The 7 Best Mini PCs to Buy in 2017

Shop for the best budget, over-the-top and customizable Mini PCs

Looking to buy a Mini PC? Chances are performance isn’t the top reason for wanting one (as these units are not positioned nor made for muscle), but they offer a sleek, compact design and have just enough computing power to fulfill a variety of everyday tasks. Unsure of where to start? Check out our top six mini PCs. From Apple's over-the-top and hard-to-beat Mac Mini to the budget-friendly Asus Chromebox, you're sure to find a Mini PC that suits your needs.

Pound for pound, the Mac Mini is the winner in a closely contested Mini PC slugfest. As Apple’s website states: “It’s mini in a massive way." The path to victory for the Mac Mini was not without challenge and, if living in an OS X world isn’t for you, there are plenty of worthy options on this list. However, it’s hard to ignore that the Mac Mini offers a computing experience that rivals the larger iMacs that are more than twice the price.

For the casual user, the Mac Mini is a superb choice, offering up more than enough “oomph” with its 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processors, 4-8GB of RAM, 5400 RPM and up to 1 TB of hard drive space; it weighs 2.7 pounds and has four USB 3.0 ports. Like some other options on this list, you’ll get the unit, a power cable and not much else. It’s up to you to supply the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Thankfully, Apple’s standard Bluetooth keyboard and magic mouse are best in class, as long as you don’t mind their premium price tag.

Don’t let the small size fool you: Dell’s Inspiron i3050 is a fully functional Windows 10 desktop PC. Slightly smaller than the Mac Mini, Dell’s design won’t win any awards with its simple black chassis, but inside you’ll find a modest 2.41GHz Intel Dual-Core Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. It comes with three USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port, as well as a wired mouse and keyboard.

This might be the perfect option if you just want something dedicated to Amazon Instant Video, HULU and Netflix. You’ll still find enough power to run a wide selection of Windows apps, but you’ll need tempered expectations for how well a machine like this can handle. (Don't expect it to run more power-intensive apps like Photoshop and video-editing.)

The low price point doesn’t present additional expansion options but we really can’t argue with a perfectly usable PC that costs less than some high-end keyboards. For just the basics, unless you want to look at learning Chrome OS, you can’t do much better than Dell’s entry-level Mini PC.

The Samsung ArtPC Pulse is a strange and beautiful creature that looks like no other mini PC on the market. On the outside is a premium aluminum cylinder that is 80 percent more compact than a traditional desktop PC, with a soft blue glow that comes from the inside.

For connectivity, it features four USB ports, an HDMI port, an Ethernet port, an SD card slot, a headphone jack and a USB-C connector all in the same easy-to-reach panel. It also has a 360-degree omnidirectional speaker from Harman Kardon that pushes out surround sound.

On the inside, this unit is running Windows 10 on a 6th generation Intel Core i7-6700 processor and 16GB of RAM. It also has a 256GB SSD hard drive, a 1TB HDD hard drive and an AMD RX 460 graphics card.

Reviewers on Amazon have mentioned that while the unit is very stylish, it has two weaknesses to keep in mind: it doesn’t have two HDMI ports (so plugging two monitors into it is a non-starter) and the included wireless keyboard and mouse that come with the unit are lacking.

Every mini PC on this list is pre-built with a hard drive, operating system and RAM, but if you want to install all those components yourself in true DIY fashion, the ASUS VivoMini is what you should consider. This model comes in at less than $500 and has a sleek silver case no larger than the latest Game of Thrones hardcover.

On the inside, the VivoMini has an 6th generation Intel Core i5 processor and an Intel HD integrated graphics chip, so it has plenty of power for most computing tasks. When it comes to ports, the machine has four USB 3.0 slots, an HDMI output, a VGA output, a DisplayPort, RS-232 serial connection, a Kensington lock, audio out, headphone jack and an SD card slot.

Reviewers on Amazon have been ecstatic about this machine, saying that it works as a great home theater PC or a desktop replacement. They also mention that it’s not ideal for gaming, which would be at a higher price point.

The fully equipped Acer Revo One has a 2.1GHz Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive. There’s nothing particularly breathtaking about its aesthetic, but it’s small enough that you’ll set it on a desk and forget its even there. As with most Mini PCs, the Revo One won’t score off the charts in any benchmark tests, but that’s not its intent. There’s more than enough capability here for day-to-day tasks, but you’ll want to look elsewhere if gaming is high on your priorities list.

There are two USB 2.0 ports on the back for adding a keyboard and mouse, things you’ll want to add on your own as the ones that come with the Revo are not the best quality. There are also two additional USB 3.0 ports for future-proofing and HDMI out for plugging into a monitor and/or TV. And you'll want to use that, because the mini PC comes equipped with Intel HD Graphics 5500.

There’s a lot to like about the Revo One: It’s well-designed and has plenty of expansion capabilities to add more hard drive space as your needs grow.

If basic computing needs and a welcoming price tag are at the top of your Mini PC wish list, the Asus Chromebox might be exactly what you’re looking for (just be prepared to use rely on Google docs heavily, as you won't be able to use Microsoft Office).

The Chromebox box is just 12.8 x 8.3 x 2.3 inches and manages to fit four USB ports for a keyboard, mouse and additional items. Overall performance is surprisingly good: There's a 1.4 GHz Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and 16GB of SSD memory (plus two years free of 100GB Google Cloud Storage).

If all you really need is a sensibly priced small computer to get online and perform basic web tasks, you’ll find the pricing and Chrome OS combination to be very attractive.

If you decide you want to go all out with your mini PC purchase, then look no further than the Lenovo Ideacentre 610s. This model doesn’t look like anything else on the market, thanks to an unconventional silver triangle body and a small 220 lumen projector that sits on top. It’s the sort of unit that wouldn’t be out of place in a stylish living room or a modern conference room.

The Ideacentre 601s measures 5.3 x 10.1 x 5.5 inches and weighs 10 pounds, so it lives up to its mini billing. It runs Windows 10 and has several configurations, but the one that will work for most people has an Intel 2.2 GHz Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. For ports, the Ideacentre 610s has HDMI, four USB, Ethernet, SPIDF and a headphone jack.

Amazon reviewers have noted that the projector is not good enough to anchor a home theater, so we would only use it as a portable projector.


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