Today, casual or even high-end gaming no longer requires a big computer tower with a dedicated graphics card. With advances in the manufacturing process and design, computer components have become much smaller and power-efficient. This allows computer manufacturers to design smaller devices that still offer performance that is expected from their bigger desktop counterparts. Mini PCs fill this niche, including models that can be used for playing the most demanding games.
There are several computer manufacturers in the market that design gaming mini PCs, however only a few seem to be good at meeting demands from video game players. ASRock, Gigabyte, Zotac, and Intel all build gaming mini PCs, but only the latter seems to be able to build reliable, high-performing devices that gained trust from their users and received the highest user ratings.
Intel NUC8i7HVK is, therefore, our best gaming mini PC recommendation for 2020.
Before we get to the reasons why we picked Intel NUC8i7HVK as the best gaming mini PC, let’s check other devices in the market in this category.
- Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7HVK
- Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7HNK
- ZOTAC MAGNUS EK3105T
- ZOTAC MAGNUS EK71080 with Windows 10
- Beelink Kaby G7
- Beelink Kaby G5
We limited ourselves to the devices that are currently available for purchase on Amazon. The reason is that other devices are difficult or impossible to buy because they’re out of stock or discontinued.
|CPU name||Intel Core i7-8809G||Intel Core i7-8705G||Intel Core i3-7100H||Intel Core i7-7700HQ||Intel Core i7-8709G||Intel Core i5-8305G|
|CPU frequency (GHz)||3.1 - 4.2||3.1 - 4.1||3.0||2.8 - 3.8||3.1 - 4.1||2.8 - 3.8|
|Discrete GPU||Radeon RX Vega M GH||Radeon RX Vega M GL||GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB||GeForce GTX 1080 Mini 8GB||Radeon RX Vega M GH||Radeon RX Vega M GL|
|Drive form factor||M.2||M.2||M.2, SATA 3||SATA 3||SATA 3|
|Thunderbolt||Yes (v3), 2×||Yes (v3), 2×||No||No||No||No|
|USB 3||Yes, 6×||Yes, 6×||Yes, 5×||Yes, 5×||Yes, 5×||Yes, 5×|
|USB-C||Yes, 1×||Yes, 1×||Yes, 1×||Yes, 1×||No||No|
|HDMI||Yes, 2×||Yes, 2×||Yes, 1×||Yes, 1×||Yes, 2×||Yes, 2×|
|DisplayPort||Yes, 2×||Yes, 2×||Yes, 1×||Yes, 3×||Yes, 2×||Yes, 2×|
|LAN||Yes, 2×||Yes, 2×||Yes, 2×||Yes, 2×||Yes, 1×||Yes, 1×|
Best mini PC for gaming 2020: Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7HVK
We believe Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7HVK is the best option when buying a gaming mini PC. Its main advantages are reasonable price, good performance, lots of ports, including Thunderbolt, and feedback from buyers is great: the device has a 4.6 rating on Amazon. It seems users almost unanimously agree this is a gaming mini PC that meets or exceeds their expectations.
- Powerful GPU
While the mini PC doesn’t feature the most powerful GPU among the devices in our list, it is still a great GPU. The performance is somewhere between Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 and 1060 which is enough even for more demanding games.
- Powerful CPU. Intel Core i7-8809G is a 4 cores/8 threads processor running at a frequency of up to 4.2 GHz. Even for today’s conditions, this is a high-end mobile CPU.
- Configurable memory and storage. The mini PC kit has 2 DDR4 SO-DIMM and 2 M.2 slots. It also supports Optane memory. SSD drives and RAM are relatively cheap nowadays and the device can be equipped with the amount that suits your needs.
- Lots of ports. The device has all the ports that you can wish for, including Thunderbolt ports, both in the front and in the back. USB 3, USB-C, HDMI, DisplayPort, LAN, SD card reader, line out, optical audio out — they’re all there.
- Reasonable price. While Zotac models appear to be a better deal when it comes to price/performance ratio, there are reasons why we don’t recommend them, the main one being a poor user rating. You can read more about these models’ shortcomings later in the article.
- Overclockable. You can overclock the CPU, GPU, and memory using the device’s UEFI.
- Size. This NUC is a very small device for a gaming mini PC.
- Very high user approval. The device rating on Amazon is 4.6 out of 5. This mini PC delivers what it promises.
- Linux support. This mini PC can be used to play games on Linux since kernel 4.18.
- Noise. When running on full power the device can get noisy. It is not particularly annoying but is noticeable.
- Large power adapter. While the device is very small for a gaming PC, it comes with a separate power adapter that is almost the same size as the device. Luckily the cables are long enough that the adapter can be put off the desk.
