18 Nov 2021 - by 'Maurits van der Schee'
I've replaced my Intel NUC i5 with something more powerful (ASRock DeskMini A300 case with a Ryzen 3 3200G processor), see my original post Ultimate NUC killer under 500. It worked wonders, but I wanted even more performance at my fingertips, so I replaced the ASRock DeskMini A300 with a X300 (it's successor) and the Ryzen 3 3200G with a Ryzen 7 5700G processor. Also I've used a black instead of a brown Noctua low profile CPU cooler and installed 64GB RAM instead of 16GB. Like previous build it is super fast and not too noisy. I run Xubuntu 20.04 LTS and it works great (although you may prefer a newer kernel for improved video performance), I'm very pleased with the results!
This build has a 3.8Ghz, (4.8Ghz turbo) octa core instead of a 3.6Ghz (4.0Ghz turbo) quad core CPU (5700G vs. 3200G). It has a 3500 MB/s 2TB PCIe 4.0 based NVMe instead of a 1800 MB/s 1TB disk (Samsung 970 EVO Plus 2TB vs Intel 660p 1TB).
145 EUR - Asrock DeskMini X300 - SFF barebone 239 EUR - G.Skill DDR4 SODIMM Ripjaws 2x32GB 3200MHz - Memory 229 EUR - Samsung 970 EVO Plus 2TB NVMe - Solid state drive 339 EUR - AMD Ryzen 7 5700G processor - Processor 49 EUR - Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 chromax.black - CPU cooler -------- 1001 EUR (including VAT)
NB: The above prices are based on the offering of Dutch web-shops for PC parts, such as "Megekko", "Azerty" and "Alternate", at the time of writing of this post.
I love having 8 cores and 64 GB of RAM and an ultra-fast 2TB disk, it makes working with virtual machines and docker a lovely experience. You can also run many browser tabs and electron applications simultaneously without running out of RAM. It sure is overkill for the things I typically do (mostly programming).
If you compare this machine with a Intel NUC 11 Performance (quad core i7), then this machine wins easily in specifications, performance and absolute price. The form factor of 1.8 liter is larger than the Intel NUC, but it is also quieter, thanks to the excellent Noctua fan. I really wonder who would buy the NUC when you can have this much more computer for so much less money (the barebone NUC 11 Performance goes for 819 EUR at the time of writing, totaling at 1287 EUR with the same components).
It was a lot of fun to build the computer and I'm really impressed with the price/performance ratio of the machine. I don't think I ever owned such a powerful machine at such a small form factor. Downsides of this machine are the small number of USB ports (3x normal USB and 1x USB-C), the lack of WiFi (can be added, but I don't need it) and relatively high idle power usage (I just turn it off when I don't use it).
You can experiment with newer kernels from the Ubuntu Kernel PPA or you can upgrade to Xubuntu 21.10 for the latest official Xubuntu release. I prefer to run 20.04 with a slightly newer kernel, but installing 21.10 is probably a lot easier. Installing a new(er) kernel is less cumbersome when you use a tool like "Mainline", but is also not really hard when you learn to do it "by hand".