A Great Small Form Factor PC
The Asrock DeskMini is hands down the best small form factor computer I have ever had the pleasure of working with. The DeskMini is possibly the easiest (small) computer you will ever come across for upgrading hardware - and with virtually the same options as a fully-fledged desktop PC, the results can be spectacular.
So how has Asrock accomplished such a feat? By keeping things dead simple. The DeskMini is a stark contrast to the custom molded plastic exterior and compartmentalized design of the MSI Cubi 2 Plus. Instead, you get a metal box with a removable motherboard tray that slides out on a pair of rails.
Asrock has maximised the available space by creating a plain box. From a practical stand point, it makes this little computer extremely flexible, and dead easy to work with. The no-frills approach means there is room for a real CPU cooler, and not something you would expect to find in a laptop. The standard Intel box cooler never let the Core i5-6500 exceed 47 degrees, even when placed under full load for 20 minutes, meanwhile the system was virtually silent.
Unlike the Cubi 2 Plus, we find that by connecting the Type-2280 M.2 slot directly to the CPU the DeskMini is able to fully utilize high-speed NVMe SSDs. Asrock has also created a neat little dual 2.5” drive bay on the underside of the motherboard and included the data/power header here as well for easy installation. So, you see, this is a simple, yet well thought out design that gets straight to the point.
As for shortcomings, we couldn't come up with much. Perhaps there could be a few more USB ports, just two on the front with another two at the rear is the bare minimum we like to have on a desktop machine before it starts becoming impractical.
There is something else to love about the DeskMini, and that is the price. Asrock tells us that the MSRP has been set at just $130 for the barebone version, making the DeskMini a seriously good buy in our opinion. For that price, you get the STX chassis and H110 motherboard along with a quality 120-watt power supply. A full-sized desktop PC using similar components would likely cost more, so you aren’t paying a premium for this little STX system.
For the configuration featured in this review, users will need to invest $205 in a Core i5-6500 processor, $57 for G.Skill’s Ripjaws 16GB DDR4 kit (of course spending half as much on an 8GB kit would suffice) and if you must, $285 on the Samsung SM951 512GB SSD. Buying a Samsung SSD 850 Evo 250GB 2.5” SSD for $95 might be a smarter pairing, depending on your needs. Provided that you are happy with the more affordable SSD, the build would come out at just under $500, which is a pretty incredible deal given what is on offer here.
Pros: Its no frills design is not much to look at but it's flexible, functional and dead easy to work with. Can fully utilize high-speed NVMe SSDs. Great value overall.
Cons: Only two USB ports in the front and two in the back.