Minisforum Unveils A Mini PC With An AM5 Socket For Desktop Ryzen CPUs

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Minisforum has made a name for itself selling mini-PCs based around mobile hardware. There are systems like the Neptune HX100G, which pairs a Ryzen 7 7840HS with a discrete Radeon card, and then there are machines like the BD790i, which is an ITX desktop motherboard with a "mobile" Ryzen 9 7945HX CPU. As AMD and Intel continue to blur the lines between mobile and desktop CPUs, though, so does Minisforum.

It's with that idea in mind that we're pointing out the company's upcoming MS-A1 mini-PC. Now, this chassis isn't strictly completely new; the company already sells a system based on this same layout called the MS-01, and that features mobile Intel Core processors up to a Core i9-13900H. The MS-A1 is different, though, not only because it uses AMD CPUs, but because it uses socketed AMD CPUs.

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Photo: Impress PC Watch

This presents a number of interesting opportunities as well as some curious challenges. The improved power limit of a desktop platform can mean big performance gains for the "Hawk Point" silicon that powers the Ryzen 7 8700G, while also allowing the system to support "Raphael" processors with higher core counts. Japanese site Impress PC Watch got a look at this machine at Computex, which gives us the full specs.

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Photo: Impress PC Watch

Where the Intel-powered MS-01 comes with some killer networking features including both 2.5G Ethernet as well as a 10-Gigabit SFP+ connection, the MS-A1 is focused much more on being a client device. It comes with a pair of 2.5G Ethernet connections as well as USB Type-C supporting USB4 with some processors. It also has a pile of USB Type-A connectivity, both HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 2.0 connections, and curiously, an OCuLink connection if you're keen to hook up an external PCIe device.

External I/O of the Minisforum MA-01. Image: Liliputing

You probably won't need to do that for storage, though, because this micro machine comes with no less than four M.2 SSD slots inside. You get two on top of the motherboard and two on the bottom, although just as with the USB Type-C port, what connection is available in each slot varies based on what CPU you install. Our friends at Liliputing shared a page from the manual that explains it:

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M.2 SSD configuration of the Minisforum MA-01. Image: Liliputing

Desktop-class Raphael CPUs and their powerful cIOD have the most PCIe connectivity, so you get the full PCIe x4 on three of the four slots—even if one is limited to PCIe 3.0. Meanwhile, "Phoenix" processors (by which Minisforum means the Hawk Point-based 8700G/8600G CPUs) get limited to two lanes on slot 3, and then the little Phoenix2 chips with their mix of Zen 4 and Zen 4C CPU cores can't run the PCIe 3.0 slot at all.

Of course, AMD's about to release new CPUs for Socket AM5, but Minisforum says that this machine will be updated to support those chips when they arrive. Given the lack of discrete graphics support, you'll be limited to the RDNA 2 integrated graphics of the Ryzen 7000/9000 cIOD unless you have an OCuLink graphics dock sitting around, though. For that reason, we might recommend sticking to a Hawk Point CPU instead.

The Intel version of this machine, the MS-01, currently starts at $399, and given the similar (albeit not equivalent) capabilities, we'd expect this system to start around the same price when it gets officially announced.

Images in this post from PC Watch and Liliputing.