Minisforum, a maker of mini PCs, has begun accepting preorders for its EliteMini HX90, a tiny system built around one of AMD's current generation Zen 3 processors. It's not going to challenge the latest Beast Canyon NUC from Intel (opens in new tab), a bigger and modular PC that can fit a full-length discrete graphics card, but it is an interesting item nonetheless.
Part of the appeal is that mini PCs based on AMD hardware are relatively few and far between. I wrote about just two of them last year—ASRock's 4X4 Box systems (opens in new tab) powered by AMD's Ryzen 4000U series APUs, and a similar product line from Asus, the Mini PC PN50 (opens in new tab).
The EliteMini HX90 taps AMD's latest CPU architecture in the form of the Ryzen 9 5900HX. That is an overclockable 8-core/16-thread chip with a 3.3GHz base clock, 4.6GHz max boost clock, and 16MB of L3 cache. This is one of the fastest mobile APUs in AMD's product catalog, the same as found in the highly praised Razer Blade 14 (opens in new tab), which Dave James called "the most desirable gaming laptop" he's ever reviewed.
As it applies specifically to gaming, the big caveat with the EliteMini HX90 is that it leans entirely on integrated graphics. The 5900HX wields onboard graphics based on Vega with eight graphics cores clocked at 2.1GHz.
A discrete GPU would offer a lot more firepower for gaming and graphics. For less demanding games, though, it's certainly serviceable. It's even able to hit the 60 frames per second mark in certain titles. According to Minisforum's own benchmark 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 throw out a few examples.
More demanding games will tax the integrated graphics, though. For example, Far Cry 5 (which is free to play this weekend (opens in new tab), by the way) is said to average 36 fps on the EliteMini HX90, while The Witcher 3 only musters 30 fps. It's not mentioned what graphics quality settings Minisforum used, only that these were obtained at 1920x1080.
As an all-around workhorse, the EliteMini HX90 looks more intriguing to me. It features a pair of SO-DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB of DDR4 memory, a couple of 2.5-inch SATA 6Gbps ports, and an M.2 socket to install a speedy SSD.(opens in new tab)
Wireless connectivity options consist of Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. On the wired side, it offers up a pair of HDMI outputs, two DisplayPort outputs, two line-out jacks, a 2.5Gbps LAN port, five USB 3.0 ports (Gen 1), and a USB-C port. There's also a button to clear the CMOS.
This is all packed in and around an attractive (from the press photos) carbon fiber chassis measuring 195 x 190 x 60 millimeters (7.68 x 7.48 x 2.36 inches) with a VESA mount to slap it on the back of your monitor or on the wall. Cooling chores are handled by a "premium liquid metal compound" on the CPU, with a single fan blowing air.
Early bird pricing starts at $649 for a barebones config (opens in new tab) (add RAM, SSD, and an OS). The next step up is a $799 setup that comes with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB installed. An $829 config doubles the storage to 512GB, while the $909 option comes with 32GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. All of those prices reflect $100 discounts for preordering—Minisforum says all configs will ship in September.