4 miniature PCs that drastically change your desktop

“Small” doesn’t need to mean “slow,” does it? We think these four miniature computers will help change that perception.

July 2, 2013
Intel NUC desktop PC header

In this article, we take a look at four little computers that will change your desktop and the way you look at the desktop PC.

The modern-day desktop is still roughly unchanged from the beige chassis that people built Intel Pentium III-based computers into, complete with the Turbo button that did nothing most of the time. Even though the processes by which we make these marvels of technology are so sufficiently advanced to call them “magic”, we’re still building them into chassis that mostly conform to the ATX form factor. 

Simply put, we’re not moving to smaller form factors at the same rate as the amount of money, time and energy we’re putting in them to make them better, faster and more efficient. Its only in the last two years that ITX computers have gained any sort of traction and all-in-one desktops are still not as ubiquitous as one would like, despite the success of Apple’s iMac desktops.

There are some computers, though, that are breaking convention and today they’re offering the performance of the modern ATX-sized desktop in a chassis that is more than ten times smaller. We walk you through four of them.

Mini PC Rebel Tech Wootware Ikonix Sybaritic Prophecy
Sapphire Edge VS8  3861  3276  4499  4007  4006
Intel NUC DC3217IYE  3866  3957  3648  3760
Intel NUC DC3217IBY  4349  4256  4596

Apple Mac Mini

Apple Mac Mini 2013

Apple Mac Mini 2013

Apple’s Mac Mini was a revolution as far as the world was concerned when Apple revealed it first in 2005. It was bulky, but it shrunk the space required for a desktop computer considerably. Eight years later, the latest Mac Mini is the smallest and most desirable yet.

Powered by an Intel Core i5 dual-core processor with Intel HD4000 graphics, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, it’s enough to fool anyone into thinking that they’re working on a regular iMac. Although its pricing at R6600 is good, it still lacks solid state storage.

Apple ditched the DVD drive back in 2012, saying the world had to move on from optical media. Although adding a USB DVD drive is possible, when last did you use a disc on a Apple computer?

Sapphire Edge VS8

  • Sapphire Edge VS8 ± R3,930

 

Sapphire Edge VS8

Sapphire Edge VS8

Sapphire has been making small PCs for a while but they never really caught on. They were either based on the Intel Atom, which was disturbingly slow, or they had an AMD Brazos dual-core processor, which was limited by storage speeds and a slow memory controller.

The new Edge VS8 is equipped with AMD’s quad-core A8-4355M running at 1.6GHz and an integrated Radeon HD7600G graphics processor. Not only is it tiny enough to call it cute, it also can play most games nicely so long as you reduce settings accordingly.

Sadly this little critter comes without any memory, hard drive storage or an OS. Adding in 4GB of RAM, a 120GB SSD and Windows 8 can set you back another R2,500, more or less, so its pretty much on the same level as the Mac Mini. But it’s completely silent!

Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC)

  • Intel NUC DC3217IYE ± R3808
  • Intel NUC DC3217IBY ± R4400
Intel NUC

Intel NUC

It looks like we’re just shrinking the PCs as we go along and the third stop is the Intel NUC. Its completely different from anything else we’ve seen so far. While NUC is still something Intel is dabbling with, it has opened up the reference designs and the standard to other manufacturers.

It comes in two versions and the more expensive one sports Thunderbolt, three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and an optional built-in wireless card. The cheaper variant swaps out Thunderbolt for another HDMI port and an Ethernet port. Both also pack in a dual-core Intel Core i3-3217U, which is enough CPU power for most things that the average desktop user may do.

As with the Sapphire Edge, this also needs memory, a mSATA SSD and an operating system, typically adding another R3000 onto the final cost. However, the NUC is a little different because not only can it run Windows, but there’s a large community online who have loaded Apple’s OS X on it with little effort. The ability to run Linux on it goes without saying.

Raspberry Pi Mini-Computer

Raspberry Pi Mini-computer

Raspberry Pi Mini-computer

This should be familiar to MyGaming readers, but not everyone sees how amazing this versatile, credit card-sized computer is. Not only is it a development board on the cheap, complete with full-on breakout ports, but it can also run a Linux operating system. It even uses HDMI and an old-school RCA port, keeping the theme of making it accessible to anyone who wants one.

People have deployed these things to automate their homes, others use it as an internet router and some even use it as part of a super computer. The fact that this is available for just R300 and just needs a SD card to function is beyond awesome.

The Raspberry company’s dream is that people use the Pi not just as a computer, but as a tool to learn things like programming and hardware development. The Pi may not rival your gaming desktop any time soon, but the fact that it does so much with so little is incredible.

More Hardware news:

ASRock’s H87 boards unlock multiplier overclocking for Intel K-series CPUs

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Mid-range graphics cards: SA price comparison

Tags: AMD, apple, desktop replacement, headline, iMac. Mac mini, Intel, mini-ITX, Next Unit of Computing, NUC, OS X, Raspberry Pi, Sapphire, Sapphire Edge V8S, small computer

Shutterstock is the image partner of MyGaming – technology images can be found here

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