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Small Computers

AN OLDER VIDEO (ABOVE) BUT IT SHOWS THAT SMALL FORM FACTORS ARE THE FUTURE

The days of the desktop are numbered.  The new trend is the small form factor (SFF) computers. These are powerful computers, quite often small enough to hold in your hand. However, many of them pack a wallop!  Often, they are as powerful as desktops from only a year or two ago.  We will take a look at these small form factor (SFF) computers – and hopefully you can see which one is right for you.

SFFs also have the advantage of using low power laptop chips. To some, who favor maximum power, such as those who do high end gaming or video editing, lower power chips are to be avoided. However, for the average consumer – and that means the vast majority of you – the newer low power chips are more than sufficient.

SFFs can be used for almost anything that a normal computer can: web browsing, watching YouTube, as a media center. Even gaming! Yes, some of these newer SFFs can run all but the very newest games.

REGULAR SFFs

Many small factor computers come totally pre-built.  A classic example would be the Mac Mini – though at the time of this writing, I would not recommend the 2014 model Mac Mini. Just plugin the SFF and in an turn them on.  Some, such as the newer HP EliteDesk (see above video) can be ordered to quite powerful options. HP has just released a newer updated model: The EliteDesk 800 G3 Mini.

NUCs

NUCs [Next Unit of Computing] are a subset of SFFs that come without storage or memory. Don’t let that intimidate you. They are designed so that is rather easy to add the RAM memory and storage. What this means is that you can upgrade to the level you want and can afford.  A typical example would be Intel’s Skull Canyon.

Remember that the Skull Canyon is due to be upgraded next year (2018).

 

THE GAME CHANGER

With the upcoming advent of eighth generation Coffee Lake CPUs [actually a modification of 7th generation Kaby Lake CPUs] will be so impressive that the lower power chips will approximate the output of many higher powered chips available today.

According to Intel, Coffee Lake is an average of 40 per cent faster than Kaby Lake when it comes to crunching numbers in Excel. Intel also claims it can process photographs in Adobe Lightroom up to 28 per cent faster and organise and edit images in a slideshow up to 48 per cent faster.
Source: Gizmodo

A 40% improvment. Those are breathtaking statistics.

A lot of this comes because Intel has added more cores to their chip lines. Pretty soon, even the most basic of newer CPUs will be quad-core. The result will be that a lot of new devices, whether small form factor computers or laptops, will soon be outperforming recent desktops with regular chips.

SMALL FORM FACTOR COMPUTERS VS. LAPTOPS

Some will aver that small computers are just laptops without the keyboard, monitor and speakers. In a way, that may be true. However, that means that the prices for small computers should cost far less than for comparably powered laptops.  Upgrading will also be easier.  Many of these small form factor computers – especially the NUCs – can be easily manually upgraded in RAM and storage; far easier than an average laptop. Indeed, many laptops, especially those made by Apple, have the RAM soldered in, making upgrades impossible.

With laptops, one is stuck with the screen, keyboard, and speakers that come with the laptop.  Yes, one can attach a laptop to a dock, and cable it into a monitor and speakers; but that is only using a laptop as if it were a small form factor computer in the first place.

Each small form factor computer comes with its own strengths and options. Check this site regularly for information.