ZOTAC MAGNUS – Image via ZOTACThe 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

ZOTAC MAGNUS – Image via ZOTAC

HP Elite Slice – Image via HP

HP Elite Slice – Image via HP

Apple Mac mini – Image via Apple

Apple Mac mini – Image via AppleThe 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

Intel NUC Extreme Gaming – Image via Intel

Intel NUC Extreme Gaming – Image via Intel

Dell CF5C Micro Form Factor Desktop Computer – Image via Dell

Dell CF5C Micro Form Factor Desktop Computer – Image via Dell

HP Z2 Mini G4 – Image via HPThe 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

HP Z2 Mini G4 – Image via HP

Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny – Image via Lenovo

Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny – Image via Lenovo

SkyTech Legacy Mini – Image via SkyTech

SkyTech Legacy Mini – Image via SkyTechThe 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

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.The 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

ZOTAC MAGNUS

ZOTAC MAGNUS – Image via ZOTAC

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 hardcore 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 32GB RAM and i5-9300H.The 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

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 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.

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HP Elite Slice

HP Elite Slice – Image via HP

HP Elite Slice – Image via HPThe 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

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 16GB of RAM (upgradable to 32GB) and a 128GB SSD alongside a 1TB HDD.

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

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Apple M1 Mac mini

Apple Mac mini – Image via Apple

Apple Mac mini – Image via Apple

As far as the Mac minis go, Apple doesn’t seem to like tinkering with their appearance. The boxy design has been around for a while, but the internals get updated whenever Apple has something new to offer.

In late 2020, Apple decided to move away from using Intel processors. A new line of Macbooks hit the market alongside an updated Mac mini with Apple’s M1 processor. Apple designed this new chip for optimum efficiency and to work better with macOS.The 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

Apple has also been looking to optimize all of its ecosystems, and with M1 Mac, users will be able to use iPad and iPhone apps. Though there weren’t many apps that supported this feature in the beginning, the numbers increase by the day.

Mac minis are also customizable, and you can adjust the amount of RAM you want in your Mac alongside your SSD’s storage capacity.

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Intel NUC Extreme Gaming

Intel NUC Extreme Gaming – Image via IntelThe 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

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 16GB of RAM. The RAM is upgradeable to 64GB.

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.The 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

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Dell CF5C Micro Form Factor Desktop Computer

Dell CF5C Micro Form Factor Desktop Computer – Image via Dell

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. The CF5C isn’t customizable and is the top micro PC that Dell has to offer.The 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

The CF5C packs an i5-7500T, 8GB of RAM, 256GB 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.

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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.

HP Z2 Mini G4The 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

HP Z2 Mini G4 – Image via HP

HP Z2 Mini G4 – Image via HP

Shrinking in size means reducing the workload capability of a mini PC. While this statement is true for most of the market, the HP Z2 Mini G4 could be one of the few examples that goes against it. It’s almost impossible to feel any signs of strain while performing day-to-day tasks with this little devil.

The HP Z2 Mini G4 comes in what can potentially be the most minimalistic case for a mini PC. Its sleek design allows it to blend in with the environment, and it’s also quite hard to tell that it’s a PC from a distance.

The model we tested came with an I5-8500 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Combined with an Nvidia Quadro P600 graphics, the HP Z2 Mini G4 could run indie games and emulator titles without a sweat.The 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

There are a handful of versions of the Z2 Mini G4, each rocking a different spec sheet. The cooling system inside the box does a great job of keeping the temperatures in check. It could get a bit loud in there when the system’s under load, but the noise isn’t close enough to be annoyingly loud. It could be a deal-breaker, however, if you’re looking for that completely silent experience.

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Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny

Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny – Image via Lenovo

Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny – Image via LenovoThe 8 best mini PCs for gaming in 2021

Though connecting your PC to your router with an Ethernet cable is the best way to eliminate ping and lag, sometimes it may just not be possible. If your router is downstairs and you don’t want to drill a hole through your ceiling, going wireless will be the only option. Most mini PCs come with Wi-Fi adapters inside, but it’s hard to match the quality of the one inside of Lenovo’s ThinkCentre M720q Tiny.

Lenovo’s ThinkCentre M720q Tiny owes most of its wireless connection quality to the antenna slot it has on the back. You should find a small antenna inside its packaging, which you can simply screw in. This antenna increases your mini PC’s Wi-Fi range alongside bettering the overall connection quality.

There’s a lot to consider when picking your ThinkCentre M720q since there countless options when it comes to the internals it stores. The RAM options vary from eight to 16GB, while you can choose from different i3, i5, and i7 processors. You could also decide to bump its storage with a 1TB hard drive or with a larger SSD. All models come with an integrated graphics solution, however, which decreases M720q’s gaming potential.

This compact PC is still enough for users with light gaming habits, and it handles any productivity task like it’s a walk in the park.

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SkyTech Legacy Mini

SkyTech Legacy Mini – Image via SkyTech

SkyTech Legacy Mini – Image via SkyTech

Compared to all the tiny PCs on our list, SkyTech Legacy Mini could look like a giant. Though it’ll almost be impossible to fit it in a backpack, it’s still compact enough to move it around easily. SkyTech Legacy Mini made it into the list because it didn’t feel complete without an option for hardcore gamers. Most mini PCs lack a dedicated graphics card and cooling system to play resource-hungry games, which leaves competitive gamers empty-handed.

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You’ll get to choose from processors like AMD Ryen 7 1700 and 2700 to go with your Legacy mini, alongside graphics card options such as Nvidia’s RTX 2060 and 2070. Like most mini PCs, this gaming beast also comes with a Wi-Fi antenna that further increases its portability. You’ll be able to set it up anywhere around your house, and you should be good to go if you have a strong enough Wi-Fi signal.

SkyTech also issues a year-long warranty for all of your parts in addition to what they already have, doubling the available protection. The rig’s standard cooling setup ensures a decent airflow, but you can opt-in for water cooling as well. Considering the limited space inside the case, water cooling does wonders to keep the temperatures low.

Alternative solution: External GPUs

We would hate to be the ones to say “have you considered this other option?” while you’re shopping for a mini PC. But if you have a decent laptop already, you may also benefit from an external GPU.

EGPUs are basically graphics cards that are housed inside specially designed panels. Configuring them is quite easy since you only need to plug them into your laptop or your gaming machine via a Thunderbolt 3 or any advised type of port to get them running. Most have a quite straightforward installation process since your system should detect them, but some may require you to install additional drivers.

A laptop with decent-enough specs to match a mini PC should already be good enough for light gaming. It’s quite difficult to get a high-tier gaming performance out of a mini PC without paying the big bucks, making the external GPUs an excellent form of power boost for your laptop.

The portability side of things will obviously be worse, but an eGPU can be the difference between getting smooth frame rates in a triple-A title and being able to run it.

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