Tech enthusiasts have been sceptical about Best Pocket PC choices and their uses for years now. The original range of Pocket PCs and Palmtop Computers popular in the early 2000s was cute, but in all seriousness? Technology just wasn’t advanced enough to make them a severe investment worth the money.
It’s an entirely different story today, on the other hand. Processor and Memory technology has progressed leaps and bounds in the last five years, which has, of course, led to the re-emergence of these super portable machines. You can get a Mini PC that offers top-notch performance for everything from watching Netflix to playing games.
Advantages of Using A Mini or Stick PC Today
On top of the Stick PCs perfect for connecting to a TV and surfing or watching a movie, you can even get handheld console-style Pocket PCs like the SteamDeck, which comes pre-equipped with the controls and specifications for playing most triple-A games made today.
There are several advantages a Pocket PC can have for you:
- Size: The ‘Pocket’ part really says it all. The best advantage of using these portable Mini PCs is that they have tiny bodies.
- Versatile: Most Pocket PCs (except Apple Mac Mini models) give you the option of changing out components anytime.
- Cost: Try comparing the price of a Mini PC to a low-end desktop (or, God forbid, a laptop). You’ll find Mini PCs are sold for meager costs and even under $100 if you’re buying a barebones Raspberry Pi.
The Technical Side of Pocket PCs
Pocket PCs: What Are They?
A Pocket PC, or Mini PC as they’re commonly called, is what it sounds like. It’s a tiny computer that combines modern-day functionality with elements of portability inspired by laptops.
Small, quiet, and not more than a couple of inches wide, long, and thick, Pocket PCs are the alternative to large CPU towers that are borderline impossible to move without a complete disassembly safely.
These function basically the same way a computer does, and just like a desktop, they use a CPU and Memory Storage system. Instructions are fetched from memory, prompting the CPU to use the Arithmetic Logic Unit to execute the operation, and finally, the result is stored in the memory again.
Components Found in Mini PCs: Things They Have, and Things They Don’t
The primary appeal of a Pocket PC is that it provides the same level of functionality as a desktop PC in a little package that you can even slip into your pocket. The need for a compact design means that essential components must be several times smaller than necessary and unnecessary features removed to make it as portable as possible.
With that said, let’s take a look at the components you’ll find in Pocket PCs (and the ones you won’t!) when compared to desktop PCs:
- Processor: The processor doesn’t need an introduction, being the essential brain of the computer. Today, however, you’ll mostly see ARM-based and intel processors in Mini PCs, given their highly flitting size.
- Memory: Newer Pocket PCs come with 8GB to 16GB of RAM, making them suitable for everything from watching movies to even playing in VR.
- Storage: Given the need for compact design and easy loading from memory, Mini PCs use Flash memory to store information and instructions.
- Operating System: The operating system of the Pocket PC depends mainly on the model itself. Most Mini PCs come with a windows based design, but Apple Mini Computers come with a Mac system, and the SteamDeck also uses an OS developed in-house.
- Computer Ports: Connectivity has to be a feature of any mobile computing device. Mini PCs have slots for connecting to input and output devices like a TV, monitor, keyboard, or a pair of speakers/headphones. These usually come in the form of HDMI and USB ports along with an audio jack.
- Cooling System: Yes, you heard that right. Mini PCs don’t come with a cooling system but are instead designed with components that generate less heat and withstand temperatures for a fair bit. Of course, you could just buy a fan for your Pocket Pc.
- Real-Time Clock: Desktop computers and laptops come with an RTC unit that stays on even after shutdown. Since Mini PCs don’t include a battery, they don’t have an RTC unit.
- Physical Interface: These utility-focused computers don’t have external interface devices like a display or a keyboard. Instead, you have to link them to the Pocket PC through Bluetooth or the USB/HDMI slots present.
The Best Mini PCs Today: Choosing the One For You
Pocket PC Choices to Buy Now
Some of these barebones Pocket PCs, kits suitable for minor tasks like viewing and editing documents. Others are full, ready-to-go Latest & Upcoming Pocket Pc kits complete with OS, RAM, and Memory and can be used for anything you’d imagine using a desktop for.
