The best mini PCs may be small but they pack enough power to do everything from web browsing, content creation and gaming. Not only are these diminutive computers more convenient than enormous PC powers, they’re also super quiet.
In terms of design, mini PCs range from smaller desktops to stick PCs you can slip into your pocket. Mini PCs leverage the small, energy-efficient components from laptops to provide you with a surprising among of power in sizes that can be hidden behind a monitor. With mini PCs made for everything from media streaming to gaming and VR, there are mini stick PCs and mini desktops for almost everyone.
Below, we’ve listed the best mini PCs for everything from home entertainment to gaming and professional workstations. Each review involves extensive testing and hands-on evaluation. This allows us to tell you exactly which are the best systems. We’ve put every mini PC on this list through its paces and have the top models you can get today.
What are the best mini PCs?
The best mini PC overall is the Apple Mac mini, the late 2020 version of Apple’s compact desktop computer. As one of the first Macs outfitted with Apple’s M1 processor, it offers a lot of power at a more affordable price than ever before. If you want more power but prefer to stay on macOS, consider the Mac Studio: With a starting price of $1,999 it’s not cheap, but it’s one of the faster Macs on the market — especially if you pay the $4,000 starting price for a model with Apple’s cutting-edge M1 Ultra chip.
The Azulle Access3 is the best stick PC we’ve reviewed, with a pocketable design that can be used with any monitor or TV with an HDMI port. The gaming-oriented Intel Hades Canyon NUC proves that even AAA games and VR can be handled by a well-designed mini PC, while the Intel NUC 9 Pro delivers powerful workstation-grade capabilities in a deceptively small design.
The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B offers a barebones system that’s perfect for tinkering and projects, and only costs $35.
The best mini PCs to buy now
The latest version of the Apple Mac mini may look unchanged from its predecessors, but there’s a revolution hiding inside – the Apple M1 processor, Apple’s first big step away from using Intel processors in Macs. The new chip offers a surprising amount of power, taking on more expensive Intel Core i3 and Core i5 systems and coming out the victor. Paired with Apple’s Mac OS Big Sur and Rosetta 2, it will run pretty much anything you need it to, as long as it’s not Windows.
It’s not a perfect desktop – a smaller port selection and support for only two displays is a real letdown – but the overall value you get in the Mac mini is more than we ever expected for the new, more affordable price.
Read our full Apple Mac mini with M1 review.
The Mac Studio can deliver more power than any Apple computer on the market save the Mac Pro, and it packs it all into a quiet, well-designed chassis that looks good on a desk. As much as we love seeing Apple silicon put to good use in MacBooks, where its power efficiency helps deliver some of the best battery life in the business, the Mac Studio with M1 Ultra proves that Apple’s chips have the chops to compete with the best desktop PC silicon from Intel and AMD.
Of course, since this is Apple we’re talking about you’ll pay for the privilege. The Mac Studio’s $1,999 starting price isn’t too bad, but that gets you the entry-level model with the same M1 Max chip that’s in the 2021 MacBook Pros. To get a Mac Studio with Apple’s top-of-the-line M1 Ultra chip will cost you at least $4k, though it’s worth it if you want one of the fastest, most powerful Macs on the market.
Read our full Mac Studio review.
The Azulle Access3 takes our favorite tiny stick PC and makes it even better. With a compact design that’s almost small enough to put on a keychain, and flexible enough to be used with any monitor or TV, the Access3 gets a faster processor, speedier USB 3.0 ports and adds Gigabit Ethernet for better performance and connectivity than any other stick PC we’ve reviewed. The zippy performance even supports 4K video output, making it great for streaming.
Whether it’s for use in your home theater, powering digital signage or just giving you a way to watch Netflix on your hotel TV, the Access3 presses forward in a form-factor that larger manufacturers have largely forgotten. The Azulle Access3 is our new favorite stick PC, and the best mini PC you can slip into your pocket.
Read our full Azulle Access3 review.
While this affordable mini PC packs an older 8th gen Intel Coffee Lake CPU, it still has more than enough power for day-to-day tasks. From web browsing to word processing, the Mini IT8 is quite up to what most people need. The Geekom Mini IT8 is also VESA-mountable, meaning that you can slap it on the back of your monitor for a clean desk.
And while getting Windows 11 Pro pre-installed is awesome, our mind immediately begins to dream about what you can do with it if you to turn this mini PC into, say, a streaming media hub or virtualization host for your home network. You can install Linux or whatever you want on the Mini IT8, making it a great mini PC for tinkerers and enthusiasts.
Read our full Geekom Mini IT8 review.
Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC is a mini PC that delivers desktop-gaming-grade performance in a chassis that’s about the size of a book. Thanks to its Intel Core i7-8009G/AMD Radeon RX Vega M GH hybrid chip, which combines processing and discrete graphics on a single chip, the Hades Canyon NUC can handle AAA games and VR in a small, black brick that can be tucked into a backpack or added to a home entertainment center.
Despite its small size, the Hades Canyon NUC is loaded with ports, including Thunderbolt 3 ports and HDMI output. If you buy the barebones kit, you’ll need to provide memory and storage, and your own installation of Windows, but this pint-sized gaming machine can go toe-to-toe with an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti-powered gaming tower, and it even handled a bit of VR. It’s the best mini PC you can get for gaming without compromise.
