An elegant design that is slightly let down with an American PSU and a cheap NVMe drive. Another issue is that the very similarly specified AMR5 is a good bit cheaper and a little quicker overall.
AMD Ryzen 5 or 7 powered
Easy access to the internals
M.2 and SATA storage
Not ideal for gaming
Intel 660p storage
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BOSGAME U56 Mini PC: Two minute review
Here is the BOSGAME U56 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600U
Graphics: Radeon Graphics
RAM: 16GB DDR4 RAM (Expandable to 64GB)
Storage: M.2 2280 512GB NVMe SSD
Ports: 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (10Mbit), 2x HDMI 2.0, 1x universal audio jack
Connectivity: Dual-Band WiFi 6, 1x Gigabit LAN adapter, Bluetooth 5.1
Size: 132.9 x 156.1 x 71.8 mm (W x D x H)
OS installed: Licensed Windows 11 Pro.
Accessories: PSU Adapter12V/3A, HDMI cable, SATA Cable
In the past few years, AMD has made inroads into areas that Intel traditionally controlled almost entirely. One of these markets is for mini PCs, where the efficiency of AMD mobile silicon is highly competitive when compared with some recent lacklustre Intel generations.
What’s interesting is how the BOSGAME U56 is different from the Acemagician AMR5 we recently covered, another machine that uses the latest AMD Ryzen mobile platform to good effect.
Our review machine uses the Ryzen 5 5600U CPU, but BOSGAME also makes this same chassis with a Ryzen 7 or the Intel i5 1135G7 processor installed.
By default, our review hardware came with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of M.2 NVMe storage, and Windows 11 Pro comes pre-installed on the drive.
Being a NUC SFF, this machine can be easily mounted to the rear of a monitor using an included bracket. And it comes with shortened HDMI cables to create a neat job of turning any unused monitor into an all-in-one system.
For those unfamiliar with the latest AMD Ryzen platforms, this isn’t a chip that can be compared to the cheaper Intel N5000 or N6000 series architectures. It is significantly more powerful and closer to the Core-i5 or Core-i7 mobile products when clock speeds and cores are considered.
What the U56 offers is sufficient performance to easily run office applications and have multiple apps open without taxing the system.
Because the system isn’t battery-powered, and there is plenty of ventilation, it also doesn’t have the thermal throttling and performance reductions that laptops often experience.
For those that want more memory or increased storage, the U56 can be opened easily, and it has socketed RAM, M.2 NVMe storage and a 2.5-inch SATA bay for a conventional HDD or SSD.
The single M.2 slot forces the use of an external drive or SSD caddy to clone the existing system to a bigger drive, but it’s a relatively straightforward process for those with the technical skills to do it.
There are only a couple of things about the U56 we didn’t care for.
One of these is that chosen storage device is the Intel 660p, notorious for having poor write performance for an NVMe device. Almost any modern PCIe 3.0 NVMe drive is superior to this drive, and it isn’t an expensive upgrade.
Another issue is a regional PSU that our review machine came with. It was a US-bladed PSU designed to go directly into a wall outlet, and therefore not easy to put a UK (or EU) adapter on.
This choice might be part of the reason that the U56 is widely available in America, but not in Europe.
Other brands are using laptop PSUs, and then just supplying regionalised power cables, and we wish BOSGAME would take this approach.
These two points aside, the U56 is a good system with plenty of performance for those wanting to work from home.
BOSGAME U56 Mini PC: Price and availability
- How much does it cost? $430/ £375
- When is it out? It is available now
- Where can you get it? Can be found on Amazon.com, and other online retailers
Finding this machine in the USA is easy since it is listed on Amazon.com, but locating it elsewhere is more of a challenge, especially in Europe.
Hopefully, BOSGAME will expand the international retail channels to include extra regions and make the U56 more widely available.
- Value: 4/ 5
BOSGAME U56 Mini PC: Design
- VESA mountable
- Only one NVMe M.2 port
- Special SATA cable
The U56 follows a well-trodden NUC path where the machine is effectively on two layers, with the user-accessible part on the bottom and the cooling solution on the top.
For engineers, this seems admirably organised, as heat will naturally rise in the PC to a level where it can be removed.
To help with airflow, many of the outer surfaces are made of fine mesh metal, enabling air to move easily through the structure.
A small mounting plate is included with the machine that can be used to VESA mount it to the back of a monitor, and some short HDMI cables are also in the box for this purpose.
Four screws on the underside release the base and provide access to the NVMe slot and DDR4 memory. This reveal showed both good and bad component choices BOSGAME had made when they built this system.
The positive revelation was branded Kingston RAM, but this was tempered by the appearance of the Intel 660p SSD, a below-average performer.
That drive is replaceable by the customer, but that would involve cloning the existing install or reinstalling Windows to a fresh drive.
What this system lacks, compared with the Acemagican AMR5, is that it only has a single NVMe drive, with the second storage option here being SATA.
We have mixed feelings about this since it does provide a simple means to turn the U56 into a media server with a decent (up to 5TB) capacity, but with much lower performance than an NVMe drive.
The flip side of this choice is that the SATA port takes up much less bandwidth, allowing for three 10Gbit USB ports on this hardware, creating even greater expansion options.
The M.2 and SATA combination here isn’t as convenient for upgrading the NVMe drive, but in other respects, it’s a better decision due to the PCIe Lane limitations of the system.
Our only concern is that instead of using standard SATA connectors, BOSGAME used special ones that connect SATA and power in a single cable. Should this cable be lost or broken, replacements could be a significant issue.
As for the choice of AMD over Intel, the Ryzen 5 series are excellent performers, with the only caveat being that the Vega-based Radeon GPU is looking long in the tooth compared with newer Iris XE and ARC options with Intel.
