Top of the Intel NUC 13 Pro
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

Buying a Mini PC in 2023

Mini PCs, as the name suggests, are compact versions of standard desktop PCs. Though that might sound like a simple definition, a huge variety of hardware is available within this category. These machines range from sub-$50 single-board hobby machines to desktop replacements that cost thousands of dollars.

Your intended usage and overall budget make a huge difference in picking the right mini PC. For small projects like tinkering with Linux, running a simple file or media server on your local network, or retro gaming, a cheap single-board machine may do the trick.

If you’re hoping to replace a standard PC with a mini computer because you’re short on space or would rather have a minimal desktop, you can spend a bit more and get something that will still fly through standard tasks like web browsing, responding to email, word processing, and other general office work.

At the pricier end of the spectrum are fully-fledged gaming PCs that can (just about) accommodate a full-sized graphics card. Not only are these expensive, but they may also run hotter than comparable full-sized PCs owing to their cramped innards and reduced airflow. You’ll have to sacrifice space to fit a high-end GPU in your mini PC, which may mean stretching the definition of “mini” in this context.

Some mini PCs are available as a kit. If you go this route, you can buy a mini PC enclosure with a motherboard, CPU, and power supply and finish it yourself with your RAM, storage, and peripherals. Be aware that most mini PCs (even those sold as a kit) are not upgradeable in terms of motherboard or CPU, and most don’t include the space or PCIe slots for a dedicated GPU.

If you’re sticking with smaller form factors, you can do some neat things with your mini PC, such as hiding it from view completely. One solution is to mount the mini PC on the back of your monitor using an aftermarket VESA mount or even a DIY solution.

Despite being relatively budget-friendly, there are some hidden costs to consider when buying a mini PC. This includes the price of your peripherals (a mouse and keyboard), any monitors or TVs you want to use as a display, and any USB hubs you’ll need to buy to add missing ports and functionality.

Best Mini PC Overall: MINISFORUM EliteMini UM690

Minisform UM690 on table


  • Ryzen 9 powered PC
  • Radeon graphics put up a fight in light 3D applications
  • Plenty of RAM and storage to replace a laptop or desktop
  • Plenty of I/O including two HDMI and USB 4 for triple monitor support


  • Integrated graphics mean weak performance in serious 3D and video uses
  • You'll need a USB-C adapter for your third monitor

Looking for a Windows-powered mini PC that ticks almost all of the boxes? Consider the MINISFORUM EliteMini UM690. Powered by a Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU (with eight cores and 16 threads), this small box of tricks fuses a capable CPU with AMD’s integrated Radeon 680M graphics. That means it won’t be completely embarrassed regarding occasional 3D applications like light gaming.

Inside the box is 32GB of DDR5 RAM and 512GB of NVMe storage, which makes for a surprisingly peppy desktop machine that should tear through standard desktop tasks like web browsing, office work, coding, and even some photo and video editing work.

The UM690 features support for three simultaneous monitors via its two HDMI outputs and a single USB 4 output (the latter of which can handle up to 8K at 60Hz). On top of this, there are five USB 3.2 gen 2 ports and a single 2.5 gigabit Ethernet port, plus support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2. Windows 11 Pro is preinstalled out of the box, but you could wipe it and install Linux if you like.

Don’t expect the UM690 to fly in games but for desktop tasks, as a media or file server, for emulating older console games, or anywhere you need a PC but don’t have a huge amount of space, the UM690 is a solid buy.

Best Mini PC Overall


A powerful Ryzen 9 6900HX lies at the heart of the MINISFORUM EliteMini UM690, with 32GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe drive, with fast and plentiful I/O to boot.

Best Mini Apple PC: Mac mini M2 (2022)

Apple Mac Mini propped on a table
Josh Hendrickson / How-To Geek


  • Powerful and current M2 chip
  • More efficient in terms of power and thermals than comparable PCs
  • Surprisingly well-priced for a Mac
  • Runs the latest macOS and will receive years of free updates


  • Forget about upgrading the RAM or storage
  • ARM-based architecture incapable of running Windows natively
  • Multi-threaded app performance not as impressive as single-threaded apps

The 2022 M2 Mac mini is a shockingly good-value small computer. Equipped with the latest Apple Silicon system-on-chip, the Mac mini could easily be on our list, considering its fantastic value for money. While technically speaking the Mac mini isn’t a mini PC, this ARM-based machine can do almost everything its PC rivals can do and even excels in some tasks.