Regardless of their type, let’s get into the list of the Best Pocket PCs today without any further delay:
1. Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit (Ghost Canyon)
Intel’s Next Unit of Computing Pocket Pc series has been some of the most famous choices for a while. With every model getting significant upgrades over the last one, NUC 9 (Ghost Canyon0 is the latest model to come out and offers a robust, up-to-date performance that can satisfy the most hardcore of PC gamers.
At its size, the Ghost Canyon Mini PC comes with a Core i9-based processor you’d typically find in notebooks optimized for high-end performance, with a base clock speed of 2.4 GHz. However, this workhorse of a Pocket PC can reach 5 GHz with Turbo Boost.
You also get a lot of choices with these models. Besides the standard i9 processor, you can also find the model with an i7 processor (around $1250) and an i5 choice (a little more than $1050). Remember that these include the cost of an added GPU for the Mini PC.
Price: $1043.31 from Amazon (Price taken into account without GPU)
- Mind-blowing performance with the NUC 9’s standard i9-based processor.
- Offers upgrade potential is often limited to desktop PCs.
- Internal Power Supply makes it convenient.
- Quite possibly one of the priciest Mini PCs on this list, with prices beginning at $1050.
- It can only be oriented vertically.
2. Apple Mac Mini with M1
The Apple Mac Mini is the latest version of the Apple Mini PCs, and while it doesn’t look all that different, it’s borderline the best deal you’ll find. What truly makes this Pocket PC stand out is Apple’s M1 processor, offering a staggering amount of power and being an excellent alternative to Intel’s Core i3 and i5 chips.
Now, yes, it does come with a few disadvantages. Namely, a smaller port selection is this Mini PC’s biggest drawback, inhibiting you to a total of only two displays.
That’s not to say that this Pocket PC is a bad deal, though: you can get 8GB of unified memory, a 256GB SSD, and Gigabit Ethernet for only $699. Price: $699 from Apple US
- Faster performance than 90% of Pocket PCs with Apple’s revolutionary M1 processor.
- Smooth support for most types of software that runs on Mac OS.
- Finally, the affordable price of this Mini PC means you get the maximum value for your money with this Mac OS computer.
- Tragically, the Apple Mac Mini doesn’t come with any aftermarket upgrades.
- It also displays some problems with compatibility and particular features.
3. Asrock DeskMini 310
This compact Mini PC is based on the Mini-STX, a form factor that can challenge the MicroATX and other popular choices. The Asrock DeskMini 310 is an effort by the company to bring attention to the Mini-STX, and it certainly does that by offering an easy-to-build barebones Pocket PC.
Wait till you hear more about this Mini PC: judicious space usage can fit in no less than three drives, giving you more than ample space. The Asrock DeskMini 310 can even hold desktop CPUs up to 65 watts, albeit socketed ones.
This Pocket PC, which roughly comes up to the size of a desktop PC’s power supply, has an unremarkable black cube aesthetic but offers superb functionality at no more than $164.
Price: $217.83 from eBay
- It supports three total drives in 2 M.2 PCI Express slots and one 2.5inch SATA slot.
- The Asrock DeskMini 310 uses socketed Intel LGA1151 CPUs up to 65 watts.
- Offers solid desktop-level performance in a very compact build.
- Doesn’t offer support for non-stock CPU coolers.
- If you’re building it yourself, you’ll need both dexterity and cautious parts shopping to make the best use of the limited space.
4. Intel Hades Canyon NUC
Called the absolute best desktop-gaming grade Latest & Upcoming Pocket Pc, the Intel Hades Canyon NUC is slightly larger than your average book and just as thick. It comes in a nondescript black chassis that reveals none of the surprises inside.
You’ll find a Core i7-8009G/AMD Radeon RX Vega M GH Hybrid chip inside. This makes the best use of the limited space by combining processing and discrete graphics in a single chip.
This NUC is available in both barebones and ready-to-go formats, both of which come with an appreciable number of ports, especially Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Something to note, though, is that if you save money and go for the barebones Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC, you’ll have to opt for a manual installation of Windows.
