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If you’re a gaming geek, you have probably owned a few PCs in your life. Most people prefer a complete desktop gaming rig to fulfill their 4K, 60 fps needs.
However, what do you do when you need the mobility of a laptop paired with the processing power and GPU output of a PC? Well, you could go for the gadget that falls perfectly in the middle; Mini PCs.Basically, mini PCs are portable computers that have the GPU, motherboard, CPU, RAM and all other necessary components neatly packed into a small chassis.
The reason why we love mini PCs is that they’re a lot more powerful than laptops. They can have built-in 8GB GDDR5 GPUs without having to go through the hassle of externally docking like on a laptop.
At the same time, you don’t need the storage space you would typically need for a desktop PC, yet still enjoy the same experience you would get from an expensive rig. Mini PCs are now coming with state-of-the-art technology including 9th generation processors, 32 gigs of RAM and, like we said above, GDDR5 GPUs.
So, if you’re looking for a Mini PC with the processing power of a PC, the convenience of a laptop and the speed of Thunderbolt 3, here are a few amazing options for you to choose from.
At a Glance – Our Top Picks
|Image||Product||Processor||GPU||Hard Drive / SSD||RAM||Check Price|
|Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit (NUC9I9QNX)||i9-9980HK||Intel UHD Graphics 630||Sold Separately||Sold Separately|
|Asus Pro Art PA90||i9 9900K||Nvidia Quadro P4000||1 TB / 512 GB SSD||32 GB DDR4|
|Intel NUC 8 (NUC8i7HVK)||i7 8809G||Radeon RX Vega M GH||Sold Separately||Sold Separately|
|HP Z2 Mini G4||i7 8700||Intel UHD 630||1 TB / None||64 GB DDR4|
|CUK Intel Hades Canyon||i7-8809G||Radeon RX Vega M GH||None / 1 TB or 2 TB||32 GB DDR4|
|ZOTAC ZBOX MI660||i7 8550U (Options Available)||Intel UHD 620||None / 120 GB||4 GB DDR4|
|MSI Vortex G25||i7-8700||Nvidia GTX 1070||1 TB / 256 GB||16 GB DDR4|
|Apple Mac Mini||Intel Core i3/ Core i5||Intel UHD Graphics 630||256/512 GB||8 GB|
1. Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit (NUC9I9QNX) – Best Mini PC with Thunderbolt for Gaming
Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit is an excellent mini PC for gaming based on the Intel NUC 9 Extreme Compute Element. It is the latest and powerful NUC available. It also comes with the most upgradeable design we’ve seen in a NUC.
Not all people prefer large and massive gaming PCs; some are better off with small form factor yet powerful PCs. The latest NUC 9 Extreme Kit (dubbed “Ghost Canyon”), features an upgradeable design allowing you to build a powerful SFF gaming PC. The NUC9I9QNX model we’re reviewing is a barebone kit that requires you to come with your RAM/SSDs, and dedicated GPU.
From the outside, the NUC 9 Extreme looks very compact and robust. It has a black plastic build and metal mesh on the sides with a skull on either side. It has a small footprint measuring only 9.4 x 8.5 x 3.8 inches (238 x 216 x 96mm).
Opening the NUC provides access to the Intel NUC 9 Extreme Compute Element (NUC9i9QNB), a built-in power supply, and the baseboard. The Compute Element holds the CPU, M.2 slots, and two SODIMM slots. It connects to the baseboard via PCI Express and offers various connectivity ports at the back of the chassis.
The baseboard has two PCIe x16 slots and a single PCIe x4 slot. One of the PCIe x16 slots connects the Compute Element, and the other can fit a dedicated graphics card. There is also an additional PCIe x4 M.2 slot that supports up to 110mm SSDs. A 500W 80+ platinum PSU supplies power to the NUC 9 Extreme, saving you the hustle of carrying bulky adapters.
Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit comes with a 9th generation Intel Core i9-9980HK mobile processor. Intel soldered the processor on the Compute Element, so upgrading means buying a new Compute Element. We still don’t know why Intel didn’t use the latest generation CPU.
However, the Intel Core i9-9980HK is the powerful processor on a NUC. It features 8C/16T configuration, 45W TDP, and 5.00 GHz max turbo frequency.
The NUC 9 comes with intergraded Intel UHD Graphics 630. It supports up to three displays via the two Thunderbolt 3 ports and an HDMI 2.0a port. This mini PC can push 4K content at 60Hz, which is decent for gaming and daily entertainment.
Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit does not come with memory modules installed. However, it has two SODIMM slots that can accommodate faster 2666MHz DDR4 memory up to 64GB. The same is for the storage. The NUC 9 Extreme Kit has three M.2 slots so you can connect NVMe/SATA storage drives.