Notably, the M2 chip is far more power efficient than the x86 architecture found in most PCs. In terms of performance to watt, the Apple model will wipe the floor with most competitors, which makes the Mac mini ideal if you value efficiency in terms of both power and thermals. It runs a complete version of macOS and can even handle Windows on ARM using virtualization software like Parallels Desktop.

Be aware that the Mac mini isn’t upgradeable, so you’re stuck with the RAM and storage capacity you select at checkout. On the back of the unit are two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, a gigabit Ethernet port, and a standard stereo jack. The machine also comes with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3.

The Mac mini is a particularly good buy if you don’t own a Mac and simply want a budget-friendly entry point to Apple’s ecosystem. Performance in video and photo editing is excellent, and the 10-core GPU flies in 3D applications optimized for Apple’s Metal API.

Best Mini Apple PC (Mac)

Apple Mac Mini M2 (2023)

With an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, 8GB of unified RAM, a 256GB SSD, and Gigabit Ethernet on-board, the M2 Mac Mini is one of the best-value small computers you can buy.

Best Budget Mini PC: Beelink U59 Pro N5105

Beelink U59 on dark background


  • Cheap and cheerful for general computing tasks
  • Comes with Windows 11 Pro installed
  • 16GB of RAM, 500GB storage, triple-monitor support
  • Runs virtually silently


  • Intel HD graphics disappointing in terms of 3D performance
  • Eleventh-generation Intel Celeron showing its age a bit

A solid mini PC with a surprisingly long list of features, the Beelink U59 Pro isn’t going to knock your socks off, but it’s one of the best-value mini PCs you can buy today. Beelink makes many different models, and this one is powered by an eleventh-generation Intel Celeron “Jasper Lake” N5105 processor with a modest four cores and four threads.

The chip is a few years old, but it should get you where you want to be if all you’re doing is basic desktop computing like web browsing, responding to email, and word processing. Being a bit slow and old, the chip runs cool, which means it’s virtually silent in operation. The U59 Pro also has 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 500GB solid-state drive.

Perhaps most impressive at this price point is the fact that Windows 11 Pro comes installed. Other noteworthy features include a display output of up to 4K at 60Hz, triple monitor support (with dual HDMI ports), dual gigabit Ethernet ports, Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.2, and a wall-mount bracket in the box.

The Beelink U59 Pro mini PC only has Intel HD graphics, which will struggle in all but the most basic graphical tasks, making it a poor choice for gaming (unless you’re emulating retro consoles). If you need a bit more grunt, consider Beelink’s other budget machines, like the Core i5-powered Beelink SEI11.

Beelink U59 Pro Intel Celeron N5105

With only 4 cores and 4 threads on its Intel Celeron N5105, the U59 Pro is a modest but highly affordable mini PC for general office and computing tasks. It comes with Windows 11 Pro installed, support for three montors, and is almost silent.

Best Mini PC for Gaming: Intel NUC 13 Extreme Kit

Intel NUC 13 on pink background


  • Small but mighty mini PC built to Intel's NUC specification
  • Room for a full-sized, three-slot GPU
  • CPU, motherboard, power supply, and I/O ready to go
  • No space wasted in this tiny form factor


  • Doesn't include RAM, storage, or a GPU
  • A pricey way to play
  • You could build a standard sized PC for less
  • May not suit if you're unsure about installing components yourself

If you want a small gaming machine, the Intel NUC platform is an attractive prospect. The NUC 13 Extreme is the 2023 iteration of Intel’s New Unit of Computing, available in both a barebones kit and “finished” forms. This particular model, the RNUC13RNGI90001 (which just rolls off the tongue) is a barebones kit, so you’ll need to buy and install a few extra components yourself.

You get everything except RAM, storage, and a GPU. In the box, you’ll find a 13th-generation Intel Core i9 13900K, an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 770 chip, and a 750W 80+ power supply. Everything comes installed on the included motherboard, which supports up to 64GB DDR5 5600MHz memory, three M.2 storage slots, 10Gb Ethernet, a Wi-Fi 6E wireless card, and a whole heap of USB 3.2 gen 2 and Thunderbolt 4 ports.

Perhaps most important is the Intel NUC 13 Extreme’s support for full-sized, triple-slot GPUs that are up to 313mm long, 155mm high, and 63mm thick. This is essential if gaming is your primary use case since integrated graphics simply aren’t going to cut it in the latest games.

