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Minisforum NUCXi7 – a powerful ultra-compact gaming PC for the living room (review)

Minisforum’s NUCXi7 is aimed squarely at gamers looking for a compact PC that’s small enough to plug into their living room TV and fit into their entertainment unit. The smaller and more energy-efficient form factor also appeals to traditional PC users looking to save desktop space and lower their electricity bills.

The NUCXi7 is roughly the size of a 15.6-inch gaming laptop without the screen, keyboard, and battery. Powered by an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and a mobile Nvidia RTX 3070 GPU, the chassis of the NUCXi7 resembles a slim gaming console more than a traditional desktop tower.

With a starting price of $1,029, the NUCXi7 is significantly cheaper than a comparable Intel NUC while offering significantly better gaming performance.

Is the NUCXi7 the living room gaming PC to beat?

NUCXi7 draft

Although significantly smaller and slimmer than a traditional Small Form Factor (SFF) PC, the NUCXi7 is larger than a typical mini PC like the Beelink GTR5 that I recently reviewed.

The NUCXi7 is designed to be mounted upright using the included strong metal stand. The device cannot be placed on its side due to the design of the cooling system with suction on the underside of the housing.

Overall, the NUCXi7 looks slim and feels sturdy. It’s easy to access the internals by simply unscrewing three screws and peeling off the bottom panel. There are five thick copper heat pipes as well as two fans to keep the system cool and quiet.

The NUCXi7 features two dual DDR4 SODIMM RAM slots and two NVMe SSD bays. The RAM, SSD and WiFi card are all user upgradeable.

Looking at the motherboard, one can clearly see the roots of the NUCXi7 laptop, with connectors and headers for connecting the keyboard, display, and battery still visible. There is a fair amount of empty space at the top of the device where the battery would normally sit. I would have preferred to use this space for a 2.5″ drive or remove it altogether for more efficient use of space.

Angled view of the NUCXi7
The NUCXi7 packs a lot of power for its size

NUCXi7 ports and connectivity

The NUCXi7 is a little light in the ports department. It has an HDMI 2.1, Thunderbolt 4 and 2.5 Gbit/s on the back and 3x USB 3.2 Type-A ports, a headphone jack and an SD card reader on the front. I would have liked more USB ports as well as DisplayPort and there seems to be enough room on the device to accommodate them.

However, the inclusion of a Thunderbolt 4 is very convenient. It effectively extends the life of the system as it offers the option to connect an external graphics card (eGPU) once the RTX 3070 is getting a little old.

Having an SD card reader is great, but it seems limited to USB 3 speeds, with my file transfer test clocking in at 82MB/s using a V60 UHS-II SD card.

Next to the power button is a boost button that increases clock speeds and fan speeds, but the overall system still remains very quiet, and certainly a lot quieter than a gaming laptop. In games, I’ve found that Boosted Performance mode increases framerates by an average of 10%, so I recommend leaving it enabled.

The NUCXi7 uses a high quality Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210 card, but I’ve noticed that the range isn’t as great as some other laptops. So, whenever possible, use the 2.5 Gbps wired port for the best internet connection.

prices and configuration

The NUCXi7 starts at $1,029 for the barebones system, while the 16GB RAM model with 256GB SSD is $1,139. I tested the 512GB model, which bumps the cost up slightly to $1,169. All models except the barebones option also come with Windows 11 Pro.

There’s also the NUCXi5 model, which comes with an Intel Core i5 CPU and an RTX 3060 GPU, with a starting price of $859.

The included DRR4 RAM is from ADATA and has a rating of CL22, which is very slow in terms of latency. I did feel the memory latency in everyday use, with noticeable lag when opening new tabs in the Edge browser and when playing 4K videos. Replacing the RAM with some spare CL16 rated RAM I had on hand from another laptop completely eliminated the lag issue.

Likewise, the included SSD is PCIe Gen3 and not PCIe Gen4, so read speeds are 2300 MB/s and write speeds are 1600 MB/s in my CrystalDiskMark test. Note that for testing, I swapped out the 512GB drive for a faster and larger 2TB Kingston PCIe 4.0 NVME SSD (model: NV2), which almost doubled the read and write speeds.

As such, I recommend going for the barebones model and spending the money you save on faster RAM and storage. You can find 16GB of low-latency SODIMM DDR4 RAM for as little as $70, while something like a Kingston NV2 1TB NVMe SSD can be had for a street price of just $100. If you go this route, not only will you save some money, but you’ll also get much better performance from the NUCXi7.

NUCXi7 on desktop

perfomance

After swapping out RAM and storage, performance was excellent as both a productivity and gaming machine.

Starting with synthetic benchmarks, the NUCXi7 achieved a single-core score of 1538 and a multi-core score of 9172. In 3DMark’s Time Spy benchmark, the RTX 3070 mobile GPU in the NUCXi7 achieved a graphics score of 9625. This is Excellent result and faster than gaming laptops I’ve tested that are equipped with the same GPU. There’s also plenty of headroom for overclocking if you want a little more power.

On the gaming front, the NUCXi7 consistently delivered over 60fps baseline on ultra settings at 1440p resolution in every game I threw it out of control to God of War. The only two exceptions were Cyberpunk 2077 and dying light 2 which I had to downscale to 1080p to get above 60 fps. Slightly older titles such as witcher 3 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider Delivered an average of over 100 fps at 1440p with Ultra graphics settings.

I’ve also been able to run a fairly surprising number of newer titles in native 4K at 60fps, such as: ForzaHorizon 5 and eternal doom.

My favorite way of gaming on the NUCXi7 is to run games at 1440p and use Nvidia’s DLSS to upscale to 4K, which looked fantastic on my 77-inch LG CX OLED. Using Nvidia’s AI-assisted upscaling can sometimes look just as good as native 4K and avoids the performance hits that normally accompany running at such high resolutions.

It’s worth noting that the NUCXi7 comes with a fully unlocked BIOS, which is rare to find on pre-built systems and increases overclocking potential.

GadgetGuy’s opinion

The NUCXi7 offers outstanding performance in an ultra-small and energy-efficient package. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for a desktop PC replacement without the complexity of building one. In terms of gaming performance, it outperforms every other Intel NUC on the market, as well as other gaming laptops equipped with the same RTX 3070 mobile GPU. Best-in-class cooling ensures quieter operation while providing generous overclocking headroom.

Starting at $1,029, the NUCXi7 is competitively priced, and I recommend going the barebones route so you can upgrade the system with faster RAM and storage. Of course, the NUCXi7 won’t affect mainstream PC users who can build a more powerful and upgradeable system for less money, but then you won’t get anything ultra-compact like this.

If you’re looking for an incredibly small and quiet gaming PC that’s both powerful and breaks the bank, Minisforum’s NUCXi7 is hard to beat.

positive

Excellent gaming performance for a system of this size

Runs cool and quiet

Excellent build quality

Overclocking headroom and an unlocked BIOS

acceptable price

negatives

Could use more USB ports and a DisplayPort

The latency with the included RAM is too high

Cannot be put on its side

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