**Updated May 12 2017: We've added a new category for the best barebones PC to put in your living room and enjoy your media on.

Best Overall

Intel Skull Canyon NUC

Intel Skull Canyon

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Intel changed the game with the Skull Canyon, having already set the bar for barebones PCs with its NUC line. Inside this little box is a quad-core i7 processor, space for 32GB of DDR4 RAM and a pair of m.2 SSD drives.

Throw in Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, full-sized USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot and Gigabit ethernet and what you have is a really powerful PC inside a teeny tiny box.

Bottom line: Crazy power inside a super-small package.

One more thing: Thanks to the Thunderbolt 3 connection you can plug in an eGPU like the Razer Core to turn the Skull Canyon into a high-end gaming machine.

Why the Intel Skull Canyon NUC is the best

This isn't just a small PC, it's a big PC in a small box.

What you get with this option is essentially a powerful PC stuffed into a really compact box. It doesn't come cheap, but if you're looking for the least compromises, this is it. The only thing the Skull Canyon doesn't have is dedicated NVIDIA or AMD graphics, but everywhere else you'll get a powerful PC that's smaller than the keyboard you'll connect to it. And with Iris Pro 580 graphics from Intel, you're still going to get good mileage.

Add a Razer Core and you've got a high-end gaming desktop

Intel includes the motherboard and a Core i7-6770HQ quad-core processor, along with the case and power cable. Also built in is USB-C Thunderbolt 3 and Gigabit Ethernet, which means you need only RAM, storage, and an OS.

The Skull Canyon supports up to 32GB of DDR4 SO-DIMM RAM in dual-channel, as well as up to a pair of m.2 SSDs for storage. And if you hook up something like the Razer Core over Thunderbolt 3, you've got a teeny tiny little high-end gaming PC.

For gamers

MSI Aegis

MSI Aegis

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Thanks to the well-respected MSI, even PC gamers can get a little assistance from a barebones kit. The Aegis is one of the latest offerings from the company and it'll give you a 600W power supply and an included liquid cooler to build your rig with.

The motherboard supports Intel's 6th generation chips all the way up to the Core i7 6700K. There's also an optical drive, space for a full-sized desktop GPU up to the GTX 1080, not to mention a one-touch overclock button and a VR-friendly HDMI output on the front.

Bottom line: An easy way to build your first gaming PC.

One more thing: MSI is VR friendly with the Aegis by providing front-facing outputs for your Vive or Rift.

Best budget

Intel NUC

Intel NUC

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For a good, really cheap entry-level product for some light computing, Intel's standard NUC is a great start. It's only a Celeron processor, but it's still more capable than a Stick PC.

With something that can easily fit in your palm, you'll be able to squeeze in 8GB of RAM and a 2.5-inch SSD for storage. Throw in HDMI, full-sized USB and even an SDXC slot, and you've got a capable little box for not much money.

Bottom line: A superb start to building your own PC for not much money.

One more thing: One of these will be much better than a Stick PC for not a lot of extra money.

Best for the living room

Gigabyte GB-BXBT-2807

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A low-cost barebones PC like this one from Gigabyte is a great alternative to a stick PC for the living room. You get more freedom with the hardware while still having a tiny little box for a HTPC that just disappears.

This isn't crazy powerful, with a Celeron processor, but you can squeeze 1TB of storage and 8GB of RAM inside which is perfect for your home media. It's got WiFi and Bluetooth built in, as well as a VESA bracket to mount it to the back of a TV or monitor.

Bottom line: A low-cost option that makes a great media PC for the living room.

One more thing: The included VESA bracket means you can mount it out of sight behind your display.

Conclusion

Building a PC for the first time is less scary by using a barebones kit, but if you still want an awesome PC then you can't go wrong with the Intel Skull Canyon NUC. It's a crazy amount of power in an equally crazy small box.

Best Overall

Intel Skull Canyon NUC

Intel Skull Canyon

See at Amazon

Intel changed the game with the Skull Canyon, having already set the bar for barebones PCs with its NUC line. Inside this little box is a quad-core i7 processor, space for 32GB of DDR4 RAM and a pair of m.2 SSD drives.

Throw in Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, full-sized USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot and Gigabit ethernet and what you have is a really powerful PC inside a teeny tiny box.

Bottom line: Crazy power inside a super-small package.

One more thing: Thanks to the Thunderbolt 3 connection you can plug in an eGPU like the Razer Core to turn the Skull Canyon into a high-end gaming machine.