We dug into the specs on more than 80 mini PCs, but only a handful met our requirement of at least an eighth-generation Intel processor with a solid-state drive (or the option to add one) for under $800. Based on testing numerous Windows 10 budget systems with low-performance processors for previous versions of this guide, we still think Chrome OS is the best option for less than $250.
The Dell OptiPlex 5070 Micro and Lenovo ThinkCentre M720 Tiny are Dell’s and Lenovo’s most direct competitors to the HP ProDesk 600 G5. Functionally, there’s very little difference among the three models: They all use the same ninth-generation Intel Core processors, they all have two RAM slots and M.2 storage that’s easy to upgrade, and they all cost about the same amount and use a similar amount of power. The OptiPlex and ThinkCentre can fit a 2.5-inch hard drive or SSD instead of a second M.2 SSD, but there’s a case to be made for both of those options. The main advantages of the ProDesk 600 G5, and the main reasons we prefer it, are its second USB Type-A port on the front (which neither the Dell nor the Lenovo offers), its support for Wi-Fi 6, and its three-year warranty (which Dell has but Lenovo charges a bit extra for).
HP’s ProDesk 400 G5 is very similar to the ProDesk 600 G5 but lacks a USB-C port on the front. The HP EliteDesk 800 G5 has the same ports as the ProDesk 600 G5 but offers an optional Radeon RX 560 dedicated GPU as an add-on. This is an older low-end GPU that won’t play modern games at high settings, and the EliteDesk 800’s small size is likely to limit its speeds to prevent overheating. But the dedicated GPU represents a substantial step up over integrated graphics and might be good enough for casual gaming or professional 3D work.
We tested one AMD Ryzen–based mini PC, HP’s EliteDesk 705 G5. It has the same ports and the same design as the ProDesk 600 G5, but the model we tested had a quad-core Ryzen 3400GE processor instead of an Intel Core i5-9500T. For CPU-intensive tasks like video encoding, the Ryzen processor was about three-quarters as fast as the Intel processor. But its Vega 11 integrated GPU fared a bit better in games—Intel’s UHD 630 could barely handle Fortnite at low settings, but the Vega 11 could play it comfortably at medium settings. It’s still not a gaming computer, and we still think a faster processor is better for most people, but the EliteDesk 705 G5 might be a good choice for a family PC that occasionally needs to play multiplayer games.
We didn’t test Lenovo’s Ryzen-based mini PC, the ThinkCentre M75q Tiny. From the outside, it’s mostly identical to Lenovo’s Intel mini PCs. We’d expect its performance to be similar to that of the HP EliteDesk 705 G5 we tested—it may be a good option for casual gaming if you can buy it for much less than $700, but overall we still prefer the better processor performance of the Intel models.
Older NUCs based on Intel’s eighth-generation processors, including our former main pick, the NUC8i5BEKPA1, are still available. This NUC comes with an Intel Iris graphics processor, which is faster than the Intel UHD 630 that our picks include. But it still doesn’t make the NUC a great choice for gaming—most people should stick to the newer, 10th-generation models, especially since the eighth-generation models aren’t any cheaper.
Intel offers Core i3 and Core i7 versions of our NUC pick, the NUC10i3FNHFA and NUC10i7FNHAA, respectively. The Core i3 version is only a little less expensive, and it uses a 1 TB hard drive (instead of an SSD) and a dual-core processor, which together make it substantially slower than the NUC10i5FNHCA we recommend. The Core i7 version offers a six-core Core i7-10710U processor, but the Core i5 version is fast enough that we don’t think the Core i7 NUC is worth the extra $200-ish for most people.
The Dell OptiPlex 3070 Micro is mostly identical to the OptiPlex 5070 but without a USB-C port on the front. The OptiPlex 7070 Micro is more expensive than the OptiPlex 5070 and has a Core i9-9900T processor upgrade option, but otherwise it offers no meaningful improvements over the 5070.
The Lenovo ThinkCentre M920 Tiny is a version of the M720 Tiny that offers the eight-core Intel Core i7-9700T as an upgrade option; the M720 tops out at six-core processors. We don’t think most people need that much performance, but if you do, you can configure the ProDesk 600 G5 with the same processor. Do that instead.
Though we like the CTL Chromebox best and it usually costs less, the Asus Chromebox 3-N017U (our previous budget pick), the HP Chromebox Enterprise G2, and the Acer Chromebox CX13-4GKM4 are all essentially identical computers that use the exact same motherboard, the same ports, and most of the same components. If you want something a bit more aesthetically pleasing than the CTL Chromebox (or if you just prefer one of these companies to the others) and you don’t care about the extra storage space, any of these three options will be fine.