Mini PC or Laptop: What to choose?

Big bulky tower form computers are losing popularity. Nowadays, people want something small and portable for their computing needs. Sure, smartphones and tablets have made our lives easier by providing palm-sized computers. Still, sometimes you need a little more computing power. And that’s where the decision to choose between a mini PC and a laptop comes. Both of these types of computers offer plenty of power in a small compact and portable package. But, with so many options available in the market, it gets really hard to decide what to choose.

Although both of these kinds are easy to carry, there are significant differences between the two as well. So, to help you decide which one is suitable for you, we have put together this laptop vs. mini PC guide based on your needs. After reading through this article, we hope you will be in a much better position to decide which one best suits your needs. But first, let’s take a look at what is a laptop and what is a mini PC. Once you know the basics, be sure to check our Mini PC vs. laptop showdown in the following paragraphs.

What is a laptop?

The reason it is important to define laptops is that Tablets are slowly encroaching upon the laptop territory. Thanks to the popularity of the two in one system, you can hardly tell the difference. You will notice that the best two-in-one laptops can easily compete with laptops due to their higher hardware specification. For the sake of discussion, we will be excluding those systems when we talk about laptops in this article. Therefore, a laptop is a machine that holds the same fundamental power, hardware specifications, and connectivity options as desktops and mini PCs.

What is a mini PC?

A mini PC – as you can tell by that name – is a small form factor computer. It was popularized by Intel’s Next Unit of Computer (NUC), offering big computing performance in a tiny package. These little powerhouses come in various configurations, use the latest Intel/AMD chipsets and quality components. As a result, you get serious computing power packed into a unit the size of a desktop DVD player. You can easily place them on your space-starved desk or tuck them away behind the monitor. This combo of size and strength makes them a popular choice among commercial and industrial enterprises.

Laptop and mini PC Showdown

The decision to go either for a mini PC or laptop depends on the factors below:

1. Performance

What are your needs when it comes to power and performance? The most important step when choosing between a mini PC and a laptop is to determine your needs. Do you need a machine for gaming or everyday office tasks? Do you need a computer for graphics-intensive work or just browsing the internet and streaming your favorite shows? Similarly, do you need it for some DIY project, or will it be a long-term investment?

While some core i7 Mini PC may be able to go toe to toe with laptops, generally, they aren’t suitable for graphics-intensive productivity tasks or video gaming. However, it comes down to the processor being used. A mini PC running on a desktop-grade processor will offer significantly better performance than a mini PC running on a mobile-grade processor of the same class.

2. Portability

Do you want a fully mobile system, or are you fine with limited mobility? Both Laptops and mini PCs offer you portability, although in different ways. A laptop allows you complete portability. It’s an all-in-one travel solution. Pack it in a bag, and you are ready to move anywhere you want. However, a mini PC provides you with limited mobility. That’s because it doesn’t include a display and keyboard. You need to unplug your box, remove all the components and then take it anywhere you want. Once you are there, you need to connect all the components together before you can use them.

3. Peripherals

How often will you need computer peripherals to get work done? For industries where space is a major consideration, a mini PC is often ideal. A mini PC like NUC can be easily integrated into any modern equipment in multiple roles. For instance, data monitoring, feedback loops, control systems, etc. There’s no need for a standard monitor, mouse, or even a monitor in such applications. All the data is often just fed back into the central unit or controlled by a remote operator. In all these applications, peripherals play a very important role. You cannot work without them.

On the other hand, laptops are more useful in settings where a notebook-style computer is a basic necessity. For example, giving presentations, preparing spreadsheets, live calling, etc., irrespective of where you are. Laptops are therefore best suitable for mobile executives who need to get work done on the go. As laptops need no peripheral connections to get work done, you don’t have to worry about connecting a keyboard or fetching a mouse while riding in the metro.

4. Adaptability

How adaptable do you want your system to be? Sure, the all-in-one operation of laptops is very attractive for some users. But, it can also limit hardware configurations. Laptops are notoriously hard to upgrade. Once you get a laptop, you are stuck with the same hardware configurations all of your life. A mini PC like NUC offers a more modular experience. It lets you change your components whenever you want. You can upgrade your system to any needs that may arise in the future. So, you should consider whether you want the same user experience all the time or don’t want to be limited by the built-in components.

5. Convenience

How convenient do you want your system to be? Laptops are more convenient to use, as you don’t have to connect anything. Simply turn it on and use it anywhere, as long as your battery holds you back. Moreover, laptops come fully assembled and configured. You don’t need to change anything to start using a laptop.

On the other hand, mini PCs need careful consideration. Even the ready-to-go Mini PC systems like the Gigabyte Brix Mini Computer need additional peripherals to start operation. Besides, you need to understand all the ports and cables that you can connect. And if you are getting a barebone kit, you need a deeper understanding of various internal components to make them suitable for your work.

6. Ergonomics

How ergonomic do you want your workstation to be? Unfortunately, the design of the laptop forces users to choose between a bad neck & head posture or a poor hand & neck posture. There’s no other choice. That is why extensive use of laptops leads to musculoskeletal discomfort and fatigue. If you are a laptop user, using an external monitor, external keyboard, and a separate mouse is the only way out.

Conversely, mini PCs are inherently ergonomic. This is because, with a mini PC, you have to use a separate keyboard, separate display, and a separate mouse. The freedom to choose your components means you can select any model in any shape. There are no restrictions. You can go for any model you feel comfortable with. Most of all, you can arrange all of these components as ergonomically as you want them to be.

7. Price and Price to performance Ratio

Are you on a limited budget, or can you splurge? It doesn’t matter because there is no significant difference between the two when it comes to price. Sure, generally speaking, a mini PC is more affordable than a laptop. You can easily get a highly powerful mini PC at the price of a budget laptop. However, a laptop’s price tag also covers the cost of the entire package. You don’t need any additional peripherals. Simply power the laptop, and you are ready to go.

Nevertheless, that’s where the major tradeoff comes into play. If you choose a laptop, you will notice a difference in the price-performance ratio. A barebone mini PC offers impressive performance for the price you get it assembled in. You can get more performance from a mini PC because it is customized exactly to fulfill your needs. That’s why a mini PC offers more value for the money.

Final Thoughts

So, the Mini PC vs. Laptop choice boils down to your needs. You can only make the right choice if you know your needs down to the nitty-gritty. Laptops and mini PCs are very similar in many ways and cater to almost the same demographics. However, each of them come with their own advantages and disadvantages. We mentioned the most significant pros and cons of each in this article. Therefore, you must consider both sides of the coin before making your choice. For more information, be sure to check related articles on LinuxHint.

About the author

Syed Asad

Asad is passionate about all things tech. He brings you reviews of the latest gadgets, devices, and computers