If you don’t need much processing power and not much space on your desk, forget about desktop computers!
With this guide and tips for buying a mini PC, you will find everything you need to know to get a computer that takes up very little space and provides all the capabilities you need it to work.
Buying a mini PC is like buying other types of computers, so this process may be simple or complicated, depending on how you look at it. In order to succeed in your choice, there are many factors you must consider, which will help you choose equipment that meets your power needs and future expansion possibilities.
Of course, in a mini PC, considering its small size and special characteristics, when choosing a traditional desktop computer or an all-in-one desktop computer, you will have to consider some details that may not be so important.
For example, the ability to cooling of internal PC components, the number of external connectors, or the hardware that you can add to it since the space is available inside these compact computers or mini PCs it is really small.
First of all, it is convenient to make distinctions that can lead to confusion when purchasing your mini PC. Until not long ago, some manufacturers offered their barebone mini PC.
But what is a barebone? This is a computer that is not fully assembled, so the product only includes the basic components of the platform: the chassis, the motherboard and the power supply. The remaining components will have to be purchased and installed by the customer.
Therefore, in addition to this barebone toolkit, you must also select the processor, hard drive, or RAM to install. In the end, you will buy the missing parts, assemble the entire equipment and put it into use.
On the other hand, you can also find a fully assembled mini PC. These already include the processor, memory and internal storage, so when you buy your product, you must choose the most suitable model in terms of power and storage capacity.
Obviously, the most basic price, it is much lower because it lacks some components and does not include operating system licenses, but to complete them, you will need to have some basic concepts about assembling computer components. You should also pay attention when selecting missing components so that they are fully compatible with barebone motherboard.
In contrast, mini PCs are somewhat more expensive when compared to barebones, but they are ready to use and include an already installed operating system and its license to use. To avoid confusion, this is a detail that you will have to keep in mind when choosing your mini PC.
The actual offer of mini PCs It covers the main operating systems, so before choosing one or the other, it is worth considering what operating systems do you want (and can you) use on your mini PC.
The mini PCs with Android operating system or Android TV Box They are usually easier to use since it is basically like using a mobile, but instead of using a touch interface, you use a keyboard and a mouse. The minicomputer with Android They are ideal as a multimedia and entertainment centre for their ease of use and the extensive offer of apps offered by Google Play.
On the other hand, there are many mini PCs pre-installed with Linux distributions for use. If you are not used to this type of desktop environment, these devices may be a bit complicated to use, but after a period of adaptation, they are very stable and are ideal multimedia servers or office equipment.
Finally, we have small computers with Windows 10 or macOS installed. These computers work like any other desktop, but with a more compact size.
One of the main aspects that you have to take into account when buying a mini PC is the actual use that you are going to give it. You do not need the same power on a mini PC that you want to use to play videos on a screen with 4K resolution, as for one where exclusively office tasks will be performed.
In the case of mini PCs, this increase in power has a very significant impact on the final price of the device, since miniaturizing high-performance components costs more than doing so with others with more discreet performance.
Nor should you be optimistic and assume that a mini PC with certain components will be able to perform the tasks you need. Do some research on the components that make it up. This will help you get a better idea of what the mini PC you have chosen is capable of doing or not and will avoid disappointment with the lack of performance of your computer.
Also, if the processor is not included in the initial setup of the mini PC and you have to choose it, you should consider what type of processor the motherboard supports. This will be decisive to know the power limit to which your mini PC can vacuum.
Regardless of the features that the mini Pc you have chosen comes from the factory, it is important to look to the future and consider the expansion options of some of its components. So you will leave the door open for future updates with which improve the performance of your compact computer.
With this you will get extend the operational life of your mini PC, preventing it from slowing down and ensuring that it maintains its fluidity over the years. One of the elements that will most influence the maintenance of this fluidity is the possibility of expanding the RAM of your mini PC.
Some mini PCs have a certain amount of RAM installed, but they have free sockets in which you can insert new compatible RAM modules and easily expand them. In fact, it will be as easy as buying a RAM module identical to the one you have installed and the behaviour of your PC will improve considerably.
