Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i review: A modern look makes this tiny PC perfect for the living room or den

The IdeaCentre Mini 5i is a tiny, affordable PC focused on casual or home office use.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i
(Image: © Windows Central)

Lenovo's IdeaCentre Mini 5i is sort of a mix of the best mini PCs and NUCs and a small piece of furniture that will fit well into a living room or home office. It's quite compact, it has a textile top panel, and it has the performance needed to handle a fair amount of productivity work. The price is also quite reasonable, with models starting at about $500. I've been using this tiny PC for a couple of weeks to see what it's all about and whether or not it's worth your money.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i: Price, availability, and specs

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Lenovo supplied Windows Central with an IdeaCentre Mini 5i desktop PC. Inside the one-liter chassis is a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10400T desktop processor (CPU) with six cores, 12GB of DDR4-2666MHz dual-channel RAM, and a 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) coupled with a 1TB 2.5-inch SATA hard-disk drive (HDD).

This exact model is available at Lenovo for about $630 after some instant savings, or you can find it at Newegg for about $800. There is also a model with a Core i3-10100 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 1TB SATA HDD, and 256GB M.2 SSD for about $510 after instant savings. This model can be found at Amazon as well for about $649.

Note that the Core i3-10100 chip is actually quite comparable to the Core i5-10400T despite fewer cores, with the former having a higher 65W TDP, higher 4.3GHz Turbo frequency, and higher 3.6GHz base clock speed. The Core i5 is going to handle multitasking better thanks to the extra cores, but otherwise you might find performance from the Core i3 to be suitable for web browsing, word processing, and video streaming. It also costs less.

Following are the exact specs that make up my review unit of the IdeaCentre Mini 5i.

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OSWindows 10 Pro
Processor10th Gen IntelCore i5-10400T6 cores, 12 threadsUp to 3.6GHzSocketed
ChipsetIntel H470
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 630Integrated
Memory12GB DDR4-2666MHzDual-channelUpgradeable
Storage256GB M.2 PCIe 3 NVMe SSD1TB 2.5-inch SATA HDDUpgradeable
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6Bluetooth 5.1
Ports (rear)Four USB-A 3.2 (Gen 1)HDMI 1.4RJ45 EthernetDisplayPort 1.2
Ports (front)USB-C 3.2 (Gen 1)USB-A 3.2 (Gen 1)3.5mm audio
SecurityKensington lock slot
PSU90W AC adapter
Case size1L
ColorTerrazzo Grey (case)Mineral Grey (textile cover)
Dimensions7.64 (W) x 7.18 (D) x 1.57 (H) inches(194mm x 182.4mm x 40mm)
WeightFrom 3.26 pounds (1.48kg)

Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i: What I like

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The IdeaCentre Mini 5i has a fairly plain magnesium-alloy design save for the top panel that's covered in a Mineral Grey fabric. It adds a contemporary accent to the look, making it a better fit in a living room than something from our best budget PCs less than $500 roundup. I've had the Mini 5i sitting below my TV for a couple of weeks, in use as an entertainment center for streaming and media sharing.

The IdeaCentre Mini 5i's handsome fabric top helps it blend into a home setting. It also pulls away easily for access to internal hardware.

I've gone mostly with wireless accessories due to my setup — Bluetooth 5.1 is perfect for this — but there are many ports available. On the front are USB-A, USB-C, and 3.5mm audio, as well as an LED-lit power button. The back of the PC holds the majority of ports, with four USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, and a Kensington lock slot if you need a bit more security. Wi-Fi 6 is also available for fast and reliable wireless internet.

The top fabric panel pulls away entirely to reveal a metal panel, which when removed provides quick access to dual SODIMM RAM slots and a single M.2 SSD slot. These can be upgraded after purchase to keep the PC relevant longer into the future. It also means you don't have to worry as much about getting the exact configuration you need from the factory. After removing a few more screws, you can get access to the underside of the PC with 2.5-inch SATA HDD (upgradeable), Wi-Fi card (upgradeable), and CPU heatsink and single fan.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

With a standard desktop socket employed here, you can technically upgrade the CPU with something compatible with the Intel H470 chipset. Just be aware of the power ceiling, which is capped at a 130W AC adapter with proprietary Lenovo charging port. My model came with the 90W adapter to go with the 35W T-series CPU; if you get a standard chip (non-T) with 65W TDP, you should get the larger adapter.

