What Is a Mini CPU?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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A mini CPU is a tiny central processing unit used to execute the many computational functions of small computerized devices, such as netbooks and mobile phones, particularly smartphones. Developers work to make small, portable devices that have a great deal of computational power. Achieving such computational power requires a powerful CPU, but small devices do not contain enough space for the large central processing units contained in full-size computers. Instead, such a device requires a mini CPU that can provide sufficient computational power while fitting in a small space. Effectively implementing such devices can be difficult because of issues such as heat distribution and power management.

CPU miniaturization is an essential part of the trend toward small computerized devices with substantial computational power. The CPU is responsible for executing most of the calculations and processes required to run programs on computers and other devices. Miniaturization has, over time, allowed for the development of personal computers, computational components in automobiles, and many other relatively small and portable devices capable of substantial computational power. As the trend of miniaturization continues, a small mini CPU may simply be made smaller to allow for the development of a smaller and more portable device. Alternatively, miniaturization may also result in a mini CPU with much more processing power.


While there are many advantages to miniaturization, there are also many challenges involved in developing an effective mini CPU. A CPU, for instance, tends to produce a great deal of heat, which can damage or destroy the CPU if a device's cooling mechanisms are insufficient. Computers, particularly desktops, usually have space for relatively large heat sinks and fans to disperse the substantial amount of heat produced. Portable devices such as smartphones require substantial computational power but lack the space for large fans and heat sinks. Accordingly, they must be designed to run very efficiently on a sharply limited supply of energy so that they produce the desired results without releasing much heat as a byproduct.

In many computers, particularly desktops, it is possible to replace or upgrade the CPU. Small portable devices, however, tend to be much less modular, as the limited space means that everything must be arranged in a very specific configuration. As such, it is generally impossible to replace or upgrade a mini CPU in a mobile device. The mini CPU is generally not removable at all, and even if it were, only a CPU of the same size and shape could likely take its place.


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Post 4

Don't forget that small CPUs are becoming desired in computers, too. Laptops have been fitted with smaller CPUs for years and the trend toward miniaturization moved to a new level with netbooks and ultrabooks.

One fascinating thing about that trend is that we almost expect things to be disposable. CPU won't cut it anymore? Just toss out your old computer and get a new one. Swapping out CPUs was fairly common on desktop computers, but that kind of thing was impractical with laptops and that has spread to smaller devices.

Post 3

@Melonlity -- That problem is exactly the type of issue that killed a lot of earlier portable gaming systems. Full color screens, 16-bit processors that were on par with those in regular gaming consoles and a lot of other specs were trumped by one, simple fact -- two hours of life out of 6 AA batteries made them impractical as portable devices.

Sure, the big, LCD screens in those hogged a lot of power but notice how a lot of those systems didn't use small CPUs. The power consumption on those units was ridiculous.

Small CPUs are one of the many things that have made it possible to issue portable gaming systems that boast some pretty impressive stats and display great, color graphics.

Post 2

There is another problem with mini CPUs when it comes to smartphones and such. In addition to the heat they generate, they have to be efficient enough so that they can actually be portable.

You can have the most powerful smartphone on the planet, but that won't matter much if it drains a battery quickly. Is it really portable if you have to charge the thing every hour or haul something like a car battery around with you to provide power?

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