Minisforum Venus UN100D mini PC review

Minisforum delivers a useful entry-level NUC

Minisforum Venus UN100D
(Image: © Mark Pickavance)

TechRadar Verdict

A low-powered NAS with dual LAN ports has some potentially useful applications. However, it isn’t something you would want to use daily or to game on, but it's cheap and makes the most of the modest Intel processor.

Pros

  • +

    Inexpensive

  • +

    Dual LAN ports

  • +

    NVME and SATA drive support

Cons

  • -

    Mostly made of plastic

  • -

    Intel N100

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30-second review

Minisforum has garnered a solid reputation for building some truly great NUC designs. However, many of its designs won’t fit the impulse purchase pricing bracket, as most start at around $400 and go higher.

The Minisforum UN100D offers a much more affordable price point, starting at around $200, aimed at those who want a NUC but don’t need it to embarrass any desktop systems nearby.

Like many of the best mini PC units at this price, using the Intel N100 processor and DDR5 memory, it's at the low end of the Intel platform spectrum, and performance expectations should be adjusted accordingly.

That said, this system comes with up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, and it can be upgraded relatively easily to 1TB or 2TB in minutes.

Minisforum supplies it with a small phone-style PSU, a VESA mount and a HDMI cable.

This device's critical selling point is that it uses only 9W of power, making it ideal for embedded applications such as kiosks or hardware firewalls.

The UN100D is less compelling as a daily working PC since the N100 has only four cores, and Windows 11 seems to expect more PCs these days. A machine with more power would be preferable unless you only surf occasionally.

Minisforum Venus UN100D: Price and availability

  • How much does it cost? From $200
  • When is it out? Available now
  • Where can you get it? You can get it directly from Minisforum

Minisforum offers its US customers a slightly better deal than its European counterparts.

Stateside, the three SKUs on offer (8GB/256, 16GB/256 and 16GB/512GB) cost $199, £209 and $219 respectively. And, given the $20 price differential and the fact that you can’t upgrade the memory later, the top SKU is the one to pick.

For UK customers, those prices are £199, £219, and £229, roughly a 25% price hike, and other Europeans pay EU € 219,  € 239, and € 259, about 10% more.

It’s also cheaper in the USA through Amazon.com, discounted to $189.99 for the top 16GB/512GB SKU.

This might seem like a bargain, but looking around most Mini PC brands reveals that N100 machines can be much cheaper. GMKTec has the NucBox G2 12GB/128GB for $139.99. It’s cheaper than the Beelink EQ12, which costs $259 for a 16GB/500GB SKU, and the $249 Geekom Mini Air12, which costs $249 for 16GB/256GB.

The UN100D is cheaper than many but not the cheapest option based on this platform.

One last note. Minisforum has made a UN100L model, which looks very similar in a silver case. Please Don’t confuse the two because the UN100L only has a single gigabit LAN port and uses SATA M.2 storage, not NVMe.

  • Value: 4 / 5

Minisforum Venus UN100D

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Minisforum Venus UN100D: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CPU:Intel Core N100 (4 cores, 4 threads)
GPU:Intel UHD Graphics (32 EU)
RAM:8GB DDR5 (4x 2GB)
Storage:256GB M.2 NVMe Gen 3 (2 lanes), 1x SATA slot for 2.5-inch drive
Ports:2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1x USB 2.0, 3.5mm Audio jack, Mini SD card reader
Display Outputs:1x HDMI 1.4, x1 Display Port, USB-C (3.2 Gen 2)
Networking:2x 2.5GbE LAN, WiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.1
OS:Windows 11 Home
PSU:12V 3A 36W
Dimensions:?105 x 100 x 46 mm
Weight:366g

Minisforum Venus UN100D: Design

  • Thin plastic
  • Easy access
  • Onboard DDR5 memory

Being kind, the UN100D is lightly made, and that’s another way of saying it's mostly plastic.

Considering how thin the sides and underside of this NUC are, we suspect it wouldn’t take much abuse. Using the provided VESA mounting plate is probably a good idea to keep it away from accidental damage.

