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Mini PC & Server

GMKtec M5 Mini PC Review as Home Server

I was contacted by GMKtec recently and asked to test out the GMktec M5 Mini PC. Keep in mind the reviews I perform on these mini PCs is in the context of home lab servers. Many of these make great home lab platforms to learn and run enterprise and open-source solutions for learning and self-hosting. This is not a paid review other than being sent the review unit. So, my thoughts are my own.

GMKtec M5 Mini PC Specifications

With many mini PCs on the market, there are a lot of options for purchase. Especially when thinking about a home server, there are several factors to consider. A mini PC may be lightning fast, but it may have unsupported network adapters or limited storage.

When it comes to the M5, There is a lot to like about this little mini PC. It sports the AMD Ryzen 7 5700U processor, with a speed of 4.3 GHz and its small footprint that makes it highly portable. The review unit came to me with 32 GB of 3200 MHz DDR4 memory.

The gmktec m5 mini pc
The gmktec m5 mini pc

Note the following more detailed specs list

SpecificationDetail
Screen Resolution4096 x 2304
Max Screen Resolution3840 x 2160 Pixels
Processor4.3 GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5700U
RAM16 or 32 GB DDR4 (64 GB max)
Memory Speed3200 MHz
Storage512 GB or 1 TB PCIe 3.0 M.2 2280 SSD
Networking(2) Intel 2.5 GbE adapters
Graphics CoprocessorAMD Radeon RX Vega 8 CUs 1900MHz
Wireless Type5.8/5/2.4 GHz Radio Frequency, Bluetooth
USB Ports2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0
Operating System CompatibilityWindows 11 Pro, Ubuntu, Linux
Item Weight2.99 pounds
Dimensions7.32 x 7.32 x 4.21 inches
ColorSpace Blue
GMKtec Nucbox M5 specifications

Ryzen 5700U processor

While the Ryzen 5700U processor is not the latest and greatest mobile processor (appearing Q1 of 2021), it is a laptop processor that has a good mix of performance and power efficiency. I really like the “U” variant of the Ryzen chips due to the fact they are extremely power efficient.

The gmktec m5 includes the ryzen 5700u processor
The gmktec m5 includes the ryzen 5700u processor

When you are thinking of running a home server 24x7x365, the cost savings of a power efficient processor definitely add up.

The 5700U has the following specs:

  • Class: Laptop
  • Socket: FP6
  • Clockspeed: 1.8 GHz
  • Turbo Speed: 4.3 GHz
  • Cores: 8 Threads: 16Typical TDP: 15 W
  • TDP Down: 10 W
  • TDP Up: 25 W
  • Cache per CPU Package:
    • L1 Instruction Cache: 8 x 32 KB
    • L1 Data Cache: 8 x 32 KB
    • L2 Cache: 8 x 512 KB
    • L3 Cache: 8 MB

Below, you can see the exploded view of the M5 with the cooling fans for efficient cooling experience, ports, lid, network, USB ports, vents, etc.

The exploded view of the gmktec m5 mini pc
The exploded view of the gmktec m5 mini pc

What about overall energy efficiency? Considering its tiny footprint and compact design, the M5 is energy efficient and is definitely a great choice for those that are concerned about their energy usage running a lab at home. With the power efficiency and processing power, it can provide excellent value.

Also, you will note the readings I took with my watt meter below when idle as well as at 100%.

Network connectivity

Typically with reviews of mini PCs as home server contenders, we tend to focus more on the networking side of things. Many of the mini PCs are outfitted with Reltek network adapters which aren’t supported with VMware vSphere. Which in my opinion lessens the appeal a bit as it lowers the compatibility with the typical hypervisors that home labbers run in their envirnoments.

The gmktec m5 mini pc review unit with 2.5 gbe ethernet adapters
The gmktec m5 mini pc review unit with 2.5 gbe ethernet adapters

Realtek-based network adapters are supported on the Linux side of things with hypervisors like Proxmox and XCP-ng.

I am happy to say this little mini PC is running Intel-based network adapters that are supported in ESXi, Proxmox, and others.

Visual and Graphics

The M5 has an AMD Radeon RX Vega 8 GPU that is capable of handling casual gaming and business applications. The maximum screen resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels and you have the choice between HDMI and displayport.

Storage and Connectivity

The M5 comes with decent storage space from GMKtec with a 1 TB PCIe 3.0 M.2 2280 SSD. I popped in a Samsung EVO drive for testing to load a hypervisor and keep the Windows 11 Pro installation intact. 

It has two USB 2.0 ports for peripherals like keyboard and mouse, two USB 3.0 ports, and dual Intel 2.5 GbE adapters, along with Wireless Wifi 6E which is nice (many only have Wi-Fi 6) and Bluetooth support.

