Minisforum, a Hong Kong based manufacturer of compact PCs, is working on a new ultra compact yet powerful mini gaming PC with a chassis volume of just six liters. Squeezing a full size GPU into a chassis of that size is a difficult ask without overcoming some serious engineering challenges, yet this still unnamed little PC comes with full size discrete graphics card support.
How does one get around this physical challenge? It's ridiculously simple. Minisforum will allow you to mount a graphics card on the top of the case. That's right, this as-yet-unnamed Minisforum mini-PC concept has a PCIe 5.0 x16 slot proudly sitting atop the case. In the picture below, you can clearly see the PCIe x16 slot as well as a thin slot for what looks like a triple slot metal mounting bracket. It is clear as day if you view the below image at its full size.
The above picture comes from Minisforum's Twitter account (via Videocardz). I have to say I'm very intrigued, though I have concerns about the stability of a card sitting there in the buff like that. A bump at the wrong angle could be catastrophic. Though we'd have to see the system with a card installed to really know, the idea behind the concept is a sound one.
There are a few benefits. Firstly, it frees the card up from the compromising confines of a NUC style chassis. That means better airflow, lower ambient temperatures, lower fan speeds and higher boost clocks.
It also allows a user to easily upgrade GPUs at any time without having to have an engineering degree to disassemble the system. Changing parts in compact systems is almost always more difficult than it is in a regular ATX PC.
It also eliminates the need for an external GPU. Though they remain a niche market for laptops, external GPUs are compromised due to latency and bus overhead requirements. They're typically expensive too, though they're a little more elegant than a GPU swinging in the breeze like it would be with this Minisforum system.
There are some questions, like how an external power cable will be routed, and the capabilities of the power supply. Oh, and it's probably better if you don't have pets. I can imagine dust prevention being a difficult thing to manage.
Of course the GPU isn't the only thing this little PC has going for it. For starters, I love its elegant and discreet look, but it's got some other tasty hardware under the hood too.
Minisforum plans to offer the system with a choice of AMD Ryzen 7045HX or Intel Raptor Lake HX series CPUs. These are mobile chips with lower TDP requirements, making them well suited to a six liter system. But an ITX system without a GPU means it'll have more cooling capacity, and that means the CPU wont throttle as much as it would in a laptop, hopefully leading to performance that's good enough to keep even a high end discrete GPU properly fed.
Now that Intel has divested itself of its NUC business, there may be a void for an enterprising company to come and assert itself. Though the NUC business is in good hands with Asus, you just know that a premium tier ROG NUC will cost an internal organ or two. This Minisforum PC is exactly the kind of innovative device that should appeal to many of the passionate Mini-ITX fans.
But, and it's a big but, only if Minisforum can make it work. Until I see such a system with a top mounted GPU in action, I'll remain skeptical, but I love the concept and if it does prove to be a successful one, I'd like to see more systems like this. Minisforum hasn't revealed a price or ETA, but I know I'd love to take one for a spin.
If you do have an external graphics card sitting up proudly like this, keep the cat away from it, or the kids for that matter. Bumping a desk at the wrong angle could be quite expensive...