A desktop computer, but smaller
There are two ways to make a desktop PC easier on the eye and therefore easier to live with: tart it up or stick it where the sun don’t shine. HP’s Pavilion Mini offers both options. It’s clinically curvy (like the equipment at a posh dentist’s) and it’s so small that, instead of wedging it under your desk, you can hide it behind a monitor, speaker or pot plant.
Like other ‘micro’ PCs, it still manages to cram in all the parts you need to run Windows 8/8.1, which (as of 29 July) can be upgraded free of charge to Windows 10. You can even easily access the internal components for any upgrading work you may want to undertake. That’s more than we can say for Apple’s Mac mini, for example, which used to be easily upgradable, until the latest model made things more difficult.A sticker warns you that opening up your Pavilion Mini will void the warranty. What this really means is that if you add your own parts, HP may not be able to diagnose a fault later. It’s like returning a cheese sandwich saying it tastes funny, after adding your own pickle. But the usual consumer protections still apply, including the mandatory EU two-year warranty and your six-year Sale of Goods Act rights (both against the retailer, not the manufacturer). Canny upgraders will keep the original components to swap back in if necessary.The model we tested, the 300-030na, has an Intel Core i3 processor, which is adequate for everyday tasks. You can get versions for as little as £249 with a cheaper Pentium processor, but don’t get too excited, because in our tests even the i3 managed less than half the performance we’d expect from a full-size PC with the same chip. The built-in Intel HD Graphics 4400 graphics card will cope with the likes of Minecraft, but not more demanding 3D games.
Still, the Mini has all the basics for use as your main PC. You can import all your photos and videos, using the memory card reader or one of the four USB 3.0 ports, and keep them on the 1TB (1,000GB) hard drive. For comparison, the Acer Revo One RL85 costs the same and is equally stylish, easier to open and has twice the storage, but it’s not as compact.There are even smaller options, such as Intel’s ‘Next Unit of Computing’ (NUC) D54250WYK, but with no room for a standard hard drive you’re limited to the smaller capacity of an SSD. You get more processing power for your money, though.HP’s compact system shows that small may be beautiful, but it’s not necessarily quick.1.9GHz Intel Core i3 processor • Intel HD Graphics 4400 • 4GB memory • 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive • Gigabit Ethernet • 802.11n Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 4.0 • Windows 8.1 • 144x144x52mm (HxWxD) • One-year warranty