In this review, we are checking out the MSI CUBI 5 12M. This is a mini PC featuring the Intel 12th generation processors and a much appreciated Intel Thunderbolt 4 support. Price is at ₱26,990 PHP for the Intel Core i5 variant.
The Cubi 5 12M comes in three major configurations, with ours featuring the Intel Core i5-1235U processor. This is a semi barebones system so you need a memory and storage to make it work. It is also not aimed for the consumers alone, with its feature set much better relegated to prosumers or more specifically, system builders and SMBs. That said, please curb your expectations.
Disclosure: MSI sent the Cubi 5 12M for the purpose of this review. The brand did not ask me to say anything particular about it.
- Product Page: MSI Cubi 5 12M
- Price: ₱26,990 PHP (MSRP)
- Release Date: Q1 2023
|CPU Support||Intel Core i7-1255U, Core i5-1235U, Intel Core i3-1215U|
|Chipset||Intel Alder Point M/P|
|Speed||3200 MT/s (max)|
|Capacity||64 GB (max)|
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe (Core i5, i7 in Dual Channel), UHD (Core i3)|
|SATA||SATA III (2.5″)|
|M.2||PCIe 4.0 x4|
|LAN||Realtek RTL8111H, Realtek RTL8125BG-CG|
|WLAN||Intel Wireless AX211|
|Bluetooth||Intel Wireless Bluetooth 5.3|
|USB||USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, USB 3.2 Gen 2, 6x USB 3.2 Gen 1|
|Front IO / Internal|
|USB||2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type A, Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type C)|
|Audio||3.5 mm TRRS (In/Out)|
Packaging and Accessories
MSI had the Cubi 5 12M packed inside a compact no nonsense packaging.
Scope of delivery are as follows:
- MSI Cubi 5 12M
- Power adapter
- Power cord
- Power switch extender
- SATA flex cable
- VESA mount bracket
- Storage mounting screws
- Quick Start Guide
Minimal but well thought of bundles. What you should expect from a business oriented device.
External Design, Build and Connectivity
The MSI Cubi 5 12M across all available models will look the same. That said, it is a small device – almost palm size and is devoid of unnecessary styling. Front I/O is pretty much typical for a package of its size with a 3.5mm TRRS jack, dual USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports and an Intel Thunderbolt 4 USB Type-C port.
The back panel is perforated and has mounting holes for the VESA bracket and the storage bay for 2.5 inch drives. Rest of the branding are also here which is in line with the design philosophy of the product.
Now the rear I/O is actually decent considering we have the rest of the USB ports at the front. Here also lies the dual LAN ports – a combination of 1 GbE and 2.5 GbE LAN. They are not capable of teaming according to MSI but they are intended for security or other network applications. You basically have the Thunderbolt 4 up front which is on its own, capable of reaching 10 GbE speeds. Should one fail, you always have a back-up along with the Wi-Fi connectivity.
External design, build and connectivity are on point.
Internal Design, Build and Connectivity
The MSI Cubi 5 12M comes with four captive screws. Once removed, you will be greeted by the SO-DIMM slots and a provision for a PCIe 4.0 x4 SSD in an M.2 2280 format. We obviously have some components already installed here as per MSI’s request that we test the unit with their stuff.
This is a semi barebone product so what you will receive brand spanking new is actually pictured below. For B2B, I wager it is possible to have this boxed with components that needed to meet a certain configuration. Now the Intel Core i5-1235U is situated at the other side of this mainboard along with its active cooler. This design is both space and thermal efficient.
Another thing worth noting here are the flex header for the 2.5 inch SATA storage and the pins for the external power button.
MSI had the Cubi 5 12M configured with their Click BIOS. It is way too simple compared to what I used to see.
M-Flash is where you want to go if you need to flash the actual firmware of the motherboard or the Intel Management Engine.
If you have a network drive or if you actually want to use this as a thin client, you could easily set the Cubi 5 for that purpose.
The Click BIOS is pretty basic. I guess there’s nothing much to complain because there’s barely anything to see.
Test Setup and Methodology
Our test setup relies on the measurements taken from industry standard benchmark tools and real-world applications. It is important to note that we are testing the review sample after burn-in, with at least 24-hours of uptime. This is done so to negate the FOTB (fresh out the box) state of the DUT (device under test), yielding better benchmarking consistency.
|Test System Specifications|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-1235U|
|Memory||SK Hynix DDR4-3200 16 GB (Single Channel)|
|Storage||Kingston NV2 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe 2 TB|
|OS||Microsoft Windows 11 Pro 64-bit|
*Intel Iris XE doesn’t work in single channel configuration.
The DUT is tested with the following configuration from our test system:
- UEFI configuration: Default
- Windows Power Plan: Balanced
Calculation time is measured in seconds (s). The test aims to evaluate the arithmetic performance with Super PI.
Calculation time is measured in seconds (s). The test aims to evaluate the arithmetic performance with wPrime.
Arithmetic performance seems proper for the Intel Core i5-1235U along with a single stick of DDR4-3200 memory. This could be higher with a dual channel memory kit.
Cinebench score is measured in points (pts). The test aims to evaluate the 3D rendering performance with Cinebench R20.
