Known for its office and lifestyle ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) systems, Minisforum introduced its Open Air Mini Gaming PC concept last May in a bid to enter the lucrative market of gaming machines. That concept has not made it to the market in its open-case form, but this week Minisforum unveiled its new AMD B550-based PC that houses socketed Ryzen CPU or APU and can connect to an external graphics card using a specially designed chassis. There is one issue with this design though: it practically kills the idea of a Mini PC.
The news comes to us via cnBeta shows the upcoming AMD B550-based UCFF PC from Minisforum is a fully-fledged compact PC that supports all AM4 processors with an up to 65W TDP. This means it is compatible with 12-core Ryzen 9 5900 CPU and the 8-core Ryzen 7 5700G APU for those who do not plan to use an external graphics card. Supporting socketed processors in a system that measures 16.65 × 15.8 × 6.7 cm (6.5 × 6.2 × 2.6 inches) is already an achievement, but the key feature of the machine is its external PCIe 3.0 x16 connector carefully hidden behind a removable cover.
The connector can be plugged into a PCIe 3.0 x16 slot on the chassis, a chassis which can accommodate an off-the-shelf PCIe x16 graphics card of any length and any power consumption requirements. The chassis also carries an ATX or SFX power supply. That PSU is not used to power the PC itself as the system comes with its own 19V, 120W power adapter, the PSU is used to exclusively power the GPU. The expansion dock comes bundled with the system and when equipped with one of the best graphics cards, the Minisforum UCFF desktop could put up a challenge to machines on our best gaming PCs list.
While the expansion dock is interesting, it is not ideal. First up, it seems to limit PCIe data transfer rate to 8 GT/s (PCIe 3.0). Secondly, the system has to be attached to the dock, so the whole assembly comprising of the PC, a modern graphics card (which are over 30 cm long today), and a PSU is rather huge, which to a large degree destroys the concept of a Mini PC. By contrast, Thunderbolt 4-equipped Mini PCs can place their external boxes for graphics cards anywhere and still remain miniature (or even not seen at all, when attached to VESA holes on the backside of the display).
But even without an external graphics card, the forthcoming Minisforum B550-based PC looks rather decent in terms of performance and upgradeability. In addition to a range of AM4 APUs or CPUs, the machine can be equipped with DDR4 memory (using SO-DIMM modules) and two M.2 SSDs (with a PCIe or SATA interface). Connectivity department of the PC is comprised of a GbE, USB 3.2 Type-A, USB-C, display outputs (one DisplayPort, two HDMI), and 3.5-mm audio connectors.
Being aimed at gamers and equipped with an expansion dock, the AMD B550-based UCFF PC from Minisforum promises to be quite expensive. CnBeta believes that it will cost $899 – $999 in barebones form (i.e., without CPU, memory, SSD, etc.).