Over the past few years, one of the most exciting developments in the PC world, especially in gaming, revolves around the small form factor PC. These incredible machines are a fraction of the size of the old computers. However, they are still capable of fitting cutting-edge components, such as the best graphic cards like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti and GeForce RTX 3070 Ti, required for modern gaming.
Technically, one of the key benefits of the small form factor PCs is that they are not bulky, and you can pack them in your travel bag on a trip to Europe or Asia. Even so, what are some of its top features? What makes it the best travel computer?
In the guide, we will provide you with a review of the best Mini PC – INTEL NUC Mini– and why it is the most recommended option when traveling.
Read on for a detailed insight into the Next Unit of Computing:
What Is Mini Computer?
A mini-computer is a class of smaller computers developed in the mid-1960S and is more expensive, quite easy to carry, and more powerful than a personal desktop. However, they’re less powerful than supercomputers or mainframe computers but can equally perform like a modern PC.
With the best laptop processor, laptop-sized ram, and capabilities to support up to three drives, Intel NUC Mini Computers are everything you would ever need in a portable mini PC.
Apart from their compact size, integrate a very simple and straightforward method of operation as compared to other PCs. Further, even with little PC hardware experience, disassembling a small factor PC is quite easy and will take you around 15 minutes.
Intel NUC Mini PC can come with a 6th – 8th generation Intel Core i3, i5, i7, and i9 processor. Besides, they also pack speeds of 1.6 GHz up to Turbo Boost Speed of 3.6 GHz.
These incredible PCs incorporate the Thunderbolt 3 technology, Intel HD graphics, Mini DisplayPort, Mini HDMI Port, and an external graphics card.
However, the type of GMU depends on the NUC model.
One of the best things about SFF computers is that they can support more than one drive. It’s designed with a fast SSD that can deliver amazing speeds.
Like the majority of small form computers, Intel Mini NUC supports both WLAN and LAN networks. What’s more, it supports good internet speeds of up to 1,000Mbps.
Other additional features include Bluetooth 4.0 wireless.
Intel NUC Mini PCs have more connectivity than a lot of current laptops. They’re designed with two USB 3.0 ports located on the front panel and two others on the back panel as well as a MicroSD slot. Some models, like NUC 11 Enthusiast, also feature two additional USB 2.0 headers.
Intel understands that memory is fundamental to a personal computer and has designed a small form factor gaming PC with DDR3 SODIMM with an expandable memory of up to 32GB.
The sophisticated Intel NUC comes with a 3.5mm jack for the 7.1 surround audio that can also be used with a mini HDMI and a mini display port.
The ports are located at the front and the back.
Other additional features integrated into the small form factor computer include a Type C interface and NFC system, a voltage sensor, cooling system, support for user-replaceable 3rd party covers, and Kensington Lock.
Should I Buy Ready to Go Mini-PCs or Barebones PC?
Technically, you can either buy mini PCs as either complete or barebone. Intel NUC Kit comes with a tiny chassis and an installed motherboard. When you buy a barebone PC, you are required to shop and install your desired solid-state drive (SSD), hard drive, or RAM modules – depending on the model and install an operating system.
Note that it can be a bit hard to differentiate between a barebone and a configured PC. Always check for PCs with a reseller lingo “barebone PC.” In some cases, you can purchase a mini-computer with a “preconfigured” logo. It is almost the same as barebones but comes with a storage disk, RAM, and an operating system or windows.
Additionally, ensure you also factor in the Windows license in the total cost.
You should also note that the parts you will find in the small form factor desktop PC will be small – like those of a laptop. The majority of mini PCs use DDR4 SODIMM RAM for their memory instead of the normal desktop-size DDR4 DIMM.
Integrated vs Dedicated Graphics Card: Which Is the Best for Intel NUC Mini?
The answer is quite clear. There is not enough space to fit a bulk GPU. As a result, the majority of mini PCs are designed with integrated graphics from Silicon Integrated Systems for video playback and productivity work.
However, there are a few models such as the Zbox Magnus and the 2021 Dell Precision that features a dedicated GeForce or Nvidia Quadro graphics, which is serious enough to be incorporated in any serious PC gaming. Besides, although it features settings with reasonable details, the processor should be upgraded to Intel Xeon.
One of the most interesting NUC kits is the “Hades Canyon” The small mini PC makes use of Intel’s pioneering “Kaby Lake-G” processor, which was developed in concert with AMD. Technically, the chip integrated into this small form PC combines Intel Core i7 processor and AMD’s peppy Radeon RX Vega M graphics acceleration.
