Best Small Form Factor PCs

A Selection of The Best Mini, Slim And Small Desktop Computers

May 20 2016 - Smaller desktop style laptops have grown in number thanks to interest in smaller gaming style consoles for the home theater setup and low cost mini-PCs for streaming and basic web browsing. Small systems can be mini-PCs, slim case or cubes that use less desktop space than a traditional desktop computer does but still offer a wide range of features. Here are my selections for the best small form factor PCs for their size or task based on my research and experience.

1
Best Mini PC - HP Pavilion Mini 300

HP Pavilion Mini 300 MiniPC
HP Pavilion Mini 300. ©HP Inc.

There have been a large number of mini-PCs introduced to the market lately but many are very basic systems that don't have much storage and really are there just for streaming or browsing the web. If you want something to do more than that, then the HP Pavilion Mini 300-230 is a great choice. It features a dual core Core i3 processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 1TB hard drive. Priced around $430, it is affordable but does not limit the functionality by compromising too many features. The best part is that it comes with a wireless mouse and keyboard that many others don't include or only offer wired peripherals. Performance still isn't quite equivalent to a larger desktop but many people can get by with it just fine.

Read the full review of the HP Pavilion Mini 300

Honorable Mention: Apple Mac Mini - Apple's Mac Mini was the king of compact mini-PCs for years but the competition has improved and generally offer better pricing for the basic systems that people want. If you want something with a bit more performance, better storage at just better styling, then the Apple Mac Mini is still a great choice. It just costs more which matters to many consumers these days.

2
Best Slim Desktop - Lenovo H30

Lenovo H30-50 Slim Desktop PC
Lenovo H30. ©Lenovo

Slim style towers have transformed a lot in the past year. More traditional PCs have been dropped in favor of compact PC gaming towers. This means that you generally are looking at basic low cost systems or expensive performance systems. The Lenovo H30 strikes a nice balance by offering a solid performing compact desktop without a huge price. This is thanks to the quad core desktop processor with 8GB of memory and a large two terabyte hard drive. The only downside is that it really could use more USB 3.0 ports and if you do want to add a video card, you probably should look at a gaming style system.

Read the full review of the Lenovo H30

3
Best Small Gaming Desktop - Alienware X51

Alienware X51 R3 Slim Gaming Desktop PC
Alienware X51 R3. ©Dell

Even though there has been a push by many manufacturer's to create smaller and more affordable PC gaming systems to try and entice console players, the Alienware X51 that has been on the market for many years still is one of the best. It may seem a little expensive given it only features a GeForce GTX 960 graphics card but it performs just great at 1080p resolutions which most people still use. IF you do need to upgrade the graphics performance, it can always be upgraded with the companies Graphics Amplifier which lets you use larger and more powerful graphics cards but it is a fairly expensive add on. Performance is great thans to the Core i7-6700 quad core processor with 8GB of DDR4 memory and you will have plenty of space for games with a 2TB hard drive. Priced around $1300 depending upon configuration.

4
Best Basic Compact PC - Dell Inspiron Micro

Dell Inspiron 3050 Micro
Dell Inspiron 3050 Micro Mini-PC. ©Dell

There are a large number of new low cost mini-PCs these days thanks to the Windows 10 Bing licensing. Of these, the Dell Inspiron Micro is probably the best option. At just $180 is is very affordable and it even includes a keyboard and mouse that most do not include. Performance is limited but if you want to just stream or browse the web, that is fine. It is nice to see that it features a faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi support as well. The big issues is the storage which is restricted to just 32GB of memory but this is true of pretty much all of the low cost mini-PCs running Windows.

Read the full review of the Dell Inspiron Micro

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