When it comes to buying a new computer, some important considerations are size and portability. The choice is mainly between a portable (but more expensive) laptop and a cheaper (but rock heavy) desktop. Due to this, it's common for PC enthusiasts to have one of each. But will the introduction of Mini PCs change all of this?
The Third Player on the Hardware Stage
For the vast majority of people, there are only two choices: a laptop or a desktop. But since 2001, when Shuttle released its first Mini PC, there has been a new kid on the block. And the kid is growing. Shuttle is the leading Mini PC manufacturer, though no longer the only one. In 2004, the company sold its millionth Mini. Mini PC manufacturers like Asus, MSI, Soltec, and others are also selling hundreds of thousands of units worldwide. Once only an exotic toy in a lab, the next years hold some real possibilities for Mini PCs.
Portable computer is becoming extemely important, especially considering recent news. For the first time ever, notebook computer sales beat desktop sales. The study came from CurrentAnalysis, and showed that 53% of computers sold in May 2005 were laptops. People definitely are demanding minuaturized and mobile technology, but laptops always suffer from being far slower and more costly than desktops. Minis, walking the line between the two, could become serious contendors. They won't take up all your desk space, and they don't perform at levels way below desktop PC.
What Are Mini PCs?
As the name implies, Mini PCs are computers that are far smaller than normal PCs. They are compact in size and dimensions, though not in performance. Generally, a Mini PC provides most or all of the functionality of a desktop PC packed in a case that is half or a quarter the size of a normal case. As the Mini cases shrink down to extremely small, functionality does decrease.
The smaller size of Mini PCs is achieved thanks largely to the smaller size of the motherboard, the largest PC component. Despite being compact, a Mini PC motherboard is ordinarily compatible with desktop PC cards and devices. In some cases though, specially designed audio and video cards allow further shrinkage but don't allow the normal parts to be used.
Almost all major motherboard manufacturers have Mini PC boards, in both Intel and AMD flavors. The motherboards of these Mini PCs generally offer all the characteristics that a motherboard for a desktop PC of the same processor offers, though the Minis may be lacking some PCI slots and features. Of course, ordinary home users don't particularly need these slots.
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