Mini PCs are small, compact, and highly convenient computers. They give you all you need to get the job done, and you can fit one in the palm of your hand.
Primarily meant for productivity and office work, Mini PCs have built-in components that suffice the needs of average everyday users.
But are Mini PCs good for gaming, and are they able to handle those highly demanding video games you want to play? Continue reading to find out.
Are Mini PCs Good for Gaming?
Mini PCs are a very convenient and space-saving option because of their small size. When it comes to gaming, investing in a Mini PC is simply not worth it. Powerful ones with dedicated graphics are expensive, and buying a regular gaming desktop or laptop is a better choice.
Mini PCs are an ideal option for casual users who like to use their computers for work, social media, watching movies or YouTube videos, etc.
Don’t get us wrong, Mini PCs are, in general, good for some less demanding games, but if you’re a hardcore gamer wanting to play all the newest titles, you should consider a desktop PC.
Are Mini PCs Good For Gaming in Terms of Components?
You can think of a Mini PC as a small, compact desktop PC. Its size can vary, depending on the manufacturer, but it should not exceed 8 by 8 inches and 3 inches in thickness.
As far as components are concerned, Mini PCs often have integrated ones without allowing you to change or upgrade them. You can upgrade only a few components, but we will cover those later.
In the following sections, let’s look at the standard components of Mini PCs.
CPUs inside Mini PCs are the same as laptop CPUs. They are part of an integrated chipset or system on a chip.
An integrated chipset means you cannot remove or replace the CPU with another one, as it comes integrated into the motherboard’s structure and functions as a single unit.
CPU manufacturers for Mini PCs
Intel and AMD are the world’s largest and most well-known CPU manufacturers. They also make CPUs for Mini PCs.
Intel manufactures its i3, i5, i7, and i9 CPU models with different generations, while AMD competes with its Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, and Ryzen 9 series models. All of these have different numbers of cores. The more cores, the faster the CPU.
Depending on the manufacturer and the model, Mini PCs can come with either of the abovementioned CPUs.
The processor’s speed is also important and measured in GHz (gigahertz). A clock speed of 2-3 GHz is usually considered enough per single core.
How would a Mini PCs CPU handle games?
An Intel i3 or a Ryzen 3 model would be ideal for light use, while for heavier and more demanding use, every model above the Intel i5 or the Ryzen 5 is an absolute requirement.
You can even try playing less demanding games on a Mini PC with an Intel i5 or an AMD Ryzen 5, with Intel being the better choice because of their better single-core performance.
However, AMD processors are a better option for hardcore games because they typically have a greater number of cores and workload distribution between them.
Like a regular laptop or desktop, Mini PCs also need RAM (Random Access Memory) to operate.
The good thing about RAM in Mini PCs is that it’s one of the two components you can take out and upgrade.
Desktop PCs use the DIMM (Dual In-Line Memory Module) type of RAM. DIMM means this RAM type has pins on both sides of the module.
Unlike desktops, laptops and Mini PCs use a smaller, more compact version of DIMM called SODIMM (Small Outline DIMM).
SODIMM is half the size of a DIMM and is more energy efficient, ideal for small and compact devices. Unfortunately, features like REGISTERED and ECC that DIMM has are not present in SODIMM RAM.
RAM speed and size
The RAM speed is measured in MHz, and in modern computers, it can range from around 2000 MHz to 4000 MHz and beyond. The higher the value, the faster the RAM.
In terms of memory size, RAM can range anywhere from 8GB to 128GB in today’s modern computers. 16GB of RAM is more than enough for all operations, including gaming.
How would RAM handle games on a Mini PC?
Since Mini PCs run on SODIMM RAM, they would have a harder time managing hardcore and demanding games. However, higher-end Mini PCs generally have good enough RAM for gaming–In other words, they won’t be the problem.
The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is the most important part when it comes to gaming. If you’re a hardcore gamer, you will know that the GPU makes all the difference in a game’s performance.
Unfortunately, Mini PCs often lack performance in this department, which is why they are not a good choice for gaming.
GPU chip types
There are two GPU cards you should know about: Integrated graphics chip and Dedicated graphics chip.
