A lot of businesses are wondering what to do when they have to replace ageing desktops, with laptops seeming like an obvious upgrade. Yet, laptops carry a premium, as you’re paying for a battery, screen and portable components that you may not need. For those scenarios where you have fixed desks, a mini PC could be better than a laptop, and make more sense than new traditional desktop computers, too.
A mini PC is a scaled down version of a desktop computer, with the components squeezed into a much smaller case. Typically, most mini PCs have a sleek compact design and, depending on which model you go for, offer up the power of a laptop or entry-level PC, meaning they can deal with most office computing needs with ease.
Their small size means these computers can be tucked away somewhere unobtrusive, reducing clutter in your business. Some can even be mounted behind a display using the standard VESA mount. This means you can either re-use existing monitors, building your own all-in-one computer, or you can use the mini PC with digital signage, neatly hiding the computer that powers the content.
As mini PCs mostly use laptop components, they’re built to be very quiet, removing the distracting hum and whirrs often associated with desktop PCs. Even better, this means that they’ll draw less power than a traditional desktop computer, helping you save on running costs.
Another convenience is they usually sport Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, meaning you can control them from a central hub, so if you are using them for display signage, updating those displays over the network could be done easily from some central computing device elsewhere.
What kind of mini-PC should I get?
Apart from the more basic HDMI or USB stick-based mini PC devices, such as the Asus Chromebit (see, 5 cool things you can do with a Chromebit), which are great for basic display signage, there are two main camps when it comes to buying the larger higher-spec mini PCs: barebones systems and those that are ready to plug and play. The difference is usually the price and the amount of time they take to set up.
A barebones system is cheaper up-front, but you have to fit some of your components: depending on the model, you may have to provide your processor, memory or storage. Overall, you could save a bit of money, but building the computers increases the time to prepare them.
Fully-prepared models are more expensive, but they’re full PCs that are ready to go. The only thing that you may need to provide is an operating system.
For either type of mini PC, make sure that your choice is capable of running the operating system that you require; some lower-spec models are best suited to Linux, which may not suit your business.
Higher-end mini PCs
You may be put off by assuming that these devices won’t deliver what you need them to when it comes to power. In the past mini PCs have had bad press for their lack of grunt, but that’s all changed these days. Some mini-PCs are built to take on harder workloads and some, like the Asus VivoPC X, are even designed to deliver gaming and VR experiences.
With an Intel quad-core Core i5 CPU-7300HQ, 3GB DDR5 memory and 8GB DDR4 RAM, the VivoPC X is an entry-level VR machine in a tiny form case. Despite its compact size, it is powerful enough to give high-quality VR experiences at 90fps or more.
If it’s the fact you can hide these units away very easily that attracts you to them, then the usual way to mount these devices behind the display is using a VESA mount. Check your monitor and the mini PC you are buying are both VESA compatible, and the mounting will be a very simple operation.
Overall, a mini PC is a very wise choice for powering something you want to be able to plug in and forget about. Silent, unobtrusive, relatively cheap and easily updatable over the network, Mini-PCs beat laptops hands down for certain tasks, so are well worth considering during your next IT update.