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Best mini PC of 2022

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Minisforum
(Image credit: Minisforum)

When most users seek an alternative to a large PC (opens in new tab) case they are quick to make the jump to laptops (opens in new tab) and all-in-one PCs (opens in new tab). But down the road they may find themselves disappointed by the screen attached to the machine, as it limits your options. If you want to avoid a full size PC, feel constrained by a laptop or all-in-one and at the same time want to keep your freedom of choice when it comes to monitors (opens in new tab), what do you do? You can choose a Mini PC or Mac Mini, that’s where they shine. 

Mini PCs (also referred to as thin clients) can be integrated with your choice of monitors (usually one at the low end, but up to four in some devices) and peripherals such as a webcam (opens in new tab), At the same, Mini PCs can stay hidden out of sight, either under the desk (opens in new tab) or behind a monitor. Despite their small size, mini PCs are as functional and compatible with software as traditional PCs.

Lack of standards can be a good thing

If there is one constant rule in electronics is that everything is shrinking, all the time and PCs are no exception. Tasks that some years ago required a bulky tower can be achieved today with a Mini-ITX standard PC case that is one third to a quarter in size of the beige boxes of the past. Yet even Mini-ITX is getting old by today’s standards and you can get ready-made Mini PCs that fit in your pocket or the palm of your hand. 

There is a lot of variety when it comes to Mini PCs: various sizes are available and they are designed for various use cases. Some Mini PCs are designed to lay flat under a desk while others have a unique vertical design that allows them to be placed on top of your desk next to your monitor and within arm's reach. You can also completely conceal them behind your monitor if they come with VESA mounting holes.

Today's range of Mini PCs are a great alternative to bulky full-size desktops and all-in-one systems for all kinds of uses: from administrative workers doing  data entry, to customer service specialists and call center offices, to creative professionals and students learning at home.

We have done the research so you won’t have to and here, we present you with a selection of the best Mini PCs in every size and form factor and for every usage scenario. You will find entries from big PC name brands like Dell, Intel, Lenovo, along with Zotac, one of the pioneers in this category. Finally you will find rising stars like MinisForum and Beelink, and less known, niche brands in this contested market segment.


Best mini PCs

Beelink U59 Mini PC

At the low asking price, the U59 is a complete no-brainer for anyone wanting to create a Firewall or embedded presentation system. And, with 16GB of RAM, it’s also useable for basic PC tasks. (Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
Beelink's mini PC is how a mini system should be built

Reasons to buy

+
Super small size
+
VESA mount included
+
Upgradable storage and RAM
+
Very affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
M.2 slot is only SATA
-
USB ports are all 5Gbps

The Beelink U59 is a NUC-sized PC built around the Intel Celeron Processor N5105 (4C/4T, 4M Cache, 2.0GHz up to 2.9GHz). It can come with 8GB or 16GB of RAM and up to a 512GB SATA SSD installed.

Even with that modest silicon, the U59 performs well at basic tasks and has potential as a small office machine or for embedded applications.

For 8GB customers, the RAM can be upgraded to 16GB, along with the M.2 SATA storage. There is also a bay inside for a 2.5-inch drive for even more storage options.

What seals this deal is the relatively low asking price of both the 8GB and 16GB models and the bloatware-free Windows 11 installation.

Including dual HDMI outputs and dual gigabit LAN ports neatly positions the U59 for embedded use, ideal for providing product presentations or as a self-contained firewall.

The Beelink U59 is easily one of the better NUC-sized machines we’ve seen, and it’s cheap enough for even the tightest budgets.

Read the full review: Beelink U59 Mini PC Review

Mac Mini, M1 (2020)

The Mac Mini M1 was launched in October 2020 but is still the best Mac Mini that you can get. (Image credit: Apple)
Best for Mac users: the first iteration of Apple´s Mac Mini with M1 silicon continues to be the system of choice for Mac users

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 (8 Cores)
RAM: 16 GB Unified Memory (non-upgradeable) 8GB version also available
Storage: 512 GB SSD (mSATA)
Ports and connectivity: Thunderbolt USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB-C (x2), USB 3.1 Type-A Gen1 (x2), HDMI, Headphone Jack, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 6
Weight: 1.2Kg / 2.6lb

Reasons to buy

+
Fast M1 CPU
+
Can run the latest Mac OS

Reasons to avoid

-
RAM cannot be upgraded
-
Updated version due this year

Overall, the 2020 version of the Mac mini with its M1 CPU is still impressive and offers a portable option to take your computing anywhere without sacrificing your favorite Apple OS and software ecosystem.

