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There’s no shortage of incredible mini PCs in 2023 and, frankly, most of them are so darn powerful that they can, by all means, replace your existing rig for both gaming and any kind of productivity work.
They come in a myriad of different shapes and sizes and their performance varies as well. The weakest ones are perfectly suitable for everyday tasks like browsing the web, typing out emails, filling out spreadsheets, and so on and so forth. The best ones? They can churn through God of War with maxed out settings at 1440p without breaking a sweat.
In other words: there’s something for every kind of user and use-case. You have incredibly powerful models with integrated graphics (perfect for indie and esports titles along with emulation), models with mid-tier dedicated GPUs, and even a couple of options that are sufficiently capable for 1440p gaming.
We’re spoiled for choice.
With so many options to choose from, however, picking the “right one” can feel a bit daunting. Fortunately, it’s nowhere near as complicated as it might seem. And so, with that in mind, let’s go over the most alluring mini PCs on the market, all of which are powerful enough to deliver a stellar gaming experience!
A Word of Caution: Many different companies are competing in this space and, frankly, only a handful of them have products that are worth your hard-earned money. Moreover, sourcing a gaming mini PC from AliExpress simply isn’t advisable (for reasons that need no explaining).
Some of those companies have horrendous customer support and, should something go awry, you might not be able to get your product RMA’d. So, with that in mind, make sure to buy your mini PCs from verified, trusted sources.
And so, with that little PSA out of the way, let’s dive straight into the nitty-gritty!
Intel NUC 11 Phantom Canyon [w/ RTX 2060 Max-P]
The NUC 11 Phantom Canyon is by no means the most novel option around, but it is nonetheless exceptionally well rounded and, frankly, is more than worth the price of admission. You can actually buy it nowadays for half its original MSRP — depending on the region and overall availability, of course.
It currently retails for around 650 euros in Germany which, for a mini PC that powerful, is quite a steal. It does have a somewhat outdated mobile CPU within its enclosure (Core i7-1165G7), but whatever it might lack in processing prowess it more than makes up for in gaming chops, all thanks to an RTX 2060 (Max-P).
As for performance, it’s about 80-85% as capable as its desktop counterpart which, given its size, is quite impressive.
This NUC also comes in at just 1.35 liters in volume. That’s… laughably small. And, thanks to a beefy cooling solution, it’s barely audible, too — a hefty surprise given its gaming performance in both 1080p and 1440p.
For more information on this wholly unique mini PC, make sure to watch the following video:
Intel NUC 9 Extreme
The NUC 9 Extreme was met with a fair bit of criticism upon release primarily because of its MSRP; it’s a great little machine, though, and it would’ve gained a lot more traction if it had been priced more appropriately.
It’s quite spectacular what Intel was able to accomplish within a form factor this small (5L). It’s not the most powerful CPU-wise, but at least it has an integrated power supply and an available PCIe slot for a dedicated graphics card (up to two slots and 8”/20 cm in length).
This means you can slot in, say, an RTX 3060 Ti and game to your heart’s content.
And, better yet, you can actually snag the Intel Core-i5 9300H variant for around 300 euros (in Europe, at least). The price fluctuates, naturally, but it hovers around that mark a lot more often than one would expect. The CPU at hand isn’t particularly impressive, but it’ll still suffice for most daily tasks and, if paired with a sufficiently powerful GPU, it won’t present that big of a bottleneck if you plan on gaming at 1440p.
It’s not the best option overall, but if you can get it for cheap — and want to have a dedicated graphics card at all costs — then it’s definitely worth taking a look at.
Here’s an in-depth review, if you happen to be interested:
Intel NUC 12 Serpent Canyon [w/ ARC A770M]
The NUC 12 Serpent Canyon is a very fascinating beast. It’s noticeably more powerful than its forerunners, but it also carries a couple of flaws and drawbacks that, to some, may well prove to be dealbreaking.
Intel’s own ARC A770M GPU is powerful, but it’s not as well optimized and doesn’t perform in certain applications and games as its spec sheet would imply. This NUC is also a lot louder than the one preceding it which, for gamers who are used to a more pleasant sound signature, may present a problem.
