Price: Starting at $1,309
CPU: Intel i7-11800H
RAM: 16GB, 32GB
GPU: RTX 3070
Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Ports: 3 x USB-A 3.2, 1 x USB-C Thunderbolt 4, 1 x HDMI, 1 x 2.5GbE, 1 x SD, 1 x 3.5mm audio jack
Measurements: 15.5 x 10.2 x 3.2 inches (393.5 x 260.1 x 80.1 mm)
When you think of a gaming PC, your first thought may not be something like the Minisforum NUCXi7. Mine sure isn’t. But don’t discount this beast because it packs a serious punch in a body slimmer than a PS5.
With the powerful Intel i7-11800H CPU and RTX 3070 mobile GPU, the NUCXi7 makes the case for small form factor gaming PCs using laptop-grade parts. Minisforum created a great machine here that is perfect for any desktop, or even living room console, setup.
As you’ll see in this Minisforum NUCXi7 review, I can’t get enough of this PC. While I wish it had more ports, it gets the job done with flying colors while barely making a sound.
Minisforum NUCXi7 review: Price and availability
The NUCXi7 comes in a single CPU/GPU configuration, though you do have some choice in regards to the RAM and storage. The PC starts at $1,309 for the model with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
To get 512GB of storage, you’ll fork over $1,339. A variant with 32GB of RAM and 512GB of storage costs $1,409 and the top-end model with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage runs $1,469. You can purchase it directly from Minisforum.
There aren’t many mini gaming PCs like the NUCXi7. You could draw comparisons to an Intel NUC 11 Extreme, which supports full-size graphics cards, but for about the same price as the NUCXi7, you get an i7-11700B and no GPU. So all told, while the Minisforum option is pricey (certainly more so than a console), it’s one of the least expensive options for a gaming PC of this form factor and caliber.
There’s also the NUCXi5, which comes with an Intel i5-11400H CPU and an Nvidia RTX 3060 laptop GPU.
Minisforum NUCXi7 review: Design
I call the NUCXi7 a mini gaming PC because it is significantly smaller than a traditional gaming desktop. It’s more like a large gaming laptop minus the screen. Rather tall, it’s extremely slim at 80.1mm — think of it like a thinner PS5 since it stands about as tall at 393.5mm.
On the face is a skull logo like Intel’s gaming NUCs, which might put some people off. It’s certainly not to my aesthetic preferences. I wish Minisforum had left the front of the NUCXi7 blank, since a plain aluminum chassis would have looked much better in my opinion. The back of the PC serves a vent in almost its entirety. This helps with keeping the machine nice and cool, which then lets the fans stay quieter.
The NUCXi7 is unfortunately meant to stand upright and it includes a base to which it attaches quite firmly. The front is pretty bare other than the three USB-A 3.2 ports, an SD card reader, and a 3.5mm combo audio jack. Around back are a USB-C Thunderbolt 4, an HDMI, and a 2.5 gigabit ethernet port.
Minisforum NUCXi7 review: Ports and upgradeability
The NUCXi7’s port selection disappointed me. You can output to two monitors with just the HDMI and Thunderbolt 4 ports — though, you could probably attach more monitors via an appropriate Thunderbolt dock. Three USB-A ports seems a bit low for a device this size. (I have seen more on much smaller mini PCs.) Consider that your keyboard and mouse will take up two of those three and you’ll see why I’m disappointed.
I would have also liked to see a DisplayPort/mini DisplayPort in addition to the HDMI, but at least the ethernet port is 2.5Gb. The SD card reader seems a bit strange on a gaming PC, but with the hardware power on hand here, the NUCXi7 could also do well with content creation.
Minisforum added some upgradeability to the NUCXi7. You can upgrade the SODIMM RAM up to 64GB, as well as add a second m.2 NVMe drive. You could top out the NUCXi7 at 4TB of super fast NVMe storage, along with 64GB of RAM. That would be one powerful and fast machine.
Minisforum NUCXi7 review: Performance
The NUCXi7 comes equipped with laptop hardware, which includes the i7-11800H processor, 16GB or 32GB of SODIMM RAM at 3200MHz, and an RTX 3070 mobile variant. But thanks to its design, it stays much cooler than a gaming laptop, which helps to avoid thermal throttling, as you’ll see in a moment.
