-equipped with two USB 3.0 ports, a microSD card slot, power button, and a headphone jack. The rear of the hardware adds in more connectivity with four additional USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, USB Type-C and Ethernet. 

Best for Gaming: Lenovo Legion C530 Cube

Lenovo Legion C530 Cube
Lenovo 

Small but capable, the Lenovo C530 is a serious piece of hardware in a portable package. It has the latest 8th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, 32GB of RAM and up to 256GB SSD, making this computer a true powerhouse. Fully capable of handling the latest in VR-gaming, you have your choice of NVIDIA’s GTX 1060, 1050 Ti, or 1050 graphics card. It will also last you into future, which takes some the sting out of the premium price tag: the C530 is built with one-touch, tool-free access to all the inner workings you might want to upgrade later on.

The exterior of the computer is just as smart as the inside, with an integrated carrying handle that makes it surprisingly portable. A slew of HDMI and USB ports on the back can quickly become a cable nightmare, but Lenovo has avoided this problem by adding a cable organizer in the back (a rare find on mini PCs).  

Runner-Up, Best for Gaming: ASUS GR8 II-T0695

Get a mini PC with gigantic strength and performance in the ASUS GR8 II-T0695. No bigger than a gaming console, this incredible machine is capable of any computing feat, from graphic design applications to running VR games. Its unique tower design contains AURA Sync RGB lighting and an endless spectrum of colors to synchronize effects and transform your room into a futuristic oasis. The ultra-quiet thermal cooling chambers allow the PC to run demanding programs with minimal heat or sound. Play any game with ASUS GeForce GTX 1060 graphics that are NVIDIA VR Ready. A Supreme FX HD Audio with Sonic Studio III make this the ideal center of a home entertainment system, whether you want to game or watch movies.

Best Value: ASUS VivoMini PC

The ASUS VivoMini has long been a staple of the mini PC market and for very good reason. For home computing, the ASUS strikes an appealing balance between performance and price. Powered by a 7th-generation Intel i5 processor, the computer can also add up to 16GB of separately-purchased RAM and any 2.5 inch full-size SSD. Installing extra components isn’t for everyone, but the result is worth the time involved. That’s even truer when you consider the ASUS’ integrated 4K UHD graphics, built-in 802.11ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0. Two front-mounted USB ports include fast charging for quickly powering up portable devices, and the four-in-one card reader provides yet another option for media downloads.

The 5.1 x 5.1 x 2-inch footprint is incredibly compact, and the VESA support for wall mounting makes it the perfect media machine. ASUS even saw fit to include their media streaming applications and Remote Go! apps for boosting its entertainment capabilities. It’s easy to connect the VivoMini to your HDTV using HDMI input or DisplayPort++ connectivity. 

Best for Business: HP ProDesk 400

If you’re on the hunt for a capable mini PC for business, the HP ProDesk 400 is an excellent option. Packed with an Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, the HP won’t buckle under pressure. If you require even more power, the ProDesk adds two bays and two half-height slots for expandable storage or extra RAM. At 6.69 x 13.3 x 10.79 inches in size, the computer easily fits underneath or on the side of a desk. A total of eight USB ports between the front and back means there’s plenty of inputs for multiple monitors.

As an investment for a small business, the HP is designed to hold up for more than 120,000 hours of use. “Sure Click “ technology protects against malware and viruses keeping both data and client information secure, and HP’s client manager is also included to defend against any data theft. Finally, HP Biosphere ensures that you’re always up to date with automatic updates and security checks. 

Best Kit: Intel NUC8 Mini PC Kit

If you aren’t put off by the glowing skull, Intel’s NUC8 mini PC kit is a fantastic do-it-yourself option. The smallest NUC (Next Unit of Computing) Intel has ever created, it’s also the most powerful. Inside the compact hardware rests an 8th-generation Intel i7 processor with Radeon RX Vega M graphics with 4GB of dedicated memory. This kit is powerful enough for even hardcore PC gamers, so it’s more than capable of handling everyday processes like multitasking, streaming 4K video, or video editing. There’s even support for up to six 4K or 5K monitors with a variety of HDMI, Thunderbolt, USB and DisplayPort inputs.

As a do-it-yourself kit, getting the most out of this machine requires a little extra legwork. There’s support for up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM, but it must be purchased separately. The same goes for solid-state storage, which is easily installed after removing a few screws. If you aren’t afraid of a little assembly, the NUC8 has a winning combination of power and price that makes it a great option for do-it-yourself types.