It has a compact, attractive design and the ability to run the latest greatest OS while also running legacy Intel apps and iOS apps. In October last year, many fans were hoping Apple would present a new Mac mini powered by the M1 Pro or M1 Max chips at their Unleashed event, yet it failed to materialize twice last year.

One of its drawbacks is that memory doesn't go above 16GB, nor can it be upgraded on the 8GB model to 16. Those coming from Intel-based Mac Minis will despair of finding out they can no longer use external graphic cards (eGPUs (opens in new tab)). Besides, it's a good alternative to get into the Apple world with minimum desk real estate.

Read the full review: Mac Mini M1 (2020) (opens in new tab) 

GEEKOM MiniAir 11 Mini PC

A finely constructed and easily upgradable NUC design. The only issues with this machine over others are the mediocre performance of the CPU/GPU and that the M.2 slot is only two lanes, limiting speed. For the cost, a decent machine. (Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
A classy and affordable NUC

Reasons to buy

+
VESA mount included
+
Upgradable storage and RAM
+
NVMe M.2 SSD
+
10Gbits USB

Reasons to avoid

-
M.2 PCle slot is two lanes, not four
-
N5095 is underwhelming silicon

The Taiwanese-based PC maker GEEKOM has several small form factor PCs available, and the MiniAir 11 is currently the cheapest.

It uses the Intel Celeron Processor N5095 (4C/4T, 4M Cache, 2.0GHz up to 2.9GHz), comes with 8GB, expandable to 16GB, of RAM, and a 256GB NVMe SSD installed.

Without hyperthreading and with one of the lowest Intel UHD Graphics GPU specifications, this machine isn’t suitable for gaming or CAD. Still, it works well enough with a browser and basic Office applications.

Both memory and storage can be user-upgraded, and the unit has plenty of USB ports for the attachment of external storage.

The weaknesses of this design are that the integrated wireless networking is only WiFi 5 capable, and the NVMe M.2 port only has the bandwidth of 2 PCIe lanes.

If you have a modest task that needs Windows 11 Pro (pre-installed), then the asking price of the GEEKOM MiniAir 11 makes it an attractive choice for those working with a limited budget.

Read the full review: GEEKOM MiniAir 11 Mini PC

ECS EliteGroup LIVA Z3

A tiny system that can turn a monitor into a workable PC. But it’s not that cheap, and the performance isn’t anything special. Budget to use the M.2 slot for an enhanced user experience. (Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
Tiny computers get an Intel Jasper Lake upgrade

Reasons to buy

+
Very small
+
Includes a VESA mounting plate
+
Upgradable storage and RAM
+
Silent

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow boot drive
-
Poor graphics performance

Using the latest Intel Jasper Lake 10nm silicon, the Z3 is an incredibly compact NUC system that requires no active cooling.

It comes with a VESA mounting plate to connect it to a monitor, providing a way to make an easy-to-transport system that isn’t a laptop. Considering how tiny the Z3 is, there are plenty of USB ports, sports Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi adapter, and it can connect to two monitors via HDMI and Mini DisplayPort.

However, keeping the system so small and fanless has dictated an SoC that only consumes 6W, has four cores, and lacks hyperthreading. It also uses an eMMC boot drive, further reducing mediocre performance.

This performance profile makes the Z3 only suitable for light office work, as it doesn’t have the power to meet more challenging tasks.

If you still want one, we recommend using the internal PCIe M.2 slot (2 lanes) to boost drive performance. And, maybe also want to upgrade the DDR4 RAM to get the most out of this hardware.

Read the full review: ECS EliteGroup LIVA Z3

MinisForum UM700

(Image credit: MinisForum)

5. MinisForum UM700

Best overall : It can be your everyday workstation, a tiny server, or an entertainment system for light gaming

Specifications

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3750H (Quad-Core)
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: 512 GB PCIe SSD (2.5” Slot available)
Ports and connectivity: 1x USB-C (front), 1x USB 3.1 Gen-1 (front), 1x USB 3.1 Gen-2 (front), 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, 2x USB 3.1 Gen-2, 1x RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
Weight: 1.18kg / 2.6lb

Reasons to buy

+
Fast CPU and quiet fans
+
Mounting plate
+
Internal bay for a 2.5” HDD or SSD
+
Can drive up to three displays at 4K
+
Unbranded Windows installation
+
Version with Manjaro Linux available

Reasons to avoid

-
Need to use three different standards for three displays
-
Not for high-end gaming

This powerful mini PC is square and smaller than a mouse pad, making it perfect for office workers, students, and creative professionals who work from home. It looks good sitting on your desk, but thanks to its mounting plate, you can hide it from view if necessary. Additionally, its small size makes it easy to transport: simply unplug the cables and put the workhorse with its power adaptor into a backpack (opens in new tab) to take it wherever you go.

