There’s a lot of talk about desktop PCs on a steep decline towards obsolescence. However, the American Customer Satisfaction Index found just last year that consumers still rated desktop PCs higher than their laptops, tablets, or smartphones. This was true in all but one category: design and visual appeal. In every other category—which included concerns such as availability of software, availability of accessories, and performance—desktops still came out on top.
To correct this perception, desktop makers have spent the past few years miniaturizing their computers. The past year alone has seen a new wave of smaller and sleeker PCs that address these consumers’ concerns. We’re already seeing many choices for many different needs, so to help you choose, here are the most intriguing mini PCs on the market right now:
Intel Compute Stick (2nd Gen, Cherry Trail)
Now retailing at $153.99, the Intel Compute Stickmeasures 4.06 x 1.56 x 0.47 inches – the size and shape of a USB flash drive.Though it only has 2GB of RAM, it’s powerful enough for most computing tasks.
With an Atom X5 CPU, it’s even powerful enough to play 4K videos offline. It also features dual USB ports, built-in HDMI, and a microSD reader for expansion. At $153.99, it’s admittedly not the cheapest on this list. But it’s still an inexpensive choice, with reasonable features packed in a small package.
Kangaroo Mobile Desktop
The Kangaroo Mobile Desktop is priced at only $99.99, while measuring only a slim 3.2 x 4.9 x 0.51 inches. If you’re looking for a small but capable Windows 10 desktop, then this half-pound design is a great choice.
In addition, the Kangaroo has the ability to use an iPad as a screen, and also has a removable dock that adds an HDMI port, two USB ports, and a DC power connector. What further sweetens the deal is a built-in battery that its makers claim can last up to four hours before recharging. This makes it a perfect device to bring around for working on-the-go.
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
The first Raspberry Pi made waves for being a credi tcard-sized computer that cost only $25. Now its latest model, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, offers much beefier specs while seeing only a minimal price hike. Retailing at $35, the Raspberry Pi 3 has a 1.2 GHz, 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 processor. However, its most vital improvements are the 1GB RAM upgrade and the 4 USB ports (previous models had only 512 MB RAM and 2 USB ports).
Yet the Raspberry Pi 3 is far from being the most user-friendly computer on this list. Comparable to the rest of the choices here, this desktop PC requires the most set-up, coming pre-loaded with a very basic Linux-based OS. But if you’re on a tight budget and willing to tweak with the software yourself (and are willing to forgive the bare bones aesthetic), then you can’t go wrong with the Raspberry Pi 3.
Think of the Asus Chromebox as the desktop equivalent of a Chromebook, as it uses Chrome OS instead of Windows 10. It measures 4.88 x 4.88 x 1.65 inches, making it the largest (relatively speaking) on this list.It’s also easy to upgrade, with options for improved storage and a bigger RAM.
Despite its incompatibility with Windows software, Google’s Chrome OS is surprisingly impressive, with plenty of replacement apps for a great desktop experience. However, the preferred support for web applications makesthe Chromebox overly reliant on having an Internet connection. This can be solved by replacing the OS with Ubuntu or other Linux-based operating systems.
Jide Remix Mini
The Jide Remix Mini was a Kick starter success story that largely delivered on its promises. This diminutive pebble-shaped desktop computer officially measures 4.9 x 3.5 x 1 inches, but appears to be much smaller thanks to its rounded form factor.
What differentiates the Remix Mini is its use of a modified or “forked” version of Android 5.1, dubbed the Remix OS. This lets users benefit from the multitude of Android apps available via the Play Store. Whether you just want to watch online videos from the YouTube app, do office work with Microsoft Office for Android, or play games, the Remix Mini won’t disappoint. Above all, it’s a steal, as it retails for only $70.
The rise of the mini PC didn’t come out of nowhere. Though some may argue that mobile technology is totally taking over our daily computing needs, what these mini PCs show is that desktops aren’t going away. Instead, they’re just getting smaller.