MinisForum, a Shenzhen based manufacturer of compact computing platforms, has been steadily bringing both AMD and Intel-based systems into the market. While the mix has mostly involved platforms that are a couple of generations old (allowing for competitive customer pricing), the company releases products based on the latest processors occasionally. Recently, the company sent across details of two of their 2021 introductions - the EliteMini TL50, and the EliteMini HX90. The TL50 is based on an Intel Tiger Lake-U processor, while the HX90 is based on an AMD Cezanne Zen 3 notebook APU.

The HX90 is the more interesting of the lot - MinisForum has managed to source the top-end APU, the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, for the system. The TL50, on the other hand, comes only with the Intel Core i5-1135G7. The TL50 also uses a highly-integrated motherboard with soldered LPDDR4 DRAM (12GB), but the M.2 NVMe SSD the only upgradable component. In fact, the company only offers one configuration with 12GB of soldered DRAM and a 512GB SSD pre-installed with Windows 10 Professional. The form-factor is slightly bigger than the mainstream UCFF NUCs with the 1.2L box including support for the installation of two 2.5" drives. The TL50 is available for shipping today and is priced at $649.

The HX90, on the other hand, uses a 45W TDP notebook processor, and hence comes with additional cooling requirements. The form factor is correspondingly larger, and the system has a 2.2L volume footprint. The key seller here is the Ryzen 9 5900HX APU which delivers gaming capabilities not found in other systems of similar size / cost. MinisForum is also promising a carbon fibre-infused chassis for a premium look. Unlike the TL50, the RAM is upgradable. Other differences are brought out in the table further down.

The barebones version of the HX90 is currently priced at $629, which apparently includes a $100 early-bird discount (the units aren't slated to ship until September).

MinisForum EliteMinis (Cezanne and Tiger Lake)
Model HX90 TL50
CPU AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
Cezanne (Zen 3), 8C/16T
3.3 - 4.6 GHz
45W TDP (35W-54W cTDP)
Intel Core i5-1135G7
Tiger Lake-U, 4C/8T
2.4 - 4.2 GHz
GPU AMD Radeon Graphics 8CU @ 2.1 GHz (Integrated / On-Die) Intel® Iris Xe Graphics @ 1.3 GHz (Integrated / On-Die)
Memory 2x DDR4-3200 SODIMMs
1.2V, 64GB max.
LPDDR4 12GB (Soldered)
Motherboard 7.5" x 7" Custom 5.5" x 5.5" Custom
Storage 1x M.2 2280 (key M) PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe/AHCI SSD
2x SATA3 2.5" HDD / SSD
2x M.2 22x42/80 (key M) SATA3 or PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe/AHCI SSD
I/O Ports 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C (front)
4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (rear)
1x Thunderbolt 4 (front)
2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (front)
2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (rear)
2x USB 2.0 Type-A (rear)
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
(2x2 802.11ax Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 5.1 module)
1 × 2.5 GbE port
Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
(2x2 802.11ax Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 5.1 module)
2 × GbE ports
Display Outputs 2x DP 1.4a
2x HDMI 2.0b
1x DP 1.4a (rear)
1x HDMI 2.0b (rear)
1x DP 1.4a (via Thunderbolt 4, front)
Audio 7.1 digital (over HDMI and DisplayPort)
L+R+mic (front)
L+R+mic (rear)
7.1 digital (over HDMI and DisplayPort)
L+R+mic (front)
Enclosure Carbon fibre-infused plastic / Kensington lock Plastic / Kensington lock
Power Supply 120W (19V @ 6.3A) Adapter 65W (19V @ 3.42A) USB Type-C (adapter included)
Dimensions 195mm x 190mm x 60mm / 2.22L 149.6mm x 149.6mm x 55.5mm / 1.2L
Miscellaneous Features VESA mounting plate VESA mounting plate
Pricing Barebones ($629 - $729)
16GB RAM + 256GB SSD ($799 - $899)
16GB RAM + 512GB SSD ($829 - $929)
32GB RAM + 512GB SSD ($909 - $1009)
12GB RAM + 512GB SSD ($649 - $699)

Both PCs look a bit weak in terms of I/O capabilities compared to other mini-PCs in the market - while the TL50 does include a Thunderbolt 4 port and dual gigabit LAN ports, the HX90 has only 1x 2.5G BASE-T port and the USB ports are all Gen 1 (5Gbps). The HX90 does support four simultaneous 4Kp60 display outputs, while the TL50 only supports three such displays. The target markets are slightly different, as the TL50 is meant for home / office scenarios, while the HX90 falls under the gaming mini-PC line. Having had hands-on experience with multiple MinisForum units in the past, my impression of the brand is generally favorable unlike the host of other no-name Shenzhen-based sellers typically found on Amazon. In general, I would recommend the barebones version of their systems when possible - similar to a lot of other system vendors, the pre-built configurations come with only one DRAM slot occupied, leaving significant performance potential untapped.

