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.
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.