Mini PC & Server

Top 5 Mini PCs for Home Server in Early 2024

Looking for a mini PC for your home server? Top 5 Mini PCs for Home Server include the Minisforum MS-01. Read my review in early 2024 for the latest on this mini PC space!

Highlights

  • There is not another mini PC that has the features and capabilities of the MS-01 as a workstation, media server for media streaming or as a media center, file storage server (to supplement cloud storage), or general home lab server.
  • I have reviewed quite a few mini PCs over the past few months to have a pretty good idea of what is out there in terms of mini PCs, their compatibility, features, and capabilities.
  • It is a leader in the mini PCs pack when it comes to possibilities in the home lab and versatility to run just about anything you want to run.

I have reviewed quite a few mini PCs over the past few months to have a pretty good idea of what is out there in terms of mini PCs, their compatibility, features, and capabilities. However, I know I have not reviewed every single mini PC on the market. So, understand this list comes from those mini PCs that I have experience with and have tested in my home lab environment. Let’s take a look at what I think are the top 5 mini PCs for home server in early 2024.

1. Minisforum MS-01

The Minisforum MS-01 is without a doubt the supreme mini PC out of most mini PCs in this space for early 2024. There is not another mini PC that has the features and capabilities of the MS-01 as a workstation, media server for media streaming or as a media center, file storage server (to supplement cloud storage), or general home lab server.

It is a nearly perfect mini PC that comes with the Core i9-12900H or Core i9-13900H processor, (3) NVMe drives for great storage capacity and to expand storage, (2) 10 GB SFP+ ports, (2) 2.5 GbE ports, DDR-5 memory that is expandable up to 96 GB of RAM AND it has an expansion slot which is icing on the cake.

Minisforum ms 01 mini pc workstation
Minisforum ms 01 mini pc workstation

It is a leader in the mini PCs pack when it comes to possibilities in the home lab and versatility to run just about anything you want to run. With the hybrid CPU, you will have some extra challenges with VMware since you will need to provide the boot parameter to allow non-uniform CPUs or disable the efficient cores.

However, as a new mini PC, the Minisforum won’t leave you disappointed when compared to other options. However, there are still great choices as we will see.

Compatibility

  • VMware ESXi – Will need to apply boot parameter for non-uniform CPUs or disable E-cores
  • Proxmox (may need the microcode update for P and E cores)
  • XCP-ng
  • Other Linux hypervisors as an operating system

Pros

  • One of the best mini PCs you can buy right now for a mini home server
  • 10 GB and 2.5 GB Ethernet LAN port configuration, that are Intel adapters for plugging into the home network
  • (3) NVMe ports for storage expansion
  • Lots of I/O capabilities, including many USB ports with USB-4 (40 gig) for blazing-fast external storage or networking
  • PCI-e 4.0 expansion slot

Cons

  • No bifurcation on the PCI-e slot
  • Uses a “big little” hybrid Intel CPU that can cause issues with virtualization but has lots of processing power to contribute
  • A weird power switch for the U.2 adapter
  • High power usage at full load, over 120 watts, so may not be the most energy efficient of the mini PCs you can buy right now
  • Price – at $600 or so, this is pretty expensive for a mini PC

Read my full review here: Minisforum MS-01 Review: Best Home Server Mini PC Early 2024

2. GMKtec Nucbox M5

This is one that I have reviewed recently that I really like. The GMKtec Nucbox M5 has a lot of great features, compatibility, and good hardware that makes it both powerful and efficient as a mini PC home server.

It features an AMD Ryzen 7 5700U processor with 8 cores and 16 threads. The CPU is uniform so you don’t have to deal with weirdness coming from performance and efficient cores. It runs DDR4 3200MHz memory with a maximum of 64 GB.

Gmktec m5 mini pc
Gmktec m5 mini pc

It also has a single M.2 2280 slot for running the latest NVMe drives. It comes with Windows 11 Pro, Wi-Fi 6E, USB-C 10 gig port, and a good I/O connectivity all around. One of the tremendous advantages of this little mini PC is its power efficiency. At 100% CPU, I only saw the little mini PC hit 30 watts which is fantastic thinking about running a home server 24x7x365.

