Windows Mini?
April 12, 2016 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Looking for the Windows version of a Mac Mini - compact, fully equipped, quiet, fairly powerful, not crazy expensive.

I have a dying PC, and I'll need a new PC soon.

This new machine MUST RUN WINDOWS NATIVELY - I have some software and some hardware that will not run under emulation.

It would be nice if it could easily dual-boot into Linux as well.

I will not be doing any gaming or other heavy processor-intensive things like editing video; I may occasionally watch a DVD.

I would like it to come with all the RAM and storage and whatnot it will need; I don't want to have to install any hardware, although I'm happy to tack on an external DVD drive.

My current machine has a 1GB internal drive and 4GB of RAM, so I should probably at least match that.

It would be nice to find something pretty quiet.

I'm not really looking for a Chromebook/Chromebox type device.

My current monitor has a 15-pin monitor cable, so tips on appropriate adapters would be great.

I've seen this previous AskMe but it's from 2013.

Any thoughts?

posted by kristi to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The go-to option here for "windows mac mini" is the Intel NUC, but they _only_ come as kits. Some sites sell them as combos including the ram/SSD/etc, but in general they're DIY kits.

If you're willing to step up a bit in size, something like the dell optiplex 3020/3040 could be good. We have them deployed in the office i work at, and they're solid. Even the "micro" is bigger than a mac mini, though.

Bear in mind almost none of these machines(barring the next size up from micro 3000 series dell) have optical drives. USB plug in ones are $25~. I wouldn't let that stop me.
posted by emptythought at 10:00 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you have a monitor that has HDMI, a Compute stick will work.

The only problem with this, there is no DVD drive since it is a small pc that plugs into a hdmi port.

You might want to consider building your own if you comfortable doing so. /r/buildapc and pcpartpicker are good places to look at builds meeting your specs.
posted by 81818181818181818181 at 10:11 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I looked into this for a compact MAME/Steam video game cabinet. Gigabyte sells NUC-like i5 and i7 systems, but in my experience, and this seems to be backed up by others on the web, their fans are noisy once anything that requires any processor power gets going.

I have yet to find a PC vendor that sells systems as quiet as Macs. If noise is a factor for you, you can just buy a Mac mini and run Windows through Boot Camp — that's what I did, and it runs games perfectly and quietly, so it should handle your needs easily. It's not emulation — the mini is an Intel machine running Windows 10 on bare metal.

Either a NUC or Mac mini will need a DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter if you are keeping the same monitor, and an external optical drive if you are planning on watching DVDs or Blurays.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:31 AM on April 12, 2016

HP Pavillion Mini?

I've never used one but would recommend avoiding the Celeron version and getting the Core i3 instead.
posted by mr_silver at 10:35 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding the HP Mini (with i3). The NUCs are a little underpowered at this point.
posted by General Malaise at 10:46 AM on April 12, 2016

Also ditto the Intel NUC. You do have to do the most minor of self assembly (snap in the ram and an m.2 ssd) but it's a great, quiet little computer. And if you get the 5th generation (like the NUC5i5RYH) it's pretty darn cheap. You can configure it with 16gb of RAM and 250gb of drive space for under $500.
posted by dis_integration at 10:49 AM on April 12, 2016

Maybe a Kangaroo?
posted by MagicEightBall at 11:06 AM on April 12, 2016

On the noise tip, I also looked at the fanless enclosures by Cirrus7 (German). They look like they are engineered to actually carry heat away properly while operating without a fan, but they are somewhat more expensive than an equivalent Mac mini, once Euros are translated into USD, and once all the "extras" like SSD, wireless adapter, Windows license, and so on are added.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:10 AM on April 12, 2016

Have you considered the Mac Mini? It will run Windows (Boot Camp will help you do that) or Linux.

There are, of course, less expensive options than the Apple hardware, but the Apple hardware is good stuff.
posted by jgreco at 11:13 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

If being able to boot into Linux is important, be wary of tiny 32-bit Windows machines. Some of them use 32-bit UEFI, which makes booting Linux a huge chore.
posted by scruss at 12:00 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Mac Mini will actually run Windows natively. The only difficulty factor is that yo need to acquire a Windows license, but you can set it up to boot into Windows or Linux. This is different from the virtualization that you would run inside OSX. They're not running any special hardware anymore vs. a typical Windows PC.
posted by azpenguin at 12:37 PM on April 12, 2016

I run windows in bootcamp on my Mini all the time. It works great.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:45 PM on April 12, 2016

This hardware you mention... how does it connect? Be sure to check that you have the needed port. The 15 pin, that's VGA connector, so you'll need to convert to that if you want to keep that monitorLifeHacker review of some small form factor PCs:
posted by at at 7:54 PM on April 12, 2016

If what you chose doesn't have a VGA out you'll need a DVI to VGA, HDMI to VGA, or a DisplayPort to VGA adapter.
posted by zinon at 9:56 AM on April 13, 2016

Response by poster: Sounds like what I want is a Mac Mini. (I appreciate the tips for the HP Mini; that's definitely another contender.)

Thanks very much, everyone!
posted by kristi at 10:31 AM on April 15, 2016

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