7 Best Mini Gaming PCs to Install SteamOS 3 On

7 Best Mini Gaming PCs to Install SteamOS 3 On

Game consoles like PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and Nintendo Switch are great. They’re small, purpose-built computers that you can put next to your TV and play games on it. The only problem? You’re accessing that console’s library of games, and those games often cost a lot more than they do on PC.

That’s why nerds have been building their own tiny gaming PCs for years, sometimes using custom parts and sometimes buying them off the shelf as in the case of Zotac and Alienware.

SteamOS 3 and HoloISO

The only problem was that the software just wasn’t there. Windows on the TV is just too difficult to manage, even with some of the more popular third-party front-ends. You can’t just hand someone a controller connected to a Windows computer and expect everything to work. One bad user account control (UAC) prompt and it’s all over.

But two things are completely changing that paradigm: Valve’s new SteamOS 3 and the rise of truly powerful integrated graphics.

SteamOS 3 is the operating system that runs on the Steam Deck and it’s basically an entire game console UI layered on top of Linux. Isn’t that what SteamOS has always been, you ask? Well yes, but with SteamOS 3 Valve has deepened this integration to the point that you almost never need a keyboard anymore and all the functions you need to manage your games and the console itself are presented in a controller-compatible interface. If you just want to play your Steam games, chances are you’ll never see a desktop interface.

Before we proceed, however, I should note that you cannot officially Run SteamOS 3 on any hardware (at least not yet). To do this, you’ll need to use HoloISO, a community project that allows you to install SteamOS 3 on a variety of PC hardware. Is that ideal? No, but online reception has been pretty glowing.

The Best Gaming Mini PCs

Since we’re trying to make something like an x86 gaming console, it makes sense to keep the price in the $500-$600 range. However, there are some pre-built small form factor (SFF) gaming PCs that cost significantly more but are just too cool not to mention, so we’re including them as well.

The devices we selected are mainly powered by AMD Ryzen chips, specifically AMD Ryzen 7 4800U and 5800U. These two share the same Vega 8 GPU, albeit clocked slightly differently, but the 5800U includes AMD’s updated Zen 3 architecture. To really get to the point, these chips can run many of the most advanced games at 720p, last generation games at 1080p, and lighter games at 1440p and 4K.

That being said, the Ryzen 6800U will likely make its way into mini PCs late this year or early next, and this chip features an integrated GPU with AMD’s new RDNA 2 architecture. This chip has only appeared in laptops so far, and early testing shows modest gains with higher frame rates at 1080p and a bit more eye candy.

Should you wait? It depends on the type of games you want to play. If you only want to play the latest, most demanding games, an SFF gaming PC would be better. However, if you have a massive Steam library full of new games, old games, and indie games, these devices will bring one a lot of this title to the big screen.

Input may receive a portion of sales when you purchase a product through a link in this article. We only include products that have been independently selected by the Input editorial team.

The ASRock 4×4 BOX-5800U SoC Fanned Embedded BOX is a little pricey for a barebones mini PC at $629.99, but it comes with the fastest AMD APU you can buy in a mini PC right now. You can equip this PC with up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, making it a good candidate for a full desktop replacement.

Both Intel and AMD enjoy playing processor-named games, and the Ryzen 5700U is a great example. You’d think it would be the same as the 5800U but clocked a little lower, but it’s actually a Zen 2 part. It’s still a good processor; It’s almost identical to the 4800U but with a small increase in Turbo clock speed.

Apart from the processor, the ASUS PN51-S1 Mini PC is really tiny. There’s barely enough room for a 2.5-inch drive, but this little guy has multiple high-speed USB ports, as well as a USB-C port that can also drive a display. This is also a barebones unit, so you’ll need to add storage and RAM.

Don’t want a barebones mini PC? Want something that’s plug and play? The Beelink SER4 Mini PC packs 16GB of DDR4 RAM and 500GB of storage. This comes with the Ryzen 4800U, but you can save $100 and opt for the 4700U model, which is only slightly slimmed down.

Gigabyte, a well-known brand of gaming PC hardware, has been making its Brix line of mini PCs for a number of years. The Gigabyte Brix GB-BRR7H-4800-BWUS Ultra Compact PC Kit comes with a 4800U processor, but like the other barebones boxes, you’ll need to bring your own RAM and storage.

As you can see, the Zotac Magnus One has a larger form factor than the others on this list, and that extra space means you can configure this compact box with up to an RTX 3070 GPU. With this device you can easily play the latest games in 1080p on high settings or 4K with some modest concessions here and there.

Look, sometimes you just want the meanest mini PC you can get your hands on, and that’s where Intel’s NUC11 mini desktop comes in. This roughly shoebox-sized PC packs not only a desktop-class processor, but also a discrete GPU (which isn’t included in the price).

The MSI Trident series has been a perennial favorite over the years, giving gamers who wanted an SFF gaming PC without resorting to expensive exotic parts. The price might seem excessive, but the MSI MEG Trident X 12VTE-029US is ready for 4K gaming out of the box.

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