But because they have no screen or battery, they’re also much cheaper with many models available for well under $100.
They may look no larger than a cigarette lighter or a USB flash drive, but they come with enough functionality to create a low-cost computer system.
If you haven’t seen one before, it might be a bit confusing just how you setup one of these devices, but it’s pretty simple and just needs a couple of tricks to know.
First up, you supply power from a AC USB phone charger. All mini PCs have a mini or MicroUSB port specifically for taking in power – you just connect up a phone USB cable between the phone charger and the mini PC and it’ll boot up straight away (mini PCs generally have no power button).
You can connect any TV or computer monitor to a mini PC through HDMI. As most mini PCs feature a miniHDMI port, you’ll likely need a miniHDMI to HDMI cable to get it hooked up or you might find an HDMI adapter cable in the mini PC box.
Connecting up a keyboard and mouse might seem difficult if there’s only a single USB port on the mini PC but again, that’s easy fix – you just use a USB hub. You plug the keyboard and mouse into the hub and the hub into the mini PC. When you apply power, the mini PC will automatically find the two and you’ll be able to operate the Android operating system via keyboard and mouse.
Getting onto the internet is easy too – all mini PCs feature Wi-Fi wireless networking so if you already have an Android smartphone or tablet, you connect a mini PC to your home network the same way (just use the Android Settings screen and follow the settings in the Wi-Fi tab).
With the ability to playback high-resolution video, mini PCs can be an excellent alternative to a full-sized desktop or notebook computer in your living room. They also consume far less power, allowing for battery use.
If you’re looking for a mini PC, you find models with single (10), dual (2) and quad (4)-core processors – for best speed, go for a quad-core model. But as you’d expect, they’ll be the most expensive. That said, you’ll find plenty of quad-core models for well under $100.
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