Price: $999 from Amazon (Barebones version without OS, HDD/SSD, or RAM)
- Incredible graphics performance that can go toe-to-toe with GTX 1050Ti powered gaming desktops.
- Features a compact, attractive design that you can easily add to a home entertainment centre.
- You can also add customizable RGB lighting to this Pocket PC.
- According to owners, buying separate parts for the Intel Hades Canyon NUc can get expensive.
- Using this Pocket Pc for VR gaming for several hours will quickly heat it, reducing performance without an additional cooler.
5. Acer Chromebox CXI3
If you like Chrome OS (and the portability offered by Pocket PCs), you can’t possibly go wrong with the Acer Chromebox CXI3. According to hundreds of reviews, it’s the best version of Chrome OS you can find, delivering a solid, easy-to-navigate performance.
On its side, you’ll find an HDMI output port, a USB-C port, and several USB 3.0 ports, making it very convenient for both casual use and as a workstation.
Speaking of specifications, there’s a lot of choices available for the Chromebox CXI3. The storage and RAM specs usually stay at 64GB of eMMC storage/128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM, and the processor ranges from a Celeron (about $185.99) to a Core i7 ($896.75).
Price: $896.75 from Amazon (i7 variant)
- It’s one of the lightest mini PCs on the market, standing at just 1.2 pounds, meaning it can be mounted anywhere without worry.
- A design optimized for superb performance ensures it can run for long periods without slowing down.
- You can carry it around in your breast pocket. Seriously.
- The usual limitations of Chrome OS when compared to Windows or Mac systems.
- Only offers 64GB of eMMC storage. This is a significant drawback for a lot of people, especially given the medium-range price.
6. Azulle Inspire Mini PC
The Inspire Mini PC is the Pocket PC of choice for space-strapped offices. This stylish and sleek Mini PC is a barebones system offering almost unprecedented performance.
The best thing about the Azulle Inspire Mini PC is that these nifty devices offer a low price tag while not compromising on performance. Processor choices go from a Karby Lake i3 to an i5, with both giving it a rarely seen capability for multitasking.
It’s the best choice for architects and planners, who need raw performance and processor capability to perform complex tasks. It has a slight drawback, though: because of its popularity with professionals who need processor power, the Azulle Inspire Mini PC is out of stock more than half the time.
Price: $479.99 from Walmart
- The Azulle Inspire Mini PC has a compact fanless design that allows absolutely silent performance.
- You can order a ready-to-go kit from Walmart or Amazon or build one yourself by following a tutorial.
- This Pocket PC also comes with an IR remote.
- The fanless design mentioned earlier also means that it has to be given breaks once in a while since it has almost no way to promote cooling.
- As you might have guessed, if you have 6-8 hour workdays, it might be a better choice to invest in a model that comes with cooling to ensure optimal performance for longer.
7. Azulle Access3
The Azulle Access3 is different from other entries on this list as it is a Stick PC and not a Mini PC. It’s not much bigger than your average stick Pendrive and is certainly small enough to be carried around in a pocket, weighing in at just 5.12 ounces.
It also provides some of the best performance you’ll find in any Stick PC on today’s market. An Intel Celeron N4100 is bundled with 32GB Storage and speedy USB 3.0 ports to ensure quick, efficient, and relaxed use.
It also comes with several quality-of-life features like Gigabit Ethernet and 4K Video output, making it the perfect Pocket Pc to complement your home entertainment system so you can watch movies in 4K without suffering through more buffering than necessary.
Price: $130 from Amazon
- Smooth, elegant design combined with a stylish look means it won’t awkwardly stand out in your home entertainment system.
- Massive improvements in a port selection over other Stick PCs, offering USB 3.0 ports and Gigabit Ethernet.
- One of the only Stick PCs on the tech market to offer genuine 4K Video support.
- A Celeron CPU means that even when compared to other Mini PCs or Stick PCs, the Azure Access3 will provide slower data transfer speeds.
- The keyboard bundled with the Azure Access3 is clunky and hard to use.
