I have been doing a bad job. I have been neglecting the Butter, What?! blog. I haven’t posted anything here since I bought my Bambu A1 Mini in December. The good news is that everything I said about the Bambu A1 Mini in December is still true today, so I suppose I at least did a good job there, but I need to get back to posting here.

Stable Diffusion Man With Mini PC

I figured I could write some words here about mini PCs. Although they are awesome, I am a little tired of writing about mini PCs. I think I am up to four separate blog posts over on patshead.com about mini PCs, and that is already accidentally one more than I intended to write. One of the reasons the Butter, What?! blog exists is to summarize these other blogs and tie them together just like the rug from The Big Lebowski, so I really ought to do that here!

The brands!

We have all been pretty focused on the mini PCs from Beelink in the Butter, What?! Discord community. Somebody bought one, and they had good luck. Then someone else bought one. Now everyone has been buying Beelink boxes, and they are constantly going on sale.

There are a lot of other brands, but I only have first hand experience with three of them. That doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with the other brands. I just can’t speak with any sort of real confidence about them.

CWWK N100 and Beelink N5095 Homelab servers

My CWWK N100 homelab server (left) next to Brian Moses’s Beelink N5095 off-site NAS (center) on top of our USB hard disks

I wound up trying out a Trigkey N100 mini PC, and it turns out that it looks exactly like a Beelink. It is the same case as a Beelink N100, and the mailing address on the box matches Beelink. I assume it is just another name to expand how often they show up when you search for mini PCs on Amazon.

The Trigkey and Beelink boxes always ship with a small amount of RAM and storage. The less RAM they ship with, the better the value. It is almost always a better idea to buy the one with the least RAM and upgrade it yourself.

I also have a CWWK mini PC router box. The CWWK boxes usually ship with no RAM or storage, and it is always a better idea to buy your RAM and storage separately with these CWWK boxes anyway. These tend to carry a bit of a price premium, but they come in nicer cases, and they usually have unique features like four 2.5-gigabit Ethernet ports or five NVMe slots.

Please don’t buy a Raspberry Pi!

The Raspberry Pi used to be an amazing piece of hardware for the price. The performance has been increasing with every new model, but so has the price, and the prices are going up faster than the performance. Not only that, but supplies are often limited.

I am sure you can get a better deal if you shop around, but I am seeing $92 for a bare 8 GB Raspberry Pi 5 board on Amazon. You will need to supply your own storage, a power supply, and some sort of case.

You can get a Beelink with a faster Celeron N5095 with 8 GB of RAM for $129. The sticker price is $159, but they go on sale for $129 once or twice a week.

Pat's Off-site Raspberry Pi and 14 TB USB HDD

This is my off-site Raspberry Pi storage server. I bought it back when a Pi 4 could be found any day of the week on Amazon for $30.

Do you know what you get with the Beelink that you don’t get with the Raspberry Pi? You get a 256 GB NVMe, a case, and it comes preloaded with Windows 11.

The Beelink N5095 isn’t quite as power efficient as a Raspberry Pi, but it still sips a good bit less than 10 watts. That real NVMe storage is so much more durable than a micro SD card, the RAM can be upgraded to 32 GB, and Intel’s GPU is so much more capable. The Beelink is a much more capable machine.

If you have read this, and you still want to use a Raspberry Pi, that is just fine! I definitely won’t try to stop you. I just want to make sure you have all the important information!

A mini PC works fine at our desk!

The fan in my desktop PC’s power supply is starting to make a bit of noise, so I had to do a bit of surgery this week. I decided to plug my spare Trigkey N100 mini PC with 16 GB of DDR4 memory into my 34” ultrawide monitor at my desk just to make sure I would have somewhere to work while my much nicer machine was disassembled.

It worked out just fine. I was not going to be editing video, but I don’t see why it couldn’t do some basic splicing and exporting in DaVinci Resolve. I also wasn’t planning on running an LLM or Stable Diffusion, or playing recently released video games. It did a fine job at letting me chat on Discord; browsing Reddit, Mastodon, and Hacker News; and let me write blog posts in Emacs.

Mini PCs are just laptops without screens, batteries, and complicated lid and motion sensors. My N100 mini PC is one of the slowest and most inexpensive models you can buy. I got mine for $145, and it has as much RAM and roughly 60% of the performance of my $550 14” 2-in-1 laptop. That is certainly enough horsepower to check email, chat with the Butter, What?! Discord community, or send jobs to my 3D printers.

