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MINISFORUM MS-01 Review – Powerful Mini PC

The Mini PC, although larger by its standards, provides unparalleled flexibility and expansion capabilities. Ideal for development or media server applications, it comes equipped with 10GbE support and allows easy augmentation with additional internal storage and a PCIe slot, making it a compact yet powerful solution.

Pros:

  • Abundance of storage options
  • Dual 10GbE and 2.5GbE LAN support
  • Triple NVMe or dual and U.2 compatibility
  • Connectivity options include USB or Thunderbolt ports

Cons:

  • Absence of dedicated GPU power

Quick Inspection

Intrigued by the challenge of housing robust hardware in compact NUC-sized cases, MinisForum engineers shifted focus to the MS-01.

With dimensions of about 190mm square and 50mm high, the MS-01 offers ample space for the latest Intel 13th Gen hardware, accommodating three M.2 NVMe drives and a discrete video card via a PCIe 4.0 x16 slot (8x electrically).

Even in its base configuration, the MS-01 impresses, featuring dual 2.5GbE LAN ports and a pair of 10Gbps SFP+ LAN ports, delivering 25Gbps network throughput without utilizing the PCIe slot. Additional bandwidth can be accessed through the USB ports, including two each of the 3.2 Gen 2 and USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4.

To sum up, if you’ve ever felt a Mini PC lacked a specific feature, the MS-01 likely addresses that concern.

Furthermore, it supports the new U.2 slot standard for storage, although this necessitates sacrificing one M.2 NVMe slot.

All these components are housed in an aluminum case with ample ventilation and multiple fans ensuring proper airflow.

As expected, the drawback of such a well-equipped system is its cost. The reviewed SKU, equipped with an Intel Core i9-13900H CPU, 32GB of DDR5 RAM, and 1TB of storage, is priced at £819 or $829.

Alternatively, a barebones option with an i5-12450H CPU, excluding RAM, storage, or an OS, is available for £429 in the UK or $419 in the USA.

Even the highest-end configurations, including an OS, memory, and storage, are more affordable than the Intel NUC 13, the former market leader.

The MS-01 stands out as an exceptional piece of hardware for users in need of a compact, powerful system that’s easily portable.

Minisforum Ms-01 Review: Price And Availability

The MS-01 starts at $420/£430 and is currently available directly from Minisforum.

Offering various SKUs, it presents a wide array of choices and pricing options uncommon in Mini PCs.

Models range from barebones with options like the Intel Core i5-12450H to fully loaded versions featuring the Intel Core i9-13900H, equipped with 32GB RAM, 1TB storage, and Windows 11 Home.

The price difference between barebones and fully equipped versions is approximately $150, offering significant value for the included specifications.

In the UK, prices start at £599 for the Core i5 variant and go up to £819 for the Core i9 model. In the USA, prices range from $589 to $829.

Notably, the Core i5 MS-01 is not available as a barebones option in the USA, and the top-tier i9-13900H model is unavailable in the UK, likely due to regional stock levels.

While these Mini PCs aren’t budget-friendly, their quality and specifications justify their cost. Those willing to provide their own memory, storage, and OS licenses can obtain them at a lower price.

MINISFORUM MS-01 Review - Powerful Mini PC with Versatile Expansion Options
Image: Minisforum

Minisforum Ms-01 Review: Specs

ItemSpec
Dimensions189mm x 196mm x 48mm
OSWindows 11 Pro (pre-installed)
Networking2x 2.5GbE LAN, 2x 10Gbps SFP+ LAN, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2
PSU19V 9.47A 180W
Base Power45W
Ports2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 2x USB 4.0 Type-C, 2x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x universal audio jack
Expansion1x PCIe 4.0 x16 slot (Half-height, single-slot, supports up to PCIe 4.0 x8 speed)
Storage1TB M.2 2280 PCIe Gen 4×4 M.2 2280 NVMe SSD slot (Alt U.2), 1xM.2 2280/22110 NVMe SSD slot (PCIe 3.0 x4), 1x M.2 2280/22110 NVMe SSD slot (PCIe 3.0 x2)
RAM32GB DDR5-5200 (expandable to 64GB)
GPUIntel Iris Xe (96EU)
CPUIntel Core i9-13900H (14 cores, 20 Threads)

Minisforum Ms-01 Review: Design

Size and Weight: Considerably larger than typical Mini PCs, the MS-01 boasts numerous ports and easy internal accessibility. Despite its heft, the solid metal construction ensures durability.