The NUC 9 does not have the best cooling mechanism, but it still has a decent configuration to prevent thermal problems. The Compute Element has a single fan to ensure efficient airflow and two M.2 heatsinks with thermal pads for conducting heat away from your SSDs. The top panel of the mini PC also includes two cooling fans powered via a contact connector.
Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit supports WI-FI 6 and also comes with integrated Bluetooth. The external connections include two Thunderbolt 3 ports, six USB 3.1 Gen 2, HDMI, two Ethernet jacks, and audio output.
- Compact design
- Superior performance
- Fits a discrete GPU
- Built-in power supply
- Plenty of ports
- Still uses last-gen processor
- Stuffing many components in a tight space compromises cooling and cable management
2. Asus ProArt PA90 – Core i9 Mini PCWhen it comes to the best that mini PCs can offer, Asus ProArt PA90 is the only name mentioned. This device absolutely shreds the barrier between desktop and mini PCs and begs the question, “Why are we still stuck on desktop PCs?”
Here’s a run-down of all the sweet tech you’re going to get as part of the Asus ProArt PA90.
Let’s start with the first thing that catches your eye when you look at this beautiful piece of tech; the processor. The PA90 comes with a Core i9-9900K processor that’s such an unbelievable component for a device this small. There’s another variant of the PA90 sold that uses has a bit of a downgrade in terms of the processor, but even the downgrade is a Core i7-9700K. Both variants have unlocked processors meaning you can overlock them and squeeze that much extra speed out of these processors.
The GPU in this thing may not be your average Nvidia RTX card, but it certainly packs a huge punch. The PA90 uses an Nvidia Quadro P4000 GPU which is a GDDR5 8 GB 256-bit graphic card. The display adapter makes great usage of the Thunderbolt 3 port and pairs it up with the GPU quite nicely. The GPU is capable of running six displays at 4K and dual monitors at 8K.
This is where you really see PA90 shine at its brightest. The mini PC is loaded with a 1 TB hard drive and a 512 GB SSD for all your flashy programs. Paired with that, there are 32 gigs of DDR4 RAM on the motherboard.
The PA90 includes a really unique cooling system with a liquid-cooling system (yep, you read that right) for the CPU and an air vent design for the rest of the components.There is a small flaw in the cooling system though. The Quadro GPU does have a heating problem under extreme usage which doesn’t have a noticeable effect on the card’s performance, however, it does push out a lot of hot air into your room.
- An 8GB high-end GPU included for all your rendering needs.
- An overclocked Core i9-9900K processor for more computational power.
- 1 TB HDD and 512 GB RAM.
- Efficient cooling system to keep the temperatures low.
- The OS-installed is Windows 10 Home version instead of the standard Windows 10 Pro, but this is nothing than a minor inconvenience.
3. Intel NUC 8 Performance-G Kit NUC8i7HVK – Core i7 100WIntel’s prized possession, the NUC 8 Performance-G kit is one of the best mini PCs you’re going to find in the world. It is one of the more affordable high-end mini PCs but it’s still one that’s tremendous power under the hood.
The NUC 8, as the name suggests is using a Core i7 8th gen 8809G processor which is an unlocked processor similar to the PA90. You can overclock the CPU and tweak it to get maximum performance.
The NUC8i7HVK comes with a 4 GB Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics card that is actually VR-Ready. When paired with the right VR equipment, this GPU can provide astounding graphics on some of the most popular VR games today.
MemoryThis is where the drawbacks of the NUC8i7HVK start to kick in.
Yes, the device is really affordable, but that is because it’s missing on a few core parts. There’s no memory included in the device. There’s no SSD, no hard drive and no RAM either so they will all need to be bought and installed separately.
Furthermore, there’s no copy of an OS too. Intel also doesn’t give you a copy of Windows so you’re going to have to buy one of those as well. There is a slot to support up to 32 GB of DDR4 memory with two M2 SSD slots to compensate for the missing components.
The design of the NUC8i7HVK is definitely a lot of aesthetically pleasing. The casing is marked with a completely customizable RGB skull that can change over a million different colors, or simply turn off. There are heating vents all across the four corners to keep airflow to a maximum. However, for some reason, the fans on this thing stay on even when the CPU usage doesn’t require the maximum power. Due to this, the machine consumes extra power and produces some unnecessary noise too.
- Loaded with an overclocked i7 8809G processor.
- A VR-Ready 4 GB Radeon RX Vega M GH GPU.
- Decent design with RGB Skull Imprint.
- The NUC is missing components that require separate installation (no OS, RAM or HDD)
- Fans are highly inefficient and work at 100% power even at 0% CPU load.
If you’re curious about how much tech it is possible to cram into one small box, well you’re about to get your answer. The HP Z2 really breaks the barriers of everything you could have in a workstation mini PC. Here’s all you need to know about the HP Z2 Mini G4 Workstation Desktop.
