The latest compact computer from Chinese PC maker MINISFORUM is also the company’s most powerful to date at least on paper. Unfortunately after some early reviewers got their hands on the hardware, they found some major areas where the MINISFORUM EliteMini HX90 fails to live up to the company’s promises.

The computer measures 7.7″ x 7.5″ x 2.4″ and houses an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor. It supports up to four displays, features a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port, and has room for up to three storage devices. With pre-order prices starting at $629, the HX90 sounds like a winner. But MINISFORUM also claims to be using carbon fiber for the chassis, which may be misleading. And the company claims to be using liquid metal for cooling, and that appears to be not only misleading, but in a potentially dangerous fashion. Update: MINISFORUM has issued a response. More details below.

MINISFORUM plans to begin shipping the EliteMini HX90 to customers in mid-September, but the company has already sent some units to reviewers, and at least two YouTubers have posted in-depth examinations of some problems with the computer.

According to both Gamers Nexus and der8auer, the HX90 does seem to offer decent CPU performance at first glance, but the CPU temperatures are higher than you would expect for a system with liquid metal thermal paste applied to the CPU and heat sink. So they dissected the computers that had been sent to them and found that not only is there no liquid metal on the CPU, but there are little bits of it located elsewhere on the motherboard and chassis.

Since liquid metal is a highly conductive material, that makes those HX90 units ticking time bombs. It’s possible that hardware could short out or even catch fire.

Update: For its part, MINISFORUM says the problem only affects a handful of pre-release samples sent to reviewers and that the issue is related to some internal testing the company had been performing. But the fact that the company sent replacement units that suffered from the same issue was troubling, even if MINISFORUM says units sold via retail channels won’t have the same problem. 

Der8auer also notes that while MINISFORUM’s website says the chassis incorporates carbon fiber, it appears to actually be all-plastic, with a carbon fiber-style design.

Odds are that neither the lack of liquid metal thermal paste or the limited use of carbon fiber would be deal breakers on their own – but the sloppy application of liquid metal in other parts of the case could definitely be big red flags for potential customers

Update: According to MINISFORUM, the EliteMini HX90 uses “carbon fiber reinforced plastic” which is flame resistant and increases the mechanical strength of the chassis, but which “can look just like regular plastic.” 

At this point, it seems like the safest thing for potential customers to do is wait until more real-world reviews of the final hardware confirm that the issues discovered in these pre-release models issues have been resolved. 

One possible explanation is that the company had planned to use liquid metal thermal paste, but ran into trouble while applying it, spilled some inside the cases of these demo units, and failed to clean it up even after deciding to ship the computers to reviewers without any liquid metal on the CPU at all.

If that’s the case, it’s possible that the company could update its product description to omit the use of liquid metal, produce new devices that don’t use the material at all, and ship computers to customers that maybe run a little hotter than anticipated (which may lead to some thermal throttling), but which are otherwise safe to use. But at this point it’s unclear how many EliteMini HX90 units MINISFORUM has already produced which may have liquid metal splatter inside the case, so ordering this computer may be a risky proposition.

This article was originally published August 4, 2021 and last updated September 13, 2021 to reflect the findings of Gamers Nexus and der8auer as well as a response from MINISFORM (shown, in full, below): 

Update 2: der8auer has posted a follow-up video examining MINISFORUM’s claims and looking at a retail version of the device. In a nutshell, there is a small amount of carbon fiber incorporated into the chassis which should help with durability, and liquid metal was actually applied properly… but it doesn’t seem to affect performance very much.

The original article continues below. 

AMD’s Ryzen 9 5900HX is a 45 watt processor with 8 cores and 16 threads. It’s a 7nm chip that has a CPU base frequency of 3.3 GHz and support for boost speeds up to 4.6 GHz. It also features 2.1 GHz AMD Radeon Vega 8 integrated graphics.

While the processor is designed for laptops and other mobile devices, it can also be a good fit for small form-factor desktop computers like the EliteMini HX90.

The processor does generate a fair amount of heat though, so the computer has a cooling fan as well as a ventilated case.

The MINISFORUM EliteMini HX90 supports up to 64GB of DDR4-3200 memory and features an M.2 2280 slot for a solid state drive, plus two 2.5 inch drive bays for SATA 3 hard drives or SSDs.

Ports include:

  • 2 x HDMI ([email protected])
  • 2 x DisplayPort ([email protected])
  • 1 x 2.5 Gbps Ethernet
  • 2 x mic in (one front, one rear)
  • 2 x headphone/line out (one front, one rear)
  • 5 x USB 3.0 Type-A (four rear, one front)
  • 1 x USB Type-C

Other features include an Intel AX200 wireless card with support for WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 and a chassis that incorporates carbon fiber for a “modern and agile” look.

One thing the computer does not have is a Thunderbolt port, so while MINISFORUM is positioning the HX90 as a PC for gamers, it doesn’t have a discrete GPU built in and you won’t be able to add one using an external graphics dock either.

You can probably use it to play some games – after all, if handheld gaming systems like the AYA Neo and GPD Win Max 2021 can make do with AMD’s Radeon Vega integrated graphics, the HX90 should perform even better thanks to a much faster processor and somewhat more powerful GPU.

MINISFORUM sells the system in several different configurations. The starting price will get you a barebones model with no memory or storage, but you can pay extra for a system populated with up to 32GB of RAM and up to a 512GB SSD.

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  1. So seems the timing and communication weren’t great here. The reviews were based on pre-production samples. IIUC they plan to release a video how in liquid metal is applied on the production units. I believe none of the YouTubers mentioned that these were pre-production units (aka still prototypes in a late stage). That was probably some broken communication on minis forum side.

