PINT-SIZED PCs BIG PO­TEN­TIAL

Josh Collins knuck­les down in the lab to com­pare 12 mini desk­top PCs, from NUC-a-likes to stick PCs and even a gam­ing model.

APC Australia - - » Pint-sized Pcs -

Elec­tron­ics have shrunk as the years and decades have passed. None have more no­tably down­sized than the per­sonal com­puter, fea­tur­ing a long his­tory of first pen­e­trat­ing the fam­ily home and then, over the past two decades, scal­ing the num­ber of PCs per home — even per room. This minia­tur­i­sa­tion has also seen PCs in­creas­ingly seam­lessly in­te­grated into daily life, be it work, rest or play.

This dig­i­tal in­va­sion has been lead by the shrink­ing of form fac­tors and low­er­ing costs. As many read­ers would un­der­stand, the pri­mary desk­top PC form fac­tor is the ATX form fac­tor. As motherboard form fac­tors have shrunk, so too have the chas­sis form fac­tors.

Most PC en­thu­si­asts know of form fac­tors such as Mi­cro-ATX and MiniITX, along with how these forms en­cour­aged the adop­tion of early Small Form Fac­tor (SFF) PCs. Fur­ther re­duc­tion in the form of Nano-ITX and Pico-ITX in­tro­duced the con­cepts of the Ul­tra-Small Form Fac­tor (USFF) and Ul­tra-Com­pact Form Fac­tor (UCFF).

In 2013, In­tel took things a step fur­ther by in­tro­duc­ing a 10cm x 10cm motherboard form fac­tor, shoe-horn­ing it into the UCFF cat­e­gory and call­ing it the Next Unit of Com­put­ing, or NUC for short. Since then, the mini-PC mar­ket has grown sig­nif­i­cantly with nu­mer­ous op­tions de­rived from the NUC con­cept — we’ve even got a few PC-on-a-stick so­lu­tions to test, too.

Join us in the com­ing pages as we ex­plore and as­sess a broad range of ul­tra-com­pact mini-PCs. But be­fore we do, we’d quickly like to thank Mi­cronCru­cial for sup­ply­ing some of the test hard­ware used in this fea­ture. Mini-PC ven­dors were re­quested to send units fit­ted-out with nec­es­sary com­po­nents and test ready, but un­for­tu­nately, this wasn’t pos­si­ble for some, so Mi­cron-Cru­cial helped out by sup­ply­ing a se­lec­tion of SSDs and mem­ory to al­low test­ing.

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