The Z2 uses a 6-core, 12 cache Intel i7 8700 processor to suit all your processing needs. The processor isn’t overclockable, but it still has a 3.2 GHz speed that goes all the way up to 4.6 GHz.
There’s only a dedicated GPU inside this thing. It uses the Intel UHD 630 Integrated Graphics which is decent for designing software and all but isn’t really suitable if you want to use this for some gaming. But, that’s not exactly a con. This is a workstation device and its GPU is tailored to exactly what it needs to do.
When we start to talk about memory, this is where the Z2 really outshines the rest of the competition. The Z2 has a 64 GB DDR4 SODIMM RAM paired up with a 1 TB HDD.
The Z2 is a decent all-rounder and does well in pretty much everything. It uses a Thunderbolt 3 port, one USB 3.1, two USB 3.0 ports and one Type-C USB port as well. The OS is a 64-bit Windows 10 Pro. The product is sold by the official vendor, ergo HP. However, the device has been opened and upgraded by a third party. HP ensures a defect-free device and to back this up, GreatPriceTech (the folks doing the upgrades) provide a 1-year manufacturer warranty.
A final cherry on top would be the power supply. The Z2 only uses a 230 watts PSU because of the lack of a dedicated GPU. The Intel 630 requires lesser power and makes this device energy efficient.
- An Intel i7 8700 processor for the optimal processing power.
- 64 GB of DDR4 RAM is surprising for a mini PC, but the Z2 does it.
- A nice diverse set of ports.
- Energy-Efficient PSU
- Lacks an SSD
- No dedicated GPU
This is the second device from the Intel NUC series on our list and spoiler, it’s not the last either. The Hades Canyon is all that the NUC earlier wasn’t. It’s a real powerhouse if you’re looking for a promising mini gaming PC that could easily outperform mid-range desktop PCs.
The CUK Intel Hades Canyon uses quad-core, 8 BM Cache Intel Core i7-8809G processor with speeds ranging from 3.10 GHz to 4.2 GHz. On top of all that, the processor is overclockable which is always nice to have.
This device is running a 32 GB DDR4 RAM, however, the RAM isn’t the interesting part. The Hades Canyon does NOT have a regular SATA hard drive. Instead, it uses a 1 TB NVME SSD. It’s a nice touch to have all your data available in a split second. But, a 1 TB SSD may not be enough for all your stuff, would it? Well, Intel thought of that and released a second variant of the Hades Canyon that has a 2 TB NVME SSD instead. So, if you’re worried about having space issues, Intel had similar concerns and you have the option to have double the drive at your disposal.
This machine actually comes in four different variants. Windows 10 Home 1 TB SSD, Windows 10 Pro 1 TB SSD, Windows 10 Home 2 TB SSD and Windows 10 Pro 2 TB SSD. So, it’s nice to have options in terms of OS and hard drive. Apart from that, there’s a three-year CUK warranty on this device that only applies to certain components.
You could need to access the BIOS for a variety of different reasons and if you need to access it, you’ll need to get a firmware upgrade.
- Quad-core, 8 BM Cache Intel Core i7-8809G processor
- 32 GB DDR4 RAM
- 1 TB NVME SSD / 2 TB NVME SSD (Option available)
- AMD Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics card for all your gaming needs
- Windows 10 Pro / Windows 10 Home (Option available)
- A three-year CUK Warranty
- Incompatible with OS other than Windows.
- The Hades Canyon needs a firmware upgrade to have an unlocked BIOS.
6. ZOTAC ZBOX MI660 Nano Plus Mini PC – Best Budget Mini PC
Cramming so much tech into a small box is difficult and because it’s difficult, it’s really expensive. Most of the products on this list go over a grand each, but if you’re looking for something small and more on the affordable side of things, the ZOTAC ZBOX MI660 may just be what you’re looking for.
The ZBOX MI660 comes with an Intel Core i7 8550U processor. The processor has four cores and has speed from 1.8 GHz up to 4 GHz. But if you feel that this processor is a bit too powerful for your taste, you can downgrade too. When buying the MI660, you have a ton of processor options at your disposal. Here’s a list of all the processors available.
The MI660 comes with an Intel UHD 620 Integrated GPU which is a great component in the price range that ZOTAC is offering with this mini PC. It supports up to four displays at 4K, 60 FPS. The GPU paired with the processing power and the affordable prices makes this mini PC great for industrial applications like digital signage.
The MI660 doesn’t really excel in terms of memory. But, with the price, you’re paying, its well worth it. You’re getting a 4 GB DDR4 RAM and a 120 GB SSD. There’s no hard drive in this thing. Apart from that, there’s no OS installed either which is a bit of a downfall.
