Once upon a time the typical computer would have taken up an entire room (and a large room at that), in these times saving space with a mini computer wasn’t really a phrase or concept that anyone understood.
Computers were meant to be housed in research units, Universities and other large buildings that could dedicate entire rooms worth of space to the computer.
The Home Computer
Then along came the personal computer (The home computer), while still fairly cumbersome, these machines were meant to fit into the average persons house, after a fashion.
The home computer proved very popular and soon evolved into something similar to what we know as the home computer today – a reasonably compact unit housing the hardware, along with a screen for viewing and a mouse and keyboard for input.
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Computers that take up less space
The bog standard home computer with its “Tower”, large screen, keyboard, mouse and perhaps printer is great if you have an office, or a room dedicated to your computer, but for those who don’t have that luxury and perhaps have the the computer share a room that otherwise has its own function – the dining room perhaps, then having the computer take up the least amount of space possible is very important.
Thats where the mini computer comes in – they concept has been around for some years, but it is becoming truer to its name every year and it is basically as the name says, a miniature computer – one that aims to take up the least amount of space possible.
In terms of power, it sometimes is and sometimes isn’t affected – but you will generally find that with a mini computer, you really start to pay for power at a premium rate – because they are made to be compact, fitting in power processors and such like becomes an expensive job, hence why that cost is passed on to the consumer.
Mini Laptop Computers
Mini laptops are probably the most common variant of the mini computer, and they come in several flavors:
- Netbooks – very small laptops that could almost but not quite fit in a large pocket, none the less very small and very light. These netbooks normally tend to have less power than your standard laptop, and sometimes run on freeware operating systems such as linux (to save money) but often run on the latest windows operating system as well. A good example would be the ASUS X205TA-DH01 netbook – at 11.6-inchs its very small and lightweight, and with a pirce tag of just $200 (£150 est) its a great deal.
- Sub notebooks – Sub notebooks and again small and lightweight, but tend to have a much higher power specification and normally come at a premium cost. A good example of a subnotebook would be the Samsung 900X3A Subnotebook – again its very small and lightweight, but it comes with an i5 processor and 4GB of ram – making it a competitor to the larger laptop computers – power and portability comes at a premium though, and the list price for this laptop is 1599 Euros.
Mini Desktop Computers
If you are operating out of a fixed location, then a laptop probably wont be your first choice, instead you are more likely to go for a PC or a mini desktop computer as they are more commonly known.
Once again these also come in lots of variations – up until recently the most common type was what is normally known as a shuttle PC – this is very similar to a normal PC, except that it is in a small square case – as apposed to the traditional high standing rectangular case.
The main processing unit of a shuttle PC typically takes up less than half of the space that a traditional PC computer would take up.
Another common type of mini computer comes in a form that resembles a DVD player – again very similar to a standard PC, except that it is fitted into a DVD player like casing, this would typically take up half the space of a standard sized PC, but the great advantage here is that it will often look a lot nicer, or more to the point, it will fit in with other entertainment equipment – along side your DVD player for example.
More recently we have seen the introduction of true mini computers, such as the Intel NUC Haswell.
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This is based on the Intel i3 processor, so its no baby when it comes to power, but as you can see from the above image, it is very low in space consumption and will typically take up less than the tenth of the space of a standard PC unit.
Take another step down and you get into the realms of the Raspberry PI and the likes – even smaller “computers”.
However, then you are sacrificing power, and they would typically be used for specific purposes where space is much more important than power – monitoring equiptment, programming interfaces and so on.