The 10 best mini PCs for gaming

For a small bunch, they pack a huge punch.

Image via Chuwi

Back in the day, if you wanted to get a computer that you could carry around, the go-to options were laptops. Even though laptops are fine, they may come up short when it comes down to power. If we were to compare a similarly-priced mini PC and a laptop, a mini PC would almost always offer a better value in terms of specs.

If you don’t really use your computer on the go and only need it at work, school, or home, then a mini PC could be just right for you. Most mini PCs are significantly smaller than laptops so they’re also easier to carry around while being more powerful as well. They also have more ports than an average laptop so a mini PC can also end your struggle of carrying around dongles.

But, as gamers, what good is a piece of tech if you can’t run games on it? Initially, most mini PCs were being marketed as productivity machines. But there are some exceptions to this. 

Even though most of these PCs may not be able to run the latest Call of Duty or Battlefield games on ultra settings, most are more than powerful enough to run games such as League of Legends, Dota 2 and CS: GO with a smooth frame rate.

The competition in the mini PC market is intense. Finding the right one for your specific needs may take hours. If your primary objective is to get some work done on these machines while being able to play some games, then our list should save you some time.

ZOTAC MAGNUS

Image via ZOTAC

It’s no surprise that Zotac, a company known for its mini graphics cards, is also one of the pioneers of the mini PC industry.

Its Magnus series aims to satisfy the needs of a heavy gamer, wherever they may go. Most Magnus models share the same dimensions: 8.27 inches by 7.99 inches by 2.45 inches. It’s smaller than a PS4 and the base model packs a GTX 1660 alongside up to 32 GB RAM and i5-9300H.

There are a dozen iterations of the Magnus. Some even rock a top-tier RTX 2080 or an RTX 2070 Super graphics card. But keep in mind that the models that are labeled as “barebone” come without storage and RAM. If you’re planning to go down that route, make sure that what you’re planning to use fits your model.

HP Elite Slice

Image via HP

Business meetings tend to get intense. Tons of Excel files alongside a conference call may require some specs to back it up. Well, those specs can also be used for gaming when you’re at home. 

The HP Elite Slice is being marketed as a productivity machine but should really be considered a decent all-around system. It has a form that resembles a headphone case and only weighs 2.31 pounds.

Though the Elite Slice doesn’t come with a GTX graphics card, it features an i5-6500T and 16 GB of RAM (upgradable to 32 GB) and a 128 GB SSD alongside a 1 TB HDD.

The Intel HD Graphics 530 graphics card inside is more than enough to satisfy your low to mid-level gaming needs.

MSI Trident X

Image via MSI

MSI Trident X may be the model with the biggest form factor on our list. It features high-end specs and also leaves a bit of room to prevent overheating.

Though it’s bigger than the others, it can still be considered a compact choice with its 10 liters of size. The base model comes with a ninth-gen i9-9700k alongside an RTX 2070 graphics card.

As the specs suggest, this powerful machine will be more than enough to satisfy all your gaming needs even if you decide to crank up the settings to plus-ultra. While this may not fit into your average backpack, it could still easily be carried around in a 17-inch notebook bag.

Apple Mac mini 2020

Image via Apple

Gaming on a Mac used to be a nightmare—not because Apple’s products were lacking in hardware, necessarily, but because most games simply weren’t optimized for it.

Game designers have come a long way since then, though. Most of the popular games out there, like League of Legends and Fortnite, are fully optimized and take advantage of your hardware completely.

The updated base version of the Mac mini features an eighth-gen i3-8100B alongside an Intel UHD Graphics 630 graphics card. In terms of specs, the upgraded version only comes with a noticeably better eighth-generation Intel Core i5 processor with more storage options.

Its body has that industrial, slick look while only weighing 2.9 pounds. If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, you can definitely consider the Mac mini.

Intel NUC Extreme Gaming

Image via Intel

With its NUC Gaming Kits, Intel aims to deliver a great gaming experience in the size of a console. It also has a great cover that lets everyone know that it’s packing killer specs.

The kits are compact and weigh around two to 2.2 pounds. Keep in mind that some models come without RAM and storage.

The base Extreme Kit model features an i9-9980HK processor alongside an Intel UHD Graphics 630 graphics card and 16 GB of RAM. The RAM is upgradeable to 64 GB.

Though it doesn’t feature a dedicated graphics card, NUC’s performance should be more than enough to get smooth frame rates in less demanding games.

Intel NUC Home

Image via Intel

If the Extreme kits were too powerful for your needs, the Home kits might be a home run for you. 

The possibilities are almost endless with the Intel NUC Home series. You can either build your customized kit or order one of the prebuilt ones featuring an i3, i5, or i7 processor. They’re quite compact and easy to carry around.

While the Home series should be enough for anything work-related and are also VR ready, they might struggle if you decide to crank up the settings to medium or higher.

MSI Trident 3

Image via MSI

It seems that MSI is aiming to cover a wide range of the mini PC market—Trident X isn’t its only offering.

While it features the same form factor as its bigger brother, the Trident 3 comes with an RTX 2060 Super graphics card and 16 GB of RAM. The i7-9700F inside is more than enough for all your needs and although this isn’t the most high-end offering from MSI, it’s still a future-proof choice.

The rig is a bit heavier than most mini PCs, weighing in around 15 pounds. Despite its heavier weight, it’s still quite compact and may be one of the most compact options if we consider its high-end specs.

Acer Chromebox CXI3

Image via Acer

Mobile gaming is now bigger than PC gaming and mobile users also need desktop solutions to get their things in order. 

Most mobile gamers invest in tablets to give themselves the advantage of a bigger screen. Combined with a decently-sized screen, chromeboxes can turn into a gigantic advantage in mobile games.

Acer Chromebox CXI3 comes with an i5-8250U and 8 GB of RAM. It’s essentially cheaper than any Windows equipped machine that shares the same specs since it comes with ChromeOS.

If you’re a PC gamer, getting a chrome device won’t be able to satisfy your gaming needs. But they should be enough for anything work-related. If you find yourself spending more time on mobile games, then the CXI3 may be the choice for you.

MSI Prestige P100

Image via MSI

If you’re an artist who also enjoys gaming, the Prestige P100 may be for you. 

The MSI Prestige P100 is strictly being marketed toward graphic designers and editors. The base model comes with 32 GB of RAM, ninth-gen i9-9900k, 1 TB SSD, and an RTX 2080 Super graphics card. Its completely white design also allows for visual customizations and you can essentially paint it to any color you want.

As a tall but compact rig, it weighs around 17 pounds and is about 14.7 inches by 5.2 inches by 15.9 inches. Though it’s quite far from being a budget choice, this tall mini PC can satisfy all your work and gaming-related needs for possibly up to five years since it’s quite future proof.

Dell CF5C Micro Form Factor Desktop Computer

Image via Dell

As its name suggests, the CF5C is one of the most compact options out there when considering its specs. Its form resembles a console and it only weighs 6.1 pounds. CF5C isn’t customizable and is the top micro PC that Dell has to offer.

The CF5C packs an i5-7500T, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD, and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 630 graphics card. In terms of specs, it’s more than capable of doing anything work and media related. 

You can definitely consider this mini PC if you aren’t a hardcore gamer. The integrated graphics card should be enough to satisfy your low to medium gaming needs. 

Sacrificing a good GPU is just the price we have to pay for a smaller form factor and a lighter weight.

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