If you’re intent on making some upgrades on your own, you have the option to buy the MI660 without the hard drive or the RAM and install whatever memory you’d like.
- A long list of processor choices available.
- Tailor the hard drive and RAM as per your requirements.
- Integrated Intel UHD 620 supports four 4K displays.
- No sata HDD.
- No OS installed
- 120 GB SSD is not remotely sufficient for regular use
7. MSI Vortex G25-022US Small Form Factor Gaming PC – Best Gaming Mini PCSo, we’ve gone over some popular options for gaming PC, but we saved the best for last. This mini PC from MSI is a rig built into a portable size with some of the most impressive specs you’ll find in the market.
To provide high processing power on the G25, MSI gives you an Intel Core i7-8700 processor. The CPU has six cores with a speed ranging from 3.2 GHz to 4.6 GHz. Top of the line processor for your gaming/work endeavors; what else could you ask for?
So, the golden goose of MSI G25 is the Nvidia GTX 1070 installed in this thing. It’s really amazing how a full-scale high-end GPU like the 1070 can be loaded into this tiny thing. The GTX 1070 is an 8GB GDDR4 graphics card that can run any modern AAA games at Ultra 1080P and is VR-Ready as well. It’s the epitome of the kind of GPU your gaming rid needs and MSI makes it a possibility to have one in this chassis.
Just like everything else, the memory is suited to exactly what you’d expect in a regular gaming rig. There’s 16 GBs of DDR4 RAM paired up with a 256 GB SATA SSD and a 1 TB hard drive. Moreover, you can also turn things up a bit if you need to. There is an M2 slot for an SSD of a larger size along with the option of adding another hard drive on top of the 1 TB one. The RAM is also expandable up to 64 GBs.
The Vortex G25 is a chic looking device that really represents all that MSI really is about. It has a black and red design that really gives it that premium gaming looks it’s supposed to have. There’s a version of Windows 10 Pro already installed on the SSD. There are two fans on the bottom to keep the machine from overheating. However, they are loud and when we say loud, we mean LOUD. The fans are whirring at full speed regardless of what you’re doing. Your computer could be sitting idle, yet the fans will continue at high speeds.A major flaw with the G25 would be the durability of the casing itself. For all the premium components included in the machine, MSI certainly did cut short on their casing budget. The plastic is flimsy, breaks easily and bends too. So, if you’re buying this expensive rig, you should take good care of it and make sure you don’t drop it. It’ll be a pretty expensive drop if you do that!
- Core i7-8700 processor which is 22% faster than the 8700 used in laptops these days
- Equipped with VR-Ready, 8GB, GTX 1070
- 16 GB DDR4 RAM
- Decent memory options with 256 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD
- All memories are expandable
- The fans are really loud
- Casing is flimsy
8. Apple Mac Mini – Best Value Mini PC
The new Mac Mini 2020 comes with more storage options, and well nothing else. It has the same build quality and hardware as the 2018 model.
In a world of 4K and AAA games, 128GB storage isn’t just up for the task. The Mac Mini 2020 model doubles the storage to 256GB and 512GB on the affordable options and up to 2TB at Apple. However, apart from storage and macOS Catalina, everything else remains the same from the last Mac Mini model.
Mac mini comes with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, the most in a mini PC. With four Tb3 ports, you can connect two displays, eGPU, external storage, and more Thunderbolt 3 devices via daisy-chaining. It is also the cheapest Apple desktop computer.
The 2020 model sports the same dark space grey anodized finish as the 2018 model. It is compact and smaller than the new NUC 9 Extreme at 7.7 x 7.7 x 1.4 inches and 2.9 pounds in weight. While it is slightly upgradeable, the Mac Mini may be challenging to open for some people.
The included ports include four Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI, two USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet jack, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. It is an impressive selection of ports considering its small form factor.
The new Mac mini still features an old 8th generation 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 processor. The i3 processor is, however, basic and lacks vital features such as Turbo Boost. If you’re running heavy applications and demanding processes, upgrade to the 6-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processor to leverage turbo boost up to 4.6GHz and Hyper-Threading.
An integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 powers the new Mac mini. It is not the best GPU for gaming graphical-intensive tasks such as video editing. But the inclusion of multiple Thunderbolt 3 ports lets you hook an eGPU for more power and flexibility to use the GPU of your choice. The only problem is that it will still drain your pocket for a full setup with eGPU.
Onboard you get 8GB of DDR4-2666MHz memory installed, configurable up to 64GB. The RAM is upgradeable so you can open the Mac mini to install your RAM modules. The storage, however, is still soldered in a non-upgradeable fashion.
- Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
- Impressive performance
- Compact build design
- Upgradeable RAM
- Integrated graphics
- Not really upgradeable