What’s big in small factor PCs?

Everyone who’s seen any of the Jurassic Park films knows the dangers that dinosaurs pose if left to run rampant in the modern world. But did you know that most organisations, SMBs especially, have the IT equivalent of the T-Rex sitting in their offices. We are talking about your big old desktop dinosaur machines of course, with their huge CPU towers. And, while it’s not likely they will ever run wild and feast on your staff, they are certainly taking up valuable office space and stopping you from embracing the mobility of modern computing.

For decades, there has always been one certainty when it comes to technology that things are going to keep getting smaller and thinner. This remains true with the latest generation of computers. There is a drive to shrink PCs the size of a sandwich but more than able to pack a punch in terms of power.

Such machines are often referred to as Small Form Factor (SFF) machines but as there is no set definition of this, it can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer as to what it entails. Generally it refers to smaller computers that offer the same power of a desktop computer.

They may be small boxes or book sized PCs and are often used for home theatre setups or for LAN Parties set up by gamers. Within these small boxes, you’ll most find the features you’d expect in a desktop. Most accept the industry standard x86 Microprocessors, DIMM memory modules and standard 3.5 inch hard disks.

People are attracted to SFF devices for their portability, small size and the fact they don’t eat up power like the old desktop machines. So let’s take a look at some of the bigger (or smaller) players on the market.

The Dell OptiPlex Micro

Favoured by the space-constrained, Dell’s OptiPlex Micro PC is a slim-line device that can offer real power as it relies on a range of processors including the powerful 4th Generation Intel Core i7s with Intel Integrated graphics. You also have a variety of 2.5 inch hard drive and M.SSD storage options.

It is compact and comes with a range of mounts that can fit just about anywhere. As it is only 18.2 cm long and weighs only 1.28 kg it can even clip on the back of your monitor or sit discreetly under your desk. With microphone, headphone jacks and Wi-Fi, it offers all the accessibility and features you’d expect of a larger machine, plus designers might like the fact it can run up to three monitors at the same time.

Intel Mini PCs

Intel is a big player when it comes to small PCS and their Intel NUCs or Next Unit of Computing devices can be configured in a range of ways, depending on your needs. While they are small, they carry up to i7 processors and  letting you configure the storage and memory as per your needs.

Another advantage is that you can choose processors, and ports before you buy, though this flexibility comes at a price. The Intel Mini PCs work well with a range of displays as they support HDMI or mini HDMI. As these tend to be the models used by PC builders who like to do their own upgrades and tinkering, some models come with easily removable lids.

HP Stream Mini

HP’s Stream Mini is cute, can fit in your hand and contains state-of-the-art components, including an Intel Celeron processor. What’s more, you can upgrade the RAM to 16GB. The Stream comes with Windows 8.1, Wi-Fi, Intel HD Graphics and a 32GB SSD.

It is a popular PC for people looking to build home theatre systems or for times when you don’t fancy dragging your lap top out. Additionally, it carries a card reader, four 3.0 USB ports and a HDMI and DisplayPort out so you can connect it easily to a display unit or TV.

Intel Computer Sticks

If sandwich size computing sounds too big for you, then it’s worth looking at the Intel Computer sticks which are little bigger than a usual USB drive. There is a huge advantage to this tiny size – you can carry the power of a Windows powered PC in your pocket. This means anything and everything from computer monitors, to projectors can become your computer, as long as there is a HDMI input slot.

Of course, with the Intel Computer stick being so small, you really can’t expect it to offer the same features as bigger machines. They come fitted with low power Intel Atom processors that offer only 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage and much of this is used by the operating system.

But the sticks are certainly good enough for most online tasks such as web surfing, social media and watching your favourite videos on YouTube. You can also preload all your business presentations and slip it in your pocket when you go to meetings, something you’d struggle to do with a massive desktop CPU.

Being so much cheaper than large desktop PCs and offering nearly as much power, these SFF computers are changing the market. Users love the simplicity and mobility while computer novices appreciate that they are easy to set up and work from the box. It looks like they could render your old desktop dinosaurs extinct very soon – so isn’t it time you started thinking bigger by buying smaller?

Want to know more about SFF computing or Mini PCs? Thinking it’s time to become more mobile? Why not talk to the team at Empower IT and we can help you downsize your office while boosting productivity.