Thanks to AMD's fast, quad-core Ryzen 7 CPU and its PCI bus SSD, Windows 10 boots in less than 10 seconds. It includes 16GB of RAM, which is more than adequate for 2022 and beyond. If you want to upgrade your memory or storage, its top plate is easily removed by pressing and sliding without a screwdriver. It uses standard SO-DIMMs like laptops and has a 2.5-inch bay for an internal SSD or HDD.

The device has one USB-C port on the front as well as two USB 3.2 Type-A ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a power button. There are also more USB ports on its back, as well as HDMI and DisplayPort for hooking up a monitor. With this tiny machine, you can easily drive three 4K displays, but you will have to use three different cable types for each: USB-C, HDMI, and DisplayPort. 

Early in January, the company announced that a version with Manjaro Linux (opens in new tab) preloaded would cost $70 less than the Windows version. The dual-band Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet port as the basic configuration provide excellent connectivity. 

Minisforum offers versions of this model in various RAM and storage configurations, and some have two Gigabit Ethernet ports, whereas the Linux preloaded version has a 2.5Gbps Ethernet port. Consider that when ordering and check the type and number of Ethernet ports included if wired networking is important to you.

Dell Optiplex 3090 Micro

It looks and is professional. The best Mini PC for the office is, unsurprisingly, from Dell.  (Image credit: Dell)

6. Dell Optiplex 3090 Micro

Best for the small office: A slim package with a speedy six core Intel i5 CPU and Dell’s trademark warranty and support

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i5-10500T (Six cores)
RAM: 8GB DDR4 (several configurations available. Maximum memory: 64GB)
Storage: 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD (Configurations available with 1TB SSD and 2TB HDD)
Ports and connectivity: DisplayPort (x2), USB 3.1 x4 (rear), USB 3.2 (front), Headphone jack, Microphone jack
Weight: 1.28kg / 2.82lb

Reasons to buy

+
Suitable for vertical or flat placement
+
Quiet fans
+
Three year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
No HDMI or USB-C outputs included
-
Internal Wi-Fi is an extra-cost option
-
Only one front side USB port

Dell has been in the business of Mini-PCs for years. Since launching its Optiplex series many years ago, the company has developed it into full-size PCs, SFF (Small Form Factor),  and "Micro" offerings. The Optiplex 3090 Micro came out in late 2021, replacing the 3080 of a year ago, with the main differences being its ability to support 64GB of memory on its two memory slots, and all of its  USB ports are 3.2 Gen 1. 

This unit is designed to sit vertically next to a monitor, leaving the front USB port and power button within easy reach. With microphone and headphones ports, it makes a great video conferencing tool. Windows 10 comes preloaded, but there is an option to have Windows 11 Pro (opens in new tab) installed.

The processor included is a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 10500T with six cores with speeds up to 2.30 GHz, so it's perfect for office applications. The Intel UHD Graphics 630 shared graphics work well for watching HD videos, working within office applications, and editing graphics. DisplayPort video ports on the back allow you to hook up two monitors at up to 4K resolution (60Hz). The cooler makes little noise despite the power of the CPU.

There is a 2.5-inch storage slot for a SATA-based HDD or SSD inside, as well as two M.2-based slots: one holds the bundled PCI SSD, and another holds the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth card.

On the front, there is one USB 3.2 port and on the back are four USB 3.2 ports, all capable of speeds of up to 5Gbps, along with two video outputs and an RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet port. There is a Kensington Lock slot for securing the device to a desk, and if you order directly from Dell, there is an option to add an additional video port, which can either be VGA, DisplayPort 1.4, or HDMI.

The system can be fine-tuned if ordered directly from Dell, with options ranging from a quad-core Intel i3 to an eight-core Intel i7, more RAM, or replacing the SSD (opens in new tab) with a FIPS-certified self-encrypting drive. Dell offers a wired keyboard as part of the base price when ordering directly from the company. An outstanding value for money is made even better by the firm's trademark three-year warranty.

