Modern mini desktop computers are the size of a router, but their hardware is not inferior in performance to the regular desktop. The MSI PRO DP21 mini computer PC is equipped with 12th-generation Intel processors, an up-to-date set of interfaces, and is upgradeable. Our MSI PRO DP21 review unit is the base configuration model – we tell you what it’s capable of.
Computers, as you know, are used not only for 4K ray-traced gaming but also for home or office tasks. There are even more options in this than in the gaming segment – for example, instead of a bulky “box”, you can choose a compact nettop. It saves both desk space and power while providing the same performance as the classic model.
Myths about the limited capabilities of small PCs in terms of interfaces and upgrades are no longer relevant. They haven’t fewer ports than many traditional system units, and you can add RAM or change drives without any problems. As for the processor, it also changes every five years in the desktop, and with the rest of the filling.
The MSI PRO DP21 12M is positioned as a business-class PC, but its strict design will easily fit into a home interior. The case’s dimensions are only 204 x 208 x 54.8 mm, and the internal volume is 2.3 liters. When installed vertically, such a device will take up even less space than a router. And if you wish, you can completely fix it on the back cover of the monitor, turning it into a monoblock.
The design of the small desktop computer does not affect the number of interfaces. The narrow front panel houses four USB Type-A and microphone and headphone jacks. Four more USBs (one of which is Type-C), as well as Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, and the classic audio jack are placed on the back. This is more than enough for everyday work, and for business tasks, there is one COM port (or two at once, depending on the configuration).
Wireless capabilities are represented by Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 modules. The latter is useful for peripherals: by connecting a wireless keyboard, mouse, and headphones, you can easily tidy up your desk, and get rid of the extra cables that always become a chore in our lives.
This small PC from MSI is available in several versions with 12th Gen Intel Core processors. Our MSI PRO DP21 review unit is powered by the Core i3-12100 CPU. It is a quad-core chip with a maximum clock speed of 4.3GHz. Starting with the 10th generation, the processors of this series received Hyper-Threading, so in terms of performance, it is more appropriate to compare them with the old Core i5, and not with modern computers.
The stock fan cooler cools the CPU, which can be found in the desktop box. There is no forced draft, but there is a perforation on the side wall. This decision looks quite justified, given the relatively cool nature of the configuration and the lack of discrete graphics. Under light loads, the fan runs almost silently.
The RAM in the older version of the PC is 8GB with one module. This is enough for text, web surfing, and working with several office applications. And if necessary, at least 64 GB in dual-channel will fit under the hood – the motherboard has two slots for SO-DIMM modules of the DDR4 standard.
Upgrading the drive won’t be a problem either. By default, a 256 GB SSD is installed in one of the two M.2 slots. It can be supplemented with another with the same connector, as well as add a pair of 2.5-inch SSD or HDD with SATA interface in a dedicated “basket”. In all these cases, you do not need to mess with reinstalling the OS.
The integrated Intel UHD 730 graphics in the processor is responsible for the multimedia capabilities of the PC. It lacks stars from the sky in benchmarks, but its capabilities are more than enough for everyday work. It can also play 4K video, and if you wish, you can even cut yourself into undemanding games with an acceptable frame rate, unless you have to lower the settings.
MSI PRO DP21 12M specifications
- OS: Windows 11 Home
- CPU: Intel® Core™ i7-12700, i5-12400, i3-12100
- Chipset: Intel® H610
- GPU: Intel® UHD Graphics
- Storage: 1x M.2 SSD (PCIe/ SATA auto switch), 2x 2.5″ HDD / SSD
- Memory: 2x DDR4 2666/ 3200MHz SO-DIMMs, up to 64GB
- Ports: FRONT – 4x USB 2.0 Type A, 1x Mic-in, 1x Headphone-out / REAR – 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type A, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type A, 1x RJ45, 1x HDMI out (2.0), 1x DisplayPort (1.4), 1x COM port, 1x Mic-in, 1x Line-out
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2 (AC 3168) / Bluetooth 5.2 (AX201), Intel Wireless (AC 3168) / Wi-Fi 6 (AX201), Realtek® RTL8111H
- Cooling system: Fan Cooler
- AC Adapter / PSU: 120W
- VESA mount: 100 x 100 mm
- Dimensions: 204 x 208 x 54.8 mm
- Weight: 1.27 Kg / 2.80 lbs
MSI PRO DP21 review test
MSI PRO DP 21 12M comes with both no OS and Windows 11. In the second case, of the pre-installed software, there are only drivers and a proprietary utility for monitoring the operation of the hardware. The operating system also works smartly, and there are no complaints about the browser. But when you open hundreds of tabs in Chrome, the lack of RAM is felt. However, this can be corrected by installing an additional module.
Tested in the scenarios for which its hardware is designed, keeping in mind the office profile of the computer. As expected, the compact system launched a set of everyday applications without difficulty. There were no issues with the 4K video when viewed on YouTube or locally from a flash drive. For the sake of interest, we also tested some games – looking at the results, it should be borne in mind that the PC configuration was initially not gaming. But the built-in graphics allow you to spend a couple of hours playing the classics or spreading cards in Hearthstone.
The MSI PRO DP21 12M is a complete choice for office and home PCs in a compact package. Despite its modest dimensions, it can solve the same tasks as much more bulky desktops, neither in hardware nor in a set of interfaces. Mini-PC will be the best solution for a small desktop and free up space from unnecessary wires. And the ability to upgrade RAM and drives will allow the nettop to stay relevant for more than one year.
Price and availability
MSI Pro DP21 12M mini computer PC pricing starts from $479, and it can be pre-ordered through the Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk websites.