    Regarding carbon fiber it seems they are using a PC/ABS with X% of carbon fiber. I guess folks expected a case made out of carbon fiber, which would have made this very expensive mini PC.

    1. @boom said: “Regarding carbon fiber it seems they are using a PC/ABS with X% of carbon fiber. I guess folks expected a case made out of carbon fiber, which would have made this very expensive mini PC.”

      Yeah, I doubt it is carbon fiber reinforced plastic. Instead it is more likely the cheaper and ubiquitous glass fiber reinforced polycarbonate plastic, e.g. GF10 (a.k.a. GF10%) which is 10% glass fiber reinforced.[1]

      Raw materials : MAKROLON® 9415 000000 GF10% NATUREL

      https://www.pht-plastic.com/choice-of-materials/pc-polycarbonate/pc-gf10-nat-makrolon-9415-000000/

  2. When new tablets and laptops come out, its extremely common practice for Chinese tablet makers to show photoshopped images that make the bezels appear much thinner.

  3. I wonder why companies like GPD and MINISFORUM lie about their products when the customer can easily find out soon after receiving them. Pretty dumb of them.

    Don’t they know the power of the Internet can easily spread their shadiness and noticeably affect their sales?

    1. It’s really all down to a difference between consumer expectations and marketing practices in the domestic Chinese market.

      When new tablets and laptops come out, its extremely common practice for Chinese tablet makers to show photoshopped images that make the bezels appear much thinner.

      Also, many Chinese computers/tablets will use completely wrong technical terms in their specs, and result in lies. Like saying “solid-state drive”, but it’s really eMMC.

      Misleading marketing is somehow acceptable in China.

  4. I have applied for a refund, but I have to bear the 2% handling fee and shipping fee! This is a joke, is it my responsibility? I chose MOREFINE S500+, I hope theirs can be excellent

    1. Contact your credit card provider, and report fraud. Let them know that the company pulled a bait-and-switch, and give them the articles as proof.

  5. I watched the der8auer video. It was entertaining.

    I agree on what he said in end. MINISFORUM is only ruining their reputation and product perception by lying and continuing to lie at that (reminds me of GPD) on an otherwise decent device if they didn’t mis-advertise it.

  6. External graphics can be added via an adapter that runs from the m.2 (NVMe) slot to a PCI-e dock. This seems like a nice unit for the intro price. It’s basically the AMD portion of my ASUS Zephyrus G15 3070 laptop. The Zephyrus performs very well on silent mode running only the 5900HS and Vega graphics. No issues with smooth streaming 4K playback or other office/multimedia tasks. It’s also surprisingly fast performing photo editing in DxO PhotoLab 4 with the integrated Vega graphics. Fast enough that I usually leave the Nvidia 3070 disabled when I edit on the go to save battery life.

    1. Hmm I wonder how the TDP relates to graphics capability, since same Vega 8 is on 15 watt U versions. btw, wikichip says “This APU supports a configurable TDP-down of 35 W and TDP-up of 54 W”

      1. jay, it actually impacts performance a lot. With 25+ watts available, the CPU and APU can stay near max frequencies with out much need to fluctuate to maintain power limits. IIRC ETAPrime did a video about power limits recently. 45+ watts should run very well on this APU.

      2. AMD says that this “HX” series chip should handle higher wattage than the “H” series chips.

        Considering many people have been running the older 4800H chips above 70w, it will be interesting to see how hard people push this new HX chip.

        1. Agreed, developers are just getting around to adding proper support to RyzenController and the like for Ryzen 5000 series APUs. I too will be interested to see how high they can push the 5900HS and 5900HX.

    2. While it is possible to adapt M.2 to PCIe, you take a big hit in performance, due to the M.2 slot only having 4x PCIe lanes.

      All of the current 30-series Nvidia cards will suffer an extreme bottleneck from that. Not worth the investment, IMO.

      1. You are correct that there is a limit before bottlenecking occurs. Up to around a desktop 2070 or 3060 Ti should work quite well and honestly, these types of setups are often lower budget so I don’t see people trying to throw a 3090 on one of these mini PCs. You’re more likely to see a 1660 Ti, RX580, or 2060 than something cutting edge.

        1. Right. Something like a 1660ti would work fine. But in the end, why buy a Ryzen 9 system, and build a crazy modification just to run a GTX 1660ti?

          I’m a bit skeptical about the prospect of running a 2070 or 3060ti on a x4 PCIe slot. I can’t find any confirmed tests or discussions online, but I have a suspicion they would be pushing the limits of 4 lanes a bit.

          I tested a 1080 (similar performance to 2070) on an x4 PCIe 3.0 slot a few years ago on an i7-6700k machine, and it suffered at least a 10-15% loss of FPS. For me personally, thats a waste of money considering you’re really going out of your way to make this work.

          Since the combination of this Mini PC and an External GPU are together going to be rather large, I would have to question why someone would do this in the first place. Just build a suitable Mini ITX PC.

          1. Yeah, all I’ve seen is some similar tests to what you mentioned. They definitely lost a bit of GPU performance and it would depend of what you had laying around and what your threshold is for FPS loss. You could always underclock to save power and reduce fan noise if you were to run a higher spec’d GPU via the adapter. In the end I think these are more for people that like to tinker and have a small VM machine sitting around. I’ve considered one of these because my A300W with 2400G is getting a bit long in the tooth support wise. I’m hoping that ASRock will support the 5700G on it but I’m not holding my breath.