While thicker sides and stronger materials are always preferable, one aspect that Minisforum engineers got right about this design is internal access.

The four screws to get inside might be under the rubber feet, but these pull out easily, and they aren’t held in place with double-sided tape. Once the screws are removed, the underside comes away, and the user can get to the M.2 slot and also a SATA connector for taking a 2.5-inch hard drive or SSD.

The drive can be screwed to the bottom cover with four holes, and a single power and SATA connector attaches it to the PC. One oddity about this was that in our review hardware, we noticed it rattled before opening it. Once we did, it was revealed that a rubber shoe placed on the end of the power/SATA connector had worked loose in transit and was floating around. So if you get one and it rattles, it might be worth checking for that.

Minisforum Venus UN100D

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Inside our UN100D was a 256GB P110N M.2 drive by the hilariously named GOFATOO brand. There is only one M.2 slot PCIe Gen 3, so any cloning will require a USB to M.2 caddy.

What you can’t access here is the memory, as this is soldered in place on the other side of the motherboard. This surface mounting approach seems to be a common solution for the latest N100 machines, as this system uses the same mounted 4x2GB DDR5 memory configuration as was seen on the Aiffro K100 All-SSD NAS.

The maximum amount of RAM the N100 CPU can address is 16GB. Therefore, if you get one with that much pre-mounted, the fact that you can’t upgrade isn’t much of a loss.

Overall, the UN100D's structure is utilitarian but workable, and internal access is much easier than some overly complicated approaches seen recently.

  • Design: 3.5 / 5

Minisforum Venus UN100D

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Minisforum Venus UN100D: Features

  • Intel N100
  • Limited PCIe Lanes
  • Dual 2.5GbE LAN

It’s easy to hate the N100, as it’s a typical Intel design where all the desirable parts of the product are binned, leaving an oddly emaciated platform on the cusp of being unworkable.

But even with these limitations, the power profile of just 9W makes it good for long-running with limited ventilation.

As I’ve discussed in other N100 machine reviews, the issue is always the limited number of PCIe lanes available, only 9, and how those are allocated.

Minisforum's tactical choices were to have only one M.2 PCIe slot and limit that to just two lanes of PCIe Gen 3, leaving seven lanes for the USB and LAN ports.

That’s why it has three USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, dual 2.5GbE LAN ports, a MicroSD card slot, and a USB 2.0 port.

The direction Minisforum took for the UN100D is not one that works well when using it as a desktop PC, but it is suitable for many jobs that don’t involve spreadsheets, processing, or large internal storage.

The sacrifice from the purchaser's perspective is that without memory upgrades and limited internal storage, this isn’t as flexible a solution as a more powerful platform might offer.

If the UN100D is bought to be a hardware firewall or a Kiosk and then that job ends, it might be more difficult to repurpose this hardware due to some of its restrictions.

For those reasons, the dual 2.5GbE LAN ports are so important, and with USB-C connected external storage, this might be a great little file server.

If you don’t mind buying an NUC for a specific role, that’s fine, but it would be disappointing if many of these were bought, and then they wouldn’t be reused easily when directions change.

The UN100D isn’t a powerhouse or a jack-of-all-trades, but what it offers is useful in the right context.

Minisforum Venus UN100D

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
  • Features: 4 / 5

Minisforum Venus UN100D: Performance

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Mini PCHeader Cell - Column 1 Minisforum UN100DNiPoGi AK2 Plus
CPURow 0 - Cell 1 Intel N100Intel N100
Core/ThreadRow 1 - Cell 1 4/44/4
RAMRow 2 - Cell 1 8GB16GB
StorageRow 3 - Cell 1 256GB GOFATOO P110N512GB SATA SSD
GraphicsRow 4 - Cell 1 UHD Graphics (EU32)UHD Graphics (EU32)
3DMarkWildLife29032618
Row 6 - Cell 0 FireStrike1140998
Row 7 - Cell 0 TimeSpy367331
CineBench23Single862706
Row 9 - Cell 0 Multi18831682
Row 10 - Cell 0 Ratio2.182.38
GeekBenchSingle998854
Row 12 - Cell 0 Multi27481755
Row 13 - Cell 0 OpenCL40913819
Row 14 - Cell 0 Vulkan39903806
CrystalDiskRead MB/s1779559.55
Row 16 - Cell 0 Write MB/s1698492.48
PCMark 10Office29492715
WEIRow 18 - Cell 1 8.06.9

It has been interesting to discover that NUC makers have two potential paths to take with the Intel N100, and classically, these are well represented by the Minisforum UN100D and NiPoGi AK2 Plus.

