Earlier this month, we teased the announcement of a new model of mini PC from specialist vendor Minisforum. Today we look at the results of some practical tests of the Minisforum U850 configured with a Comet Lake i5 CPU, 16GiB RAM and a 256GB Kingston NVMe SSD.
The U850 is an aggressive generalist mini PC, and it can handle most tasks: its dual network interfaces make it a good candidate for a high-performance router, and the combination of tons of USB ports, HDMI and DisplayPort video output, and surprisingly fast storage makes it an excellent little desktop PC.
|Specifications at a glance: U820 / U850|
|Processor||Intel i5-8249U (U820)
Intel i5-10210U (U850)
|OS||Windows 10 Pro (pre-installed) / Linux supported|
|RAM||16GiB DDR4 (2x 8GiB SODIMM)|
|GPU||Intel Iris+ 655 (U820)
Intel UHD 630 (U850)
|Wi-Fi||M.2 Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6, Dual Band + BlueTooth 5.1|
|SSD||M.2 2280 512GB NVMe SSD|
|Price as specified||$639 (U820) / $699 (U850)|
The only role the U850 could play that we should be wary of is the home theater PC (HTPC) – while it’s powerful enough to do the job, the fan noise under load is so loud it can irritate the types of people those tend to want a small, unobtrusive HTPC in the first place.
Specifications and overview
The test device we received was a U850 with the Comet Lake i5-10210U CPU. It matches the above specs, except for the storage, which is a 256GB Kingston Design-In NVMe SSD. The smaller SSD isn’t “cheating” on Minisforum’s part, by the way – it’s a configurable option on the order page, which gives $40 off the otherwise $699 (US) purchase price.
The easiest way to describe the U850 is “cube mid-grade laptop”, so – along with the similarly designed but much less powerful Seeed Odyssey – that’s exactly what we compared it to in our benchmark tests.
The i5-10210U’s slack UHD 630 graphics shouldn’t make you expect to be gaming on the U850, but it holds up to video playback and general CPU-related tasks. Performance-wise, it also sweeps the floor with the Seeed Odyssey mini PC.
The only area where the Seeed Odyssey takes the prize from the Minisforum U850 is noise. We wouldn’t call the U850 obnoxious, but it does make a fair amount of fan noise when the processor is running. It’s a clean whoosh, but it’s a very noticeable one, even in an office full of other PCs. This is probably not something that can be avoided with a Comet Lake CPU in a small form factor; laptops with this CPU are just as noisy.
Minisforum’s U850 performs exactly as you’d expect from a laptop equipped with a Comet Lake i5-10210U – moderately good for a laptop, although significantly better than many competing VESA-mountable PCs, which tend towards lower-power CPUs, such as Celeron, Pentium Silver, and so on.
The Passmark CPU benchmark shows no significant difference between the U850’s Comet Lake and the Gateway’s Ice Lake CPU – which is a shame, since the Gateway’s Ice Lake has a vastly better GPU. However, Cinebench R20 and Geekbench 5 both show a much more pronounced preference for the Comet Lake.
There is always much less to look at in single-threaded performance than in multithreaded. Passmark, Cinebench R20 and Geekbench 5 all largely agree: there is a noticeably greater difference between the Ryzen 4700u and the Intel i5 CPUs than between the Comet Lake and Ice Lake i5 CPUs themselves.
Cinebench and Geekbench both show a noticeably greater advantage to the Ryzen than Passmark. But the main difference here is between the three at the top and the Celeron-powered Seeed Odyssey limping in the background, taking just under half the score of its closest competitor in every single-threaded test here.
This shouldn’t really be taken as a blow to the Odyssey itself – after all, it also sells for just under half the price. cost from anything else on these charts. It’s also closer to quiet: it does have a fan, but that fan doesn’t have to do as much work as the one on the laptops, and the result is audible.
We should also point out that the Odyssey has made a perfectly usable budget desktop PC in our opinion. This puts the performance of the U850 – and the two laptops it competes more closely with – in perspective. With more than double the single and multithreaded performance of the Odyssey, the U850 isn’t just a usable desktop PC, it’s a firm a.
AAA gaming on the U850 is a bad idea and we don’t recommend it. The Acer Swift at the top of these charts isn’t very good at gaming. The Gateway i5 and Minisforum i5 machines are definitely: terrible there. Casual games will probably work well, as will games 10 years or older. But that’s about it.
In addition to Time Spy, we ran the much less demanding Night Raid benchmark. Night Raid is specifically aimed at PCs with integrated graphics, which didn’t stop the i5 Gateway and i5 Minisforum from tripping over their own feet, too. The numbers you see on those scores translate to a very painful 5-7 frames per second in Night Raid’s demo mode at 1080p. Bah.
We don’t have any gaming benchmarks for the Celeron-powered Odyssey, nor did we want to generate one, so we sublimated a Ryzen 3200U-powered low-end Gateway laptop. The i5 machines outperformed the low-end Gateway, but that’s a very low bar to clear.