We have not tested a device with specs matching the NUCXi7 exactly. So I pulled two 11th-gen gaming laptops for this comparison, the results of which you’ll find below.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Minisforum NUCXi7||Razer Blade 17 (Mid-2021)||MSI Katana GF76|
|Geekbench 5 (single-core / multicore)||1562 / 9116||1640 / 7010||1589 / 6969|
|25GB file transfer (MBps)||458||1,247||260|
As you can see in both the Geekbench benchmark and the Handbrake transcoding test, the NUCXi7 beats out even the Razer Blade 17 (mid-2021) with its i9-11900H by a substantial margin. It crushes the MSI Katana GF76 despite having the same CPU. I think it comes down to cooling — the NUCXi7 does a better job dispersing heat, meaning the i7-11800H inside can run full speed without as much risk for throttling.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Minisforum NUCXi7||Razer Blade 17 (Mid-2021)||MSI Katana GF76|
|GPU||RTX 3070 Laptop||RTX 3080 Laptop||RTX 3060 Laptop|
|3DMark Fire Strike||21,090||20,106||16,909|
|3DMark Time Spy||9524||9161||7214|
|3DMark Port Royal||5654||6014||4306|
|Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (FPS)||77 (1080p) / 35 (4K)||80 (1080p) / 38 (4K)||58 (1080p) / N/A (4K)|
|Borderlands 3 (FPS)||78 (1080p) / 30 (4K)||83 (1080p) / 33 (4K)||58 (1080p) / N/A (4K)|
|DiRT 5 (FPS)||81 (1080p) / 41 (4K)||91 (1080p) / 48 (4K)||62 (1080p) / N/A (4K)|
|Far Cry 6 (FPS)||76 (1080p) / 36 (4K)||65 (1080p) / 36 (4K)||N/A|
|Grand Theft Auto V (FPS)||109 (1080p) / 33 (4K)||111 (1080p) / 35 (4K)||82 (1080p) / N/A (4K)|
|Metro Exodus Original (FPS)||66 (1080p) / 33 (4K)||74 (1080p) / 36 (4K)||54 (1080p) / N/A (4K)|
|Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition (FPS)||56 (1080p) / 23 (4K)||74 (1080p) / 36 (4K)||N/A|
|Red Dead Redemption 2 (FPS)||65 (1080p) / 24 (4K)||68 (1080p) / 28 (4K)||52 (1080p) / N/A (4K)|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider (FPS)||89 (1080p) / 30 (4K)||81 (1080p) / 33 (4K)||66 (1080p) / N/A (4K)|
The GPU test is the hardest to compare because all three machines use a different level of the RTX 3000 series. All three are the laptop versions, but the 3070 in the NUCXi7 put up a good fight. I expected the Razer Blade 17 to best it considerably, but it did so only in Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition (at Ultra settings).
The NUCXi7 even won in most of the 3DMark benchmarks, except for Port Royal, which tests ray tracing. (The RTX 3080 has more RT cores to work with, making it an obvious winner in this scenario.)
And, even better, it’s almost inaudible even under load. Even with the optional gaming mode enabled (via a button on the front of the PC), I never heard the fans ramp up. I found myself amazed given gaming laptops’ reputation for becoming mini furnaces. I guess the NUCXi7 has an advantage without the keyboard, touchpad, battery, and display. The massive cooling system that takes up a large portion of the internal area certainly helps, too.
All this to say, Minisforum created a very powerful gaming machine. You definitely pay for all that power, but I liked how the NUCXi7 handled every game I threw at it. Cyberpunk 2077, for example, did great with ray tracing and DLSS on at 1080p and medium to high settings. I’m actually impressed with how strong of a performer this PC is given its size.
Minisforum NUCXi7 review: Software
The NUCXi7 ships with Windows 11 Pro out of the box, but you can easily install Linux on it if you so choose. The Windows installation is relatively minimal with some extra software for controlling the audio. Everything else is Nvidia or Microsoft-related. I appreciate this, since you don’t have to worry about uninstalling too much software before getting to gaming.
I tried to turn this into a Steam Machine using the unofficial Steam OS 3, the same operating system that runs on the Steam Deck. However, the software is still pretty buggy, especially on an Nvidia GPU (a notable problem for most Linux gaming PCs). So I left the NUCXi7 on Windows, set my account to auto-login at boot, and told Steam to automatically launch in Big Picture mode.
It’s not a perfect setup just yet, but I love having the NUCXi7 as a living room gaming console. With heaps more power than a PS5 in a thinner form factor (and much quieter to boot), I couldn’t be happier with how this turned out. It’s an excellent use case for the NUCXi7.
Minisforum NUCXi7 review: Verdict
The NUCXi7 is a fantastic gaming PC that works well as a desktop or living room console. If Steam OS is still too janky for you, you can do what I did and stick with Windows, telling Steam to launch automatically at login in Big Picture mode, giving you a console-like experience.
The mobile RTX 3070 is a powerhouse, and the i7-11800H chews through any task you set before it. With user-upgradeable RAM and storage, you can make this PC even faster. The form factor and temperatures also impressed me, even if I could do without the skull icon.
But at $1,309 to start, the NUCXi7 is not a cheap console replacement. It’s nearly triple the price of a PS5, though with admittedly more power and a slimmer chassis. If you want a small form factor gaming PC, however, then put the NUCXi7, or its smaller and cheaper NUCXi5 brother, at the top of your list.