So my new desktop PC was delivered in a padded envelope
Published on January 29, 2023
It's been nearly three years since I custom build my last desktop PC. And to be honest, I love that computer. Between the more than good enough AMD Ryzen processor and an AMD Radeon 6800XT GPU, it's fantastic for gaming. Initially, I had an NVIDIA RTX 3080 installed but recently swapped my son for his GPU. He's more into gaming than I am.
Obviously, that much power works for everyday use as well. However, it also uses a lot of power. So I researched some of the latest mini PC options.
I bought a Beelink Mini PC
After deciding what would meet my needs at a modest cost, I spent $299 on a discounted Beelink SER5 Mini PC this past Friday. On Saturday, my new desktop PC arrived... in a padded envelope. Yes, it's that small!
The box alone is smaller than my current GPU, for example. And the best part? While my GPU alone can use anywhere from 200 to 275W, the little Beelink tops out at 50W. More often than not, it's using half of that wattage; the chip inside typically uses 15W, for example, although it can use up to 25W for boosting.
That. Boggles. My. Mind. I need an 850W power supply for my gaming PC due to the CPU and GPU power requirements. So when I use my custom desktop for anything but gaming, I'm drawing far more power than I need.
I'm using less electricity but getting my work done
The Beelink SER5 solves that problem because it's quite capable. Essentially, these small desktops use laptop hardware. And as you know laptops are limited by their battery life, so there are plenty of efficient laptop components out there.
In the case of the SER5, Beelink is using an AMD Ryzen 5600U CPU with 6 cores and 12 thread capability. The clock speeds range from 2.3GHz up to 4.3GHz, as needed. The integrated GPU is an AMD Radeon chipset with 7 cores, each running at 1.8GHz. That's plenty of horsepower for my daily webwork, coding education at Launch School and podcast recording.
This model came with Windows 11 Professional pre-installed and activated, which works perfectly fine. I prefer Linux, however, so I wiped Windows and installed PoP_OS!
I originally planned to swap out the included SSD from the Beelink so that I had a Windows install and license available in the future. I figured, I'll just insert a blank SSD and install Linux. And it's easy to get at the SSD, not to mention the two 8 GB memory modules in the Beelink.
Ultimately, I decided to just wipe Windows 11 and use the included SSD. I don't think I'll need that Windows 11 license. I know PC makers get Windows licenses at a discount but if I have to buy one, it costs $199 for Pro. That's insane when you realize I paid $299 for the included license and the hardware itself.
So far, the Beelink is doing everything I want or need to do in my office on a desktop. I have all of my coding tools installed (Node, VS Code, Git, etc...) and they work as expected. I'll be testing a podcast recording later this week. However, I've been using Audacity to record my podcasts for 17 years so I don't anticipate any issues using it here.
Perhaps best of all? This desktop PC is nearly dead silent! I can barely hear the fan, even when doing some computational heavy tasks. Love it!
Yes you could use this as a gaming PC but...
Just for kicks, I did load up Steam and a few games. I was curious. And the results were about what I expected. To get a consistent 30fps in either The Witcher 3 or Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I had to dial down the resolution and settings quite a bit. But on a budget, these games don't look half bad and they're certainly playable. I won't get into benchmarks and performance for other games because plenty of folks have already done that. Here's a good video overview from that perspective.
Am I happy with this Mini PC? Absolutely! It's more performant than I expected and it meets my main goal of using less electricity in my home office. For the sale price I paid, it's well worth the money.
Speaking of performance and money, Beelink (and other Mini PC makers) already have similar options with both newer Intel and AMD chipsets. You'll pay more, of course, but if gaming is important to you, you'll have a better experience than I did.
There are a ton of choices but for the money, I'd probably look to the $589 Beelink SER6 and watch for a sale price. It's currently $500, for example. You'll get the same memory, storage and Wi-Fi 6E found in my Mini PC but you'll get the AMD Ryzen 5 6600H. That means faster cores and better graphics, although the chipset can use up to 45W of power.
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