IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Ultra-Mini PC Bake-Off!

There are lots of makes and models of tiny PCs for system builders to choose from. Here’s a small roundup of some standouts. By James E. Gaskin

In electronics, small is always big. Now computers are getting even smaller as the market for mini PCs and embedded computers gets bigger.

Intel Corp. is a market leader in this area with its NUC (Next Unit of Computing) mini PCs that feature a general-purpose PC, including processors all the way up to the i7, into a 4.59- x 4.4- x 1.36-inch box. For the ultra-mini PC the size of a credit card, Raspberry Pi is the leader with more than a million boards shipped.

“This is still a new space, with lots of changes over the last couple of years,” says Dan McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. “Since a basic Raspberry Pi costs around $35, vendors are writing their own operating systems or using some of the Linux variants available because Windows is too expensive.” Microsoft has tools now to cut down the size of the Windows OS, but it still remains a challenge.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group, cautions resellers looking into the ultra-mini PC market: “For the most part, these are embedded systems, added to something else like medical or manufacturing equipment.”

Most system builders today aren’t equipped to sell into firms as components suppliers. Successful projects leverage low-power, low-cost, light-duty PCs for projects such as digital signage, kiosks, or single-purpose applications.

Intel’s low-power Bay Trail core processor family is rolling out, and the next version, Cherry Trail, promises to save more power and cost less money. AMD Inc.’s Kabini processor family competes with Intel’s Bay Trail, while its Tamash processors mostly go into tablets. 

Scores of companies are now in this market, and the condensed chip sets and even Systems on Chip (SoC) have reduced the barriers to entry. Look for hundreds of options by next year.

Ultra-mini PCs always have a CPU and GPU, system memory (or a slot), and SATA support. Various models add Ethernet (10/100 or Gigabit), USB ports, micro-SD interfaces, cameras, PCI-e slots, and even video engines.

A Sampling of Ultra-Mini PCs







ADL Embedded Solutions Inc.

ADLE3800HD and many more

Intel E3800 Atom

4 x 5.8 inches

Contact ADL




UNO, YUN, DUE, Mega 2560, and many more

ATmega328, ATmega 32u4, Cortex-M3, ATmega2560, and similar

2.7 x 2.1 inches



Banana Pi

Banana Pi

ARM Cortex-A7 dual core

Credit card


BeagleBoard, BeagleBoard-xM

ARM Cortex-A8

3.0 x 3.1 inches

$125, $149



BeagleBone, BeagleBone Black

ARM Cortex-A8

3.4 x 2.1 inches

$89, $55


GHI Electronics LLC

G120HDR Rev2

ARM Cortex-M3 120MHz

1.5 x 1.05 inches



Gigabyte Technology Co. Ltd.

BRIX (multiple models)

Intel family

Multiple NUC-size boxes


Intel Corp.

Multiple NUC versions

Atom, Celeron, i3, i5, i7

4- x 4-inch motherboard



Intel Atom

2.9 x 3.9 inches





Allwinner A13 Cortex-A8 1GHz

Credit card

About $23


Phytec America LLC


phyCORE-Vybrid/VF6xx SOM Cosmic+

ARM Cortex A5 500MHz

4 x 2.8 inches



Raspberry Pi Foundation

Model B

ARM 700MHz

Credit card

$35 and up

SolidRun Ltd.

HummingBoard-i1, HummingBoard-i2


Credit card

$45–$65, $75–$95




GC2000 GPU

Credit card plus



Stealth Computer

Little PCs

Intel i3, i5, i7, Xeon

4 x 6.1 inches and up

$1,190 and up


Tangent Inc.

Qbit Mini PC

Intel Celeron or i3

4.5 x 4.4 x 1.5 inches

$700 and up

Tiny Green PC

Fit PC2

Intel Atom

3.9 x 4.3 x 0.9 inches



UDOO (SECO USA Inc. and Aidilab)

Dual Basic, Dual

Freescale ARM i.MX 6 DualLite

4.33 x 3.35 inches

$99, $115





Freescale ARM i.MX 6 Quad

4.33 x 3.35 inches




About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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