Why should you put a thick desktop PC under your desk?
If you are not aiming for a career as a professional gamer or editing long 4K videos, a notebook is enough.
That looks a lot nicer too.
If it is to be useful as a travel companion, it can at best be a 14-inch device - although when working at home you would like a more generously dimensioned display and a larger keyboard.
And that's exactly where the gap for a mini PC is: These computing gnomes hardly need more space on the table than a beer mat, but the user has a free choice of monitor, keyboard and mouse.
Mini-PCs have a wide range of uses, are desk workers and entertainment machines.
“Computer Bild” took a closer look at six current models.
There are huge differences between mini PCs
Among the dwarfs there are enormous differences in size, performance and design: While the Medion Akoya S62004 is reminiscent of an external DVD drive, the BleuJour Kubb Mini presents itself as a designer cube with an edge length of twelve centimeters, over which other garments can be put.
But they're really expensive: a simple design costs 89 euros, a wooden cover a whopping 230 euros.
In contrast to a desktop PC, however, size and design are actually decisive for mini PCs.
A large case usually offers enough space inside for additional hardware and outside for enough connections.
At first glance, the BleuJour Kubb Mini doesn't look like a PC or technology
A no-brainer: the smaller the mini-PC, the less space there is for memory and ports.
Only a few and very small components can be accommodated in a mini PC.
This is noticeable when retrofitting, often all the slots inside are occupied - as with the One Xcellent Box 3.0.
Ready-to-use mini PC or a "barebone"?
Most minis do not have enough space for a power supply unit.
In many cases, the outsourced power supply unit is as big as the PC itself and has to disappear somewhere behind the desk.
Some computing gnomes are satisfied with a compact power plug with an integrated power supply unit.
After all, there is no additional waste heat in the mini-PCs, so extra ventilation is not necessary.
The tiniest dwarf in the test is the One Xcellent Box 3.0, which you can easily hold between two fingers.
The One Xcellent Box 3.0 is tiny, fits easily between two fingers
When buying a Mini-PC, users have the choice: Would you like an immediately usable Mini-PC or a "barebone" ("bare bone")?
These systems almost always come without RAM, SSD or hard drive, and there is also no operating system.
Before such a PC is ready for use, users still have to invest money and lend a hand on the device.
In the test, “Computer Bild” decided to leave out the barebones and only check operational Windows 10 systems.
They often have a better price-performance ratio, because end users pay more for the Windows 10 operating system, SSDs and RAM than retailers who order large quantities.
What do mini PCs do?
Anyone who likes to play the latest video games knows how important, but also how big graphics cards are now.
At 1.4 kilograms, modern models often weigh three times as much as a mini PC.
Processors, SSDs and RAM are now smaller than ever, which is why the Minis have a lot of computing power despite their size.
In the speed measurements they reached the level of notebooks in the same price range.
The most noticeable differences in performance are caused by the CPU.
How fast a current AMD Ryzen 5 3550H works can be seen in the Minisforum DeskMini DMAF5.
Completing office tasks is only slightly slower than a large desktop PC.
Colleagues Asus PN40 and One Xcellent Box worked noticeably more sedate. The tested versions were equipped with an Intel Celeron N4100 and an Intel Pentium Silver N 5000.
These processors are at the bottom of Intel's range of CPUs, but in combination with sufficient RAM (at least eight gigabytes) and a fast SSD, they are definitely suitable for office tasks.
A problem case among the minis
You can therefore feel a small leap in performance with the Kubb Mini from the French manufacturer BleuJour.
Despite its old Intel Core i3-8109U, it passed the speed tests with the second best mark in this test.
However, at 765 euros, the Kubb is by far the most expensive test candidate - it is too expensive for such old technology.
The situation is different with the Fujitsu Esprimo G558: For around 400 euros, the customer gets a rock-solid mini-computer.
Like Medion, Fujitsu sends its dwarf into the race with a slightly more modern Intel Core i5 processor.
The two of them don't work in a rush, but at a bearable speed without long waiting times.
Fujitsu's Esprimo G558 offers a balanced price-performance ratio
The smallest test candidate among the minis is a problem: the slow memory and the very tight four gigabyte RAM also slow down the already lame processor of the One Xcellent Box 3.0.
That makes working with this tiny man a test of patience, who ended up in last place.
For higher speeds, mini PCs should be equipped with PCI Express SSDs - such as the Mini Forum DeskMini DMAF5, the fastest mini PC in the test.
These SSDs transfer data very quickly, which saves time and nerves.
The tested equipment variant of the Fujitsu Esprimo G558 marks the mini-PC middle class.
He still does his work at a bearable pace and is very economical and mostly quiet.
On the other hand, weaker configurations are not recommended because they make working with several programs a bit of a patience.
Otherwise, the Esprimo scores with a good variety of connections.
Mini PCs consume little energy
When it comes to performance, users of mini-PCs have to compromise, but this also has advantages - the minis consume little energy, and all test candidates are energy savers.
But here, too, there are big differences: The most energy-hungry candidate, Medion Akoya S62004 MD3400, consumed around 26 watts on average - that's hardly more than a common energy-saving lamp.
The Medion Akoya S62004 MD 3400 looks like an external DVD drive
The average consumption of the other minis was around 20 watts, the Asus PN40 and One Xcellent Box 3.0 were even satisfied with even less energy.
The One Xcellent Box 3.0 is hardly noticeable in the electricity bill with a consumption of only eight watts.
Mini-PCs work whisper-quietly - perfect for concentrated work or use in the living room.
The Asus PN40 works completely noiselessly, while all other devices run as quiet as a whisper in operation.
The loudest computer comes from Minisforum, but it has the strongest components.
Connections of a mini PC
In general, the variety of connections a Mini-PC offers depends on its size.
Most mini-computers offer more sockets than conventional notebooks.
Each of the tested devices has fast USB 3.2 connections, with the exception of the One Xcellent, each candidate is equipped with at least one USB Type-C socket.
The Asus PN40 is presented in a classic, simple mini PC guise
All mini-PCs in the test have some connections on the front, so that users can quickly and easily plug in external hard drives or headsets.
You can usually access the network via WLAN-ac, the Minisforum Deskmini even has a fast WLAN-ax on board.
Retrofitting mini PCs?
If a desktop PC runs out of breath after a few years, it can usually be rejuvenated relatively easily with new hardware.
The upgrade options for the mini-PCs are significantly limited.
In the BleuJour Kubb, for example, almost every slot is occupied, so the only thing that helps is replacing components such as SSDs.
Somewhat larger models such as the Akoya S62004 and Esprimo G558 still have space for an additional 2.5-inch SSD or more RAM.
Components such as graphics or sound cards only rarely find their way into a mini PC, and not at all in the models tested.
A mini PC is often sufficient for many Internet and office tasks.
As the best equipped mini, the Deskmini DMAF5 from Minisforum won the test.
The work works at a decent pace, but it is not exactly cheap at just under 600 euros.
If you want to spend less, you can grab the rock-solid price-performance winner Fujitsu Esprimo G558 for around 400 euros. The impressively compact One Xcellent Box is an emergency solution for locations where no other PC really fits.
If you want to spend less, you can grab the rock-solid price-performance winner Fujitsu Esprimo G558 for around 400 euros.
The impressively compact One Xcellent Box is an emergency solution for locations where no other PC really fits.
This article comes from a cooperation with "Computer Bild".
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