Minisforum HX90G Mini Gaming PC Review: A Tiny All-AMD Titan
Minisforum's HX90G Small Form Factor Gaming PC Is A Pint-Sized But Mighty RDNA 2 And Zen 3 Powerhouse
|Minisforum HX90G Mini PC - Starting MSRP barebone $799, as tested $909
Minisforum's latest Mini PC is an all-AMD mobile processor affair. It is a compact and portable unit that outperformed most gaming laptops using similar hardware, and at a compelling price.
Hong Kong-based Minisforum has been busy carving out a niche for itself in the Mini PCs arena in recent months, with a variety of releases. One of its latest diminutive PC launches is of the Minisforum HX90G, a very compact small form factor PC which combines a potent mix of modern laptop components from AMD and assembles them in a well-cooled 8-inch square (and 2.5 inches thick) frame. We were very interested to see what this NUC Extreme alternative based on all-AMD performance components would offer. So we've put one through our test lab, and can now offer up comparisons against a couple of Intel's gaming/creator oriented NUC models, as well as a range of popular gaming laptops.
Minisforum HX90G Mini PC Features and SpecificationsInside the Minisforum HX90G is a potent processor in the form of the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX. Yes, this is a processor targeting performance laptops rather than desktops, but its Zen 3 architecture, 8 cores and 16 threads, base / boost clocks of 3.3 / 4.6 GHz, configurable TDP of 35-54W (this one ran at 54W under load), L3 cache of 16MB, and TSMC N7 fabrication all point to an efficient but muscular performer.
The other AMD performance component here is the RDNA 2 graphics architecture Radeon RX 6600M (GDDR6 8GB). Compared with how NVIDIA makes significant snips to its GeForce Laptop GPUs versus its desktop versions, the Radeon RX 6600M is a breath of fresh air for laptop users (and SFF systems with the HX90G). The Navi 23 GPU here has the same number of streaming processors as its desktop counterpart, as well as the same memory complement, speed, and bus width. The only difference is that the mobile version has its base / boost clocks tuned lower, to sit within a 100W power envelope. AMD and partners allow desktop Radeon RX 6600 cards to ramp up to 130W and beyond. For the rest of the system tech specs, take a gander at the chart below.
With the hardware specs out of the way, let us consider the design. First of all, this is an appealing design due to the compact size. Previously we mentioned, it is 8x8-inches square and 2.5-inches thick. It can rest on one side, on two rubber feet, and in this orientation the two approximately 100mm cooling fans will be sucking air from above and pushing it out of the left and right sides. A V-shaped stand is supplied in the box, and you can use this if you want to set up the HX90G vertically, bringing air in from the left, and jettisoning it from the top and bottom. Some people would probably have liked the option for VESA-mounting this PC to the back of a monitor, but there are no appropriate screw holes or fittings here.
An aspect of the design we are less keen on is the materials used for chassis construction. Minisforum highlights the "Carbon Fiber Armors" of the build, which use 70% carbon fiber and 30% resin. However, these are like a few 'elbow patches' stuck on corners and non-vented surfaces, to distract from what is basically a perforated plastic box. It felt a little creaky being handled, but we are sure it is rugged enough for its intended use on a desk - it isn't designed for anything more tough than that, but neither are most desktops.
The port selection on the Minisforum HX90G could be a little better, even though it is admittedly small, as a Mini PC. Using a wired keyboard and mouse and a USB sound card (more on this later) used up all the rear USB ports. So, yes, there are just three USB ports at the back. A USB attached printer that would normally be always attached was just plugged in the front Type-A port to fire off a few pages in a rush. On the front is the only USB Type-C port, which supports USB3.2 Gen1 speeds. Of the several USB dongles we have in the office, the best ones attach via USB-C but would be unsightly to leave attached to the front in perpetuity.
Those who wish to connect multiple monitors are well catered for here though, with the twin HDMI and twin DP ports. Minisforum says they can support up to four simultaneous 4K displays at 60Hz. For our testing, we were happy using a single DP port attached to a FreeSync 1440p monitor (though games were run at 1080p settings for fair comparisons with previous benchmarks on previous machines).
Before plugging in the machine for the first time, we felt the need to pop it open to have a quick look. Getting access to the PCB area where you can upgrade the RAM and SSDs was very simple, but involved prying off the rubber feet (watch you don't get fluff on the glue). We noted the HX90G sample supplied had twin ADATA branded 8GB DDR4 3200 SODIMM modules preinstalled. The supplied 512GB M.2 SSD (ESO brand reported by Windows, but label obscured by heatsink) wouldn't be sufficient for the Hot Hardware games test library, without shuffling things around, so we added a Kingston A2000 NVMe SSD in the spare M.2 slot.