Port Configuration: The front panel houses essential ports like power, audio, and USB connections, while the back features a more extensive array, including high-speed USB and Thunderbolt options, ideal for external storage and docking stations.

Network Potential: Notably, the MS-01 offers impressive networking capabilities with standard 2.5GbE and 10GbE ports, expandable through adapters and PCIe slots for even higher throughput options.

Internal Expansion: Accessing internal components like M.2 slots and memory modules is straightforward, albeit requiring basic tools for removal. The inclusion of a U.2 specification slot adds flexibility, with measures in place to prevent mishaps.

PCIe Expansion: The MS-01 features PCIe slots supporting various configurations, accommodating additional storage options or peripherals like GPUs, albeit with specific limitations regarding size and power requirements.

GPU Considerations: While not geared towards gaming enthusiasts, the MS-01 offers potential GPU upgrades for enhanced graphics performance, catering more to users seeking a compact yet potent network server solution.

In essence, the Minisforum MS-01 excels in delivering robust performance within a compact form factor, making it an appealing choice for those prioritizing versatility and functionality over gaming prowess.

Minisforum Ms-01 Review: Hardware

In the realm of hardware, the MINISFORUM MS-01 stands out with its Intel Core i9-13900H processor and 28 PCIe lanes. Notably, this Mini PC diverges from typical small form factor systems due to its processor’s resemblance to desktop-grade hardware rather than exclusively a mobile chip.

Featuring fourteen cores, including six performance cores and eight efficiency cores, the Intel Core i9-13900H offers substantial processing power. Moreover, all P-cores support hyperthreading, allowing for the simultaneous processing of up to twenty threads.

Remarkably, the vPro design permits access to the processor console, facilitating the deactivation of P-cores. This strategic move transforms E-cores into hyperthreading mode, unleashing sixteen power-efficient threads without taxing the CPU. Such adaptability appeals to developers, offering customization beyond conventional platforms.

Another highlight of the Core i9-13900H is its PCIe 5.0 design on the microprocessor and PCIe 3.0 on the chipset, boasting an impressive 28 PCIe lanes. This allocation of lanes empowers the MS-01 to incorporate abundant LAN bandwidth and Thunderbolt ports without compromising other system functionalities.

While some PCIe M.2 slots may lack PCIe 4.0 x4 support, the X16 slot compensates with eight lanes of PCIe 4.0, mitigating potential downgrades.

Though the latest AMD Ryzen 9 platforms present viable alternatives, the MINISFORUM MS-01 surpasses them in performance, flexibility, and potential.

Performance Comparison: MINISFORUM MS-01 vs. Geekom Mini IT13

BenchmarkMINISFORUM MS-01Geekom Mini IT13
PCMark 10Office
– Score65096501
FireStrike61215369
WHEY
– Score8.58.3
– Write MB/s39704484
3DMark WildLife1636413523
CineBench23
– Ratio8.76.79
– Multi1501811721
– Single17261727
– Read MB/s48064857
GeekBench
– OpenCL2134218408
– Multi1272011101
– Single19322002
TimeSpy21481935

The MINISFORUM MS-01, equipped with an Intel i9-13900H, outpaces the Geekom Mini IT13 in various tests.

Primarily, the discrepancy stems from RAM type; the MS-01 employs DDR5, while the Geekom IT13 relies on DDR4.

DDR5’s superior bandwidth notably boosts graphics-related tasks, evidenced by the significant performance gaps in Wildlife (21% better), Fire Strike (14%), and Time Spy (11%).

Additionally, multiprocessing tasks benefit, as seen in CineBench23, where the MS-01 exhibits a 28% improvement.

Despite its higher cost, the MS-01’s memory setup ensures consistently superior performance over its competitor.

VERDICT: MINISFORUM MS-01

The MS-01 lacks the charm of NUC hardware but excels in power and options, rivaling dedicated server hardware.

It seamlessly fits into various server roles, even without top-tier components. Cheaper alternatives lack flexibility and quality.

This Intel-based Mini PC sets a new standard, challenging other brands in hardware design and performance.

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