The io connectivity of the gmktec m5
The io connectivity of the gmktec m5

Below is the view of storage and memory slots.

The nvme drive and ddr slot locations in the gmktec m5
The nvme drive and ddr slot locations in the gmktec m5

Windows 11 Pro

If you are purchasing the GMKtec M5 mini PC for a desktop use case, it comes preinstalled with Windows 11 Pro which is great to see they are shipping with Pro. As a quick aside, Windows client Pro operating systems allow you to run Hyper-V, which is not included with the Home editions. So, if you choose not to install a type 1 hypervisor on bare metal with the M5, you can run Hyper-V (it is type 1, but will use Win 11 as the management operating system in this configuration).

It is also compatible with Ubuntu and Linux versions like Linux Mint, etc. This makes it quite versatile for different user needs and operating system installations. Also, keep in mind there isn’t a “no Windows 11” version, or a barebones unit for purchase that GMKtec has listed.

Unboxing the GMKtec M5 Mini PC

Below are a few pics from the unboxing of the GMKtec M5. As always, the GMKtec packaging is really nice. The boxes are top notch and the lid fits snug along with the boxes containing all the other parts of the unit, such as power adapter VESA mount, HDMI cable for a monitor, etc.

Taking the lid off the gmktec m5 nucbox packaging
Taking the lid off the gmktec m5 nucbox packaging

Below is the front of the M5. You will see the headphone jack audio port, USB-C port, and (2) USB-A ports.

The front of the gmktec m5
The front of the gmktec m5

Below is the rear of the unit. You can see the M5 has (2) USB-A ports, display port, HDMI port, and (2) 2.5 GbE Intel network adapters.

The back of the gmktec m5
The back of the gmktec m5

The plastic cover on the top easily pops off. Then it exposes the internal plate that is secured with (4) screws.

After taking the top lid off the gmktec m5
After taking the top lid off the gmktec m5

After removing the internal plate, you will see the RAM sticks and NVMe drive.

Taking the internal panel out after removing the screws
Taking the internal panel out after removing the screws

Below is the power adapter for the GMKtec M5. As expected is it a small brick, due to the low power requirements.

The power adapter for the m5
The power adapter for the m5

The BIOS

The BIOS is the classic Aptio Setup found on the other GMKtec Nucboxes. Below is a quick screengrab from the BIOS setup screen on the M5:

Viewing the bios on the gmktec m5 mini pc review unit
Viewing the bios on the gmktec m5 mini pc review unit

Installing ESXi on the M5

Since the M5 runs Intel network adapters I was able to easily install VMware ESXi on the unit. No problems with recognizing the adapters during the installation and due to the uniform Ryzen 5700U processor, there was no issue with purple screens or the need to add kernel boot parameters during boot.

VMware ESXi recognizes the processor with 8 cores and 16 threads.

Viewing the hardware information and processor information in vmware esxi
Viewing the hardware information and processor information in vmware esxi

Power draw

After getting ESXi installed and 15 or so virtual machines up and running, I booted all 15 at once to see if I could push the CPU up to 100% and measure the power draw on the 

The M5 looks to idle at around 11.5 watts.

The power draw of the m5 at idle
The power draw of the m5 at idle

Under full load when CPUs were around 100% I saw almost 31 watts. Still this is great compared to legacy server-class hardware.

The power draw at full load on the gmktec m5
The power draw at full load on the gmktec m5

Price

Customers can pick up an M5 with 32 GB of RAM and a 1 TB NVMe drive for around $300 with coupons and deals on the Internet, or from the GMK shop. The 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage option is around $200 (Amazon, Aliexpress, etc. Pay attention to the description on what you are getting when ordering the Nucbox M5 product.

The Pros and Cons with this unit

I have to say that I really like the GMKtec M5. I think it has the right combination of CPU, memory, and networking to be a solid choice to run VMs and containers using your preferred hypervisor of choice. With the Intel network 2.5 GbE network adapters, you can run VMware ESXi along with Linux-based options. 

If you want to keep the Windows 11 Pro install in place, you are licensed for Hyper-V as well if you want to use it as a dual-purpose workstation and “home server” of sorts to run workloads. I know many don’t like Hyper-V (myself included). However, I do respect that it is an option, especially when running the Pro version and considering it is included, it could be a smart choice for some.

Pros

Here are the pros:

  • Uniform Ryzen 7 5700U processor, no hybrid cores to have to deal with
  • Dual 2.5 GbE network adapters allow multi-gig connectivity and installation of ESXi, Proxmox, etc
  • Very power efficient, like a Celeron, especially if you plan on running it as a home server 24x7x365
  • Comes with Windows 11 Pro (grants access to Hyper-V)

Cons

Things I don’t like about the GMKtec M5?

