Mini PC not working? Have you thought of this?

5v3apsuIt’s one of the convenient features of mini PCs that you can easily power them via their microUSB port.

That makes it easy to use that old USB phone charger from your old Android smartphone. The problem with doing that though, is you may not be giving your mini PC enough power to do the job.

When mini PCs first arrived on the scene, they featured single-core SoC CPUs with barely enough power demands to blow out a candle. Today, with quad-core sticks by the dozen, power demands have gone up considerably, so much so that your old phone charger will no longer be able to cope.

As an university electronics graduate, here’s my rule of thumb: you need at least 500mA current capacity from your power supply for each core in your mini PC. Have a dual-core stick? You need a 5VDC / 1A power supply – minimum. Playing with a new quad-core mini PC? You need a 5VDC / 2A power source, preferrably 3A. Much less than that and your mini PC won’t hit those high notes when you want to play Beach Buggy Blitz at 1080p screen resolution and crash.

If you want my super-simple solution, make sure you have a couple of 5VDC /3A power bricks on hand. These are perfect if you also power your mini PC through a powered USB hub.

Powered USB hub PSUs are inadequate

Which brings me onto the other problem – powered USB hub PSUs or ‘power supply units’. Powered USB hubs are as cheap as chips and you can pick them up for well under $10. The problem is that to get that price, their manufacturers have had to cut corners. And where are the corners often cut? The PSU capacity. I recently purchased a seven-port USB port that came with its own PSU – a 5VDC @ 900mA unit. A bit underdone for this job but I was prepared to live with it. Unfortunately, even 900mA was optimistic here. The 5V supply rail collapsed when pulling just 500mA out of it, which meant I couldn’t even get my single-core MK802 mini PC working reliably.

When I bumped the system up to a new regulated 5V/3A PSU, not only did my MK802 work perfectly, so too did the dual-core MK808.

So the bottom line is, make sure you have a decent PSU running your powered hub or directly into your mini PC. A basic 5V/1A phone charger won’t do the job of powering new quad-core TV sticks.

And don’t rely on the PSU supplied with your budget powered USB hub. My experience is some are nowhere near up to the task.

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