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Looking for a tiny but powerful PC? Check out the Minisforum U820/U850


Hong Kong-based miniature PC specialist Minisforum announced two new models of its signature NUC-like minis available for pre-order this week; the U820 and U850. These sibling models share the same basic form factor and specifications—they’re palm-sized boxes crammed with input, output, and storage ports as shown below. The U850 offers an Intel i5-10210U CPU, and its less expensive U820 sibling sports an i5-8259U.

These systems measure 5×5 inches, at 2.5 inches tall, and come with VESA mount hardware that can be used to mount them directly to the back of most monitors. They support up to three simultaneous displays (HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB-C), and can make great homebrew routers thanks to their dual Ethernet interfaces.

We should note that these systems are available for pre-order now, with shipping expected in April—but this is not Minisforum’s first rodeo; it has been shipping miniature PCs like these for several years through direct sales and Amazon.

Specifications

Specs at a glance: U820 / U850
CPU Intel i5-8249U (U820)
Intel i5-10210U (U850)
OS Windows 10 Pro (pre-installed) / Linux supported
RAM 16GiB DDR4 (2x 8GiB SODIMM)
GPU Intel UHD 630 / Intel Iris+ 655
Wi-Fi M.2 Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6, dual-band + BlueTooth 5.1
SSD M.2 2280 512GB NVMe SSD
Connectivity
  • two SATA ports
  • one full-size HDMI 2.0
  • one full-size DisplayPort
  • one USB-C (full featured)
  • one USB-C (charge only)
  • four USB3.1 Type-A
  • one 1Gbps Ethernet (Realtek 8111H)
  • one 2.5Gbps Ethernet (Intel)
  • one 3.5mm audio
  • one Digital Mic
Price as specified $639 (U820) / $699 (U850)

Both processors are quad-core with hyperthreading enabled, but the performance situation isn’t what you might expect. The i5-8259U has a 28W TDP compared to the i5-10210U’s 15W, but it’s about 25 percent faster, with a multi-threaded Passmark score of 8348 to the 10210U’s 6541. It also sports Iris+ 655 integrated graphics, with 58 percent higher scores in 3DMark Time Spy and 74 percent higher scores in Fire Strike than the newer i5-1021U’s UHD 630.

If you’re considering upgrading the system from the 16GiB RAM it ships with, the i5-8259U can be upgraded to a maximum of 32GiB (2x 16GiB DDR4 SODIMMs), and the i5-10210U can be upgraded to 64GiB (2x 32GiB DDR4 SODIMMs). In either case, you’ll end up needing to replace the shipped system RAM entirely, since 16GiB (in 2x 8GiB DDR4 SODIMMs) is the only purchase option.

For most general-purpose use, either of these processors will be fine—but unless you need the lower TDP or higher maximum RAM of the i5-10210U, we’d recommend saving a few bucks and going with the cheaper but all around higher performance i5-8259U.

Operating systems and compatibility

The U820 and U850 ship with Windows 10 Professional pre-installed. Minisforum PCs generally don’t have a Windows OEM sticker on them but instead include the key directly in BIOS, much like Dell or HP laptops do.

I bought an earlier model of Minisforum PC (DMAF5) on Amazon last year to replace my daughter’s school PC. It also shipped with Windows 10 Pro and did not show any signs of illegitimacy prior to me wiping it and reloading with Ubuntu. I confirmed the presence of its Windows key in BIOS this morning.

This Minisforum DMAF5 is running Ubuntu Focal now, but we can confirm the presence of its BIOS-installed Windows key thanks to the magic of /sys/firmware/acpi/tables/MSDM.
Enlarge / This Minisforum DMAF5 is running Ubuntu Focal now, but we can confirm the presence of its BIOS-installed Windows key thanks to the magic of /sys/firmware/acpi/tables/MSDM.

Jim Salter

All of Minisforum’s PCs to date have fully supported Linux. Minisforum’s announcement did not mention Linux support, but they have directly confirmed for us that these models offer full, native Ubuntu Linux support as well. Minisforum also confirmed for us the exact Wi-Fi chipset used—Intel AX200—and told us that the 2.5Gbps Ethernet interface is Intel, and the 1Gbps interface is Realtek 8111H.

Listing image by minisforum



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