Which CPUs Are Ideal for a Mini PC?
There is quite a wide range of mobile-grade CPUs for small factor PCs ranging from Celeron chips and Intel Atom to Core i5 and i7 processors. These processors are capable of delivering rendering work and modest media-crunching.
You should note that the size of the PC doesn’t predict the strength of the PC when looking for a mobile-grade PC or desktop-strength PC.
The best way to tell whether your mini PC has a desktop strength chip or a mobile-grade CPU is to check for a letter at the end of the processor’s number. For instance, the letter “K” or “T” for a desktop-strength chip and no letter for a dead giveaway.
A mini core i5 with a desktop strength chip should have a number like this: Core i5-9400T. It can also have a “Y” or “U” at the end. It is possible with the latest chips possibly from the G-series. What’s more, when the chip family and the generation are equal, you can expect more muscle.
It is usually a result of higher base clicks or more cores from the desktop version as compared to the unlocked mobile core i5.
How to Use a Mini Computer?
The many uses of a Mini PC include video conferencing, work and business travel, advertising, gaming, home entertainment, and media production.
You will get to enjoy mobility in the small but mighty PCs. You will get the performance you need for photo editing, content creation, or complex work while on the go.
What’s more, these incredible machines are designed with Intel UHD graphics for 4K resolution. Ideally, the majority of these PCs are designed with the latest technology that is ideal for performance and mobility.
Below is a detailed insight into some of the key benefits you will get from the SFF computers:
Do you get nervous about being away from your PC when you travel? SFFs may be the answer you’ve been looking for. They’re much more compact than notebook computers, and they may be able to have more processing power than a gaming laptop.
In reality, some small form factor PC will fit into a side compartment of your carry-on luggage with ease. Consider having a small form factor gaming PC so that you can continue to play while traveling.
2. Saves Space
You can enjoy gaming, but not at the expense of the amount of space a typical gaming PC consumes on your desktop. Old gaming computers will clog up your desk, making it unusable for other purposes. For a more convenient setup, you could be forced to put your computer on the floor.
However, this creates a new set of issues because your computer is now more vulnerable to damage from flooding, kicking, or dust ingestion. Small form factor gaming PC saves space and are more convenient than their larger counterparts. It can also be mounted on the back of your computer.
3. Small Form Factors are a Bit Cheaper
Gaming computers can be very costly. Justifying the cost of a full PC tower for a budget gamer can be difficult. You get a lot of gaming strength for your cash with small form factor PCs. SFFs can be a relatively affordable option to bigger gaming PCs, allowing you to pursue your passion without breaking the bank.
4. Consumes Less Power
Let’s face it: a full tower PC will trigger your power consumption to skyrocket, making your electricity bill a topic of worry. An SFF’s smaller package normally translates to lower overall power consumption. If you’re a big gamer, this will save you a lot of money on your utility bill.
Besides, if you’re concerned about the climate, the reduced environmental impact that SFFs leave behind can make you feel better.
5. Mountability and Connectivity
Mounting kits are included in the majority of mini PCs. It allows them to be attached to the back of almost any LCD monitor.
Typically, if you’re looking for a way to save space, ensure you check on the mounting feature. Also, look for mounting holes on the back of your display, which, if present, should conform to the VESA mounting standard.
Often look for any form of 802.11 Wi-Fi (wireless networking). Most mini PCs come with at least that (and a few more have Bluetooth), just make sure the device or package doesn’t require purchasing a different Wi-Fi card in the Compact Express or M.2 form factor. However, some of them do.
6. What Next?
Besides its compact size, the major benefit of the Intel NUC Mini PC is that it can be used in several ways such as a 4K streaming device when mounted to a TV Box. The mini-computer will suit the bill if you’re searching for a machine that can be used in a variety of ways and won’t take up too much room.
This specialized PC is very powerful, with excellent efficiency, but if you want to run the latest games or edit 4K and 8K content, you’ll have to search elsewhere.
In essence, the Intel NUC Mini is perfect for your home office, traveling, and casual gaming if you’re looking for a robust, portable, and discrete PC or a media server.
Verdict: Is Mini PC Good?
Based on the above review, there is no doubt that the Intel NUC Mini PC is the ideal option for anyone looking for a small but mighty computer.
Most importantly, if you are a travel enthusiast, or you are planning a trip, you might consider trying out the best mini computer.
All you need to do is factor out why you need the PC and how you can benefit from its compact design.