I need advices for a new stage PC setup. Mini-ITX? Mini-PC?

Hi everyone,

I’ll upgrade very soon my gig setup for my electronic wind instrument.
I’m currently using an old pro laptop from 2012, HP Elitebook 8460p.
It’s a i5-2410M - 2.3 GHz with 2 SSD (one with OS+GP4 and one with VSTs) with 8Go DDR3 RAM
It’s been optimised as much as I could (thanks, GP guide ! :wink: ), running on Windows 10 LTSC and dedicated to the stage. The audio interface is a Fireface UC and I play with 2.2ms latency (really important for wind instrument with fast tongue-attacks)
Until now, I had really few problems as my instrument is monophonic and I 'm not using samples VST, only Synth VST.
I’m using 1, 2 or 3 layer maximum of Diva from u-he and/or Respiro from Imoxplus + one mic-IN with comp + delay + reverb for my classical flute
My CPU climb until 45% max with Diva in “Great accuracy”, and up to 70% with Diva in “Divine accuracy” (that I use only for studio recording)

Here’s my actual rack:

On my last Saturday gig, I had to reboot the computer in a middle of a song. The PC was fully frozen.
This summer, I have 2 really important shows with my progressive rock band and I’m scared of a PC break-down. I’m really concerned with a new situation: I’ll have to play in the mid of august, with the soundcheck at 16 PM when it’s really hot here in the south of France. My actual rack have a 12cm fan under but I’m doubting it could be enough.

I can’t trust on the reliability of this laptop anymore and I want to upgrade to something a bit more powerful. Here’s my concerns:

:point_right: being able to play 3 layers of Monophonic mini-moog VST (DIVA) and an additional keyboard that we plan to add to our performances (played, maximum with 3 tones chords of Mellotron VST or Hammond B3 VST by our singer.)
:point_right: Easily reparable if I have to change something at the last moment or on a tour.
:point_right: I already have the 2 small recent SSD of 128Go (I don’t need more) so I think a PC mounting would be best.
:point_right: under 800-1000€

I thought to go for a Mini-ITX. Is water cooling really necessary ?
Is there a risk for a second-hand case + power supply + water cooling ?
I wondered if a Mini-PC would do that but I’m doubting about the cooling capacities.
I don’t want anymore a laptop as they are too expensive, not really upgradable and not easily repairable.
I’m also happy not to have a bulky rack at my feet. I plan to have a 10" touch screen on my microphone stand (as it could also replace the small tablet that controls my in-ear mix by the way)

I’ve read theses topics, but they all concern keyboard players with more demand due to polyphony and samples.
My custom 2u PC live rig (My custom 2u PC live rig)
How does this small form factor proposed build look? (How does this small form factor proposed build look?)
3 mini PC options (3 mini PC options)

So, any advise, reference of gear? Which famous and reliable mini ITX MoBo ? 16Go should be enough for my use and my budget, is’t it? DDR4 is enough ?

Have a nice days guys !


Not sure what your budget is, but I have one of the Geekom mini PCs. I like AMD so I went that route. I have an AS6 model – which I don’t think is sold any longer (purchased about a year ago). 8 cores and 32GB DDR5 ram and it’s a 3.3 processor speed with turbo speeds of 4.x something. Getting something like this future proofs yourself (for a while). I’ve had no issues – you don’t need water cooling for these PCs (it’s not an option). I’ve played many gigs with it – paired with a Focusrite 4i4 3rd gen sound card. I’m very pleased with its performance. I say “future proof” yourself for a while, because if you play piano VSTs – as they release new models, they take up more and more processing power and memory. As I stated in another thread… Synthogy Ivory III has ridiculous minimum specs (my mini-pc is at the minimum specs) and to play it without problems, I have to shut some of it’s advanced features off. This has nothing to do w/GP, it’s just that the plugin requires ridiculous power to run. I also have a 10" touch screen monitor that I put on my keyboard – same size as an Ipad. The monitor was cheap through Amazon and works great. Hope this helps.

