PC building enthusiasts used to go for big computer cases, on the principle that the more room they had, the more high-end gaming tech they could fit into it.
These days though, the fashion in building is to go smaller and use mini-ITX motherboards. Result? Powerful mini-gaming PCs, less of a footprint.
The rise in popularity of mini-ITX cases, and the unstoppable advance of computer hardware (GPUs and CPUs) means it’s never been as easy to build a powerful mini gaming computer as it is right now.
If you’re thinking of downsizing, we’ve put together three options for small form-factor mini gaming PCs: a budget version, a mid-range, and a high-end option.
That way, you can build your own mini gaming PC, according to your gaming needs, your budget and your sense of personal style, without worrying about what goes with what.
Think of these as the closest thing to buying a pre-built machine, but optimized for performance and price.
We’re giving you a bridge into the world of mini-builds for gaming PCs, so even if you haven’t been sure till now which components you’d need to get what results – and what you’d probably have to pay for them – you can follow our lead, or vary it slightly to suit your own individual tastes, and put your own stamp on your build.
In Brief – Three Mini-ITX Builds
Let’s take a quick look at the three mini-ITX gaming builds we’ve put together. The table will give you some basic idea of what the build contains, as well as Amazon links to the components you’ll need to build them. We’ve also added in the link to the pre-built version.
|iBUYPOWER Pro (Budget Mini PC)||Check Price|
|iBUYPOWER Gaming PC (Mid-Range Mini PC)||Check Price|
|MSI Trident X (SFF)||Check Price|
A Budget-Friendly Mini Gaming PC
This budget gaming build features a compact mini-ITX cube-style case. It’s the Cooler Master Elite 130, which is one of the most budget-friendly cases on the market. But because of a rush of powerful mini graphics cards, you can fit a pretty high-end system in this much smaller case if you want to.
Here though, we went cost-conscious with an Intel Core i3-10100f and a GTX 1650 Super.
The i3-10100f is quad-core, and the GTX 1650 Super 6GB graphics card will let you play most games you could want on a reasonably pocket-friendly 1080P monitor. And if your favorite games don’t demand high-intensity graphical performance (Hello, Fortnite…), this is a build that will play them on all the higher settings.
We chose the Intel Core processor because while a budget AMD processor like the Ryzen 3 3200g would at least work, the Intel would outperform it in this scenario.
In terms of the other specs, this build has 8GB of DDR4 memory, 550W of power and an SSD of 240GB. If you feel like amping up the storage, you could switch out the SSD for a 1TB hard drive for around the same price, but the SSD felt right in a smaller build.
This is a solid mini gaming PC that delivers for any games that are not graphically thirsty, and should run anything you feel like on a 1080P monitor, at least on lot-to-medium settings.
How To Build It – The Parts You’ll Need
|Intel CPU BX8070110100F Core i3-10100F / 3.6GHz / 6MB LGA1200 4C / 8T||Check Price|
|Asustek Computer ASUS Prime H410I-Plus Intel H410 (LGA 1200) Mini-ITX Motherboard, M.2, DDR4 2666MHz, HDMI,D-SUB, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Ports, SATA 6 Gbps, COM Header||Check Price|
|Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1650 Super OC 4G Graphics Card, 90mm Fan, 4GB 128-Bit GDDR6, Gv-N165SOC-4GD Video Card||Check Price|
|Patriot Viper Steel DDR4 8GB 3200MHz Performance Memory Module - PVS48G320C6||Check Price|
|PNY CS900 240GB 3D NAND 2.5" SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) - (SSD7CS900-240-RB)||Check Price|
|Cooler Master RC-130-KKN1 Elite 130||Check Price|
|Gigabyte P650B 80 Plus||Check Price|
|Microsoft Windows 10 Home | USB Flash Drive||Check Price|
A Mid-Range Mini Gaming PC
We like the budget-friendly build because it delivers a lot without killing your plans for the month. But if you have a couple hundred more dollars stashed away, you can upgrade from the little build that could to something a little more stylish and mid-range.
This system upgrades to an Intel Core i5-10400f processor and a GTX 1660 6GB graphics card.
What does that give you that you didn’t have before? Well, a more hardcore graphics card means you’ll be able to blast any game on a 1080P monitor. If you’re not keen on the GTX 1660 6GB, feel free to go for something like an RX 590 8GB instead; it’ll hurt not at all and give you an extra 2G to play with.
We have to be honest, the NZXT H210 case sends chills up our spine. This thing is not only built to impress, it’s dressed to impress too.
Again, we’ve gone for Intel, but if you wanted to focus on your AMD lifestyle, you could go with a Ryzen 5 3600 processor and a B550 mini-ITX motherboard here. But then you’re starting to push the price higher than the mid-range market.
