Space comes at a premium in big and small businesses alike, so it’s hard to turn down a chance to go small, especially when you don’t need to sacrifice functionality to get there. That’s what the new wave of small PCs are offering—desktop-level power stuffed into a tiny space-saving box. The HP EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini is HP’s latest entry into the small PC market, and it delivers all the advantages that its size confers. Better yet, the sacrifices made to keep size and price down are, for the most part, ones that can be borne by the everyday office the Mini is made for.
Being a mini PC with components comparable to most other office PCs, the most important unique aspect of the EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini is the size. It’s 7″ wide x 6.75″ deep x 1.5″ thick and weighs a little over 2 pounds, making it comparable to your average external optical disk drive from a few years ago. Weighing only a little over 2 pounds makes the EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini very easy to ship, set up, and move around—if you’ve ever bought PCs in bulk and dreaded the logistics of actually unpacking and setting everything up for your employees, these will be a godsend.
Being small isn’t the only advantage. There’s an optional stand you can order if you want to set up the Mini vertically—you can do that without a stand, too, but being as light as it is, there’s always the possibility of an errant arm knocking it over. And, while the Mini is built to withstand shocks and drops, you’d probably just as soon not have it fall over and whack something else on the desk.
There are also a couple of mounting accessories available that really open up how you can hide these away in the office. The HP Integrated Work Center Stand can be installed on a monitor, so you can mount the Mini on the back. The best option for space saving might be the HP Quick Release Mounting Bracket, a VESA mount that lets you secure the Mini on the underside of a desk—great if regular, easy access to backside ports isn’t an issue. Those accessories also provide physical security, locking the Mini in place so it can’t be easily stolen.
The EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini can come configured with 4th generation Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processors, all of which with Intel’s vPro IT management technology. You’re stuck with whatever Intel Integrated HD Graphics are included with Intel’s processors, be it 4400 or 4600—there are no options for a discrete graphics card, nor is there any option to put one in yourself. You can get anywhere between 4 GB and 16 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 SDRAM, courtesy of two SO-DIMM slots that can support 8 GB of RAM each. On the i3 configuration, a 500 GB 7200 rpm SATA HDD comes standard, while the i5 and i7 configurations come standard with 500 GB SATA hybrid drives. Those can be swapped out, and there’s an empty m.2 module inside if you want to put in a second drive.
In order to keep the size and weight down, HP had to cut the optical drive, so if your business still relies on physical media, the EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini won’t work for you. For your operating system, you have the option of running Windows 7 Pro via downgrade rights or Windows 8.1 Pro. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll have the option of upgrading to Windows 10 later this year for free. So, if you’re intrigued by Microsoft’s new OS, you don’t need to let that hold you back from considering the EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini.
My review unit ran Windows 7 Pro and included a Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM, Intel HD 4600 graphics, and a 120 GB SSD. I had no issues with the machine in terms of computing power—I suspect the main complaint will be the fan noise, which is noticeably loud and always running, even in sleep mode. If you have a somewhat noisy office already, that might not be a huge deal, but if you’re running a library in there and you buy the Mini in bulk, it’s going to add up to a ton of background noise.
For benchmark testing, my review model scored a 4724 on PCMark 7, a 2617 on 3DMark’s Sky Diver test, and 18.09 fps (OpenGL) and 3.58 pts (CPU) on Cinebench. Those numbers make the EliteDesk 800 G1 Mini compare favorably to the average office PC, nudging above even a few ultrabooks. After bringing the PC up to a total of 12 GB of RAM (from 4 GB), those scores increased to 4999 on PCMark 7, 3113 on Sky Diver, and 28.27 fps (OpenGL) and 3.59 pts (CPU) on Cinebench.
I used the less intense Sky Diver test because the Mini isn’t meant to be an intense machine. HP is directing this squarely at businesses that don’t need a lot of computing power. Think more spreadsheets, word processing, and basic presentations—it’s definitely not for graphics-intensive jobs, and while it could suffice as an average home PC, that’s not really what it’s meant for either, especially if you’re someone who likes streaming HD movies or playing a lot of games. It’s just your average humble office PC, and it suits that role.
