Continued: The 5 Best Mini PCs for Business
Here's the lowdown on three more of the five best mini PCs for business. Plus, don’t miss out on the bonus benefits that mini PCs offer.
Read and compare all of the mini PC reviews, or go right to a specific mini PC by clicking on one of the links below.
- Acer Revo One
- Shuttle XPC Nano NC01UWIN10HE
- Gigabyte Brix (GB-BXBT-1900)
- Intel NUC5CPYH
- Lenovo IdeaCentre Stick 300
The mini PC provides one slot for RAM and place for a 2.5-inch laptop-style hard drive. After adding an 8GB Kingston SODIMM ($31), a Kingston 120GB solid state hard drive ($42), and the Windows 7 Home Edition operating system ($100), pricing for the Brix topped out at $273. That's not a lot of money for a well-performing mini PC.
Add another 20 bucks or so for the external USB DVD drive you'll need to install the operating system (if you don't already have one lying around). The Brix gets its power from an Intel Celeron J1900 and a Quad-core processor that runs as fast as 2.42 Ghz. This processor is slightly more powerful than the CPUs in the other mini PCs we tested.
The mini PCs in this review provide approximately the same port lineup. The Brix has four USB ports, split between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. You also get Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, along with two video-out ports. Unlike some of the other mini PCs, the second video output is a VGA port—not a DisplayPort. That's handy if you want to use the Brix with an older display that doesn't have HDMI inputs.
The Gigabyte Brix and the Intel NUC5CPYH are very similar. If the Intel brand-name isn't all that important to you, the Brix offers a bit more performance for just a bit less money. On the other hand, if support and a well-known brand matters in your decision making, Intel might be the better choice.
Intel introduced the NUC (New Unit of Computing) form-factor several years ago. The bare-bones NUC5CPYH mini PC comes with a Celeron 3050 dual-core processor; you can buy models with Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs, but they cost more.
As with the Gigabyte Brix, we added an 8GB SODIMM RAM (you get one memory socket), a Kingston 120GB SSD hard drive, and Windows 7 Home Edition. The mini PC—without the added components—sells for about $130. The price with the components hit just about $300. Comparable in size to the Brix—just slightly shorter—Intel's NUC5CPYH measures 4.5- x 4.3-2.03-inches.
As with the other bare-bone mini PCs, installing the operating system is the most time-consuming task; it takes about 20 minutes and requires an external USB DVD drive. Installing the RAM and hard drive took less than five minutes, and you access the inside by simply removing four screws on the bottom of the case.
The Intel NUC offers the same port compliment as the Brix, right down to a VGA port as the second video output (with HDMI as the other video port). And, like the Brix, it handles the LibreOffice office suite just fine, as well as cloud-based applications.
How small can a PC be and still be useful? How about 3.94- x 1.50- x0.59-inches? That's about the size of a pack of gum and the dimensions of the $100 Lenovo IdeaCentre Stick 300, a tiny PC that plugs directly into the HDMI input port on a monitor. If you don't have the room for it back there, the Stick 300 comes with an 8-inch HDMI extension cable and a holder for the device that glues on the back of the display.
The very mini PC package also includes a 3-foot USB to Micro USB cable and 5-volt charger-style AC power supply. If you don't have a spare AC outlet within three feet of the back of your display (a pretty common scenario), you might consider a 6- or 10-foot USB cable and an AC extension cord.
Given the Stick 300's diminutive size, we're not surprised by its minimal port options. It provides a microUSB port for the power cable and a second USB 2.0 port, which the sparse documentation suggests you use to plug in a dongle for connecting a wireless keyboard and mouse (not included in the price).
Lenovo sent us their micro multimedia keyboard/trackball combos, but the keys were too small for our big hands. Fortunately, the Stick 300 includes both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability, and a Logitech Bluetooth Wireless keyboard and mouse worked just fine, and it left the second USB port open.
The only other opening on the device is a slot for a microSD card, which offers storage expansion possibilities. We like that feature, because the Stick 300's internal memory tops out at 2GB of RAM and 32GB of solid state disk storage. That's not any different than the Shuttle XPC Nano, and the Intel quad-core Atom processor gives about the same level of performance as the Celeron does in the Shuttle.
The IdeaCentre Stick 300 comes with Windows 10 Home Edition already loaded, and it's ready to use right out of the box.
If you're looking for something to handle mainly web browsing and cloud-based apps, it's a great choice. Here's the Stick 300's main limitation; other than adding a microSD card, you can't really expand the mini PC without adding a lot of stuff such as an external USB hub. That erases the benefit of having an actual PC hanging off the HDMI port of your display.
Still, it costs a hundred bucks–about what you'd spend on an operating system alone. If it meets your requirements as an extra or backup PC, it's money well-spent.
[Don't miss this article: Best Business Laptops for Every Budget]
More Mini PC Benefits
An added bonus no matter which of these mini PC you choose—they use less electricity. Lenovo's Stick 300 requires a wall wart power supply like the type used with smartphones or tablets. The other mini PCs come with very small AC power supplies. They sip, rather than guzzle, power compared to conventional desktop machines.
And while using a mini PC you won't save a fortune on your electric bill, you will have an efficient PC that generates very little heat, and it won't fry an egg on its case or tax your office's air conditioning after 12 hours. In fact, these mini PCs are so quiet that if you mount on onto the back of the monitor, you won't even know it's there unless you're using it.
Best of all, these tiny PCs are so affordable that you can keep a spare in your desk drawer for those unexpected times when you need an extra computer at a moment's notice.
Ted Needleman published his first review in 1978. Since then, he has written several thousand hardware and software reviews, columns, articles on using technology, and two books. He has no intention of stopping any time soon.
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