Everything’s getting smaller, from our annual incomes to our attention spans and this perpetual shrinkage is no more notable and obvious than it is in our technological devices. From our phones to our games consoles and our laptops to our cars, everything we use on a daily basis seems to decrease in size year by year and the traditional desktop PC is now following suit. A net top (or ‘mini pc’) is a colloquial name for a small form factor computer that is relatively inexpensive and is, as the name suggests (net top being a portmanteau of desktop and internet) used primarily as an internet browsing, document accessing and media playing device.
The rise of the mini pc can largely be attributed to advances in motherboard design that have allowed pc builders to squeeze deceptively powerful components into a smaller, more compact shell. Most don’t have optical drives, opting instead to use solid state disks or flash memory. This means that whilst they are not as powerful and lack the storage space of their larger counterparts, they can operate in complete silence and with greater reliability. In the ensuing article we’ll take you through a few of the advantages of using a net top computer as well as examining their origins.
The first mainstream net top computer to really gain worldwide recognition was Apple’s ‘Mac Mini’. A deceptively powerful computer roughly the size of a paperback book that proved a game-changer in the compromise between size and power. It was also one of the first desktop computers to include a HDMI out adapter, which allowed it to be connected to a HDTV right out of the box.
Perhaps one of the most popular uses of a mini pc is to use the computer as the centre of your home entertainment rig. A reliable net top with a convenient amount of connections could potentially act as your living rooms video playback system, stereo system and even your gaming system (though admittedly, most net top’s won’t be able to compete with more powerful desktop computers and recent gaming consoles). These are computers that are designed to be completely fool-proof and can work as an intuitive interface that brings your living room into the 21st century, effortlessly melding the worlds of business and pleasure. Internet streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix will work effortlessly and the sheer convenience of being able to view all of your files on a big screen will really appeal to those who download the majority of their entertainment.
The great thing about most net top computers is that they will generally use the same operating systems as your laptops or ‘conventional’ desktop machines so should be compatible with any files or programs you use on your ‘primary’ computer. There are even net top’s available that have been designed with the ‘Android’ operating system in mind. This is the operating system used by the majority of modern smartphones, which means that sharing applications and documents between your phone and your mini pc should be incredibly intuitive.
The comparatively low price of most net top’s mean that a mini pc is a perfect solution for families who might require and/or need a computer for basic tasks but wouldn’t be able to afford the hundreds of pounds that high-end systems retail for. The fact that these are systems designed with ease of use very much in mind also means that first time users shouldn’t feel daunted or overwhelmed.
Because of their incredible power efficiency, net book’s are also a perfect portable solution for use in your car, boat or even plane (if you’re lucky enough to have access to one) due to their size and their quiet and cool operation. Although it might lack the convenience of an attached screen, a mini pc could also be a viable solution for businessmen and women the world over who work with large, important files on a daily basis. A net top could potentially be used as a portable hard drive that just so happens to be a fully functioning computer.
There will most likely never be a net top computer released that can compare to its larger brethren but they are almost beyond comparison, these are different beasts entirely that are fit for numerous situations where a larger computer just wouldn’t be feasible. A mini pc can truly be whatever you want it to be (many companies will even offer a bespoke service that allows systems to be customized to your specifications) and much more besides!
Jann Webb is a freelance copywriter based in the midlands. She uses a mini pc to backup all of her work and has been incredibly impressed with the results thus far.