8. Dell Precision 3240 Compact
This Pocket PC (it won’t actually fit in there) comes with Intel’s 10-core Xeon Processor and an NVIDIA Quadro RTX graphics card, which means it can provide the same performance as a medium-range desktop.
Sitting vertically, it takes up almost no space and yet is just large enough to remind you not to knock it over carelessly. It doesn’t have any eye-catching bright lights to be optimal for a work environment and comes with several ports and audio jacks.
The laptop-inspired external power brick is the only drawback to this solid Pocket Pc, and you can opt to get Dell’s convenient sleeve-mount to deal with that too. Dell offers the Precision 3240 with Celeron, Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 variants.
Price: $1029.00 from Dell (for the 10th Gen Core i5 variant with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD)
- This Pocket PC is ISV certified, meaning that it features an optimized design meant to make the most of its state-of-the-art components.
- The powerful, compact, and nondescript aesthetic makes it perfect for being used as a professional workstation.
- It’s straightforward to upgrade yourself when required.
- Like the Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit (Ghost Canyon), the Dell Precision 3240 Compact has a very high price tag, going up to $1629.00 for the i7 variant.
- The AC Adapter is external, meaning you’ll have to deal with a bit of inconvenience if you want to use this powerhouse Pocket PC.
9. Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra
The Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra is one of the best Pocket PC alternatives you’ll find for a professional workstation. It utilizes a weird but effective design that hides the Mini PC inside a monitor stand designed especially for this.
The Mini PC inside the particular monitor is small enough to be mistaken for a laptop battery, weighing only 1.16 pounds. It packs a serious punch, though: this tiny modular alternative to a desktop comes with an Intel Core i7, anywhere from 8GB to 64 of RAM and usually a 256GB SSD.
Price: $1249.00 from Amazon
- The high-end components of the Dell OptiPlex provide outstanding performance as long as you have at least 16GB of RAM.
- It has an excellent selection of ports option.
- The display that comes with the Dell OptiPlex means it’s a comprehensive solution, and all you need are input devices like keyboards.
- Setting up the Dell OptiPlex is an absolute mind-boggling hassle and can take upwards of an hour.
- While the innovative setup is convenient, it locks you into an unfamiliar ecosystem.
10. Raspberry Pi Model B
It’s no overstatement to say that the Raspberry Pi is nothing short of a legend in the tech field. Raspberry Pi Pocket PCs ushered in the era of tech that eventually led to Mini PCs and Stick PCs. The Raspberry Pi Model B is the culmination of almost 20 years of innovation.
This tiny Pocket PC weighs 1.6 ounces and uses an ARM Cortex A72 processor and 8GB of RAM to provide stunningly good use-value. The Raspberry Pi Model B also has Dual 4K Video support, which is unheard of for a Pocket PC that’s sold barebones for a jaw-dropping $35!
Price: $119.99 from Amazon
- Many people would say that being able to tinker with a Raspberry is a big benefit in and of itself. But in all seriousness, the Raspberry provides an easy-to-assemble Pocket PC that you can modify and upgrade as per your wish.
- The Raspberry Pi Model B is the best model yet and comes with 8GB RAM for your multitasking needs.
- One of the smallest Mini PCs, the Model B also comes with USB 3.0 for connectivity and USB Type C for power.
- Quite sadly, the Model B isn’t compatible with any of the older vintage Raspberry Pi cases.
- A lot of modern software is extremely hit-or-miss with Raspberry Pi Pocket PCs.
What Makes Buying A Pocket PC Difficult: A Conclusion
The fact is, Best Pocket Pc is not at all a bad investment for students or people who want a casual alternative to a high-performance desktop. However, deciding on the one you’re going to buy can be challenging, and not just because there are hundreds of these little wonders out there.
Functionality and intended purpose play a big part: a Raspberry Pi sold for under $100 will do just fine for viewing documents and editing them, but if you’re looking to enjoy a bit of mobile gaming, Lenovo’s prototype Lavie Mini is what you should look into.
As you can see, there’s almost no end to the choices you have in Pocket PCs. Consider what you want to buy it for before making a purchase, and here’s a tip: if you’re still unsure, go for a Raspberry Pi. Barebones Raspberry Pi kits cost only $7!