This bulky barebones box focuses on gaming, but it’s a capable all-rounder, too
- Can play AAA games at their best
- Wealth of display outputs
While there are no hard and fast rules on how big a mini PC can be, the Magnus R51060 is pushing it. At 128mm tall and 225mm wide, it’s large enough that you could (figuratively speaking) fit three of its rivals inside it at once.
Nevertheless, it’s not quite a complete PC when you get it out of the box. This is another barebones system, so you’ll need to buy a separate M.2 SSD, operating system and some SO-DIMM RAM to get it working.
The good news is that, otherwise, the Magnus ER51060 has the specs of a decent mid-range gaming desktop. There’s an AMD Ryzen 5 1400, a quad-core, eight-thread chip running at 3.2GHz base speed and 3.4GHz boost speed, and a namesake graphics card, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. This is only the 3GB VRAM version, not the slightly more powerful 6GB version, but that’s small potatoes when these internals – on paper – so thoroughly outclass the laptop-grade parts we’ve seen in most other mini PCs.
The Magnus ER51060’s size also makes more sense when you consider these components. Besides being physically larger, desktop-grade CPUs and graphics cards need bigger, better cooling solutions (including more airflow), so Zotac’s system needs to be a bit bulkier in order to run smoothly.
And run smoothly it does. In the interest of fairness, we used the same 4GB of RAM as we did for the Cubi 3 Silent, with which the Magnus ER51060 completed our challenging 4K benchmarks notably faster. It scored 72 in the image test and 79 in the video test, but it’s multitasking prowess that sets Zotac’s effort apart, with a high score of 93. That gives the Magnus ER51060 85 overall.
It’s gaming that the Magnus ER51060 is most concerned with, and with the strength of the GTX 1060 – our favourite mid-range card – behind it, comparisons with what came before feel practically unfair. In our usual test – Dirt: Showdown with High settings at 720p – Zotac’s PC destroyed the non-gaming competition with 133fps. Clearly, it can do a lot better than standard HD, so we upped to 1080p and somehow got an extra frame, with 134fps this time. Upgrading further to the Ultra quality preset only caused a drop to 95fps, which still looks excellent.
We then decided to try Metro: Last Light Redux. Using a 1080p resolution, with Very High settings and SSAA enabled, we got 44fps. That’s on a par with what we’ve seen from the 3GB GTX 1060 in much larger, airier desktops, so the result is clear: if you want a mini PC that can play AAA games at their best, this certainly fits the bill.
The only real problem is high fan noise, which – unsurprisingly – is particularly noticeable during games. It’s not the worst we’ve heard come out of a PC by any means, but it would probably be wise to invest in some headphones or good speakers if you don’t want to be disturbed.
Speaking of which, the mic and headphone jacks are conveniently placed on the front, along with an SD card reader and single USB 3.1 and USB Type-C ports apiece. It’s a good start for connectivity, and it gets better at the back: four USB 3 ports can deal with all your wired peripherals, while dual Ethernet ports mean you can connect to a router and, say, a NAS drive at the same time.
There are also mounting points for the two included Wi-Fi antennas (supporting up to 802.11ac), and the graphics card serves up a wealth of display outputs, with one HDMI, three DisplayPorts and a DVI-D socket.
Of course, before you can get to plugging anything in, you’ll have to install your purchased storage and memory. This is easy enough: first, it’s a matter of flipping over the Magnus ER51060 and removing the four rubber feet, which are in fact disguised thumbscrews. Then just take the bottom panel off, and you can slide the components into the SO-DIMM and M.2 slots.
Upgrade potential is standard for a mini PC: besides the single M.2 slot and two memory slots, the only area of note is an empty 2.5in drive bay, which we’d recommend you fill with a larger hard disk or SSD. The main benefit of the Magnus ER51060’s size when it comes to in-chassis tweaking is the open space, which gave our hands a lot of room to work with.
Lastly, a word on pricing: as with MSI’s barebones system, buying the components and Windows 10 OS we used to test will cost you about £201, pushing the total price up to £800. That’s quite a lot, especially since you can get an Asus VivoMini with dedicated graphics for £637, but our benchmarking shows that this is far more powerful – more than proportionally, to be sure. It’s also cheaper than an Elite Slice, even if you plump for more RAM and an extra 2.5in storage drive, making this an even better choice for the performance-minded.
We still consider the VivoMini slightly better for general home office use – for less than £700, it’s fine not to be such a powerhouse, and it’s a lot more compact. However, when it comes to gaming and serious multitasking, the Magnus ER51060 is a huge success.