Beelink GTR-7

This tiny monster can drive up to four external monitors and has a fingerprint reader on top for secure log-in. (Image credit: Beelink)
Best for multiple screens and security: : supports up to four screens in 4K resolution, has a fingerprint reader for easy log-in

Specifications

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3750H (Quad Core)
RAM: 16 GB DDR4 (2x 8GB SODIMM)
Storage: 512 GB M.2 SSD (two M.2 slots)
Ports and connectivity: DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0 (x2), USB 3.0 (x6), Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 x2, Fingerprint Reader, Combo Headphone & Mic Jack, Built-in Internal Mics
Weight: 1.37kg / 3.01lb

Reasons to buy

+
Supports four monitors
+
Fingerprint reader
+
Dual Gigabit Ethernet
+
Two M.2 slots
+
Good looking metal enclosure

Reasons to avoid

-
Not an option for gamers

With the Beelink GTR7 Mini PC, Beelink has produced a workstation (opens in new tab)-class desktop in a small, shiny package that makes it a strong PC competitor to the Mac Mini, with some extra perks and functionality that raise eyebrows.

Its fingerprint reader at the top of the case is one of its biggest advantages over almost any other Mini PC, making it a good choice for the security-conscious and well-suited business settings and your home working space. Its two Gigabit Ethernet ports make it an excellent firewall (opens in new tab) for running an Intrusion Detection System (IDS) like Suricata or other edge-of-network functions.

Its connectivity is one of its strongest points, thanks to its six USB 3.0 ports and one USB Type C port that supports video. With the USB-C and the DisplayPort and HDMI ports, you can use four monitors at once if you need an amazingly large work surface. The device supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 (opens in new tab) standard and Gigabit Ethernet, and Bluetooth 5.0.

Inside, you'll find an AMD Ryzen 7 3750H CPU inside, which clocks at up to 4GHz, and 16GB of DDR4 memory (eight gigabytes per memory slot) which can be expanded to 64GB with two 32GB modules. Due to the Radeon Vega 10 included, don't expect the same graphics performance as a discrete GPU, but it can still drive several monitors at full resolution.

With its support for up to four displays, it is great for image editing, video monitoring, digital signage, or just the news junkie that wants to watch live news TV on one display and work on three others. The 2020 Mac Mini, which can only support two displays, cannot match this level of flexibility. 

Even if you ignore the extra perks, such as dual-Gigabit Ethernet and a fingerprint reader, it can also be a very good entertainment system hooked to a living room TV. Furthermore, thanks to its internal 2.5-inch bay for SATA HDD or SSDs, its storage can be expanded, making it a good long-term machine. Definitely worth the purchase.

Zotac Zbox PI336 Pico

The PI336 is caught between a performance rock and a thermally challenged hard place. As impressive as a PC this small is, Zotac appears to have ejected practicality along with the cooling fan, making this SoC even slower than it usually is. (Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
An incredibly small PC with performance and cooling issues

Reasons to buy

+
Tiny
+
VESA mount included

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow eMMC drive
-
Poor SoC performance
-
Gets hot
-
Zero upgrades

We’ve seen lots of recent NUC designs that used the Celeron N5105 and N5095 that offer good performance for those that want a small entry-level PC.

On paper, the Intel Celeron Processor N6211 used in the Pico seems a good alternative until you realize it only has two cores and not the four available in the two previously mentioned chips.

With just two cores and lacking hyperthreading, the Pico is underpowered, and if an update initiates, the user experience is effectively ruined. With the standard Windows 11 Pro installation, it can be many hours before the system is useable out of the box.

Zotac makes some excellent equipment built to a high standard, but the decision to use the N6211 in this design, alongside some painfully slow eMMC storage, is not a winning combination.

There are cheaper, better NUC designs around that provide more scope for upgrades and greater flexibility.

Read the full review: Zotac Zbox PI336 Pico

NUC 11 Extreme Kit

For the ultimate CPU horsepower, this kit lets you add a discrete GPU of your choice and features top connectivity and superb expandability. (Image credit: Intel)
Best for DIY : ultimate expandability in a DIY kit that is a bit pricey

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i9 11900KB (8 Core)
RAM: DDR4-3200 (Two slots)
Storage: None
Ports and connectivity: HDMI 2.0, USB 3.1 Type-A Gen-2 (x8), USB 2.0 Type A (x2), USB-C / Thunderbolt 4 (x2), 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet
Weight: 5.05kg / 11.13lb

Reasons to buy

+
Supports discrete GPU 
+
Great expansion capabilities
+
Thunderbolt 4 ports
+
Latest Wi-Fi 6E and 2.5G Ethernet
+
Three Year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
You could build a PC of similar size
-
Gaming vibes not for everyone

It's more of a Small Form Factor (SFF) than a Mini PC, but we included it on this lineup for two reasons: first, it's still small, about the size of a toaster, just slightly longer. And second, because it is one of the few ways in which a "mini" PC can also have full-blown graphics, it is suitable for creative professionals who edit video, do CAD, or render 3D.