Summing the pros and the cons makes Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7HVK in our opinion the best gaming mini PC. If you’d like to know more what are other devices’ strong and weak sides read on.
Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7HNK Buy on Amazon (from $852)
NUC8i7HNK is almost identical to NUC8i7HVK with one main difference: the GPU. It is still a great gaming mini PC, but the lack of power might make it unsuitable for more demanding games. It is around $200 cheaper and if money is your concern this could be the device for you.
- Almost identical to NUC8i7HVK. These mini PCs have almost identical CPUs, identical ports, expandable slots, and size.
- Lower price than NUC8i7HVK. Lower price is a compromise for less powerful GPU. However, the GPU in this mini PC is still better than Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050.
- Very high user approval. This mini PC shares with NUC8i7HVK a very high user approval of 4.6 on Amazon. The device meets users’ expectations and is very reliable.
- Less powerful than NUC8i7HVK. The difference between the devices in terms of GPU power is considerable, however, NUC8i7HNK still has a higher G3D score than Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 and can be used for playing most games.
Zotac Magnus EK3105T Buy on Amazon (from $600)
Zotac Magnus EK3105T is a mini PC that seats somewhere between NUC8i7HNK and NUC8i7HVK in terms of GPU power. It is a compelling solution, but note that it is only powered by an i3 processor.
- Great price/performance ratio. The device has more powerful GPU than NUC8i7HNK, however the price for the barebone version is around $200 less.
- Barebone. Equipped with enough RAM and disk space can make it a great gaming machine.
- Midrange CPU. The mini PC houses only an i3. Compared to high-end i7 in NUC8i7HVK this is a considerable difference.
- Unpopular. There are only a few reviews on Amazon and it is hard to determine if the device is reliable, especially with the very low score for other Zotac devices.
Zotac Magnus EK71080 with Windows 10 Buy on Amazon (from $1000)
Zotac Magnus EK71080 is a gaming mini PC with the most powerful graphics card in our review. Unfortunately, this also seems to be its biggest weakness. User reviews on Amazon often report that the graphics card is not working and poor support from Zotac. The user rating of 2.9 reflects poor user satisfaction.
- Powerful GPU. GeForce GTX 1080 Mini is by far the most powerful graphics card among the mini PCs in this review. However, it’s also the least reliable part and should be a big factor when deciding if this is a gaming mini PC for you.
- Great price/performance ratio. The device has a much better GPU than NUC8i7HVK, it is equipped with RAM, storage and Windows 10, while it sells for a couple of hundred dollars less.
- Reliability issues. Users rate this device with only 2.9 which is a strong signal there a serious reliability issues with this device. Users most often report issues with the graphics card not working and the device running too hot. Even though the device looks like a great deal on paper, it seems that in reality it just can’t deliver what it promises.
- Basic configuration. On Amazon, only a model with basic configuration is available for purchase. The basic configuration includes 120 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM. This would require you to buy a new SSD and RAM separately.
Beelink Kaby G7 and G5 Buy G7 on Amazon (from $1460) G5 (from $1260)
Beelink Kaby G7 and G5 are similar to Intel NUC8i7HVK and NUC8i7HNK, respectively, however, there is a difference that G5 only uses i5 instead of i7. The devices look like decent alternatives to Intel’s NUCs in terms of performance and price, but lack of user reviews makes them difficult to recommend.
- Similar to NUC8i7HVK and NUC8i7HNK. G7 and G5 use the same GPUs, similar CPUs, but don’t have Thunderbolt and USB-C ports.
- Full systems. The devices have RAM and SSD with Windows 10 installed. This makes them ready for immediate use.
- Lack of user reviews. Because of the lack of user reviews, it is unknown how reliable these devices work in reality.
If you’d like to declutter your desk and still be able to play games, there are a few mini PCs for gaming in the market. But from user reviews, it seems the only one that comes close to meet users’ expectations are Intel NUC NUC8i7HVK and NUC8i7HNK. While Zotac’s Magnus computers are a compelling option, the users have bad experiences with them. Until they sort out their design problems, Intel seems to be the safest option.
However, even with praise for Intel’s mini PCs there is still room for improvement and it seems we will see it in 2020. Intel and OEM partners have announced new NUCs at CES 2020, namely NUC 9 Extreme and NUC 9 Pro, and they promise a lot. They will come with a CPU preinstalled, while it will be up to buyers which other components they’ll pick for their machine, including a desktop-class, small form factor (SFF) GPU. We can’t wait to get our hands on these mini PCs!