Looking at the numbers without explanation, with half the memory and the same processor, the Minisforum UN100D is markedly quicker across all the tests. In general, the Minisforum UN100D is around 7-10% quicker at almost everything and better than that in a few disciplines. How is that possible?

Sadly, NiPoGi's cost-cutting choice with the AK2 Plus came back to bite it. It has a single 16GB module, dramatically reducing the bandwidth even though it has twice the memory capacity.

What Minisforum did was to use four 2GB modules for maximum bandwidth, and as the GPU shares memory with the system, the extra bandwidth impacted not only computing tasks but also graphical challenges.

The NiPoGi AK2 Plus was also let down by using a SATA M.2 module, reducing drive performance to less than a third of that in the Minisforum UN100D. Compared to those NUCs with all four PCIe lanes, the Minisforum UN100D is still slow, but it is dramatically better than a SATA SSD.

Seen in isolation, this isn’t a quick system, and it takes a long time to install all the Windows updates when first powered up. But there is enough power to be useful in a suitable context.

In retrospect, this would have been a good solution in a barebones config, maybe with the memory installed but no storage. It would probably run better with Linux on it than with resource-hungry Windows 11, and it might have been even cheaper.

  • Performance: 3 / 5

Minisforum Venus UN100D

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Minisforum Venus UN100D: Verdict

Minisforum Venus UN100D

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

The Intel N100 is a popular solution but has occasionally promised much more than it could deliver. What Minisforum did with the UN100D was to look at this platform as something that could be deployed in a limited role and gave it the ports to exploit those niches best.

The danger is that customers may assume that the UN100D is a drop-in replacement for their current desktop system and be disappointed with the results.

The Intel N100 isn’t a chip desired by gamers or power users, regardless of how it is used, but it can be useful for all-day running systems that perform useful tasks semi-automatically.

If the UN100D stays in that lane, those buying it will be perfectly happy, but straying outside those lines might result in frustration.

Should I buy a Minisforum Venus UN100D?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ValueNot the cheapest N100 NUC, or the most expensive4/5
DesignThin plastic case but a great port selection and easy internal access.3.5/5
FeaturesStrategically kept its limited PCIe lanes for useful ports.3/5
PerformanceIt is a decent performer for an N100, but it is never going to be powerful3/5
OverallsIt is a good idea that chose the wrong processor and overpriced the result.3.5/5

Buy it if...

You need a hardware firewall
The dual LAN configuration and the pre-installed OS make the UN100D excellent for a Firewall, although it might be better with Ubuntu on it.

Sitting between all data traversing from the internet to the internal network is the ideal role for this 9W mini PC.

The system will be running all day
With such a low power profile, the UN100D lends itself to those embedded function jobs such as displaying video and still images on a Kiosk or monitoring security cameras.

Don't buy it if...

You want high performance
With four cores and no hyperthreading, the N100 isn’t a performance king and doesn’t deliver a great user experience as an office PC. It might be cheap, but the loss in productivity will more than offset the price over something better.

You are looking for a bargain
There are much cheaper N100-based NUCs available

Also consider

Image

Geekom Mini Air12
Another N100-based NUC, this time by Geekom. In this design, the M.2 slot has four PCIe lanes, making the SSD much faster, and it has slotted DDR5 memory. For those enhancements, it's about $50 more than the UN100D, and it has only a single LAN port and fewer USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports.

Check out our Geekom Mini Air12 review


Mark Pickavance

Mark is an expert on 3D printers, drones and phones. He also covers storage, including SSDs, NAS drives and portable hard drives. He started writing in 1986 and has contributed to MicroMart, PC Format, 3D World, among others.