Compatibility

Pros

Cons

  • Only one M.2 2280 slot for NVMe
  • No additional compartment for 2.5 inch SSD
  • DDR4 memory so limited to 64 GB

Read my full review here: GMKtec M5 Mini PC Review as Home Server.

3. GMKtec Nucbox K10

I reviewed the GMKtec Nucbox K10 towards the end of last year. It is a surprisingly powerful little mini PC with a uniform Ryzen 7 5800U processor which is very power efficient and sports 8 cores and 16 threads. The K10 also has an Intel i225-V 2.5 gig network adapter which means you can load VMware ESXi natively without using a USB dongle.

Gmktec nucbox k10 mini pc
Gmktec nucbox k10 mini pc

The one I purchased for review came with 16 GB of DDR 4 and a 512 gig SSD which I upgraded to 64 GB of DDR4 memory and a 1 TB Samsung EVO NVMe stick I had.

I probably have the longest stint with this little mini PC in the lab since I have been running it 24×7 since around September of 2023 and it has been rock solid running several workloads in VMware ESXi.

Compatibility

  • VMware ESXi
  • Proxmox
  • XCP-ng
  • Other Linux hypervisors

Pros

  • Uniform Ryzen 7 5800U processor
  • Very power efficient
  • Has an Intel 2.5 gig network adapter

Cons

  • Has only 1 network adapter
  • Only has 1 M.2 2280 slot
  • No additional 2.5 inch SSD bay

Read my full review here: Intel NUC Alternative: GMK Nucbox K10 Ryzen 7 Home Server.

The Beelink SEi-12 is a powerful little mini PC that sports the Core i7-12650H processor with 10 cores/16 threads. It is a hybrid CPU with performance cores and efficient cores, “big little” architecture. This will present some challenges with VMware since you will need to enable the boot parameters to allow non-uniform cores or disable the efficient cores altogether.

Beelink sei12 mini pc
Beelink sei12 mini pc

The model I reviewed came with 32 gigs of DDR4 3200MHz memory with a maximum of 64 GB of memory as well as 500 GB of storage. Of note as well the NVMe slot is PCIe 4.0. It only has a 1 gig Realtek network adapter, so no multi-gig support.

An excellent feature of the Beelink SEi12 is it also sports a 2.5 inch SSD bay where you can install an additional SSD drive for storage of your VMs and containers.

Read my full review here: Beelink SEi12 Review as Mini PC Home Server with Core i7-12650H.

Compatibility

  • Promox
  • XCP-ng
  • Other Linux hypervisors
  • No native VMware support due to Realtek network adapter

Pros

  • Very powerful little mini PC with the Core i7 hybrid CPU
  • PCIe 4.0
  • Decent power consumption under normal operations

Cons

  • Realtek 1 gig NIC (means no native VMware compatibility or multi-gig support)
  • High power usage at full load – can burst to over 90 watts at full power

5. AcePC Picobox Mini PC

The AcePC Picobox was a tiny little mini PC that I tried out in the home lab and it worked very well as a tiny little home server running a few virtual machines.

It sports the Intel N100 CPU 4 core CPU with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM and a 512 GB M.2 SSD. If you are looking for a tiny little mini PC that sips power, the AcePC Picobox ran 7 VMs at 9.7 watts with the VMs sitting at roughly idle. I think something like this gives you a lot more flexibility than a Raspberry Pi 4 class machine with the ability to run x86 workloads and traditional hypervisors.

Acepc picobox mini pc
Acepc picobox mini pc

Compatibility

  • Proxmox
  • XCP-ng
  • Other Linux hypervisors
  • Not natively VMware supported but you can use a USB network adapter

Pros

  • Tiny footprint
  • Minimal power consumption
  • Great to learn and start running VMs and containers

Cons

  • The Intel N100 processor will be a limitation running very many workloads
  • Only 8 GB of memory which will be limiting as well
  • Realtek 1 gig network adapters

Read my full review here: Acepc Picobox Mini PC Review: Tiny ESXi Home Server.

Minisforum NAB6 Lite: Adding an extra one

This is an updated entry to the post where I want to add an additional mini PC to the list of mini PCs available and that you should check out. It is the Minisforum NAB6 Lite mini PC.