NUC barebones kits allow you to finish your build to your own specification. You’re paying a premium for the form factor and ease of installation, and if you’re coming from another machine, you can recycle parts like storage drives, RAM, or even your GPU.

You don’t have to worry whether everything will fit, fuss with cable management, or install components like a CPU or motherboard. You can even use the integrated graphics chip until you install your GPU.

Best Gaming Mini PC

Intel NUC 13 Extreme Barebones Kit (i9-13900K)

This 2023 Intel NUC 13 Extreme kit comes with a Core i9-13900K chip, 750w power supply, and room for a full-sized three slot GPU. Simply add your own storage, RAM, and graphics card.

Best Mini Linux PC: Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

Chip on a Raspberry Pi
Jason Fitzpatrick / How-To Geek


  • Cheap, small, and good enough for basic computer tasks
  • Use it as a desktop replacement or in your next DIY project
  • Dual HDMI outputs, decent I/O
  • Great support for Raspberry Pi OS, a Debian-based operating system


  • Expensive for a single-board computer
  • Limited use as a desktop replacement due to hardware limitations
  • You'll need a case for it

Almost all of the mini PCs on this list (including our best overall pick) could be Linux Mini PCs—you just need to install Linux on them. The main exception to this is the Mac mini, though Linux support for Apple’s new chips is improving rapidly. With that said, we’ve gone for a “Mini Linux PC” here that doesn’t ship with Windows preinstalled, which means you aren’t spending anything on a Windows license (even a cheap OEM copy).

With that in mind, we chose the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B as our Linux wildcard. It may be a few years old now, but it’s absolutely tiny, available for less than $75, and its primary operating system—Raspberry Pi OS—is based on the Debian Linux distribution. The modest Broadcom BCM2711 quad-core ARM-based chip provides enough grunt for basic desktop tasks, and it’s coupled with 8GB of DDR4 RAM.

That makes it ideal as a simple desktop computer for browsing the web and basic office tasks, as a means of powering your next retro emulator build, as a power-efficient server, or as a controller for some sort of whacky DIY project. You can use these machines as a networked Time Machine backup, as a proxy server, or simply as a desktop replacement with the 64-bit Raspberry Pi OS.

The Best Raspberry Pi Kits of 2023

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B
Best Raspberry Pi Overall
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B
Raspberry Pi Pico RP2040
Best Budget Raspberry Pi
Raspberry Pi Pico RP2040
RasTech Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter Kit
Best Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
RasTech Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter Kit
CrowPi2 Raspberry Pi Laptop for Deluxe Kit
Best Raspberry Pi for Learning to Code
CrowPi2 Raspberry Pi Laptop for Deluxe Kit
Raspberry Pi 3 A+
Best for Retro Gaming
Raspberry Pi 3 A+

It’s no wonder the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B got our top gong as the best overall Raspberry Pi kit you can buy.

Best Mini Linux PC

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

This is peak Raspberry Pi, with all of the components and memory you need to for more advanced applications including use as a desktop replacement with Raspberry Pi OS.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mini PCs are much smaller versions of standard desktop PCs. They can come with the same type of processors found in "standard" Windows laptops and desktops, or use ARM-based processors like the Apple M1 or similar. While some mini PCs can be powerful, many are underpowered compared to desktop and laptop alternatives on account of their thermal and power requirements. They are typically not user-upgradeable beyond a few basic components like RAM and storage.

Most mini PCs don't have dedicated GPUs, instead opting for integrated graphics solutions like Intel UHD Graphics or AMD Radeon graphics. This saves on space, heat, and power requirements not to mention cost. That said, some mini PC format like Intel's NUC have enough room to house a full-sized graphics cards.

A mini PC with a full-sized graphics card and comparable specifications to a desktop of the same specification should be just as good for gaming, though it's important to understand how smaller enclosures affect heat dissipation. You may find your machine runs hotter or louder than a comparable full-sized gaming desktop, and you'll also need to make sure that the power supply can handle the total power draw with your GPU installed.

Mini PCs are rarely upgradeable in terms of CPU and motherboard but many models support RAM and storage upgrades. If your mini PC has room for a full-sized graphics card, this is also upgradeable. There are exceptions like the Mac mini which isn't at all upgradeable or single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi which can only receive storage upgrades via a new SD card.

Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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