Playing video games has gone from an activity just for children to mainstream entertainment. Worldwide, there are more than 1.75 billion gamers playing on personal computers.
Video games have a reputation for requiring expensive, powerful computers. However, it is possible to use a mini PC for gaming.
What Is a Mini PC for Gaming?
Much like with gaming on a standard computer or laptop, you can either play games on a multi-purpose machine or purchase a device specifically for playing video games. Most standard mini PCs do not have the processing power and graphics capabilities to run the latest AAA titles. However, you can purchase models specifically for gaming that will run them.
Why Is Gaming on a Mini PC Possible?
When we talk about mini PCs in general, we tend to only think about those tiny boxes with on-board graphics, but the mini PC category is far more inclusive than that, there are even models built for gaming.
The Intel NUC 12 Extreme Kit, for instance, is also seen as a mini PC. With an impeccable 65W Core i9-12900K CPU, a powerful discrete graphics card, and advanced cooling, it can run the most demanding AAA titles with lifelike graphics.
Even for smaller mini PCs that don’t adopt a regular graphics card under the hood, some of them do come with Thunderbolt 3/4 or USB 4 ports, which allow us to use external graphics cards to enhance the gaming performance.
And when it comes to models with only integrated GPUs, we can always choose to turn down the resolution and settings or run less hardware demanding titles.
Can a Mini PC Display Advanced Graphics?
One of the reasons PC gaming tends to demand a high-performance machine is the computing power needed to display high-end graphics without experiencing lag or other performance issues. Most mini PCs come with onboard graphics cards that aren’t capable of displaying graphically intensive games.
However, some next-generation mini PCs support powerful graphics processors that can handle even the most graphically intense games. You can also attach an external graphics card to any PC that comes equipped with Thunderbolt 3/4 or USB 4 ports. If you are on a budget or are only interested in playing classic, indie or older games on your PC, many standard mini PCs will run these types of games at an affordable price.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Mini PC for Gaming?
Mini PCs have a variety of benefits compared to other gaming machines.
Most traditional gaming PCs are bulky and impractical for use as portable gaming machines. Tablets and smartphones can run some games but usually only mobile versions of the games that may not have the same functionality as the PC version. Gaming laptops are expensive and notorious for overheating. Additionally, most gaming laptops are bulky, have short battery lives and require noisy fans.
In addition to being easily portable, mini PCs typically use less power and are quieter than most gaming laptops. You do need an external display to hook them up to, but if you want to travel to a friend’s house to play, you can simply hook your machine up to their television or computer monitor when you get there. Alternatively, you can purchase a portable monitor.
Because of the smaller footprint, a mini PC for gaming can easily fit on almost any desk or TV stand. You can even mount some models to the back of a monitor.
More Versatility Than Consoles
Most consoles are not as powerful as a mini PC and aren’t suitable for as many uses. Mini PCs are easier to use as a workstation or media center. They are also easier to transport when you want to play at another location.
Traditional gaming PCs can use 300 watts of power or more, thanks to their demanding CPUs and graphics cards. The power draw of most mini PCs is 50 watts or less, though your power needs will go up if you choose to use an external graphics card.
Because mini PCs for gaming use less power than traditional PCs, they don’t generate as much heat or need as powerful a cooling system. Some of the more powerful mini PCs use small fans for active cooling, but most use passive cooling methods, such as heat sinks or heat dissipation pipes. Fewer and smaller fans mean less noise while you play.
What Should You Look for in a Mini PC for Gaming?
There are several factors to consider when choosing a mini PC to play games on.
If you want to play the latest AAA or virtual reality titles on the highest settings, you need a high-performance mini PC. If you plan to play only older gamers, then you can use a less powerful machine. Check the minimum hardware requirements for the newest and most advanced games you want to play.
You will need to balance the performance level you need with the size of the computer you want. Generally, the higher the performance of your machine is, the larger it will be. If space or portability is important to you, it may be necessary to sacrifice performance to get a smaller machine.
Hardcore gamers and virtual reality users need a dedicated graphics card. Onboard graphics may work well for casual gamers and those who only want to play older or less graphically demanding games.
You can upgrade and customize a mini PC for gaming to suit your preferences. If you want to maximize upgradeability, choose a PC that has extra slots and room in the case.
Unlike a laptop, a mini PC does not have an integrated keyboard, pointing device or display. Make sure you have the ports you need to attach these devices, plus any additional gaming pads or other equipment you want to use.
Most people’s gaming rigs are prominently displayed in their homes somewhere. Choose a mini PC that matches your style.
Most gamers prefer solid-state drives because of their higher read and write speeds. However, SSDs have less capacity and cost more than hard disk drives. You can compromise by using an HDD for your operating system and files you don’t need speedy access to and purchasing a smaller SSD for your games.
Most gaming PCs use DDR4 RAM, and you need 8GB minimum for gaming. You will get better performance in many games with 16GB of RAM, and if you plan to use your mini PC for video editing or other memory-intensive applications, 32GB may be worthwhile.
Where Can You Buy a Mini PC for Gaming?
Whether you want a mini PC for gaming to play classic titles or the latest hits, GEEKOM has a model to suit your needs. We carry a variety of mini PCs at different price points and performance levels. Visit us online to find the perfect mini PC for your gaming needs.
Which Games Can You Play?
As mentioned above, the hardware will determine the titles you can run on your mini PC. If your machine happens to be one that’s designed for gaming, e.g., the Intel NUC 12 Extreme Serpent Canyon, then you are free to play the most graphics-intensive titles, including Cyberpunk 2077, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Elden Ring.
Mini PCs that feature the latest Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processors (with iGPUs like the Intel Iris Xe Graphics and the AMD Radeon Graphics) can also run most AAA titles, but options will be limited when it comes to resolution and quality settings.
Our recommended games for these mini PCs include Fortnite, Genshin Impact, and League of Legends. If PC games are not enough, emulators such as PCSX2, Orbital, Dolphin, and Cemu can get you to access to most titles from modern video game consoles.
For owners of low-budget mini PC with a Celeron or Pentium processor, you can choose to play more casual games like Plant vs. Zombies, Minecraft, Angry Birds, and anything you can find in the Microsoft Store.
These games may be less visually stunning, but they can be as fun as those big blockbuster AAA titles. For emulation, we recommend you to try Snes9x, MEmu, and RetroArch, as there are thousands of retro games you can run on these emulators.
Modern mini PCs are well-rounded devices that can run a good number of blockbuster titles and emulate many new video game consoles. If you keep your expectations modest, you may be able to have a lot of fun gaming on your mini PC.