This mini PC has a lot of great features, including Intel 2.5G network adapters, 2 storage drive options and even a 10 gig USB-C port where you can have fast storage and network peripherals.

Minisforum nab6 lite
Minisforum nab6 lite

With the top cover removed.

Top cover removed nab6 lite
Top cover removed nab6 lite

Viewing the back of the unit including the networking and IO ports.

Viewing the networking and io of the nab6 lite
Viewing the networking and io of the nab6 lite

Viewing the front of the unit.

Viewing the front of the nab6 lite
Viewing the front of the nab6 lite

The Good:

  • Multi-core performance with the Core i5 performs well
  • Comes preinstalled with Windows 11 Pro for dual-purpose use
  • Can install VMware ESXi, Proxmox, and VMware Workstation
  • Has a clickable lid for easy access to the internals (RAM and M.2 slot)
  • Has (2) Intel 2.5G NICs
  • Good connectivity otherwise
  • Good BIOS options available
  • Power consumption – under full 100% CPU load, I pushed it to 71 watts, but it runs only around 18 watts with 30 VMs idling

The Bad:

  • The hybrid processor is always a challenge with virtualization
  • Would be great to have (2) M.2 slots
  • DDR5 would have been preferred over DDR4 as with SODIMMs you can upgrade to 96GB RAM with DDR5 as opposed to a max of 64GB RAM with DDR4

You can read my full review and write up on this unit with all the details on the official blog post here:

Wrapping up the top 5 mini PCs for home server in early 2024

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to the top 5 mini PCs for home server in early 2024 and more great options are arriving every day. These top 5 come from my personal experience that I have had hands on experience with so I can verify which hypervisors these can run, etc. There is no question the Minisforum MS-01 provides some of the best features and capabilities of any mini PC that is available in early 2024. Will there be another option that takes the top spot? Only time will tell. Let me know your comments below on these mini PCs and any others you would recommend. Also check out the VHT forums and join some of the interesting threads there.

Subscribe to VirtualizationHowto via Email 🔔

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

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.

Related Articles

10 Comments

  1. I think my dream PC, would be the SM-01 with a Ryzen 9 7845HX.. but with that number of cores, I’d want 4 DIMM slots.

    Maybe somebody will make an SFF sized version, like the Optiplex.

    1. Definitely, would love to see a Ryzen version of the MS-01. RAM has always been a weak point for mini PCs. Would be wonderful to see this form factor get standard DDR5 memory modules.

  2. I would love to entertain the idea of substituting my rack of Dell and Supermicro servers with a tiny, near silent stack of minis, but seriously now… What kind of VMs are you going to run on a host that maxes out at 16G of RAM? My smallest server in terms of RAM weighs in at 192G (and I still complain about that). Besides, what am I going to do with my SAN hosting 72T of storage over twin 40G fiber networks? It’s frustrating, but the technology just isn’t there yet to have your cake and eat it too.

  3. I am surprised you do not have the iKoolcore R2 on this list. This little form factor device can be a straight up firewall or a virtualization host. It rocks a very power efficient CPU and no issues with VMware.

  4. Hi Brandon, I’ve been following your posts for some time
    in relation to Mini PCs for virtuliazation and especially for vmware vsphere.
    Unfortunately, many of the Mini PCs are unsuitable for vsphere because they have a Realtek network adapter.
    If necessary, you can understand Vmware because vsphere for server applications in the enterprise
    Area intended and not for home labs.
    As far as I know, there is theoretically the possibility within
    VMware VMvisor installer ,previously ESXI iso file,
    to add or remove VIBs. Maybe one can
    create a VIB for Realtek.
    My question to you as an experienced virtualizer: Have you heard about it?
    and if so, what is your level of knowledge?
    If we manage to find a solution, I think many people will be happy.
    Greetings from Hamburg
    B.Strassenburg

    1. Bernd,

      This is definitely something that has crossed my mind. However, I am not sure what technical hurdles would be needed to jump through to add the VIBs to a custom ISO. I have thought about looking into this but just haven’t had the bandwidth. Definitely an interesting thought though.

      Brandon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.