There are ports on the front and back of the Mini. On the front are two USB 3.0 ports, one of which is a fast charging port—a nice addition to help keep mobile devices up and running. You’ll also see a headphone jack and a combo headphone/mic jack on the front. On the back, there are two DisplayPorts, one VGA port, four USB 3.0 ports, an ethernet port, audio out, and support for a chassis padlock and VESA mounting. While the two DisplayPorts are great for using a dual-monitor setup, the lack of an HDMI port is a little bit disappointing, even if might not be a deal-killer for businesses that will probably be interested in the Mini. The HDMI port was probably axed in favor of the VGA port, a legacy standard still used in a lot of offices in developing and developed countries alike. It was a decision made to make the Mini attractive to as wide a global market as possible, but it’s a disappointment if you’ve already moved on to HDMI.
The Mini comes with 802.11n Wi-Fi, forgoing the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Again, that’s a bummer, but it’s probably a sacrifice that can be borne by the target audience. The bigger disappointment is a lack of Bluetooth connectivity, which really limits the number of peripherals you can use with the Mini.
A quick note about efficiency, which, if you’re buying in bulk, is going to be a big deal for the office electricity bill. HP is saying that the EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini is three times more efficient than the average tower PC, and is Energy Star certified. The PC is powered by an external 65 watt adapter on the power cord, and it excels in power consumption while idle, running on only 8 watts of power. In bulk, that makes the Mini a huge potential money saver, especially if you’re running a bunch of tower PCs at present.
Ease of Customization
Besides its diminutive size, this is probably the greatest strength of the EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini, thanks to toolless entry. To get inside, all you need to do is twist off a thumb screw and slide the top of the PC off. This gives you easy access to the internals of the PC, so you can quickly swap out or add more storage or RAM.
It’s very easy to swap out some components of the EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini. You won’t need any tools to replace your storage drive or add more RAM. The storage drive, in this case the 120 GB SSD, slides out easily, revealing the two memory slots beneath. The whole process of adding another 8 GB of RAM, from opening the casing to closing it again, took me no more than five minutes—if you ever foresee a situation where your IT staff would need to add memory to a lot of units, that’s a great benefit. The only time you’ll need tools is if you want to replace the fan or add a second storage drive using the m.2 module.
As long as you’re clear on what the HP EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini is trying to be, it’s an excellent machine. It’s not meant for entertainment, and it’s not meant for graphics-intensive work that demands a lot of processing power. It’s meant for simple, day-to-day office tasks, and it’s meant to be bought in bulk, cheaply. Our benchmark tests show that the Mini is more than capable of handling those basic office tasks without any productivity-killing slowdown.
Because it’s meant to be a simple, cheap desktop, things like discrete graphics didn’t make the cut, which is fine. However, it seems like some sacrifices, specifically the lack of an HDMI port, Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth, might hold the Mini back in a lot of eyes. The lack of an HDMI port can be worked around easily enough with an adapter, but if you’re buying in bulk, that’s just another cost to add up.
But, the EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini reigns supreme in a lot of other ways. It’s one of the smallest and most flexible desktop PCs on the market, and the ability to mount it just about anywhere on the desk, including the underside, is great for saving space. The ability to open up the casing without tools makes it very easy to customize these PCs after they’ve been purchased and deployed, saving a lot of time for your IT staff, too.
It also helps that Microsoft really bailed you and HP out by guaranteeing Windows 10 as a free upgrade for both Windows 7 and 8.1 during its first year. It’ll be a lot easier to buy these PCs in bulk knowing that if Windows 10 really does meet the hype, you won’t need to shell out a bunch of cash for an office-wide upgrade. You have the option of sticking with Windows 7 or 8.1 or plunging into Windows 10, and options are always nice to have.
The EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini costs $660 for the i3 configuration, $790 for the i5 configuration and $910 for the i7 configuration. That’s a bit expensive, and while the option for monthly payments is nice, it’s a bit rough that the Mini comes in at a couple hundred dollars more than its most direct competitor, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M73 Tiny Desktop. That said, the EliteDesk 800 G1 Desktop Mini is smaller, more efficient and much more easily customizable than Lenovo’s machine. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if those advantages are worth shelling out the extra cash.
The Good: Easily customizable with toolless entry, very small, wide variety of mounting options, very energy efficient, can handle basic office tasks with no noticeable slowdown, dual-monitor support thanks to two DisplayPorts
The Bad: No HDMI port, no 802.11ac Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth, noisy fan, a bit expensive, lack of optical drive could still be problematic for some