Performance from the Core i5-10400T is about as good as I expected, putting up respectable numbers that will accommodate anyone looking to tackle productivity work or streaming. Integrated Intel UHD 630 graphics will even handle light editing work or light gaming. Use it for word processing, spreadsheets, 4K streaming, email, and web browsing, and you won't be disappointed. I ran a bunch of benchmarks to see how the IdeaCentre Mini 5i compares to other PCs we've recently reviewed.

The M.2 SSD here is fast enough for quick transfers, but don't expect the same result from the 2.5-inch HDD. I measured 135MB/s read and 133MB/s write speeds, making it best reserved for bulk storage.

On the bottom of the PC is a sizable air intake for the single fan. An exhaust is located on the back of the PC, just below the array of ports. Fan noise is noticeable if you're in a quiet room, but otherwise you shouldn't hear it, even under load.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i: What I don't like

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The IdeaCentre Mini 5i sets out to be a compact PC for home and small office use, and in that regard it succeeds. But there are some things I noticed that must be covered. First and foremost is the choice of Core i5-10400T CPU. Lenovo has the standard Core i5-10400 (non-T version) listed in some reference documents, but it doesn't seem to be an option for the consumer. Instead, we get the comparatively underpowered 10400T with lower frequencies and TDP. A move to the standard i5-10400 would undoubtedly move the IdeaCentre Mini 5i up on the list of benchmarked PCs, making it better suited for intensive productivity work.

One other small detail is a lack of SD or microSD card reader. You can, of course, connect one of the best USB-C hubs for added connectivity, but a native card reader would be much appreciated. This is especially true if you're using the PC for some photo editing or media sharing.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i: Competition

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Thanks to the textile top panel and small design, the IdeaCentre Mini 5i sort of stands alone in the budget PC sector as a top option for your living room or den. It's certainly not the only small PC out there, and you'll find many more in our roundup of the best mini PCs and NUCs.

If you're searching for a tiny PC with SD card reader, 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10710U CPU, Iris Plus integrated graphics, and plenty of ports, the Intel NUC 10 Performance is a solid option in the same price range.

For a true business PC, check out Lenovo's ThinkCentre M720q Tiny. It's built strong in true ThinkCentre style, it has added security measures to protect sensitive data, and it's packed with ports. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra features, but it's still within the same price range.

And if you're just looking for a standard desktop PC in the same price range, the Acer Aspire TC-895 is a top option. It's extremely affordable, it comes with a mouse and keyboard, there are lots of ports, and it can be had with up to a Core i7-10700 CPU for snappy performance.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Mini 5i: Should you buy it?

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You should buy this if ...

  • You want a compact PC for casual use around the house
  • You want to spend around $600 on a PC
  • You want a PC that can be upgraded in the future

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You want a gaming PC with dedicated GPU
  • You want above-average performance
  • You don't like your PC to have any fabric on it

Lenovo's IdeaCentre Mini 5i is a great little PC for use in your home. The modern chassis with fabric top and speckled gray finish is just as easy to upgrade as it is appealing, and it's small enough to fit nearly anywhere. It's covered in ports for easy connectivity, and it has decent airflow thanks to generous intake and exhaust venting.

Performance would be better from a Core i5-10400 CPU, but even with the T-series version you're getting enough power to handle productivity work, streaming, and light gaming. As long as you don't need something with a dedicated GPU or as much performance as possible, you should find this to be an ideal PC for casual or light office work. If it's not quite what you're looking for, check out our roundup of the best desktop computers for more options.

Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt brings to Windows Central more than eight years of experience writing about laptops, PCs, accessories, games, and beyond. If it runs Windows or in some way complements the hardware, there’s a good chance he knows about it, has written about it, or is already busy testing it.