I am working on a spreadsheet containing the vital data regarding these mini PCs. It is geared toward building a homelab full of mini-PC servers, but it should be usable for puzzling out how much you might want to spend on a mini PC for your desk.

Working at your desk with a large monitor on a tall stand that allows you to sit up straight is significantly more comfortable than looking down at a laptop. It might make more sense to buy a laptop and plug that into your monitor, keyboard, and mouse, but leaving an inexpensive mini PC at your desk just so you don’t have to unpack your laptop to check your email seems smart, too!

Gaming on the TV

This might be the most fun I have ever had with a mini PC. I bought my spare Trigkey N100 mini PC to expand my homelab, but it still hasn’t made its way into my network cupboard. I have been shoehorning this mini PC into other jobs just to see how well it can do, and so far it has always managed to impress me!

A Celeron N100 is a slow CPU with a tiny GPU. It isn’t designed to play games, and it won’t play anything remotely modern or daminding, but it is a pretty nifty gaming machine for $140.

Of course it can play an ancient and simple game like Super Meat Boy extremely well. We spent an entire weekend pizza night playing that one! It can play more modern side-scrolling games like Dead Cells, it can run the majority of the old video game consoles available to play in Retroarch, and it can even emulate the Nintendo Wii.

It is challenging to record compelling video footage of playing a game on the TV, so here is some footage of me streaming Red Dead Redemption to my $60 Alldocube Android tablet

My Trigkey mini PC does a fantastic job streaming Steam games from my gaming PC, but so does my ancient Steam Link hardware. The Celeron N100 has a better WiFi chipset, and its extra horsepower means it can decode video faster, so it does manage to shave about 8 milliseconds of latency off what the Steam Link can manage in my house.

There are faster yet more expensive mini PCs that can run more modern games at reasonable resolutions and frame rates, but I am not sure they are a good value for the job.

Valve’s Steam Deck is difficult to beat. It is a faster gaming machine than any of the mini PCs in its price range, and the Steam Deck has a battery, touch screen, and a built-in controller.

It is a much more versatile gaming machine, but I would be tempted to argue that the Steam Deck is also a mini PC! If I still had the sort of job where I might be flying out to tour facilities and pick up slack, I would have a Steam Deck in my laptop bag. I would play video games at night, and I would boot Proxmox and an array of useful work-related virtual machines off a USB-C SSD during the day.

Mini PCs are homelab heavyweights that could fit in a lunchbox!

Whenever I start checking out prices on mini PCs, I wind up picturing how I might be able to arrange them to fit inside of the Return of the Jedi lunchbox I had when I was in first grade.

This would be a neat contest, but I don’t understand what would make for a good set of rules. Do the power supplies need to fit? Would it be OK if the cabling sticks out, or would this hypothetical lunchbox actually have to be able to close? Would we just deduct points for how much sticks outside the box? What would the goal even be?!

The important thing is the picture this paints in your head. If a short stack of servers fits in your childhood lunchbox, then that cluster is obviously quite small–much smaller than a single 1U server or old desktop PC!

A stack of three Beelink mini PCs are about as tall and deep as a 3.5” USB hard disk is long and long.

My Trikey N100 mini PC with moody lighting

You can build your homelab using one or two of the most expensive mini PCs. You could use two, three, or four of the weakest and least costly mini PCs. You can even mix and match models, or add new mini PCs as your needs grow.

I did the math for you, and I figured out that every Beelink or Trigkey mini PC is worth the price, but the Beelink SER5 with a Ryzen 5560U pulls ahead slightly on both RAM per dollar and performance per dollar. Even so, the models higher up on the list start adding features like 2.5-gigabit Ethernet, dual network ports, and even dual m.2 NVMe slots.

You definitely get value for the additional money, but only if you have a use for those additional features!

There’s nothing wrong with using a big USB hard disk!

Mechanical hard disks are still the most cost-effective way to store tons of data. New hard disks cost under $20 per terabyte, and refurbished hard disks sometimes show up at under $7 per terabyte! We post these deals all the time on the Butter, What?! Discord server.

Solid-state drives were dropping in price quite quickly. I managed to grab a 1 TB SATA SSD for $34 shipped, but today you are lucky if you can find a deal as low as $60 per terabyte. Not only that, but it is challenging to find new SSDs larger than 4 TB. A 20 TB SATA or USB hard disk won’t cost you much more than a 4 TB NVMe today.

I have had a 14 TB USB hard disk attached to a Raspberry Pi running continuously for more than three years now at Brian Moses’s house. This is my off-site storage and backup server.