Sold in a DIY kit, you get the gamers-inspired enclosure with RGB lighting and skull at the front, the compute module with Intel i9 CPU, but with no RAM, hard drive, or SSD, and no OS. There is no constraint on what components you pick. 

Regarding the enclosure, we admit its gaming vibes with glowing skull might not be for all, and Intel apparently thinks the same since it's on a removable plate. If you consider raw horsepower and expandability, there is little doubt the NUC 11 Extreme kit is a winner. However, it is an expensive option.

It has a card reader and two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports on the front. Located on the back are six USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports and two Thunderbolt 4 Type-C ports. The icing on the cake is a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port. The device offers the latest Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 wireless capabilities.

Even though we selected a pricey kit, it comes with only an 11th Gen Core i9-11900KB CPU with eight cores and a big power supply that can accommodate a full-size graphics card (opens in new tab). Versions with RAM and SSD are available for varying prices at retail. This depends on how much DIY you want to do. 

Read the full review: Intel NUC 11 Extreme (opens in new tab)

Intel NUC 11 Enthusiast Kit

 The best mini option for gamers that don't want the bulk of the Extreme NUC option with a separate video card. (Image credit: Intel)

10. Intel NUC 11 Enthusiast Kit (NUC11PHKi7C)

Best for gaming: A discrete NVidia GPU coupled with a fast Intel i7 CPU and superb connectivity

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G (Quad Core, up to 4.70Ghz)
RAM: 16 GB DDR4 (2x 8GB DDR4-3200)
Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD
Ports and connectivity: USB Type C (front), USB Type C (back), (Thunderbolt 4 support), USB 3.2 Type A (front) x2, USB 3.2 Type A (back) x4, HDMI 2.0b, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, 2.5Gbps Ethernet, Intel Wi-Fi 6E, Card reader, IR port (front)
Weight: 1.59kg / 3.5lb

Reasons to buy

+
Nvidia discrete GPU
+
Lots of ports
+
Fast 2.5G Ethernet
+
Latest WiFi 6E
+
Thunderbolt 4 support

Reasons to avoid

-
Internal GPU not upgradeable
-
Not a game console replacement

In the NUC 11 Enthusiast kit, you'll find everything you need to satisfy the gamer in you. As well as featuring a discrete Nvidia GPU (opens in new tab), it also includes multiple display support, Thunderbolt 4 support, 2.5 Gbps Ethernet, and the latest Intel Wi-Fi 6E.  

If you wanted to go the extra mile, you could choose the NUC 11 Extreme kit, which allows you to install the graphics card of your choice, but that machine is more of a Small Form Factor than a Mini PC, while the Enthusiast Kit remains within a "Mini PC" style. Vertically on its stand, it is just 1.6 inches thick.

Inside, you will find a quad-core Intel i7-1165G CPU with 16GB of DDR4 RAM. We picked the version with a 256GB SSD, but it is also available with a 512GB SSD. This configuration allows it to run games like Far Cry 5 at 60 frames per second.

It has excellent connectivity, including HDMI and mini-DisplayPort ports for hooking up two monitors, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, an SD card reader, two USB-A ports on the front, four USB 3 ports, plus one Type-C port on the back.

In summary, if you're looking for a small form factor PC that plays mainstream AAA games well, then this may be the PC for you. However, this is not a replacement for a games console or a full-size gaming rig, where you can install the graphics card of your choice to keep up with newer gaming requirements. 