Other models, however, have the RAM memory soldered on the motherboard, therefore the expansion options are ruled out. In those cases, you must choose the appropriate memory when buying it.
Similar to what happens with RAM, mini PCs come from the factory with certain storage capacity on the hard disk. In many cases, it is very simple to access the inside of the mini PC to expand the capacity of the hard disk and install a new one with more capacity. This brings us to the next important point related to storage: the format of the hard drive.
In some mini PCs, especially those with a stick or ultra-small format, the storage is of the eMMC type and is soldered to the motherboard of the device, so the expansion options are null.
Fortunately, most the compact desktop computers They use more traditional systems such as 2.5 ”hard drives or SSDs, 3.5” hard drives and even combinations of both. If he mini desktop computer you have chosen uses some of these storage systems, its extension is practically guaranteed.
There is also the possibility that the mini PC uses SSD disks with an M.2 or m.SATA format, this format of disks is also easy to upgrade, but you should make sure what format it uses before buying a new disk with more capacity for it. In this case, you should also consider whether you are using drives with the SATA 3 or NMVe interface. The price difference is important and if your computer does not support a higher speed you will not take advantage of that extra cost.
Like any electronic component, mini PCs also suffer the rigours of high temperatures, and this can ultimately affect the life of your computer and even slow it down.
The excess temperature inside the mini PC It activates the component temperature control systems and these control systems act as power limiters to keep the temperature under control and prevent irreparable damage to the components.
Considering the reduced space available in this type of compact computers, Before buying a mini PC, it is advisable to take into account the design of its case and see if it has enough ventilation slots to facilitate its cooling.
In other cases, the use of aluminium in the manufacture of the device case, instead of polycarbonate or other materials, makes the case itself a great heat sink that reduces internal heat. Aluminium facilitates the heat exchange of heat between the interior and the exterior and the grooves favour the entrance of fresh air from the exterior that pushes the warm air from the interior to leave through positive pressure.
Certain models of mini PCs are intended as a modular system to which you can add other components such as a disk drive, an external storage system, etc. These accessories are mounted on the device itself creating a single block.
His intention is to add some of these accessories in the near future, make sure that the mini PC you have chosen has its own line. Otherwise, you will end up with a table full of accessories connected to your mini PC. Just what you’re trying to avoid!
In line with the possibility of connecting other accessories and peripherals to your PC, one of the factors that you should take into account when choosing the best mini PC is that you have as many connectivity options as possible. Don’t skimp on connectors.
These connectivity options are embodied in the number of USB ports and their characteristics (if they are USB 2.0. USB 3.0 or USB type C). Think about the peripherals you will have permanently connected to your mini PC and try to leave a couple of free USB ports to easily connect occasional devices such as USB keys or a smartphone, without having to disconnect any of the usual ones.
The position of these connectors, although not vital if it can affect the comfort of daily use. It is always more comfortable if the mini PC has some front USB or audio ports that facilitate the connection of devices in a timely manner.
Video connections are also important as they determine the connection format for the screen you use and in many cases can limit the resolution they display. For example, you won’t be able to display resolutions higher than Full HD if you use a VGA connection instead of an HDMI or DisplayPort.
The same goes for the number of HDMI ports if you plan to use a setup of two (or more) monitors connected to your mini PC. The ideal is to have at least two HDMI or a DisplayPort port to which you can connect several monitors connected in a chain.
The VESA mount (Video Electronics Standards Association) is a set of standards in which a certain format, size and specifications are established for the mounting accessories for monitors and screens. In compliance with these specifications, any accessory (considering weight and size, obviously) can be installed on the back of a screen.
So, if the device you have chosen complies with this VESA standard, you can install it on the back of your monitor or TV screen, which makes better use of the space available on your table. In addition, your computer will be perfectly camouflaged avoiding to see its cables and connections. Finally, your table will be free of computers and cables!
Some mini PCs come with peripherals that the brand includes as a courtesy to its customers. These accessories tend to be sets of wireless keyboard and mouse with which to control the mini PC, eliminating any annoying cable.