Which mini computer is better to buy
Prices for nettops vary as much as for full-size PCs. It all depends on the filling in the case. Every manufacturer that produces minis has affordable and expensive versions.
With a budget of 6,000 to 30,000 rubles , you can take a mini-PC for further self-assembly. As a rule, these are boxes of cases with the most basic stuffing, or even just boards without a case with several connectors. These include, for example: Raspberry, for which you need to purchase a heatsink and case separately, Odroid, Nano Pi Neo and others.
From 27,000 to 55,000 ₽ mini-PCs start with more serious hardware, and already in the case. In this price range, you can find ASUS, Qotom, Azerty, Shuttle and Intel NUC nettops on the shelves.
From 55,000 ₽ and above , expensive PCs like Lenovo ThinkCentre, MSI Pro, HP, advanced ASUS and NUC series are offered. The most stuffed of them cost at least 100 thousand rubles .
And Apple offers its mini Macs at prices ranging from $160,000 to $200,000 and up . But there is really TOP stuffing, not inferior to full-sized PCs and workstations.
The best mini computers
Compact yet powerful nettops for study, office work and more complex tasks.
Starting with the appearance, one can note the minimalism and simplicity of the nettop. From the NUC side, it can be mistaken for a splitter. The size is relatively small – 117x112x51 mm. The bottom cover is removed and gives access to the filling. But it’s better not to remove the top once again – under it is the CPU cooler. On the side is a slot for a memory card.
The firmware runs on the UEFI BIOS, which gives you access to full control and settings of your computer. Here you can adjust the operation of the cooling system, configure resource consumption for integrated graphics, and other parameters.
In gaming, the NUC performs well, but drawdowns are noticeable if the game is too demanding on the GPU – you can’t play everything with beautiful shadows and maximum settings, but you can squeeze out 30-50 FPS.
As in any compact device, the processor heats up noticeably. But no noise is observed, since the CPU has limitations, and the installed cooler is enough to cool it. The processor itself is capable of overclocking up to 4.7 GHz in boost mode. 12 MB cache in the third level will provide good performance.
The nettop is equipped with Bluetooth 5.1 and Wi-Fi modules, has a 3.5 mm microphone/headphone jack. The computer comes with a desk or wall mount.
We liked that the mini PC is small enough and portable for its power. The high clock speed of the CPU is another significant plus of this model.
Disadvantages: Price – for the same money you can get a good laptop or a full-size PC.
Very fast, thanks to a productive 8-core processor, it is more interesting to consider a nettop in an Apple configuration. Although versions with Intel processors offer more external ports and 10-gigabit Ethernet (instead of 1 Gb / s for a pure “apple”).
But here it is the proprietary M1 processor that gives much more bonuses. Actually, this is not just a chip, but a whole system with its own graphics, RAM and machine learning technology. The GPU here is powerful enough to pull the connection of a pair of 4K monitors or heavy photo and video editors.
Mac mini with an Apple processor cannot be connected to an external graphics card to improve graphics performance (although we have no idea why it would need to). But if such an opportunity is fundamental to you, we recommend taking an Intel-based configuration with eGPU support.
Yes, nettop on macOS is clearly sharpened to work with images and dynamic graphics. A good compact equivalent for a full-sized Mac if you are a creative or work with visual content. The increased volume of internal drives also hints at this. And the computer does a great job with toys.
We liked this beautiful, fast and very quiet mini. Despite the high performance – especially in terms of working with graphics – it has a moderate power consumption. Also, iPhone owners will be able to install on their PC those applications that they use on the phone.
Cons: The Apple-stuffed version has noticeably fewer ports. In addition, they are all located on the reverse side, which is not always convenient for quickly connecting peripherals or at least a flash drive.
MSI has established itself as a manufacturer of powerful gaming laptops at reasonable prices. They do not forget about style. The company’s nettop turned out to be appropriate.
The case is decorated with recesses in the form of stripes and shiny inserts. There are 4 soft legs at the bottom, but the manufacturer puts a stand in the kit, thanks to which the mini-PC looks more like a smaller version of a full-fledged station.
Like all nettops, MSI Pro can be fixed on any surface using the mount supplied.
The processor installed inside is perfect for most games and applications with medium requirements thanks to a clock speed of 2.6 GHz (in Turbo Boost mode – 4.4 GHz) and an integrated GPU with good performance. For cooling, a cooler is built into the case.
We liked the modern, relatively fresh processor with a good performance margin, which was released about a year ago. The design is also pleasing. The mini PC is equipped with the latest version of Bluetooth 5.2 and a 3.5 mm Mini-Jack audio jack.