Read our full Intel Hades Canyon NUC review.
The Intel NUC 9 Pro is a workstation mini PC that offers huge power and a surprising amount of upgradability. A workstation desktop isn’t an uncommon offering in the PC world, as they’re the standard for many computationally demanding uses, ranging from architecture to animation. What is unusual is to see that level of performance packed into a tiny design that’s smaller than a 5-liter SFF desktop.
Throw in room for huge amounts of RAM, added drives and up to an 8-inch graphics card, and the Intel NUC 9 Pro is a rare beast indeed. And that’s before discussing Intel’s innovative Compute Element motherboard, which weds the modularity of the motherboard with the built-in cooling and self-contained design of a GPU to create a unique basis for a truly potent PC. Add it all up, and it’s definitely the best workstation available in mini PCs today.
Read our full Intel NUC 9 Pro review.
Our new favorite office desktop does a cool disappearing trick, with a funky design that hides the powerful mini PC inside a specially designed monitor stand that turns it into a low-profile all-in-one PC. Packing plenty of capability into its tiny size and offering a modular solution for offices that want to upgrade often, the Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra is a cool twist on the mini PC in the workplace.
The mini PC itself is so slim it might get mistaken for a laptop battery pack or a desktop dock, but inside it boasts an Intel Core processor, up to 64GB of RAM and as much as 1TB of storage. It has plenty of ports and performance that puts it squarely among the best productivity-focused mini PCs you can buy.
If the OptiPlex 7070 is sold out, you can purchase the 7090 for $889 at Dell.
Read our full Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra review.
The Acer Chromebox CXI3 may be the best desktop version of Chrome OS available. Made for use in the classroom or in the office, the Chromebox CXI3 delivers everything that’s great about Chrome – ease of use, simple security, and all the online capability you want – in a mini PC that boasts great features and performance.
The compact Chromebox can be mounted almost anywhere and boasts plenty of ports, including several USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output and a USB-C port. Our model was outfitted with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD, combining to offer speedy performance and easy multitasking. Plus, it’s cheaper than any similarly equipped Windows machine. For one of the best mini PC designs without the bloat of Windows, there’s no beating the Acer Chromebox CXI3.
Read our full Acer Chromebox CXI3 review.
The Raspberry Pi ushered in a new era of DIY tech, and the latest model, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, pushes that to new heights with a more powerful processor, 4K video output and an improved part selection. The latest model, the $35 Raspberry Pi 4 Model B offers enormous value for projects ranging from simple to complex, from its enhanced processing and graphics to offering broad compatibility with older accessories.
If you want to do something different with your technology, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the best mini PC for tinkering and experimenting. Whether you buy it alone or in a kit, the Raspberry Pi is hard to beat.
Since our review, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B has been updated with a new model that has 8GB of RAM, significantly improving on the 2GB memory of the base model.
If the Rasberry Pi is sold out, you can buy the Raspberry Pi 400 All-in-One.
Read our full Raspberry Pi 4 Model B review.
How to choose the best mini PC for you
Mini PCs range from small project PCs for under $50 (£50/AU$75) to compact desktops that can cost $1,000 or more. Stick PCs are the most versatile, and generally cost between $100 (£100/AU$150) and $200 (£200/$AU300), and will work with most TVs or monitors. Mini PC prices vary considerably based on hardware.
Know what you want: Finding the right mini PC for you starts with knowing what you’re looking for. Do you want something small enough to tuck behind a TV as a dedicated streaming box, or are you looking for something with gaming capability? Do you want a basic internet-browsing machine, or do you need serious processing and graphics capability? Our best picks above do a good job of highlighting the use-cases different systems are best-suited to.
Find the right size: Then there’s the question of form factor. Mini PCs are all small, but within the category, there are a range of options, from stick PCs small enough to slip in your pocket to desktop towers that are still compact enough to stow out of sight. You’ll sacrifice power for a smaller system, but you can still get a capable desktop that’s small enough to carry in a backpack, even if you’re after gaming capability or workstation performance.
Make sure you like your configuration and upgrade options: Finally, you want to look at configuration options and upgradability. Many mini PCs have two or three configuration options, which can change everything from the amount of included storage to the presence of high-end processors and discrete graphics cards. There’s also the question of upgrades. Many of the smallest mini PCs leave no room for future hardware changes, but others are designed to let you add memory or storage, or even outfitted with ports that allow for an external GPU for expanded capability. When in doubt, check our reviews, which include configuration details and will discuss the potential for future upgrades.
How we test mini PCs
We put every mini PC we review through a number of benchmark tests and real-world uses to get the clearest picture we can of how well it performs, what uses it’s best suited to and what sort of capability you get for the price.
For performance, we use the Geekbench processor test to measure a system’s overall processing capabilities. We run custom spreadsheets to see how long it takes to handle large data sets and number-crunching tasks. We also test the file transfer speeds, copying large files to see how long a system takes to copy multimedia files, documents and other content.
To test the graphics capability, we run a number of benchmark tests from 3DMark. When a system has the capability, we’ll also run individual game tests and the SteamVR performance test to see how capable a system is at handling the demands of modern gaming.
Most importantly, we spend a ton of time simply using each mini PC for everyday activities. We watch movies, do work, play games, and blast music on the speakers, all to get a better sense of which ones are worth your money.