Seven Small (But Powerful) Mini-PCs, Reviewed

Test Systems And Benchmarks

All of these mini-PCs are equipped with dual-core Hyper-Threaded CPUs, so they should fall into the same league when it comes to application performance. Most of the differences will probably involve the different graphics engines being utilized.

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Test System Settings
ProcessorAcer Revo RL80: Intel Core i3-3227UDual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 1.9 GHz, 3 MB Shared L3 CacheASRock VisionX 420D: Intel Core i5-4200MDual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 2.5 GHz (3.1 GHz Peak Turbo Boost), 3 MB Shared L3 CacheGigabyte Brix GB-BXi7-4500: Intel Core i7-4500UDual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 1.8 GHz (3.0 GHz Peak Turbo Boost), 4 MB Shared L3 CacheIntel NUC DC3217IYE (Ivy Bridge): Intel Core i3-3217UDual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 1.8 GHz, 3 MB Shared L3 CacheIntel NUC D54250WYK (Haswell): Intel Core i5-4250UDual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 1.3 GHz (2.6 GHz Peak Turbo Boost), 3 MB Shared L3 CacheLGX ML300: Intel Core i5-3427UDual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 1.8 GHz (2.8 GHz Peak Turbo Boost), 3 MB Shared L3 CacheZotac Zbox Nano ID65 Plus: Intel Core i7-3537UDual-Core, Hyper-Threaded, 2 GHz (3.1 GHz Peak Turbo Boost), 4 MB Shared L3 Cache
MemoryAcer Revo RL80: 1 x 4 GB Hyundai DDR3-1600, 11-11-11-28-1TASRock VisionX 420D: 2 x 4 GB Asint DDR3-1600, 11-11-11-28-1TGigabyte Brix GB-BXi7-4500 and Intel NUC D54250WYK (Haswell): Not Included(Tested with 2 x 4 GB Crucial DDR3-1333, 9-9-9-28-1T)Intel NUC DC3217IYE (Ivy Bridge): Not Included(Tested with 2 x 4 GB Adata DDR3-1600, 11-11-28-1T)LGX ML300: 2 x 8 GB Transcend DDR3-1600, 11-11-11-28-1TZotac Zbox Nano ID65 Plus: 1 x 4 GB Samsung DDR3-1600, 11-11-11-28-1T
GraphicsAcer Revo RL80, Intel NUC DC3217IYE (Ivy Bridge), LGX ML300, and Zotac Zbox Nano ID65 Plus: Intel HD Graphics 4000ASRock VisionX 420D: Radeon HD 8850M, 775 MHz GPU, 1 GB GDDR5 1125 MHzGigabyte Brix GB-BXi7-4500: Intel HD Graphics 4400Intel NUC D54250WYK (Haswell): Intel HD Graphics 5000
System DriveAcer Revo RL80: Seagate Momentus Thin 500 GB, 16 MB Cache, 5400 RPM, SATA 3Gb/sASRock VisionX 420D: Western Digital Blue 1 TB, 8 MB Cache, 5400 RPM, SATA 3Gb/sGigabyte Brix GB-BXi7-4500, Intel NUC DC3217IYE (Ivy Bridge), Intel NUC D54250WYK (Haswell): Not Included(Tested with Intel SSD 525 180 GB mSATA SSD)LGX ML300: Emphase Enterprise mSATA 128 GB SSDZotac Zbox Nano ID65 Plus: Samsung Spinpoint M8 500 GB, 8 MB Cache, 5400 RPM, SATA 3Gb/s(includes adapter for 2 x mSATA SSD drives, optional RAID)
OpticalASRock Vision 420D: Lite-On DL8A4SHSlim DVD-RW (Blu-ray optional)

And here are the benchmark details:

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Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim25-Sec. Fraps Test Set 1: Medium Preset, No AA, No AF, FXAA Enabled, 1280 x 720 Test Set 2: High Detail Preset, No MSAA, 8X AF, FXAA Enabled, 1920 x 1080
Grid 2Built-in Benchmark Test Set 1: Low Quality Preset, 1280 x 720 Test Set 2: Medium Quality Preset, 1920 x 1080
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 2013Version: 1.0.1, Cloud Gate Benchmark
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.4, Home, Creative, Work, and Storage benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2013Version: 2013 SP5c-1872, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Cryptography, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • outlw6669
    Not a single AMD based SFF PC?
    I am disappoint, this would be a great area for AMD to show their competitiveness.
  • ta152h
    @outlw6669I built one based on the A6 5200, and it's perfect for what I need it for. It's low power, more than fast enough for what 99% of the people do, quiet, and inexpensive. I'm a little surprised they didn't choose something based on the Jaguar for that reason, but it might just be a situation where nothing with one was sent to them for review. Certainly this is a poor representation, without both Jaguar and Bay Trail missing. I got to the first page, read what they had, looked at the cases, and moved on. Reading about different versions of Ivy Bridge and Haswell and how they compare to each other is profoundly uninteresting.
  • m32
    I wouldn't mind having a small system like this. Maybe Mid-Year when everyone's CPU/APUs are out, I'll have the chance to make a smart buy. Thanks for the article. :)
  • blackmagnum
    Buy a laptop and hook a screen to it; no compromises.
  • mesab66
    It is interesting that by going slightly larger with the enclosure space (still keeping within cube/rectangle/media player shape) opens up the possibility of so much more power....dedicated gfx, full cpu, etc etc., and, can be cheaper to build - depending on the users requirements.......of course, at the cost of power requirements, etc. I'm thinking most folk would ideally chose a slightly larger form factor for living room/media pc duties.On the other hand, if constraints are tight (form factor in this article) and the end user's requirements match, then these options are worth considering.
  • mesab66
    Maybe Tom's could do some options on Media PC/HTPC builds for a future article?
  • s997863
    Power. I don't care about no power. Where's the love for the old games? If I want to play some of the classics which just don't emulate properly, I have to hunt for a heavy old Pentium3 box and try to get it working. How about a cheap mini PC with miniaturized legacy hardware for full compatibility to dual-boot win98 & XP, with gameports, VGA & S-Video, PS/2 & USB, IDE & SATA external ribbon & power connectors, & a turbo button for choosing between 2 processors 200MHz & 3GHz?
  • elgranchuchu
    this was exactly was i was looking for deploying php software
  • vertexx
    I am a huge fan of compact systems. Almost everything I have built has been ITX. But I've had a hard time with the NUC form factor. As a desktop, I think it's actually too small. One of those boxes would get lost on my desk, continuously being pushed around by other clutter. Now, if I had a hutch with an optimally sized cubby, that might be a different story.

    VESA mounted on the back of a monitor, these look really clunky, and I'd rather go with an AIO kit using the thin mini-ITX form factor where I have more control over processor choice.

    I'd be more excited if this technology and form factor were applied in a more interchangeable system with a standardized GPU socket. I really like what ASRock and Gigabyte have done with their compact systems. They're not as compact, but having something a little more substantial on my desk is a good thing, and they pack a lot of punch. I just wish the standards were developed to allow builders to replicate that feat - pipe dream, I know.

    One thing is for sure, AMD needs to develop it's own equivalent of the NUC and thin Mini-ITX. The success of it's Kaveri line I think would be helped out by innovation in form factor.
  • axehead15
    I think you should compare the Mac Mini to these, that way we can see how it adds up.