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Mini Intel PC for Small Scale Music Production?

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Not the absolute smallest, but I recently bought a used HP EliteDesk 800 G1 with quad i5 (11% slower than quad i7), 8GB RAM (can expand), and 120GB SSD (which I changed for a 500GB that I had). It is about 10 or 11 inches square and a bit less than 3 inches high. It also has a DVD burner. Paid less than $150 for it on eBay.

It works quite well in its applications, and is a pretty fast machine (not as fast as my HP Zbook 17 G2 notebook with quad i7, 32GB RAM, 128GB nvme SSD for OS, 1TB SATA SSD, and 1TB HD. Full HD screen. Nothing else I've seen is as fast as that one). It is rather a hunk to haul around. The current model can go up to 128GB RAM and a i7 with 8 or 12 cores (but it gets rather pricey - this one originally sold for about 4,400)


Normal rules for PCs, fast quad (or better) processor, lots of RAM, always SSD (nvme even better).

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Can these mini pc"s be used for a small midi studio? Their small physical size is attractive for the small space I currently have. I"m using an old iPad for sounds, sequencing and h/w patch library.

My choice would be a Mac Mini. They're Intel too (for now). Though if you want to go with Windows, another way to go small is a Surface Pro

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If you go with a MacMini there are lots of products for mounting. You can place it on the back of a monitor. They have rack mounts for it. Some people put two side by side in a 1U. You might be able to fit one next to a small interface in 1U as well.


It"s also such a common choice, there are YouTube videos, reddit groups, websites, etc. with information on MacMini based rigs.



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I'm Apple based, so the Mac Mini is my pick.


But on the PC side, I've been very tempted by the ASRock DeskMini Series; if you like building your own PC, these are nice little kits. Unlike many off-the-shelf NUCs, they run full desktop CPUs with a proper cooling plus options for lots of storage and RAM. Really nice bang for the buck. You can shop around for a decently prices CPU and memory. The case is a little smaller than the Mac Mini and they sell a VESA mount for it. Link: https://www.asrock.com/nettop/index.us.asp

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IMO It's a very good idea to stick with the platform you're used to when doing music and upgrading your system, regardless of whether it's Windows or macOS. Changing OS is a very different experience than changing hardware, and requires a bit more study and thought than just booting up a new machine.


The Mac mini is an extraordinary value for music work, and always has been (aside from the very first generation, which was quite underpowered at the low end). I have a 2014-vintage one that I've amped up with a bunch of internal storage (it's the last model where you could do this, in exchange for RAM soldered to the mobo) and it's great for anything that's not super graphics intensive. The latest model has even more grunt, but since you can't upgrade anything, the initial price hit is pretty painful.

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If you foresee needing processing power, I'll second the point re: the limitations of Intel's U series. I'm running some thirsty VST's these days (Diva, Bitwig's modular "Grid" synth, and a few others), and couldn't find a sufficiently portable mini PC that offered a capable CPU like an Intel H processor. I resigned myself to purchasing a laptop whose screen and keyboard would go largely unused in my project studio, but even there the pickings are slim. Most PC's with that kind of processor are heavy gaming laptops with expensive/superfluous GPU's. I found a few not-so-gamer "H" laptops by Dell, HP, and Lenovo that looked like possibilities (albeit spendy), but then I discovered Asus' lineup with the AMD Ryzen chip. I ended up with the low-end version of the Asus Zephyrus G14 , and I can't say enough good things about this setup. The Ryzen 7 4800 is a flat-out screamer, and the entry level Zephyrus G14 doesn't include any of the things I didn't want to pay for. The weak GPU is (apparently) an insult to gamers, and the display is a basic standard HD. But to be clear: the CPU is ridiculously powerful for music production. The 8Gb of RAM is oddly low, but it's set up for an easy upgrade to 16 Gb which only takes a few minutes. (Of course you can go higher, but you sacrifice a bit on the dual channel memory speed.) The fans run considerably louder than a Mac Mini when running in high performance mode, but very reasonable for a performance laptop, and they've set it up nicely to easily toggle to a quieter mode when you don't need the full beast. They've provided a generous set of ports for a 14" laptop, and a nice build quality without the pimped-out exterior often found on gaming rigs. All of this in under 4 lbs, and under $1000. Definitely worth a look if you can't find what you need in a mini form factor.
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