In storage terms, you’re looking at 480GB SSD. And here, a semi-modular 650W power supply helps keep your cable management game on point.
This is a mid-range mini gaming PC build that rips the roof off most games you can name.
How To Build It – The Parts You’ll Need
A High-End Mini-ITX Gaming PC Build
Wanna go hog wild on a build? Let’s go hog wild, just to know we’re alive. If you’ve got the budget and the dream, we can fix you up with a sweet high-end mini-build.
Let’s start with an Intel Core i5-10400f processor and an RX 5600 XT graphics card.
The RX 5600 XT graphics card means you’re maxing out any game on an 1080P monitor, and barbarian hordes be damned! If you upgrade your monitor to a 1440P, you’re still looking good for entry-level 4K gaming – bear in mind, this is a mini-build!
If you want to go down the competitive gaming route, pairing this build with a FreeSync monitor with a sweet refresh rate will give you relatively flicker-free in-game action too.
This high-end mini-build is equipped with 16GB of RAM, a 480GB SSD, and a semi-modular 650w power supply.
Again, if you want to go the AMD route rather than Intel, try a Ryzen 5 3600, but for our sack of cash, the i5-10400f gives you the performance bump you want to feel when you’re going high-end.
You do you – if you go with the Ryzen 5 3600, you might have some budget left elsewhere to max out some other elements of your build. For us, the CPU and GPU are pretty core when it comes to that feeling of “Look what we have built…”.
The case is NZXT’s H210 mini-ITX chassis. It’s another one we can’t stop looking at, with its tempered glass side panel and its PSU shroud.
If you’re going to spend the big bucks, you might as well have a build that looks as though you’ve spent the big bucks – and this fits the bill beautifully for our money. It also of course has plenty of space inside to fit a system this high-powered.
One of the joys of building a high-end mini gaming PC is that you can future-proof your gaming experience to a much greater extent than you can when you’re constrained by budget and size.
This is a build that makes our gaming hearts sing a happy little song. Sure, there are bigger builds with practically nuclear-powered graphic performance and processing power that could run an international war.
But the fun about mini-builds is the relatively low footprint they carry, while still delivering the power and the slickness. Here we’re looking at a mini-build that knocks on the door of 4K gaming and looks like the nuclear football.
Forgive us if we love it really rather a lot. And while it’s high-end on the inside and stylin’ on the outside, it’s still nowhere near the cost you’d be looking at for one of those all-singing, all-dancing gazillion-core big beasts.
Ultimately, if you want a slick and superpowered mini-ITX gaming PC, we think this beauty will meet your needs right now. And, as a bonus, the components are hot enough that we think it should go on meeting your needs for quite some time into the future.
How To Build It – The Parts You’ll Need
We’ve put together what we think are three great mini-builds, with occasional strip-out alternative options for you. Where we’ve mostly gone with Intel processors, you can go for an equivalent AMD module if you feel more of a connection to that brand and its performance characteristics.
But what should you think about before you click the “buy” button on any component for your own mini PC gaming build?
Keep Your Goals In Mind
Have a clear idea of what you intend to use your mini PC gaming build for once it’s built.
If you have to choose between a lower-end, lower-spec component now, or a better one next month when you have more cash, we’d usually advise you wait till you can get the higher-spec component, because the higher the spec you can afford, the more future-proof your build will be.
Obviously, that might result in you building your mini gaming PC over a longer timescale than you’re prepared to commit to. If that’s the case, go for the most powerful component you can afford right now, for the future-proofing, but don’t go over the budget you’ve set for yourself. Which reminds us…
Set Yourself A Build Budget
Everyone feels the pull of going up a level in their build. It’s only natural, you want a machine that slays all-comers, looks hotter than spit on a griddle and gives you the longest-living, most future-proof machine for the smallest footprint.
But unless there’s a piece that’s a once-in-a-lifetime bargain, resist, resist, resist. Have a budget, be prepared to spend money on getting components that help you achieve your build goals, but don’t blow the budget to move up a level, because the real world exists outside of your build too, and it gets annoyed if you do that kind of thing.
If a mini ITX case is too much money for you, you might want to consider other PC case sizes.
What’s most important to your build? The high-performance PCU? The GPU that gives you access to 4K gaming? The memory that can make your gaming PC smart in your day-job, as well as a killer gaming, build?
Choose which elements are the most important to you, and prioritize your spending on maxing out those elements first. You can always bring the rest up to speed and par over time if need be. But by putting your primary build needs first, you’ll be happier with the overall build for longer.