Minisforum, a mini PC maker, has begun accepting pre-orders for its EliteMini HX90, a small system built around one of AMD's current-generation Zen 3 processors. It won't challenge Intel's latest BUC Canyon NUC, a larger, modular PC that can fit a discreet full-length graphics card, but it's an interesting element.
Part of the appeal is that AMD hardware-based mini PCs are relatively scarce. Last year I wrote only two: ASRock's 4X4 Box systems powered by AMD's Ryzen 4000U series APUs and a similar product line from Asus, the PN50 Mini PC.
EliteMini HX90 uses the latest AMD CPU architecture in the form of Ryzen 9 5900HX. This is an overclockable 8-wire / 16-wire chip with a 3.3 GHz base clock, a 4.6 GHz magnification clock, and 16 MB of L3 cache. This is one of the fastest mobile APUs in AMD's product catalog, the same as the acclaimed Razer Blade 14, which Dave James called "the most desirable gaming laptop" I've ever reviewed.
As it applies specifically to games, the big caveat with the EliteMini HX90 is that it relies entirely on integrated graphics. The 5900HX uses Vega-based integrated graphics with eight 2.1 GHz graphics cores.
A discreet GPU would offer much more firepower for games and graphics. For less demanding games, however, it is certainly useful. It can even reach 60 frames per second for certain titles. According to Minisforum's own reference data, it averages 60 fps in Apex Legends, 77 fps in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and 68 fps in Need For Speed Hot Pursuit, to name a few.
However, the most demanding games will record the integrated graphics. For example, Far Cry 5 (which of course can be played this weekend) is said to average 36 fps on the EliteMini HX90, while The Witcher 3 only has 30 fps. There is no mention of what graphics quality settings Minisforum used, only that they were obtained at 1920×1080.
As a global workhorse, I find the EliteMini HX90 more intriguing. It has a pair of SO-DIMM slots that support up to 64GB of DDR4 memory, a pair of 2.5-inch 6 Gbps SATA ports, and an M.2 socket for installing a fast SSD.
Wireless connectivity options consist of Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. As for the cable, it offers a couple of HDMI outputs, two DisplayPort outputs, two line-out jacks, a 2.5 Gbps LAN port, five USB 3.0 (Gen 1) ports, and a USB-C port. There is also a button to clear the CMOS.
All in an attractive carbon fiber chassis (from press photos) 195 x 190 x 60 millimeters (7.68 x 7.48 x 2.36 inches) with a VESA support to give hit it on the back of the monitor or on the wall. Cooling tasks are managed by a “premium liquid metal compound” in the CPU, with a single fan blowing air.
The starting price for birds starts at $ 649 for a barebones setup (add RAM, SSD and an operating system). The next step is a $ 799 setup that includes 16GB of RAM and 256GB installed. A $ 829 setup doubles the storage to 512GB, while the $ 909 option includes 32GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. All of these prices reflect $ 100 pre-order discounts; Minisforum says all settings will be shipped in September.