Compact PCs – how they work and what tasks they perform

In addition to full-fledged system units and laptops, there are also miniature computers. Let’s look at how they differ and for what tasks they are suitable. Let’s evaluate the performance of such systems – can they replace a “large” PC?

Compact computers are often referred to as nettops . The first part is derived from the word “Internet” – that is, it tells us that such systems are designed primarily for surfing the World Wide Web. The term appeared by analogy: a laptop is a netbook, and in this case a desktop is a nettop.

There are also platforms . The difference is that a nettop is a completely finished computer, and you will have to assemble the platform yourself. You need to additionally install RAM, a drive, and sometimes a processor.

There are also single board PCs and microcontrollers . This is a separate segment of devices for enthusiasts. They won’t work just like that, you need to be able to install the operating system (usually Linux or Android) and configure it for specific tasks. Read more here .

Nettops differ little from each other – in any case, these are ready-made systems that are not intended for upgrade. But it all depends on the manufacturer, some still leave the possibility of replacing a number of parts. Most often, you can add RAM to a free slot.

PC Lenovo ThinkCentre M70q Tiny [11DT003LRU] 67 199 *
The platforms have a place to roam – the user chooses the components himself. Note that in some models the processor cannot be replaced, it is already soldered on the motherboard.

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Of course, the components must be chosen wisely and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Do not put a hot processor and high-frequency memory in a compact case.

For the DeskMini X300 platform, a processor with a TDP of no more than 65 W and a RAM with a frequency of no higher than 3200 MHz is recommended

The main advantage of nettops and platforms is compactness. They take up much less space on the desktop than conventional system units.

Some models can even be hung behind the monitor (if there are VESA mounts in the kit).

Nettop can easily be transported in a bag or backpack.

Mini PCs have energy-efficient components, so they barely heat up and consume little electricity. Cooling is usually the only fan, the noise from which is almost inaudible.

That’s where the pros end, let’s talk about the cons. The economical processors that can be used in nettops are much worse than desktop CPUs. This is also true for platforms – the power of the installed processor is limited by the power subsystem and weak cooling.

Compact PCs do not have a graphics card, the graphics core is usually built into the processor itself. Demanding games will not work, as well as resource-intensive applications that speed up calculations using a discrete card. However, nettops and platforms are designed for other tasks.

Among other things, nettops have fewer connection interfaces. Usually this is a couple of USB, one HDMI and Ethernet. Platforms do not always have an M2 connector, there are critically few SATA ports, and there is no PCI-E in principle.
A compact computer is perfect for media tasks: watching movies and listening to music. It can easily cope with both office work and Internet surfing. Thanks to good energy efficiency, such a PC can work as a home server.