Still, Intel’s drivers have gotten a lot better recently and the company is obviously committed to delivering a polished, well-rounded experience. It still has a ways to go, though, but a solid enough foundation has nonetheless been laid.
It’s an expensive mini PC, there’s no doubt about it, but for some it might be worth the asking price.
You can learn more about it from the following video:
Minisforum Neptune HX99G/HX90M/HX80G [w/ 6600M]
This, without a shadow of a doubt, is the best gaming mini PC on the market. There are three different SKUs available: one with a Ryzen 7 5800H, a Ryzen 9 5900HX, and a top-of-the-line Ryzen 9 6900HX. All three options come paired with AMD’s RX 6600M (or RX 6650M if you end up buying the mid-tier SKU).
We’re talking about a spectacular and most efficient dedicated graphics card, one that is an incredible performer at 1080p and, in some titles, can even deliver a smooth 60 FPS experience at 1440p as well.
It’s the best and most well-rounded option at the time of this writing (both CPU- and GPU-wise) and, frankly, it has very little — if any — true competition.
For a more detailed look into this mighty powerful PC, make sure to watch the following video from ETA Prime:
Minisforum UM690 [Ryzen 9 6900HX]
If you’re content with playing indie titles — or just want to emulate your favorite consoles from years past — the UM series from Minisforum might be worth taking a look at. It’s not as powerful as the aforementioned Neptune as it lacks a dedicated graphics card, but AMD’s latest and greatest RDNA 2-based iGPU is nonetheless sufficiently capable for basically any indie or esports title you might throw its way.
The only SKU truly worth talking about is the one imbued with AMD’s Ryzen 9 6900HX. It’s an incredibly powerful APU and can draw a lot more power than one would expect given the size of the chassis it happens to be placed in. With some tinkering — and two sticks of blazing fast DDR5 RAM — you’ll even be able to tackle moderately demanding titles (especially legacy ones) at 1080p.
The following video breaks it down nicely:
If you’re leaning more towards “team green,” Minisforum has two very unique — and very powerful — mini PCs to offer. The NUCXI5 and NUCXI7 are about as weird as it gets form factor-wise. They’re outlandishly tall but also incredibly thin, too.
They’re packed with either an RTX 3060 or, if you opt for the higher-end model, an RTX 3070. The CPU side of things leaves a bit to be desired as you’re getting either a Core i5-11400H or a Core i7-11800H.
Still, both processors, despite their laptop-grade nature, are sufficiently powerful for both gaming and regular tasks alike. These mini PCs are essentially using laptop motherboards with laptop components soldered onto them — hence the form factor.
As for performance, they’re about as good as any mid-tier gaming laptop with comparable specs — which is to say: wholly sufficient and capable. In fact, they’re the most powerful mini PCs on the market GPU-wise. The fact that both the RTX 3060 and 3070 SKUs can harness NVIDIA’s DLSS only further strengthens their value proposition.
Then again, you can, with a bit of work, build a comparably powerful SFFPC — an RTX 3060/3060 Ti isn’t nearly as expensive now as it was in the past, especially if you’re willing to buy one used on the second-hand market.
The NUCXI5/7 is a truly weird, obscure, and, frankly, somewhat wonderful device. It’s not for everyone (or for most, to be fair), but we’re nonetheless glad that it exists.
For a deeper dive into the NUCXI5/I7, make sure to watch the following video:
RDNA 3-based Mini PCs [Minisforum, GMK, etc.]
These mighty alluring machines still haven’t hit the market, but that’s bound to change in a few weeks’ time. They’ll not only be relatively affordable, but will also house AMD’s cutting edge 780M integrated graphics.
When paired with incredibly fast DDR5 RAM, the 780M can almost match the performance of NVIDIA’s GTX 1060 3GB. That might not sound all that amazing, but it sure is a big deal for an iGPU.
Everyone’s well aware of the potential of these mini PCs and so, if you’re in the market for such a thing, it might be wise to wait a little while as you’ll be able to get a lot more for your money’s worth in just a month or two.
Either way, we’re excited beyond measure to see just how much performance users will be able to squeeze out from these forthcoming APUs; by the looks of it, entry-level GPUs will soon become a thing of the past!