The 5 Best Micro Desktop PCs You Need to Know About

micro desktop

The concept of micro desktop PCs is not entirely new. It started in the 1970s when manufacturers began making more powerful and more compact computers. Compared to the mainframe and minicomputers of their day, these microcomputers were a quantum leap forward in computing technology. Today, however, micro desktops are nothing compared to their ancestors -- both in size and computing power.

Before going further though, let’s first define what a micro desktop PC is, shall we? A clear understanding will empower you to make an informed decision if you are looking for one (I believe you are. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here).

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What Is a Micro Desktop PC?

So what exactly is a micro desktop PC? Unsurprisingly, micro desktop computers are just that -- small computers that don’t take up much space. Micro desktop PCs range in size from being slightly bigger than a USB flash drive to a small cube. These miniature PCs can be connected to a monitor, keyboard, mouse, or any other input and output device.

This push toward creating the smallest PC possible is a result of the rapid advancements in processor technology. These advancements have made it practical and feasible to combine other pieces of hardware, such as graphics cards (and others), into a single CPU. This means instead of separate bulky chips, you have a single microchip.

Apart from size, these tiny computers also vary in price, performance, and power with all three factors being determined by the hardware packed in the small form factor. The good thing is that there are many players in the micro desktop PC manufacturing industry that you won’t struggle to find one that suits your exact needs.

Micro Desktop Buying Guide: 4 Factors You Should Consider

One of the biggest disadvantages of having so many options, especially when it comes to technology, is that picking the right one for yourself becomes a daunting task. That is why when you are looking for a micro desktop PC, you need to know exactly what to look for to make an informed decision.

These are the three most important.

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Preconfigured or bare-bones

One of the best things about buying a micro desktop PC is the fact that you have a choice of either buying a “bare-bones” micro desktop or a preconfigured one.

A bare-bones micro desktop PC is one that comes with the bare necessities that you need, such as a motherboard and connectivity. To have it up and running, you will have to source and fit the other essential components like RAM modules, storage drives, and an operating system. Going down this path is only recommended if you know what you are getting yourself into.

If you don’t want the hassle (fun for others) of finishing up a bare-bones project, then a preconfigured micro desktop PC is exactly what you need. Unlike the bare-bones micro desktop PCs, preconfigured ones are plug and play -- meaning everything has been done for you. All you have to do is plug it in, and it's ready to go.

Purpose

The next thing you need to consider before buying a micro desktop PC is its intended purpose of use. This will determine the features and specifications you consider.

For example, if you are looking for a gaming micro desktop PC, you will need to consider one with powerful processors, dedicated graphics cards, relatively large storage drives, and basically a bit more hardware than an average micro desktop PC. Of course, this will automatically mean your micro desktop will be bigger and pricier than the mainstream micro desktop PC.

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Ports

When it comes to micro desktops becoming smaller and smaller, there is only one component keeping them from going smaller than a USB flash drive -- ports.

And a micro desktop PC can’t do without a couple of ports, as they are, after all, the only way to connect to essential input and output components. This is why, when looking for a micro desktop computer, you need to consider the ports and other connectivity components as they will determine how many auxiliaries you can hook up to your micro desktop PC.

Price

When it comes to purchasing anything, in most cases the ultimate decision is budgetary. Thankfully, you’ll find that micro desktop PCs don’t just come in many shapes and sizes but at every price point too. Obviously, the lower down the price spectrum you go, the less the features. In some cases, quality is also compromised.

The bottom line, however, is that price is hardly an issue that can prevent you from owning a micro desktop. And that being said, let’s look at some of the best micro desktop PCs on the market.

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How We Reviewed the Best Micro Desktop PCs

Before I show you the best micro desktop computers, I think it’s only fair that I show you how we came to pick the ones that feature on this list.

To present you with this selection of micro desktop PCs, we researched many models and aggregated them according to user reviews from all over the world. After all, who best to help rate a product than genuine users, right? We also did a lot of in-depth research into the components and functionality of a wide array of micro desktop PCs, and these came out on top.

Great! Let’s get to it then.

5 of the Best Micro Desktop PCs

If you’re in the market for a micro desktop PC, whether to reduce the footprint left by your current full-size PC or simply because you’ve fallen in love with the small form factor, these five micro desktop PCs are some of the tried, tested, and most loved models available today. Please note that they are listed in no particular order.

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In need of a micro desktop PC that can fit on your desk without taking up a lot of space? Let me introduce you to the Azulle Byte 3 micro desktop PC.

For those looking to get rid of their noisy tower desktop, the Windows 10 Pro running Azulle Byte 3 fanless micro desktop is one of the best options out there. If most of your computing involves surfing and streaming, document editing, and keeping in touch with family and friends on social media, you’ll find this compact micro desktop powerful enough to give you a smooth and seamless experience.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (inches): 5.9 by 5.9 by 1.4
  • Weight: 1.12lbs
  • RAM: 4 gigabytes (GB)
  • CPU: Intel Celeron (Apollo Lake)
  • Storage: 32GB

Featuring a quad-core 4GB processor, an integrated Intel HD Graphics 500 graphics card, and 32GB eMMC storage, this tiny titan is a force to reckon with.

One of its biggest advantages, especially for multimedia buffs, is the plethora of ports available -- five in all. For instance, on the right side, you’ll find an SD slot for easy storage expansion, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port. Turn it around, and the back will greet you with many other ports that include one HDMI 2.0 port (which allows 4K playback at 60fps). You’ll also find a VGA port for legacy monitors, two other USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an audio jack, and a Kensington lock. This is way more ports than many a modern laptops sport, let alone a micro desktop of this size.

This feature-rich micro desktop PC also comes with an IR remote that allows you to perform many basic tasks like switching between tabs, opening the start menu, and adjusting the volume.