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Thanks @mikelupo, it’s interesting. It’s not available anymore but I see a second-hand one that as been used 1day for a tech mag review, for 700€. It could be in my price range, not much more.
Could you describe your usage with it? How many VST?, mono or polyphonic?, sampler?, etc…

It’s just a bit curious for me: the Fireface UC sound card would be bigger than the PC ! seems mad ! :slightly_smiling_face:

About the temperature, would you trust it for 2 hours of show by 40°C ? (104°F) Has somebody experienced such thing?

In my search, I saw also the GEEKOM Mini Air12 - Intel N100 3.4GHz - RAM 16Go, SSD 512 Go I wonder if it would enough.

In my case, I think I should focus on the CPU speed before the RAM as my main usage is synth VST.

Well I can’t comment on anything I don’t own – but I can add this. “About the temperature, would you trust it for 2 hours of show by 40°C ? (104°F) Has somebody experienced such thing?” Is that the outdoor temp!? Anything electronic is susceptible to failure at that temp. If you are asking about the PC temp – again, I have had no problems with my mini-PC. In fact, one 2 hour gig I played outside, My Ipad quit working as it said “temperature too hot” – however my PC was humming along. I run a ton of VSTs – from pianos, organs, all the Korg VSTs – and lots of layers all at the same time as I’m in a yacht rock band. I don’t do Kontakt. As far as that 2nd hand AS6 for 700Euros – that sounds high. I’m in the states and I paid $725 for my AS6 new in the box. I think I can safely say with that mini-PC and what you’ve stated above – you should have no problems. I would assume the Intel performance would be similar — but again, hard for me to comment on something I have no experience with. Hopefully some other folks will chime in on this thread. If I’m not mistaken, I think one of the GP owners/developers has a geekom PC that was mentioned in a thread a long time ago and had postive comments about it. Anyway – Cheers!

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I’m currently using a Lenovo M920q and it has done summer shows in the UK in the 30-35°C heat as well as some very sweaty indoor shows and has not had any cooling issues.

I am in the process of prepping its replacement, a Minisforum UM790 Pro (Minisforum UM790 Pro 7940HS Mini PC) which seems to run a degree or two cooler than my Lenovo.

More details on my Mini PC here: Dave Boulden

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I custom built my own mini ITX rig two years ago, but also use an Intel NUC when I travel. I can definitively tell you that the mini ITX rig takes up a vast amount more space than a NUC or the other very small form factor rigs others mentioned here, and it was considerably more expensive than any of the NUCs or others mentioned - or your stated budget. I’m building a new m-ITX rig when the 15th gen Intel processors are released, but integrating it into my 6U rack. I’ll still use a NUC when I’m on the road.
Considering what you stated about your present rig, I would think it’s a pretty safe gamble to use any of the NUCs/very small form factor rigs that have been presented. 16GB ram with a modern processor at higher clock speeds and SSD storage will be amazing compared to your 2012 laptop. WRT cooling, a 40deg ambient temp and your statements about your present gear, it’s unlikely to be a problem, and if it is, (should be much) easier to mitigate with a NUC/VSFF rig than a laptop.

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Thanks @DaveBoulden, (I remember you from a GP interview !)
Really interesting for the Minisforum though you have not yet tested it. Do you know how long the shipping could take to Europe? I can’t see that anywhere.

Thanks a lot @CruiseCycle, your comparison to the mini ITX is very interesting and start to convince me to go for a Mini-PC. I was ready to accept the size of a mini ITX PC, but the mini-PC size is very attracting too ! Sorry for my limited English skills, I don’t quite understand what you mean with the water cooling. Should I choose a Mini-pc with it? or will it be enough without?

Even within the Mini-PC family, I’m a bit lost, it seems every proposition could fit to my usage.
However, I feel there’s a better choice to be made. For example, my main VST DIVA accept Multi-core voices distribution. Should I give the priority to the number of core with smaller CPU speed ? What about the cache?