  • It only has one pcie 3.0 m.2 slot
  • It is DDR4 SO-DIMM memory, so it maxes at 64 GB
  • There is no 2.5 inch storage bay to add a 2.5 inch drive which would have been nice

GMKtec M5 FAQs

Can the GMKtec M5 handle heavy workloads like video editing or 3D rendering?

The M5 is equipped with the AMD Ryzen 7 processor and a good amount of RAM from the factory, especially with the 32GB and 1TB model. It definitely has the horsepower for casual gaming, streaming, multimedia, everyday business applications, and home server use. For more intensive tasks, other options with dedicated graphics cards might be more suitable.

How does the M5 perform as a server for small businesses?

It has dual Intel 2.5 GbE adapters and Wi-Fi 6E connectivity, so you will have no issues getting it connected to the network, either wired or wireless. It has a small footprint and great processing power. So, it will handle most business applications without issue.

Is the GMKtec M5 suitable for gaming?

The M5 can do casual gaming with its AMD Radeon graphics coprocessor. However, don’t expect to run the latest titles with all the quality settings turned up.

Does the M5 support Linux OS like Ubuntu?

Yes, for the most part you can run any Linux distro on the M5, including Ubuntu. For those that are more at home in an open-source environment or require specific Linux-based applications, the M5 will allow you to do that.

What are the benefits of the M5’s compact design?

It has a tiny footprint which is great for limited desk space. It can also be easily mounted behind a monitor or tucked away with the VESA mount.

How energy-efficient is the GMKtec M5 Mini PC?

As shown in the watt meter readings, the M5 is very power efficient, even at 100% CPU. It would make a great candidate for a home server you would leave up and running 24x7x365.

Can I upgrade the RAM or storage on the M5?

The M5 offers options for upgrading both RAM and storage, providing users the flexibility to enhance their machine’s capabilities as needed.

What other models of GMKtec mini PCs contain interesting hardware? 

Take a look at the model selection, including the Nucbox K7, Nucbox K3 Pro, Nucbox M3, Nucbox M2, Nucbox G2, Nucbox M4, Nucbox K4.

Final Thoughts on the GMKtec M5

The GMKtec M5 Mini PC might just be a hidden gem in mini PCs as a relatively inexpensive home server. You can get the 32GB RAM/1 TB storage version for around $300 on Amazon with a coupon. It has a lot of really nice features that lend well to running server workloads like virtual machines and containers, along with modern hypervisors. I had no issues installing VMware ESXi and it also runs Linux-based hypervisors without issue.

the hardware is very power efficient as well. The Ryzen 5700U processor is a uniform, non-hybrid processor that outperforms procs like the Intel Core i5-1235u, Alder Lake N100, J4125 fanless and others, and is in the ballpark of performance of the Core i5 13500H with better power efficiency. Also, I think this is a much better unit for home lab than the GMKtec M3 unit I have previously reviewed.

Let me know in the comments what you think about this mini PC. Also, check out the VHT forums if you have any questions, comments, or need help overcoming challenges in your lab. Also, be sure to sign up for the newsletter to see the latest posts when they arrive.

Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is the Senior Writer, Engineer and owner at Virtualizationhowto.com and has over two decades of experience in Information Technology. Having worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as in various industries, Brandon has extensive experience in various IT segments and is a strong advocate for open source technologies. Brandon holds many industry certifications, loves the outdoors and spending time with family.

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4 Comments

  1. FWIW the M5 has been upgraded to 2x m.2 slots and has had an additional fan added to the lid since they sent you this demo unit. I think the price increase was something like $20. I ordered a barebones unit but have not received it yet. However, the addition of a second drive is pretty much all this box needed to be perfect for my use case (frequent build/teardown labbing).

    1. TD,

      Wow, I wasn’t aware the M5 had been upgraded until your comment, and then did some digging and saw that was the case. Unfortunately, the review unit I was sent was the older model as you mentioned. Do you know if they have swapped to Realtek NICs in the new unit?

      1. Hello, I have seen some cases about the new upgraded version (additional fan and m.2 slot) get an UEFI error trying to install linux distroa, while having no problems with windows. This could be due to a faulty BIOS version shipped to all devices, which is worth taking a look into.

        1. Nguyen,

          Thank you for the comment! Yes after I received the demo unit from GMKtec, I had another viewer on the YouTube channel who mentioned this as well. It seems there is a newer model of the GMKtek M5 with 2 slots and also Realtek NICs. I can’t say on this model as the one I have is the older unit apparently.

          Brandon

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