Pros

  • ​Ports galore
  • Exceptional performance
  • 4K video playback

​Cons

  • RAM can’t be upgraded

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When InFocus launched the Kangaroo MD2B Mobile Desktop, the world stopped to admire this micro desktop that is, surprisingly, the same size as an iPhone.

But size alone is not what got tongues wagging as this was not the smallest micro desktop PC on the market. What impressed people the most was the number of ports this tiny computer packed -- three in all. And the best part, they are all different. The Kangaroo Mobile Desktop features USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and micro USB ports. That alone makes it one of the most versatile micro desktop PCs in its size and price categories.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (Inches): 3.2 by 4.9 by 0.51
  • Weight: 0.5 pounds
  • CPU: Intel Atom x5-Z8500
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 32GB eMMC

Besides its diminutive size, the Kangaroo has many other features worth writing home about. These include a fingerprint scanner, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and the ability to use an iPad as a screen among others. This Atom-powered micro desktop also comes with an inbuilt battery capable of providing up to four hours of unplugged endurance.

The only downside that comes with the Kangaroo MD2B Mobile Desktop is that most of the internal memory will be taken up by the Windows 10 operating system, necessitating a reliance on an external hard drive. And because it doesn’t come with a 3.5mm audio jack, you will have to connect to a Bluetooth audio device for sound. Apart from that, this is a powerful little machine that can surf the web and tackle basic tasks, such as word processing, with ease. But be sure to keep multitasking to a minimum.

Pros

  • Portable
  • Lots of ports
  • Very affordable

​Cons

  • No 3.5mm audio jack
  • iPad mode doesn’t support sound

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If you thought small form factor PCs were alien to the gaming world, I’d like you to meet the Alienware Alpha R2, a micro desktop that is capable of outperforming rigs far bigger than it.

Whether you're tired of lugging around a massive gaming laptop or simply need more space on your desktop without having to forgo the pleasures of gaming, the Alienware Alpha R2 micro desktop is an excellent choice.

Specifications

  • Dimensions (inches): 7.9 by 7.9 by 2.2
  • Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • RAM: 16GB
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6700T
  • Storage: 1TB HDD (7,200-rpm)

This compact machine comes packed with some powerful internals like an Intel Core i7 processor, and Nvidia GTX 960 graphics coupled to 4GB of DDR5 make it capable of playing even the latest titles at respectable settings. Navigating through the system (using a controller) is made simple thanks to the Alpha's unique HiveMind interface.

Pros

  • Excellent gaming performance

​Cons

  • Expensive

Whether you intend to use this micro desktop for hardcore gaming or simply as a regular PC, one thing is certain -- the Alienware Alpha R2 won’t let you down. After all, what else can you expect from a Dell gaming machine?

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For the tinkerers and those who love to have total control of the kind of machine they run, the Intel NUC7i5BNH is one of the best bare-bones micro desktops you can buy.

As a bare-bones micro desktop, you will have to provide your own storage, memory, and operating system. This bare-bones micro desktop has ample space for your components of choice and is also ergonomically designed to make it easy for you to work in the limited space.

Specifications

  • 7th Generation Intel Core i5-7260U
  • Socket: Soldered-down BGA
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
  • A 2 22x42/80 slot for SATA3, Pie X4 Gen3 NV Me or AHCI SSD
  • 5" SSD/HDD bay
  • Graphics Output: HDMI 2.0a; USB-C (DP1.2)
  • Max Memory Bandwidth: 34.1 GB/s
  • Dual channel DDR4-2133 SODIMMs, 32GB maximum

The NUC7i5BNH has a wide selection of ports, including Thunderbolt 3, making it a very versatile micro desktop PC. Unfortunately, things can get pretty hot inside the NUC, and the fan can get pretty loud when it switches on.

Pros

  • Well designed
  • inexpensive

​Cons

  • Poor ventilation

The Intel NUC7i5BNH is definitely the bare-bones micro desktop PC you need to check out if you want a fully customized PC to suit your needs perfectly.

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The HP Z2 Mini G3 micro desktop PC was designed for professionals who need a lot of power from a PC but don’t have space for a full-sized workstation.

The HP Z2 Mini G3 micro desktop PC is a classic example of dynamite coming in small packages. This compact and portable PC will afford you some dynamic and exceptional performance that many full-sized PCs struggle to keep up with.

Specifications

  • Operating System: Windows 10 Pro 64
  • CPU: 6th Generation Intel Core Processor
  • RAM: 8 GB memory
  • Storage: 1 TB HDD
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 530
  • Weight: 4.5 lb

One of the good things about this petite (and beautiful) workstation is that it is highly configurable, affording you the pleasure of selecting key components such as processors, memory, and graphic processing units (GPUs) depending on your specific needs.

This is possibly one of the best small form factor PCs you will find on the market, especially since it also comes with great connectivity. Ports include a headset jack and two USB 3.0 ports on the left flank. Turn it around, and you’ll find the jack for the AC adapter, four DisplayPorts, an Ethernet jack, two USB 3.0 ports, and two USB-C port at the back. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with Thunderbolt 3 capabilities.

Pros

  • Sturdy build
  • great connectivity
  • affordable

​Cons

  • Lacks Thunderbolt 3 support

For exceptional performance, flexibility, and power this mini workstation is definitely worth your consideration. Coming from a trusted brand, this just might be the best micro desktop available today.

Comparison Table

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The Best Micro Desktop for You

Buying a good micro desktop PC can be a rather daunting task. But armed with this list of the best on the market, I believe that task has become easier.

But if you still can’t make up your mind, the HP Z2 Mini G3 comes highly recommended. With enough power for gaming and professional use, it definitely is the best all-rounder on the list.

So go ahead, pick your micro desktop and get rid of the clutter on your desk.

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