Mini-PC round-up: A look at 6 new Windows 8.1 offerings

Desktop computers aren't the bulky towers they used to be. Here are six mini PCs that fit in the palm of your hand and will change how you think about PCs.

A look at 6 new Windows 8.1 mini-PCs
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A look at 6 new Windows 8.1 mini-PCs

The idea of a desktop PC traditionally invokes images of a tower or all-in-one that lives at your desk in your home or office. But as tech gets smaller and more mobile, so have desktop PCs. With a mini PC, you can have all the computing capabilities of a traditional desktop in a small, compact and portable package.

Here are 6 mini PCs running Windows 8.1 that will let you take your desktop experience mobile.

HP Stream Mini Desktop
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HP Stream Mini Desktop

Following the suit of its low-priced entry-level Stream notebooks, HP also offers a compact and affordable mini desktop PC. Weighing just 1.4 pounds and measuring 5.73 x 5.70 x 2.06 inches, the HP Stream Mini Desktop features an Intel Celeron processor, 2GB memory and a 32GB SSD. It supports multiple displays, so setting up a home office for multitasking will be a breeze. If 32GB isn't enough storage for you, it comes with a free 200GB of OneDrive storage for two years. The HP Stream Mini is an affordable option for basic computing, at only $180, including a keyboard and mouse.

Intel Compute Stick
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Intel Compute Stick

The Intel Compute Stick is small and, while most of the mini PC's on this list resemble a Roku or Apple TV box, the Compute Stick looks more like the Google Chromecast; but it brings a lot more to the table. This dongle-sized computer features a quad-core Intel Atom processor, Intel HD Graphics, Windows 8.1, 2GB of memory and 32GB of on-board storage. Intel also offers an Ubuntu version with 1GB of memory and 8GB of on-board storage, which users can purchase for $115. Both models feature a micro SD card slot for more storage, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port for peripherals, and Wi-Fi. All you have to do is plug the device into the HDMI port of a monitor, and you'll have a full desktop experience up and running almost instantly. It does need a power source, but you can plug its USB charger right into the USB port on your TV or monitor. Attach a wireless keyboard and mouse, and you're good to go. The Windows 8.1 version is available for around $150, but you might want to hold off since rumor has it Intel plans to release a new Compute Stick with higher specs later this year.

Quantum Byte
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Quantum Byte

Measuring 5.91 x 1.47 x 4.06 inches, the Quantum Byte Fanless Mini Desktop is a small device that manages to pack in some impressive hardware for its size. Configured with an Intel Atom Quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, and a 32GB SSD that's expandable up to 128GB with a microSD port, it boasts enough power for basic computing. It houses VGA, HDMI and microSD ports, as well as 3 USB 2.0 ports and Bluetooth 4.0. The Intel HD Graphics card can handle 1080p HD video, so media fans will not be disappointed. If you are looking for a computer to browse the web, play basic games, and stream Netflix, the Quantum Byte is a great option at just $170.

Dell Inspiron Micro
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Dell Inspiron Micro

The Dell Inspiron Micro mini PC is a compact computing option that competes with the Chromebook mini PC offerings. It runs full Windows 8.1 and houses 2GB of memory, Intel HD Graphics and a 32GB SSD hard drive. There are two configurations, the first with a Dual Core Intel Celeron Processor for $180 and the second with a Quad Core Intel Pentium Processor for $230. Both models feature two USB 2.0 ports as well as an HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet and headset port in the back. On the side of the device, you will find another USB 2.0 port, a USB 3.0 port, a Media Card Reader and a Security cable slot. It's an affordable option for your basic computing needs at $180 or $230, depending on the model.

HP Pavilion Mini Desktop
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HP Pavilion Mini Desktop

Another HP on the list, the Pavillion Mini has a little more power than the Stream with an Intel Pentium 3558U processor, 4GB of memory upgradeable to 16GB and a 500GB SATA drive. It measures 5.71 x 5.71 x 2.13 inches and weighs only 1.46 pounds, making it very compact. On that small frame, it still manages to house four USB 3.0 ports, a headphone/microphone jack, an HDMI port, a DisplayPort, an Ethernet port and a 3-in-1 memory card reader slot. The extra power comes with a higher price tag than the Stream as well, but it's still not going to break the bank at $320.

Alienware X51
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Alienware X51

This might be one of the bigger mini PC's on this list, as well as one of the most expensive, but that's because it's focused on high-end gaming. Alienware has a strong reputation in gaming, and because gaming laptops haven't caught up in specs and price, it's a good option for anyone that wants a portable option for console gaming. There are four configurations ranging in price from $700 to $1600, all featuring 4th generation Intel Core processors, 3D capabilities and NVIDIA GeForce video cards. The most popular option is the second offering in the lineup, with a core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 video card. It can be configured with up to an i7 core processor, 16GB of memory and a 2TB hard drive, making it one of the highest powered mini PCs on this list.