Geekom IT8 Review Listing

The GEEKOM IT8 Mini packs workstation-grade performance into a tiny package with plenty of ports to boot. (Image credit: Future)
Best for those that need workstation performance in a tiny package

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i5-8259U
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Storage: 512GB SSD (Kingston OM8PDP3512B-A01)
Ports and connectivity: 3 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 2 x USB Type-C, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Mini DisplayPort, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, SD card reader, audio jack, Intel AC-7265, Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 4.2
Weight: 565g

Reasons to buy

+
Very affordable
+
VESA mount
+
Comes with Windows 11 Pro

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited after sales support
-
No Wi-Fi 6

The GEEKOM IT8 is a fantastic little mini PC with plenty of bells and whistles. Available in configurations of up to 16GB RAM and 512GB onboard storage, what sets it apart from the competition is that it comes with Windows 11 Pro out of the box with an extremely low price tag. With a NUC-like chassis and tons of ports, most businesses will be able to connect their peripherals and external storage devices. It is relatively powerful thanks to its Coffee Lake-based Intel Core i5-8259U processor that has four cores and eight threads. Its integrated graphics, an Iris-grade one, is speedy enough for a number of the overwhelming majority of tasks one would find in a business environment and should be able to power up to four monitors simultaneously. Don’t expect it to be a gaming PC, though; that’s not what it’s meant for. Note that you will also be able to add a 2.5-inch SSD or HDD to increase its capacity significantly.

Read the full review: GEEKOM IT8 (opens in new tab)

Protectli Vault FW4B

A mini PC with passive cooling designed to run 24/7 protecting your network. (Image credit: Protectli)

12. Protectli Vault FW4B

Best for firewall: Passive cooling and low power consumption coupled with AES-NI hardware support and four Intel Gigabit Ethernet NICs makes it ideal to run pFsense or other FOSS firewalls or an IDS like Suricata

Specifications

CPU: Intel Celeron J3160 (64 bit, up to 2.2GHz)
RAM: 8GB DDR3
Storage: 120GB SSD (mSATA)
Ports and connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet (x4), USB 3.0 Type A (x2), RJ-45 COM, HDMI (x2)
Weight: 1.06kg / 2.33lb

Reasons to buy

+
AES-NI hardware support
+
No fans: 100% silent
+
Low power consumption: 10W
+
Tested with pfSense, untangle, OPNsense
+
Coreboot BIOS optional 

Reasons to avoid

-
No OS pre-installed

Network administrators will enjoy this Mini PC's flexibility when configuring edge-of-network security appliances. As no OS is preloaded, you can install your favorite solution while connecting an external monitor via HDMI. You can remove the monitor and hang the Mini PC anywhere out of the way and forget about it: on a wall, below a desk, you name it. The manufacturer has tested it with popular firewalls and network security solutions such as pfSense (opens in new tab), untangle, and OPNsense.

The internal components of the unit are carefully selected to provide optimal performance. For example, the Intel i210 Gigabit Ethernet ports ensure total compatibility with most Linux installations, so there's no need to dig around for drivers. Moreover, the CPU supports AES-NI hardware-assisted encryption for better performance, and its BIOS can be replaced with the open-source Coreboot, but you would have to replace it yourself. Fortunately, the manufacturer provides good technical support.

You can install it as a PFsense firewall by downloading the OS from the Pfsense website and booting it from a USB flash drive. The reviewers warned that in that case, the default boot option is legacy, and you need to change it to UEFI. You can also use it as an Intrusion Detection System (IDS)  if you install the popular Suricata software. With the 8GB unit, the memory will be used at 25% and the CPU at less than 20%. In that case, the Celeron will be your bottleneck, and throughput will be limited to 300 to 500 Mbps. A Six-port version sporting an Intel Core i5 is also available that is better suited for IDS usage with higher throughputs.

This device is also compatible with the commercial Untangle NG Firewall (opens in new tab) so, with just a software subscription, it can function as a WAN balancer, WAN failover, or internet traffic filter and virus scanner. Yet, the DIY nature of this Mini PC makes it more suited for DIY enthusiasts and system administrators.     

ECS EliteGroup LIVA Z3

The ECS EliteGroup LIVA Z3 is a silent mini PC that packs a punch thanks to the inclusion of an Intel Jasper Lake processor. (Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
Best for power efficiency: this mini PC has a SoC that only consumes 6W

Specifications

CPU: Intel Jasper Lake SoC Pentium Silver N6000
RAM: 4GB DDR4-2666 (2x 2GB), upgradable to 16GB
Storage: 128GB of eMMC memory, 1x M.2 2280 SSD (PCIe) slot
Ports and connectivity: 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 USB-C, 3 x USB3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI, 1x MiniDP, 1 x universal audio jack, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0
Weight: 1.31kg / 2.491lb

Reasons to buy

+
Very small
+
Includes a VESA mounting plate
+
Upgradable storage and RAM
+
Silent

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow boot drive
-
Poor graphics performance

Using the latest Intel Jasper Lake 10nm silicon, the Z3 is an incredibly compact NUC system that requires no active cooling.