Source: MinisForum

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  • QueBert - Thursday, August 5, 2021 - link

    OSX is a lot more memory efficient than Windows. A Macbook Air with 8 gigs will run similar to a Windows laptop with 16 gigs for most things (I don't own anything OSX btw) It's kind of like iOS vs Android. iOS just runs better with less memory.

    Your disk space analogy's accurate, but programs aren't always the same size between OS's. I mainly use Serato on my Win laptop, the latest Windows version's 752 megs, but the OSX version's 217 megs and they're identical feature wise. So I'd go so far as to say even disk wise, 1tb isn't exactly equal on Win and OSX.
  • pdakkar - Thursday, August 5, 2021 - link

    MacOS likes to swap the memory space of processes that aren't active, which does help with the memory management. It also benefits from very fast SSD's that use their custom controller and firmware. But if you have a single program that takes close to 8GB of RAM or more, no OS magic will save you. And third-party programs can be quite grabby when it comes to RAM. In fact, when Mini's were just released, there were tests that showed that 8GB version was doing way more swapping than the 16GB one even under the normal light use. So, it's not so much that it's 8/16GB because you never need more, but because they can't package more, at least not at that price point. It's not simply slotted/soldered, after all.
  • Tams80 - Friday, August 6, 2021 - link

    While having fast memory and storage, along with good memory management, can help memory be used more efficiently, at the end of the day it is less memory.

    And if you're going to be using the 'better' CPU and GPU then you are more likely to be using enough memory for you to simply not have enough to run what you want all at once.

    But you wrote, 'people have been saying that 8GB really runs like 16GB.', so I'm confident you have no idea what you are on about and just parrot others.
  • alpha754293 - Thursday, August 12, 2021 - link

    "Because the memory is integrated and unified in the M1, people have been saying that 8GB really runs like 16GB."

    My NUC has 32 GB of RAM in it, and I've got 6 VMs running on that thing right now, as we speak, with 21.6 GB of 32 GB used (including the host system).

    I can't do that with a Mac Mini even if it might "feel" like there's more RAM. You can't provision hardware that you don't have.

    If you can fit 6 VMs plus the host OS, and five of the VMs has 2 GB of RAM and the sixth has 8 GB of RAM with swap DISABLED/turned off - then I'll buy what you're saying.

    Sounds like someone is a bit of an Apple fanboi.

    And really? You're going to compare sale prices against MSRP??? Really???

    That sounds like it's a terrible idea.
  • lemurbutton - Thursday, August 5, 2021 - link

    Also, the AMD version starts at $629 - $729 and doesn't even come with any RAM/SSD.
  • satai - Thursday, August 5, 2021 - link

    I don't care where it starts. If you want a machine suitable for work and fun, you need at least 0.5TB SSD and some RAM.
  • dubyadubya - Saturday, August 28, 2021 - link

    It's moot point as all you can do with a Mac is turn it on and off. Not enough applications, not enough games, too limiting all around compared to a Windows PC. I want to do things my way not Apples backward way or the highway.
  • plsbugmenot - Thursday, August 5, 2021 - link

    Dude, can you point me towards your dealer. Whatever it is he's selling you it must be good if you believe a machine with a Ryzen 5900HX is less powerful than an anemic M1. My laptop with the HS runs circles around the M1 lol. These mac fanboys really live in an alternate reality...
  • sor - Thursday, August 5, 2021 - link

    You may dislike Apple fanboys but your own comments just add to the hyperbole and rhetoric.

    Objectively it’s give and take between the M1 and this. If you value single threaded performance the M1 wins handily and does it using 1/3 of the power, however it’s effectively only a quad core part so higher core count processors like the 5900HX get the edge in parallel computing.

    While they can trade blows on various benchmarks. I’m not sure I’d really be comparing these as there aren’t a lot of people cross shopping MacOS systems with DIY barebones, but I think I get the OP’s point in that Apple systems are usually priced at a premium and often used as a “what you can get for the money” high mark.
  • pdakkar - Thursday, August 5, 2021 - link

    I have a 16/256 M1 Mini and placed an order for the barebones version of this HX90 to replace my ancient Broadwell NUC. That one's become inadequate a while ago, but HX90 is the first recent offering in this segment that clicked with me.
    One thing people seem to miss is that it's as much about the software as it's about the hardware. I bought an M1 for MacOS, and ordered this one for Windows. The reality is that no hardware+software combination is perfect, and it's convenient to have both stacks if you can afford that. Arguing which one will get more parrots in this or that benchmark is besides the point for this class of computers.

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