V-Ray score is measured in samples (vSamples). The test aims to evaluate the 3D rendering performance with V-Ray 5 Benchmark.
Rendering performance is decent but I guess this is where a second stick of memory could help.
Digital Content Creation
Editing time is measured in seconds (s). The test aims to evaluate the digital content creation performance with RealBench and its built-in GIMP benchmark.
Encoding time is measured in seconds (s). The test aims to evaluate the digital content creation performance with RealBench and its built-in HandBrake benchmark.
Performance here is rather good. This is actually desktop level performance and is comparable to a Core i5-9600 as far as my memory is concerned.
Video conferencing score is measured in points (pts). The test aims to evaluate the video performance with PCMark 10 and its built-in essentials benchmark.
Web browsing score is measured in points (pts). The test aims to evaluate the web performance with PCMark 10 and its built-in essentials benchmark.
Pretty good benchmark results we got here.
Writing score is measured in points (pts). The test aims to evaluate the productivity performance with PCMark 10 and its built-in productivity benchmark.
Spreadsheet score is measured in points (pts). The test aims to check the productivity performance with PCMark 10 and its built-in productivity benchmark.
Yet another decent benchmark score.
Compression throughput is measured in kilobyte per second (KB/s). The test aims to evaluate the compression performance with WinRAR and its built-in benchmark.
Instruction speed is measured in giga-instructions per second (GIPS). The test aims to evaluate the compression performance with 7-Zip and its built-in benchmark.
Now compression results are actually middling which is most likely related to our single channel memory configuration.
Frame rate is measured in frames per second (FPS). The test aims to evaluate the gaming performance with Final Fantasy XVI: Endwalker Benchmark.
Frame rate is measured in frames per second (FPS). The test aims to evaluate the gaming performance with Sid Meier’s Civilization VI and its built-in benchmark.
The Intel UHD graphics struggles here and I highly doubt it is going to do better with comparable titles.
Storage throughput is measured in megabytes per second (MB/s). The test aims to evaluate the storage performance with CrystalDiskMark.
We could only max out the Thunderbolt 4 with USB 3.2 Gen 2 so storage performance is appropriate for the interfaces tested.
THD+Noise level is measured in decibels relative to full scale (dBFS). The test aims to evaluate the audio performance with Room EQ Wizard.
Audio performance could be better when THD+Noise is concerned. The device peaked at around -53 dBFS which is concerning so I wouldn’t use its Realtek powered combo jack for audio critical stuff.
LAN throughput is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The test aims to evaluate the network performance with LAN Speed Test and LST Server.
Wireless throughput is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The test aims to evaluate the network performance with LAN Speed Test and LST Server.
Wired 2.5 GbE network performance is actually pretty good but wireless read is a bit middling for the 5 GHz band.
Kernel timer latency is measured in microseconds (μs). The test aims to evaluate the Deferred Procedure Call latency with LatencyMon.
Highest recorded here is the DirectX Graphics Kernel but we average under 200 μs with that one excluded.
Temperature is measured in degree celcius (ºC). The test aims to evaluate the thermal output with OCCT and its built-in Power Test.
Now while CPU temperature at idle could be lower, the maximum sustained temperature we got is 66 ºC . Pretty good for something with a dinky heatsink and fan combination I must say.
Power is measured in watts (W). The test aims to evaluate the power consumption with OCCT and its built-in Power Test.
The Cubi 5 12M stays at around 13.4 W when it is idling and peaks at about 31.5 W when at load. Pretty good results we got here to be honest.
Sound pressure level is measured in decibels (dBA). The test aims to evaluate the noise output with OCCT and its built-in Power Test.
Noise level is good under minimal load but when it needs the fan to blast, it peaks at 39.8 dBA. Not bad overall but I felt like the fan curve is too steep.
The MSI Center is a pretty basic application but it does what it needs to do for the Cubi. Here, you could create a hierarchy for apps you use the most so they get the priority over the others. the MSI also supports application based traffic shaping but on a very basic level.
Now the size of the Cubi 5 makes it a perfect system for an office cubicle or behind a huge 8K TV. It is exactly made for such purposes, even able to be mounted on any available VESA mount behind a compatible display.
While we are not able to test it, the Intel Thunderbolt 4 is a feature I always consider when looking for notebooks or even motherboards due to their innate ability to interface with other devices.
The MSI Cubi 5 12M at ₱26,990 PHP is a tough price to chew for a semi barebone Mini PC all on its own. However at the right hands, it is no a secret that the Cubi 5 has the necessary features and performance that goes beyond the norm of its displacement.
Simply put, the Cubi 5 is made to seamlessly integrate anywhere; be it for homes, public and private sectors. Use it as a media center for your home theater, a secondary PC for your office or plug its Thunderbolt 4 with an eGPU to play the latest titles. The possibilities are almost limitless.
In closing, the MSI Cubi 5 12M might not be for everyone due to its price. But, for its intended purpose and for the prosumers who needs exactly what it could provide, I am confident enough to give it a recommendation.
MSI Cubi 5 12M
The MSI Cubi 5 12M is certainly not for everyone but at the right hands, tenders or projects requiring such a device, it is hard to pass.