I think it has been almost two years since I replaced the RAID 10 in my home NAS with a single 14 TB USB hard disk.

The USB disk attached to my N100 mini PC has no trouble reading and writing at around 200 megabytes per second, and neither of these machines have had a serious glitch in their combined uptime of around five years.

I had a small and unexplained glitch in the first month or two of the Raspberry Pi’s service life. The USB drive was no longer visible to the Pi. Brian power cycled everything for me, and it hasn’t happened again since. I have been assuming that a child or fast-moving dog bumped into the piece of furniture where my gear lives, and that somehow bumped a power or USB cable for the hard drive. We will never know the truth!

My backup plan relies on USB hard disks and mini PCs!

I live in a post-Dropbox world. Every single byte of my important data is stored on my local workstation. That data is synced to my Seafile server at Brian’s house 30 seconds after any changes are saved. All that data is then synced to my NAS, and the most vital directories are also synced to my laptop.

My most important data lives on an NVMe drive in my desktop PC and on the NVMe drive in my laptop. All my recorded video footage lives on a 12 TB SATA hard disk in my desktop PC. There’s just no room for six years of video footage on my laptop!

The first backup is my 14 TB USB hard disk at Brian Moses’s. The second backup is a 14 TB USB hard disk attached to my NAS. Seafile keeps 90 days of changes, and those changes are as granular as the tiny changes that are uploaded. My NAS has hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly snapshot rotations.

Sometimes the mini PC isn’t so mini!

When the mini PC isn’t quite as small, then it might have room for a couple of big hard drives!

Brian Moses stocks a 2-bay N100 NAS in his eBay store. I feel that it is priced pretty competitively. It is basically an overgrown Trigkey N100 DDR4 box, but the toaster NAS upgrades the network to dual 2.5 gigabit Ethernet ports and adds a pair of top-loading 3.5” hard drive bays.

Brian Moses's 2-bay Topton N100 NAS

If you just don’t like the idea of using USB for storage, then this is a fantastic way to pay to avoid that problem. It is even better if you need two hard disks for either more capacity or redundancy.

I am in a fortunate position where I don’t need a RAID 1 on my off-site storage server. I can drive over to Brian’s house in 20 minutes to replace a failed hard disk.

Mini PCs are so inexpensive now that I would prefer not to run a RAID on any single server. I would prefer to attach each disk to its own server and keep everything synced up over the network. My goal is to spread my RAID-like storage around to as many physical locations as possible!

A Mini PC is a fantastic off-site buddy NAS server!

My off-site buddy NAS box is still a Raspberry Pi. I bought mine when Raspberry Pi 4 boards were still $30 or $40. I wouldn’t buy a Raspberry Pi for this job today, and I have plans to upgrade my off-site server in the near future.

You can get a Beelink with an N5095 processor and 8 GB of RAM on sale for $120. That is more than enough horsepower for a little off-site storage box, but you only have to splurge a little to get a Trigkey N100 with 16 GB of RAM on sale for $145.

I am looking forward to having an off-site Proxmox server that I can migrate a couple of virtual machines to! I have upgraded my fiber Internet connection to symmetric gigabit, and Brian has upgraded his to 2.5 gigabit. His house is less than 10 milliseconds away, so Tailscale makes it feel like we are on the same LAN.

The best computer is often the one that you already have!

Mini PCs are neat because they are reasonably priced, you get a lot of computer for your money, they don’t take up much space, and they don’t put much of a strain on your electric bill or pump much heat into the room.

That old Dell tower that someone gave you might be a bit slower than a $150 mini PC, and it may use four times as much electricity, but if it has enough RAM and horsepower to do the job, then you should definitely consider using that old Dell!

It takes many years for a server chewing through 50 watts of electricity at the power outlet to add up to $150 in electricity where I live. If the math works out the same where you live, then keeping that old Dell computer out of the landfill for three or four more years might be a big win for the environment.

The cost of electricity is going up in many places around the world, so your mileage may vary!


I hope that I did a good job here. I did my best to not go too far off the rails or go too deep into any one particular use case for these nifty mini PCs. I have already written an entire 2,000 word blog post about every individual topic mentioned in this summary blog. You should have no trouble digging a little deeper if any of these use cases are of interest to you!

Are you already using one or more mini PCs around the house or in your homelab? Do you have an off-site mini PC NAS? Are you looking to set one up?

Share your thoughts and experiences with us by leaving a comment below, and join the Butter, What?! Discord community to connect with like-minded enthusiasts, ask questions, and stay up to date on the latest mini PC discounts and related projects!