It comes with a VESA mounting plate to connect it to a monitor, providing a way to make an easy-to-transport system that isn’t a laptop. Considering how tiny the Z3 is, there are plenty of USB ports, sports Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11ac WiFi adapter, and can connect to two monitors via HDMI and Mini DisplayPort.

However, keeping the system so small and fanless has dictated an SoC that only consumes 6W, has four cores, and lacks hyperthreading. It also uses an eMMC boot drive, reducing the mediocre performance even further.

This performance profile makes the Z3 only suitable for light office work, as it doesn’t have the power to meet more challenging tasks.

If you still want one, we recommend using the internal PCIe M.2 slot (2 lanes) to boost drive performance. And, maybe also upgrade the DDR4 RAM while you are inside.

Read the full review: ECS EliteGroup LIVA Z3 (opens in new tab)

Chuwi LarkBox Pro

A Mini PC that fits in the palm of your hand is an amazing engineering feat. (Image credit: Chuwi)
Best for size: A quad-core Celeron with six gigabytes of RAM and dual band Wi-Fi can be your Windows 10 workhorse

Specifications

CPU: Intel Celeron J4125 (Quad-Core)
RAM: 6 GB LPDDR4 (2133 MHz)
Storage: 128GB eMMC 5.1
Ports and connectivity: 2x USB 3, HDMI, USB-C (power only), Micro SD slot, Headphone jack
Weight: 127g / 0.27 lb

Reasons to buy

+
VESA mount
+
Fits anywhere
+
Perfect for travel

Reasons to avoid

-
Fan can ramp up and be loud
-
Cooling fan works only in Windows, not Linux
-
Windows build Update issues

It's not a Mini PC, it's a Nano PC, which is slightly bigger than a phone charger brick, so you can easily take it wherever you want. You can use it for typical home PC use, including casual web browsing, Word, and YouTube, and it supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. When you look at its size, you can tell it results from an incredible engineering feat. However, packing so many features into such a small space isn't without its drawbacks.

Among the specs are a quad-core Intel Celeron CPU, 6GB of RAM soldered in, 128GB of internal storage, and you can use a microSD card for storage expansion. It includes a full install of Windows 10. It has two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI connector, and a USB-C connector for power. It also has a MicroSD slot and a headphone jack on its side.

The system is fine if you leave its operating system alone. When you replace the OS, e.g., with Linux (opens in new tab), users report that the system becomes unusable because the cooling fan doesn't spin up in Linux, ever, so the system overheats and crashes. We hope Chuwi can overcome this little bug by submitting software patches to the Linux distros.

Windows 10 users who try to upgrade to a newer build report the same problem: the fan does not spin up during the upgrade process, leading to a BSOD. According to others, you can upgrade Windows if you do a clean installation with a newer build. Your mileage may vary. If you're looking for the smallest PC, you can find, this is it. If you want to avoid trouble, leave the OS alone.

Read the full review: Chuwi Larkbox (opens in new tab)

Beelink T4 Pro

If your wallet is thin, this is the best Mini PC. It even supports dual monitors thanks to its pair of HDMI outputs. (Image credit: Beelink)
Best budget mini PC: for the cost of a hard drive, you get a full Windows 10 PC. Just don´t expect miracles out of a dual-core Celeron with four gigs of RAM

Specifications

CPU: Intel Celeron N3350 (Dual Core, up to 2.40Ghz)
RAM: 4 GB
Storage: 64 GB eMMC
Ports and connectivity: HDMI 2.0 (x2), USB 3.0 Type A (x4), RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet, 3.5mm Audio Jack (Headphones + Mic)
Weight: 0.23kg / 0.51lb

Reasons to buy

+
Dirt cheap
+
Dual-band Wi-Fi
+
Gigabit Ethernet 
+
Supports dual-monitors with its two HDMI ports

Reasons to avoid

-
Very small internal storage
-
CPU is only dual-core

Look no further if you want the lowest possible price on a Mini PC. This machine, sporting a dual-core Celeron processor and four gigabytes of RAM, has been so heavily discounted that it now costs less than a single hard drive. With this astonishingly low price, you get a new machine with the full Windows 10 PC experience by connecting a monitor (or two) over HDMI and plugging in the AC adapter.