- Design: 4 / 5
BOSGAME U56 Mini PC: Features
- Powerful AMD CPU
- Slow NVMe
- No SD Card slot
The U56 is the second AMD Ryzen mini PC we’ve seen recently using the Ryzen 5 5600U processor. It’s easily comparable with mobile Intel Core i5 designs and substantially more powerful than the commonly used Intel N5095/5105 and N6211 chips.
The high performance is more understandable when you realise that this is a six-core and twelve-thread CPU with a base clock of 2.3GHz and a turbo clock speed of up to 4.2GHz.
The Intel Core i7-1195G7 is technically marginally faster, but that’s a much more expensive chip and isn’t often seen on systems that cost less than $600.
The weakness of this solution is that AMD didn’t improve the integrated GPU to reflect the extra power of the Zen 3 architecture processor, creating something of an imbalance.
But for office applications, there is more power than is needed, and with 16GB of RAM, the U56 multitasks smoothly between foreground and background tasks.
Where it could be better is with the choice of NVMe drive. The Intel 660p doesn’t offer the greatest write speeds, with write performance under 1,000MB/s. Switching this NVMe for a better one could easily see a tripling of write performance and a doubling of read speed.
One mild annoyance is that while the USB options on this machine are generally excellent, BOSGAME missed the inexpensive opportunity to add an SD Card slot.
Its omission is a shame since the U56 is ideally featured for working with captured images and even video. It’s easy enough to add this functionality to one of the USB ports, but only at additional expense.
BOSGAME U56 Mini PC: Performance
- Good performer
- Radeon needs an overhaul
- Intel 660p is a performance anchor
Here's how the BOSGAME U56 scored in our suite of benchmark tests:
3DMark Wild Life: 5928; Fire Strike: 3035; Time Spy: 1183;
Cinebench R23 CPU pts: 1376 (single-core); 6064 (multi-core)
GeekBench 5: 1421(single-core); 5697 (multi-core), 13512 (OpenCL)
CrystalDiskMark: Sequential Read: 1840MB/s; Sequential Write: 970 MB/s
PCMark 10 (Office Test): 5585
Windows Experience Index: 8.1
Compared to the Intel Iris XE, the Vega GPU lacks compute performance, and this is reflected in the benchmark scores.
As an example, the Beelink SEi11 Pro powered by the Core i5-11320H and Iris XE GPU achieves a score of over 11,000 on the 3DMark Wild Life test. Where Ryzen and Vega combination only nudges 6,000. That’s all down to the Iris XE and its superior rendering speeds.
Across several of the benchmarks, the lack of GPU power is a common theme.
However, it doesn’t impact much on the raw CPU power on offer, and for general office tasks, the U56 is probably a little excessive.
The other issue that we’ve already mentioned is that the intel 660p does the U56 few favours, with below-average read and write speeds. When you consider that this is an NVMe drive connected over PCIe, we’ve seen USB-connected external SSDs that can write faster than this can.
Replacing that one component would probably address some of the benchmark deficits that are evident between this machine and the similarly specified Acemagician AMR5.
- Performance: 4 / 5
If BOSGAME put a better NVMe drive in the U56, there would be very little to complain about in this design. It’s not suitable for gaming, but for office applications and general use, it has plenty of power and can easily be repurposed to be a media server, firewall, or a dozen other functions.
Its only other weakness is general availability, as it appears to be exclusively available in the USA at this time. If BOSGAME could fix those two points, they might sell plenty of this highly flexible NUC.
BOSGAME U56 Mini PC: Report card
|Lots of power for the asking price, but more expensive than some competitors
|4 / 5
|A simple but effective design that keeps the system cool and quiet.
|4 / 5
|Lots of USB ports and dual HDMI make this a flexible solution.
|4 / 5
|Excellent performance and plenty of headroom for loading and running demanding apps.
|4 / 5
|A great NUC design built around a solid AMD platform
|4 / 5
Should you buy a BOSGAME U56 Mini PC?
Buy it if...
Flexibility is important
With M.2, SATA storage, and three USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, this machine has tons of potential to be expanded in many different ways.
Greater than Office app performance is needed
While it has GPU limitations, the U56 offers more power than a low-specification desktop or cheaper NUC. This hardware can cope with office tasks easily.
VESA mounting is desirable
Being able to attach this system to a monitor and create an ad hoc all-in-one machine is a typical NUC feature, and this system includes that.
Don't buy it if...
Intel hardware is important
Some people, mostly for historical reasons, are still invested in Intel, where the U56 uses AMD. To get this performance level will cost more from Intel, but that’s a choice you make.
You need a discrete GPU
The limitation of a NUC enclosure is that there is no PCIe slot or room to mount a video card. If you want to game or work on CAD, then this machine, or any other NUC, isn’t for you.
You want to game on this PC
The Ryzen 5 CPU is a monster, but the Radeon GPU in the U56 isn’t anything special. The demands of modern game titles and the resolutions they are designed for aren’t a good fit with the capabilities of this system.
Beelink SEi11 Pro
The SEi11 Pro uses the Core i5-11320H processor, reducing the cost to less than $350. A strong CPU and GPU combination make this an effective alternative if you can live without the dual M.2 slots in the AMR5.
Check out our Beelink SEi11 Pro review
A NUC built around the same AMD Ryzen 5 5600U processor that offers plenty of great features, including dual M.2 slots. It can’t be VESA mounted, but it is cheaper and a little faster overall.
Check out our Acemagician AMR5 review
Apple Mac Mini M1 (2020)
For those that like Apple products, the Mac Mini M1 is effectively the only choice in its mini PC category. At nearly $700, you pay for that privilege, as expected. This machine can’t be upgraded, and a replacement was due this year but has so far failed to materialise.
Read our full Apple Mac Mini M1 (2020) review
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.
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