You’ll never find a high-end workstation or gaming PC as small as Intel’s original NUC line, but there are options if you want a small but powerful desktop. One of them is the new one from Lenovo ThinkStation P360 Ultraa mini-desktop that packs Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake desktop CPUs, Nvidia RTX A2000 and A5000 GPUs with up to 16GB of VRAM and a surprising amount of expandability into a small chassis measuring just 3.9 liters.
The ThinkStation has plenty of ports for a system of its size, with a total of seven DisplayPort outputs on the back (three full-size ports connected to the integrated Intel GPU and four mini-DisplayPorts connected to the dedicated GPU are), a 2.5Gbps Ethernet port, another 1Gbps Ethernet port, and four rear USB-A ports on the back panel. On the front you’ll find a headphone jack, another USB-A port, and a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports.
The internal expandability is also good. The ThinkStation can accommodate a total of two M.2 SSDs and a single 2.5-inch hard drive or SSD, as well as up to four DDR5 RAM modules. That 12GB RTX A2000 GPU The option should be somewhere between an RTX 3050 and an RTX 3060, while the mobile RTX A5000 GPU should perform more like the laptop version of the RTX 3080 GPU. Lenovo offers Alder Lake CPUs from the quad-core Core i3 to the Core i9 with a total of 16 cores (eight P cores and eight E cores—our CPU tests show the benefits of these smaller cores for workloads that are well balanced across many CPU cores).
The P360 is smaller than powerful mini PCs like Intel’s NUC 12 Extreme, which also uses 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs with up to 16 cores – the NUC measures 14.1 x 7.4 x 4.7 inches, while the ThinkStation is just 8.7 x 7.9 x 3.4 inches measures. But the NUC has the advantage of using a standard PCI Express slot with a GPU that can be upgraded a few years later, although its small size generally limits you to physically smaller GPUs than you’ll find in a desktop full size or a more spacious mini-ITX PC build. The ThinkStation appears to be using swappable GPU modules, but using a proprietary connector – whether future upgrades are possible will depend on Lenovo packaging more GPUs this way in the future and whether it offers them as upgrades rather than simply fitting them into newer ones integrate PCs.
Expect big bucks for the most powerful configurations of the P360 Ultra. The PC will start at $1,299 later this month, but that configuration will likely feature a quad-core Core i3 CPU and integrated graphics. If that’s all you need, the P360 Ultra is actually a bit big– The size of the system only becomes impressive when you add dedicated graphics and a beefier processor.
We also don’t know if (or by how much) the P360 Ultra’s CPU or GPU will be limited by performance or thermal limitations – the system will peak at a 300W PSU, which is less power than a high-end desktop GPU such as the RT 3080 or 3090 can consume all by itself. In other words, a larger system will still be able to keep its components running faster for longer.