I was mistaken, 700 is for the Geekom Mini IT13.
The Geekom AS 6 is 620€, I could try to have it for 600. It’s been tested one day for the review and resold.

The attached is a photo of my NUC next to my m-ITX. My m-ITX is in an 11 liter case because I couldn’t get the cooling required for an i9-11900K @ 3.50GHz overclocked 51% in a 7 liter case, and it still required liquid cooling. The m-ITX also has 64gb ram and 2x4tb SSD storage which was not available on VSFFs at the time. I use this rig for a number of other tasks than music performances, but the NUC does the job on the road just fine.

At the end of the day it depends on what you want to do with your gear and your specific needs. You are already using GP with the rig you have, so it’s relatively easy to extrapolate if you are asking about how much difference a modern device - like the NUC/VSFF rigs mentioned - will perform relative to your current setup (e.g. all other things being equal).

Minisforum also sell on Amazon, so I bought mine through them and got it next day.

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Right! Here is a link for it on amazon.de

@DaveBoulden : Have you already tried GP on it?
Also, it would be cool if you would be willing to do a DPC-Latency check with LatencyMon (that’s the tool they use on notebookcheck.com). I would be totally interested to have a comparison with that little PC-monster… maybe i’ll step back again frm my idea to get another laptop but rather buy one of those magical boxes. :smiley:

I’ve been using a Beelink SER5 Mini PC, AMD Ryzen 7 5800H(up to 4.4GHz) 8C/16T, Mini Computer 16GB DDR4 for the last 6 months. I needed to upgrade from my Dell i5-8265U Latitude, which could not keep when I wanted to run CPU intense plugins such as Neural Amp Modeler (NAM).

This little PC has been amazing, I was quite impressed it could keep up with my gaming desktop for VST usage. One downside is the fan is audible under load, but if you’re playing any sort of amplified gigs nobody will hear it. I use a touchscreen USB-C monitor to control it live, along with a custom MIDI controller


Yes, I have GP and the majority of my plugins on it… just finalising stuff and engineering a mount to bolt it securely to my keyboard stand. I’ll run some LatencyMon tests on it when I get a spare moment.


Thanks everyone for helping me, sincerely !

I’m hesitating between the “just tested and reviewed” GEEKOM AS 6 (ASUS ExpertCenter PN53) - Ryzen 9 - 3.3GHz - 4.9GHz (8 cores et 16 threads) 32Go/1To for 600€


a “never opened, still under 2 years of warranty” GEEKOM Mini IT11, 11th Intel Core i7-11390H 2.9GHz - 3.4GHz (4C/8T, up to 5.0GHz), 32GB DDR4 RAM 1TB M.2 SSD for 450€

Both have the place for the 2.5" SSD I have with the VST installed.
I’ll also have to buy a touch screen so, the second one is tempting but I’ve read some critics about the intel i7 11.

I also wonder if it’s a good strategy: OS + GP on the M.2 and VST on a 2.5 SSD

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Between those two, the choice would most probably be an easy one.
According to this DPC-latency ranking list

The Geekom AS 6 has a DPC latency of 1588, while the Geekom Mini IT11 stands at just 466 (lower values are better).

There also are complete tests of those two minis (both in German language):


I didn’t know at all about this latency. A high DPC latency could occur audio drops and cracks even with a the double of cores and thread?
Difficult to choose now, but thanks for this useful information

Well… we should be aware of the fact that this DPC-latency is measuered in microseconds (µs), while we look after milliseconds when we try to optimize the audio-latency of our machines!
So even if there is a DPC latency of ~1000µs this means jus 1ms - maybe this is actually not as much as it looks (in “real life”).
But that’s actually the main reason why i asked @DaveBoulden if he already tried how his mini-PC actually runs with GP - compared to other machines it has a DPC of around 1000, which is not amongst the lowest values… but thinking of the fact, that this means just 1ms, it’s maybe not too bad.