Due to its pair of HDMI ports, it does indeed support dual-screen operation. The device comes with four USB 3.0 ports to connect your keyboard, mouse, webcam, and some external storage device such as a flash drive (opens in new tab) or external hard drive. 

Just don't expect miracles to happen with its internal dual-core Celeron processor and its four gigabytes of RAM. There is also a limited amount of storage space at 64GB, but you get what you pay for. This is a very handy little PC to have in a drawer as a safety device: in case your main PC suddenly dies or begins acting crazy, all you need to do is take this little box out of a drawer, plug a few wires, and you will be back in business in no time.

Beelink U59 Mini PC

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
A mini system done right

Specifications

CPU: Intel Celeron Processor N5105 (4C/4T, 4M Cache, 2.0GHz up to 2.9GHz)
RAM: 16GB (2*8G)DDR4 RAM
Storage: M.2 2280 512GB SATA SSD
Ports and connectivity: 1x USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB-C, 4x USB3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, 2x HDMI 1.4, 1 x universal audio jack

Reasons to buy

+
Super small
+
VESA mount included
+
Upgradable storage and RAM
+
Very affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
M.2 slot is only SATA
-
USB ports are all 5GbpsEmpty List

The Beelink U59 is a NUC-sized PC built around the Intel Celeron Processor N5105 (4C/4T, 4M Cache, 2.0GHz up to 2.9GHz). It can come with 8GB or 16GB of RAM and up to a 512GB SATA SSD installed.

Even with that modest silicon, the U59 performs well at basic tasks and has potential as a small office machine or for embedded applications.

For 8GB customers, the RAM can be upgraded to 16GB, along with the M.2 SATA storage. There is also a bay inside for a 2.5-inch drive for even more storage options.

What seals this deal is the relatively low asking price of both the 8GB and 16GB models and the bloatware-free Windows 11 installation.

Including dual HDMI outputs and dual gigabit LAN ports neatly positions the U59 for embedded use, ideal for providing product presentations or as a self-contained firewall.

The Beelink U59 is easily one of the better NUC-sized machines we’ve seen, and it’s cheap enough for even the tightest budgets.

Read our full Beelink U59 Mini PC review (opens in new tab).


Also consider

The Seeed Studio J1020 (opens in new tab) is another box worth considering, though it's a little more specialist than the others. Built especially for AI and ML tasks, this is a somewhat unique Linux box that comes with plenty of power and communication interfaces. The price remains higher than the competition considering that this is an entry-level platform, but you get a system that can run as a standalone PC.


How we chose the best mini PCs

Before we get into our selection criteria we have to describe the vast array of configurations that the “mini PC” moniker encompasses: The largest mini PC is roughly the size of an electric toaster. But the majority are about the size of a stack of a handful of CDs -if you can still remember what those were. Additionally, there is the appliance type, which is usually a fan-less thin rectangular box without any fans. 

Appliance-type Mini PCs often have a metal enclosure to help with passive cooling, as well as more than one wired Gigabit Ethernet port. The Mini PCs are perfect to leave unattended in a small network cabinet, rack, or locker, where they can be used as fixed-function mini-servers, such as a firewall for an office network or a file storage for a small shop.

There's also a class of mini PCs that are really, really small. These range from palm-sized to slightly bigger than a thumb drive, often with an HDMI male connector and built to be attached to the back of a TV or monitor for entertainment or web browsing on a big screen.

Thus, selecting a “Mini PC” is no easy task, first we had to filter them based on size. We started from the tiniest ones, the thumb drive sized PCs up to the palm-sized devices, then moving up to the TV-box sized machines. In each size jump we looked for the usage scenarios for each based on the capabilities of the CPU and amount of RAM and included ports, then we  weeded out the ones with sub-par specs, this removed several dozen entries with the same Celeron CPUs and low RAM.

Once we got to the higher-spec entries is where the winners started to show up either by expansion capabilities, unique features, and suitability for the purpose. A final filtering by brand name and support considerations is how we ended up with our selection of picks for the best Mini PCs for the small office, for the corporate office, the best Mini PC for multiple-screen usage, the best one for gaming and the best Mini PC for firewall use. The higher you go in price, the more careful you need to be about the issue of after-sales support.

We've also highlighted the best business computers (opens in new tab)

Collin Probst
B2B Hardware Editor, TechRadar Pro

Collin is the B2B Hardware Editor for TechRadar Pro. He has been in journalism for years with experience in both small and large markets including Gearadical, DailyBeast, FutureNet and more.


With contributions from