Building computers was hard enough before hardware prices started soaring due to global shortages. Even before things got out of hand building anything small usually meant paying a premium for the reduction in size. In addition, so many people working from home now means that our gaming desks often pull double-duty as workspaces and the need for small form factor computing is greater than ever. If you’re looking to fit your work laptop next to your gaming rig then you might need to make a few adjustments to the hardware you’re looking for, and we’re here to help. Below you’ll find our top 5 mini PCs suitable for gaming of various kinds. We’ll also be listing the dimensions and weight of each product so you can make sure that your mini PC solution is mini enough for your needs.
Best for the no-compromises enthusiast
The NUC 9 Extreme Kit comes in multiple different configurations, all of which require you to supply your own RAM, storage, and GPU. Each kit comes equipped with an i9 processor, has support for Intel Optane devices, and offers dual Thunderbolt 3 ports. While this is more of a do-it-yourself solution, it’s a great start in a compelling form factor if you’re looking to customize your PC gaming setup without being locked in to specific hardware with no chance to upgrade. Equipped with a higher end GPU this kit should be all you need to tackle the latest AAA games with little issue.
It can fit GPUs of up to 8 inches in length, so check your preferred GPU accordingly. With a price starting at $1535.66 for the current iteration, the Intel NUC 9 Extreme kit is a premium-priced but flexible piece of hardware. If you’re looking for all of the benefits of a full desktop but refuse to compromise on power, then this is where you want to be. This kit can often be found for much lower prices from select retailers, so shop around if you’re after one.
The Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit comes in at 9.37 x 8.5 x 3.78 inches and weighs in around 10 pounds.
Best for esports fans
The UM700 comes equipped with an AMD Ryzen 7 3750H CPU, 16GB of memory, a 512GB SATA SSD, and RX Vega 10 graphics. This is a decent all-in-one PC solution and is good to game right out of the box. The Vega 10 integrated graphics won’t deliver top-tier AAA performance, but you can expect solid 60+ FPS from games like Counter-Strike: GO, League of Legends, and Minecraft with reasonable settings.
The UM700 also includes a VESA mounting bracket in the box so you'll be able to attach it directly to the back of any VESA compatible monitor for a super clean setup.
At $609 this is a solid choice if you’re looking to get in some light gaming without breaking the bank on a high-end PC that will eat up your desk space and savings.
The Minisforum EliteMini UM700 is 5.04 x 5 x 1.81 inches and weighs 1.1 pounds.
Related: 2021’s 5 Best Pink Gaming Headsets
Best for retro gaming
The Raspberry Pi 4 won’t run Windows, so don’t expect to be booting up the latest Steam game. It does, however, work well as an all-in-one emulation device for most 8-bit and 16-bit consoles and handhelds. The unit itself comes barebones so you will need to provide an AC adapter, a case, an SD card, and any display or networking cables required for your setup. The upside is a highly configurable device capable of running many flavors of Linux, including the emulator-focused Retropie operating system for cheaper than most other setups.
You’ll need to spend quite some time tweaking things to perfection, but the end result is a highly flexible retro emulation device that can accept a wide array of inputs. Prices start at $55.00 for the 4GB unit, which is the version we would recommend for gaming.
The Raspberry Pi 4 is a meager 3.94 x 2.76 x 1.18 inches and weighs 1.76 ounces, but it should be noted that you’ll likely want a case for it that will increase those dimensions a bit.
Best for portability
While the Steam Deck isn’t out yet, it has already painted quite a compelling picture. It offers a AMD Zen 2 with 16GB of memory and a built-in 1280x800 touchscreen. The primary aim of the device is handheld use, but with a supported USB C dongle or the official dock (sold separately) you will be able to utilize it as a full SteamOS desktop machine. The device pairs this ability with support for an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. This gives the Steam Deck a great amount of flexibility if you want the desktop experience for gaming but the ability to pick-up-and-go where necessary.
While there are a lot of handheld PCs on the market, few of them are able to match the long-term support that Valve will be able to offer on the Steam Deck. And their previous hardware track record speaks for itself; while the Steam Controller and Steam Link didn't take the world by storm, they're both still supported by Steam and receive software updates to this day. Prices start at $399 for the base unit and it is currently slated to release in December of this year.
The Steam Deck is 11.7x4.06x1.92 inches and weighs 1.47 pounds, but if you intend to use it in desktop mode you’ll want to make sure you have space for whichever dongle or dock you choose to utilize.
Best for the home office gamer
If you’re looking for a business class machine first and some light gaming second, then the Lenovo ThinkCentre M70q Tiny Desktop (as well as the larger and increasingly robust models in the same line) might fit the bill. Lenovo offers a variety of customizable builds on their website, but we would recommend at least an i5-10400T and 16GB of RAM if you want this machine to pull double-duty as a spreadsheet machine and an after-hours esports competitor.
The i5-10400T uses Intel UHD 630 integrated graphics, and it will land you a respectable framerate in CSGO, Fortnite, LoL, and can even achieve a usable 30 FPS in Grand Theft Auto V with the right optimizations and settings. Configured with our recommendations the M70q starts at $790, but can often be found for lower prices secondhand. It also features business-class expansion such as USB C, a Kensington security slot, VGA, serial, and DisplayPort.
The M70q is (7.05 x 7.2 x 1.36 / 1.5 inches with the included rubber feet and weighs in at 2.76 pounds.
The wonderful thing about mini PCs is that that landscape is so diverse that you can find a piece of kit or hardware to fit just about any need you might have. So whether you’re looking to cram a full-on high-end gaming rig into a little box or just want a tiny Linux machine that can play every Super Nintendo game, there’s no shortage of options available.
For more hardware guides, check out 2021’s 5 Best Esports Keyboards on Pro Game Guides.