Integrated graphics chips
Most Mini PC models come with an integrated graphics chip. This usually means that one of the cores of the CPU is also meant to render the graphics.
The main CPU does all the work, which is never a good thing when it comes to gaming or high data-demanding tasks.
Integrated graphics chips are easier to manufacture, take up less space, and have significantly lower power consumption. This makes them an ideal option for Mini PCs and less demanding graphic tasks.
Dedicated graphics chip
A dedicated graphics chip means a separate processing unit aside from the main CPU, responsible for rendering video and graphic data.
Few Mini PC models, like the Intel NUC 8, come with a dedicated graphics card, but this chip is still integrated into the motherboard and not separate.
It will be able to render more data and even play some highly demanding games, but they’re still undervolted. This means it will still underperform when compared to a standard graphic card.
A Mini PC with a dedicated graphics chip is also more expensive and simply not worth purchasing when there are better options for the same price.
Adding eGPU for Gaming
Just like regular desktop gaming computers, mini PCs can be upgraded. Granted, some of them can be more easily customizable than others. The good news is, adding an eGPU is an easy operation that does not require any tools and will boost your gaming performance tenfold.
By plugging in an External Graphics Processing Unit, you drastically improve the performance of every mini-computer, even the one that has the most lackluster specifications.
If you purchased a mini PC that cannot run your favorite game, then plugging in an eGPU can be a lifesaver. The gadget will increase your PC’s speed, graphics, and overall performance.
As far as storage is concerned, Mini PCs can either have an SSD or HDD storage. Both are replaceable on a Mini PC, which means you can upgrade them for more storage.
SSD (Solid State Drive) is a kind of flash storage which is significantly faster than HDD. SSDs used in laptops and Mini PCs are also known as M.2, and they look like RAM sticks. There are many SSD brands on the market, and you’ll be able to easily choose one for your needs.
SSD storage has a higher read/write speed than HDD, and average SSDs can read and write from 200MB/s to 550MB/s. They are quieter in operation since they have no moving parts, heat up less, and have a longer lifespan.
Mini PCs use the same 2.5-inch HDD type as laptops. These HDDs are smaller than the ones used in desktop computers, consume less power, and have slower read/write speeds than SSDs.
The main advantage of HDDs over SSDs is that they are currently cheaper, and you get more storage space for less money. But are you willing to sacrifice five times slower speed for extra storage? Many people aren’t.
Things That Mini PCs Lack
If you’re still thinking about purchasing a Mini PC, even though they are not suitable for gaming, there are two more things that you need to consider.
No peripherals included
When purchasing a Mini PC, you only get the little box, and that’s it. You have to also think about purchasing a monitor, speakers, a keyboard, and a mouse. All these peripherals cost extra money, which you wouldn’t spend if you bought a laptop.
They are not upgradeable
Mini PCs aren’t upgradeable, just like laptops. The only components you can upgrade easily are the RAM and storage. So, if you want to purchase a configuration that you plan on upgrading in a couple of years, then a desktop PC is a better choice.
Types of Mini PCs
There are two types of Mini PCs that you can purchase: Barebone and Ready-to-go. Let’s make a distinction between the two.
Barebone Mini PCs
A barebone Mini PC is manufactured and assembled without RAM and Storage, allowing you to install whatever size of these components you want. It is also cheaper, as manufacturers spend less on production and assembly costs to make barebone Mini PCs.
Barebone PCs often come without an operating system.
Ready-to-go Mini PCs
The name says it all. Ready-to-go Mini PCs have all components and parts assembled by the manufacturer and an operating system installed. All you need to do is plug in all the cables, and you’re ready to use the Mini PC without any hassle.
Overall, we hope this article clears you of any doubts about the gaming power of Mini PCs.
If you still wish to buy a Mini PC, then feel free to check out our article covering the 12 best budget Mini PCs! In it, we’ve selected the best budget Mini PCs you can buy, complete with all the specifications and why you should consider them.
What do you think about the topic? Are Mini PCs good for gaming, in your opinion? Feel free to comment and leave your opinion in the comment section below!