Ok, it’s micro second. As you said, not that bad with a Fireface UC that could works with 2.2ms with my old laptop, and on this last one, the real round tip latency measured with GP is 5.5ms, which was perfect for my wind instrument.

Yes DPC latency can be affected by system drivers, even if the system has a fast CPU on paper. I know in laptops I’ve tested, crackles and pops in audio were caused by things such as ACPI drivers for the battery and CPU control. For my Dell Latitude 5500 laptop, I had to disable quite a few system drivers in Device Manager in order to achieve a usable DSP Latency. I think this is why Mini PCs generally can perform better for real-time audio than laptops, as they don’t have to handle battery and throttling the same way laptops do.

Of course if you see a laptop with a low DPC latency on that NotebookCheck website, it should be fine.


I’ve just run the DPC LatencyMon check on my Minisforum UM790 Pro. Here’s the results:

And the stats:

Reported CPU speed (WMI):                             4001 MHz
Reported CPU speed (registry):                        3992 MHz

Note: reported execution times may be calculated based on a fixed reported CPU speed. Disable variable speed settings like Intel Speed Step and AMD Cool N Quiet in the BIOS setup for more accurate results.

The interrupt to process latency reflects the measured interval that a usermode process needed to respond to a hardware request from the moment the interrupt service routine started execution. This includes the scheduling and execution of a DPC routine, the signaling of an event and the waking up of a usermode thread from an idle wait state in response to that event.

Highest measured interrupt to process latency (µs):   202.0
Average measured interrupt to process latency (µs):   16.353183

Highest measured interrupt to DPC latency (µs):       167.10
Average measured interrupt to DPC latency (µs):       3.710106

Interrupt service routines are routines installed by the OS and device drivers that execute in response to a hardware interrupt signal.

Highest ISR routine execution time (µs):              21.112224
Driver with highest ISR routine execution time:       Wdf01000.sys - Kernel Mode Driver Framework Runtime, Microsoft Corporation

Highest reported total ISR routine time (%):          0.000145
Driver with highest ISR total time:                   Wdf01000.sys - Kernel Mode Driver Framework Runtime, Microsoft Corporation

Total time spent in ISRs (%)                          0.000145

ISR count (execution time <250 µs):                   131
ISR count (execution time 250-500 µs):                0
ISR count (execution time 500-1000 µs):               0
ISR count (execution time 1000-2000 µs):              0
ISR count (execution time 2000-4000 µs):              0
ISR count (execution time >=4000 µs):                 0

DPC routines are part of the interrupt servicing dispatch mechanism and disable the possibility for a process to utilize the CPU while it is interrupted until the DPC has finished execution.

Highest DPC routine execution time (µs):              486.943888
Driver with highest DPC routine execution time:       ntoskrnl.exe - NT Kernel & System, Microsoft Corporation

Highest reported total DPC routine time (%):          0.005113
Driver with highest DPC total execution time:         ntoskrnl.exe - NT Kernel & System, Microsoft Corporation

Total time spent in DPCs (%)                          0.012876

DPC count (execution time <250 µs):                   7568
DPC count (execution time 250-500 µs):                0
DPC count (execution time 500-10000 µs):              3
DPC count (execution time 1000-2000 µs):              0
DPC count (execution time 2000-4000 µs):              0
DPC count (execution time >=4000 µs):                 0

Hard pagefaults are events that get triggered by making use of virtual memory that is not resident in RAM but backed by a memory mapped file on disk. The process of resolving the hard pagefault requires reading in the memory from disk while the process is interrupted and blocked from execution.

NOTE: some processes were hit by hard pagefaults. If these were programs producing audio, they are likely to interrupt the audio stream resulting in dropouts, clicks and pops. Check the Processes tab to see which programs were hit.

Process with highest pagefault count:                 svchost.exe

Total number of hard pagefaults                       648
Hard pagefault count of hardest hit process:          253
Number of processes hit:                              13