In terms of appearance, Chuwi is immediately defined as a cheaper nettop than the same NUC. Its body is made of black plastic with orange accents. The plastic is high enough quality, but it’s still not metal. Despite the controversial body material, HeroBox does not get particularly hot.
At the bottom you can find a hole for mounting on a vertical surface – for this, a bracket is included in the kit. Immediately under the bottom cover, a mount for a 2.5-inch SSD or hard drive is available. You should not climb inside once again, as you can easily damage the motherboard.
There is nothing more interesting inside, except for the main working components. There is no cooler, but with a low CPU frequency, it is not needed.
The computer is not the most powerful, but an ordinary user who needs to work with documents or in the online space is ideal. There is no need to talk about games with high requirements. Celerons are ultra-budget, stripped-down processors that don’t offer high performance.
We liked Chuwi’s very low cost mini PC and the cute design. Nettop performance is sufficient for everyday tasks. It’s nice to have Windows 10 preinstalled out of the box, albeit only for a trial period.
Disadvantages: Almost the entire cost of the nettop is the processor – not even the average level. At the same time, the maximum load can raise its temperature to 99 degrees. But this is really the cheapest offer.
How to choose a mini computer
A mini PC is not a completely independent system. This is a unit that needs a connected screen, constant power and audio to work (because there are usually no built-in speakers here or they are extremely mediocre).
To increase the amount of memory, or even put disks and brackets into empty slots, you will have to do it yourself to get started. Well, in almost no nettop you will see a discrete graphics card.
Processor and performance
Almost all processors in the mini format are based on Intel CPUs, divided into several series. Of these, the most common:
Celeron and Atom are among the weakest and budget microprocessors for 1-2 cores with the simplest integrated graphics chips. The clock frequency of the cores can be in the range from 650 to 850 MHz (in Turbo mode, Celeron will accelerate to 1000 MHz). This is only enough for normal office work with electronic documents, online and study.
Core for nettops is the best option, providing performance from average and above.
Although new generations of processors enter the market every year, Buy mini pc online mini PCs typically use 7-8 generation chips running on the 14nm process technology.
Ready to pay for a nettop, as for a “full-fledged” computer – you can count on powerful 10th or even 11th generation processors . These are the most recent common chips that will be relevant for a long time to come.
All mini PCs powered by Intel have integrated Intel HD Graphics or Intel Iris. Regardless of the generation, none of them will be suitable for demanding games.
Built-in Intel HD Graphics perform the function of an office video card – “to be”. The most powerful GPUs of these lines can be found in Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 – with them you can run most games at low settings.
For gaming and working with graphic editors, in any case, you will need a discrete graphics card. For it, the motherboard must have a special AGP or PCI-E expansion slot.
Speaking of ports, we first of all remember ordinary USB. Flash drives, keyboard, mouse and almost any peripherals are connected through them.
A modern computer should already have USB 3.0 ports , since the transfer speed here is 10 times faster than USB 2.0 – 4.8 Gb / s versus 480 Mb / s. Additionally, USB Type-C, or 3.1 may be present.
Peripheral devices (hard drives, cameras and other audio and video media) are also connected via the Thunderbolt connector . Its advantage over USB is an even higher data transfer rate. However, it all depends on the port version:
Thunderbolt 2 passes up to 20 Gbps
Thunderbolt 3 and 4 – up to 40 Gbps
The next standard connector is a 3.5 mm miniJack for an audio headset or speakers. In a mini PC, the audio jack is usually hybrid – with support for connecting a microphone.
One of the must-haves for a desktop (even in mini format) is the HDMI connector , through which audio and video content is transmitted. Connect additional monitors or an on-screen graphics tablet to it.
Analog HDMI is Displayport , which is better in terms of its bandwidth, providing from 21.6 to 64.82 Gb / s. For comparison: HDMI has from 4.9 to 48 Gb / s, so the maximum quality of the transmitted image will be lower than that of DP.
LAN is designed to connect a local network by wire through a router (router). Many minis, like regular PCs, cannot receive a Wi-Fi signal, so they need such a connector. But you can also get around the problem if you connect an ordinary adapter for wireless communication.
When buying a nettop, you should pay attention to the amount of RAM available or the maximum allowable if the computer comes without RAM bars.
2 GB is very small for everyday use. Such a volume is used in mobile or very weak devices for solving some similar tasks (working with office programs, flashing electronics, etc.)
4 GB is enough for surfing the Internet, chatting in instant messengers and more or less comfortable work.
8 GB is optimal for almost any task.
More RAM may be required only for games or heavy visual projects, so the standard is 8 GB.