So which devices consider we to be real mini-PC's?

I regularly come across advertisements for mini PCs online and in emails. And if I look at them a bit more closely, they are often compactly built office PCs.

Such PCs are usually referred to as Small Form Factor models (SSF). In other words, full-fledged PCs, but in a smaller housing. Nothing fancy and made possible by the use of a smaller motherboard like the mini-ITX.

If you put the facts straight, the purpose of such an SFF model is mainly to reduce the space that a PC takes up on a desk. Because the housing is small, there are often fewer or no options for adding additional video cards and other expansion cards. And that's usually not necessary at all in normal office circumstances. In summary: A SFF-PC is often wrongly offered as a Mini-PC, while the properties are almost comparable to the traditional Desktop PCs.

But what is a real Mini-PC in our eyes? What are the distinguishing features?
  • Fanless - A fanless PC is preferred in PC unfriendly environments. Think of, among other things, dust and metal particles that are great enemies of computers with a fan cooling. We say: Preferably no mechanically moving parts in a Mini-PC!
  • Singleboard computer - All functionality integrated on 1 motherboard. Fewer cable connections guarantee less internal connection problems, so the most stable operation.
  • Extremely small housings - A Mini-PC should be usable in places where a normal or SFF PC simply won't fit. Think of dimensions of around 130.0 mm x 45 mm x 80 mm and a weight of 500 grams or less.
  • Industrial construction - A Mini-PC must be able to withstand extreme temperatures and be reliably operational 7x24 hours.
  • Very energy friendly - An increasingly important aspect of PCs is energy consumption. Mini-PCs consume only a fraction of the energy required by traditional PCs. Yet another contribution to a cleaner environment and lower operating costs.
  • Auto Power-On - Because Mini-PCs often have a function in continuous service at remote locations, such as monitoring processes, collecting data, or displaying information, it is important a Mini-PC restarts itself after a power failure. This prevents a lot of extra costs for (sometimes on-site) support.
  • Long-term availability. Because Mini-PCs are often part of a total solution, it is important for the solution providers that a chosen model will be available for a longer period of time in the same version/formfactor. This simplifies things such as: installation, documentation, support, product management, certifications and replacements.

Mini PCs have become possible through extensive integration and reduction of parts. For example by reducing the ATX motherboard format, which we all know from the "traditional" desktop PCs, to mini or even pico format as shown in the image below.

source: wikipedia

An important problem to overcome with Mini-PCs is how to cope with residual heat. The more powerful a PC, the more heat output the CPU/GPU will cause. In addition to the highly specialized cooling techniques, such as with coolants. (which we typically won't find in mini-PCs), there are two common techniques to tackle the heat problem in mini-PCs: Using a fan or cooling via the housing/heat.

Cooling with a fan is certainly effective but has a few important drawbacks. Disadvantages that even in certain applications are decisive for not using a fan.
  • A fan always makes some noise
  • Is mechanically therefore sensitive to wear / malfunctions
  • Failure of a fan can cause failure or damage to the PC
  • Is undesirable in certain circumstances, as described above in environments with a lot of dust, metal particles, etc.
Cooling via the housing surface (often enlarged with cooling fins) is our preference when it comes to "real" mini PCs. They can be used well in PC-unfriendly environments and can even be upgraded to extended temperature range with some of the brands carried by MiniDis.

As a specialist, MiniDis offers a wide range of particularly small PCs, most of which meet the most important characteristics of a Mini-PC as described above. Occasionally models are so special, so small and therefore suitable for specific applications, that a small fan is present. Think of the extremely small LIVA Q series PCs:

We supply Mini PCs from our wide range from the following manufacturers, among others
• Compulab
• Vecow
• Intel
• Minix

Much detailed product information is of course available here and via our sales advisors by telephone, chat and email.
  Hans Noort     18-01-2022 17:33     Comments ( 1 )
Comments (1)
 Amrendra -  22-01-2022

Very nice article sir. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Regards, Amrendra