5 Great Proxmox Small Form Factor Hardware Options

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Looking for small form factor hardware options for your latest Proxmox build? So am I! I’m going to share the options I’m considering that might just be what you are looking for too!

Editor’s note: This article was last updated on 10/18/2022.

What is Proxmox VE?

Proxmox VE, which I generally refer to as just Proxmox in this article, is an open-source virtualization management solution. It integrates the KVM hypervisor and LXC container solutions and provides a web-based front end for managing them.

It can run as a single node or in a cluster. Proxmox supports various storage models, automatic scaling, failover, snapshots, backups, and many other popular virtualization features.

I use Proxmox to power my home lab. I run virtual machines that run Home Assistant, file servers, Docker containers like MQTT, Graylog, the Omada access point controller (for my TP-Link access points), and more.

It is built on the Debian Linux distro. Proxmox VE is free for consumer use. You can learn more about it here.

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using an affiliate link I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Affiliates do not influence my recommendations. Read my disclosures for more information.

Proxmox hardware requirements

The minimum hardware requirements for Proxmox are easy to achieve:

  • CPU: 64bit (Intel EMT64 or AMD64)
  • Intel VT/AMD-V capable CPU/Mainboard (for KVM Full Virtualization support)
  • Minimum 1 GB RAM
  • Hard drive
  • One NIC

The real requirements are really based on your needs. How many VMs do you plan to run? How power-hungry are the VMs? Do you plan to use external storage? You’ll need the answer to these questions before deciding on your own personal requirements.

Criteria for good small form factor Proxmox hardware

First, let me say that these options are geared towards home lab users, not business users. I’m primarily using my own criteria for these selections which are:

  • Very small footprint — I’d like this server to fit on my server “rack” next to my current Proxmox-powered NUC server. You can see a picture of my rack below :). This article is titled small form factor, but really I prefer ultra-small form factor.
  • Consumer-grade hardware — I’m not against server-grade hardware like ECC RAM, but for my needs and budget, I tend to lean towards consumer hardware that is easier to source.
  • At least four cores — I like to run multiple VMs and containers, and I’d like to have the cores my VMs will want.
  • More build, less buy — I’ve built my fair share of computers, but I’d rather not search for each and every component for this. I prefer a prebuilt solution, but a bare-bones package where I’m adding RAM and disk would be fine too.
  • Quiet — The less fan noise the better. I do most of my work from the room that houses my servers.
My home “server rack.” Proxmox is running on the small ASUS computer and the NUC on the top shelf.

Option #1: Intel NUCs

Intel NUC from proxmox

Intel NUCs are the standards of compact computing. They are used for everything from virtualization servers, to routers, to desktop computers. They can pack a lot of power in a small quiet box, and, for their size, are fairly customizeable.

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One of my current primary Proxmox servers is a NUC 8 (NUC8i5BEH). It comes with an 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8259U processor. I outfitted it with 32GB of Crucial RAM (2×16 GB sticks), a Western Digital Blue 500 GB NVME SSD (Proxmox OS drive plus images), and a Samsung 860 Evo 500 GB SSD (for VMs).

This small but powerful machine runs 4 VMs and 20 docker containers without breaking a sweat.

If you are looking for something with a more modern processor (and a higher price tag) you could also check out this NUC 11 (NUC11PAHi7) which comes with a smoking Gen 11 Core i7 processor. You’ll need to give a hard drive and some RAM. Beyond NUCs, keep reading this article to see my the latest Proxmox host I bought. Here are some NUCs worth considering:

Intel NUC 10 Performance Kit – Intel Core i5 Processor (Sleek Chassis)
Intel NUC 10 Performance Kit – Intel Core i5 Processor (Sleek Chassis)
Target Usage Home Office Home Theater PC Casual Gaming; Supports Microsoft Windows* 10 logo’d compatible with various Linux distros
Sale
Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit (NUC8i5BEH) - Core i5, Tall, Add't Components Needed
Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit (NUC8i5BEH) - Core i5, Tall, Add't Components Needed
8th Generation Intel Core i5 8259U processor; Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655; M. 2 22x42/80 slot for PCIe NVMe or SATA SSD
$559.99 $429.00
Sale
Intel NUC 10 Performance Kit – Intel Core i7 Processor (Tall Chassis)
Intel NUC 10 Performance Kit – Intel Core i7 Processor (Tall Chassis)
Target Usage Home Office Home Theater PC Casual Gaming; Supports Microsoft Windows 10 logo’d compatible with various Linux distros
$789.99 $582.00
Intel NUC10i5FNH Home and Business Desktop Black i5-10210U 4-Core, 16GB RAM, 512GB m.2 SATA SSD, UHD Graphics, WiFi, Bluetooth, 1xHDMI, SD Card, Win 10 Pro with USB Hub
Intel NUC10i5FNH Home and Business Desktop Black i5-10210U 4-Core, 16GB RAM, 512GB m.2 SATA SSD, UHD Graphics, WiFi, Bluetooth, 1xHDMI, SD Card, Win 10 Pro with USB Hub
16GB DDR4 SODIMM RAM; 90W Power Supply; Black Color; Wi-Fi 6 AX201 Wifi, Bluetooth, Ethernet LAN (RJ-45)
$609.89
Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit (NUC8i5BEK) - Core i5, Short, Add't Components Needed
Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit (NUC8i5BEK) - Core i5, Short, Add't Components Needed
8th Generation Intel Core i5 8259U processor; Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655; M.2 22x42/80 slot for PCIe NVMe or SATA SSD
$659.00
Intel NUC 11 NUC11PAHi7 Home & Business Desktop Mainsteam Kit, Barebone,Intel Core i7-1165G7 4-Core, 2.8 GHz–4.7 GHz Turbo,28W Intel Iris Xe Graphics, No RAM, No SSD, NO OS, Add't Components Needed.
Intel NUC 11 NUC11PAHi7 Home & Business Desktop Mainsteam Kit, Barebone,Intel Core i7-1165G7 4-Core, 2.8 GHz–4.7 GHz Turbo,28W Intel Iris Xe Graphics, No RAM, No SSD, NO OS, Add't Components Needed.
【New Graphic 】 28W Intel Iris Xe Graphics, up to 1.3 GHz, 96 EU units; 【AFTER-SALE WARRANTY】Intel provides three-year global warranty for Barebone products .
$749.00
Beelink Mini PC

Beelink mini PCs offer a similar form factor and performance to the mid-level NUCs, but usually at a cost savings for what you get. One downside is that they usually use Realtek network interface cards (NICs) instead of Intel. Realtek will work fine with Proxmox, but Intel NICs have long been the gold standard. The Beelink SE10 Mini PC comes with everything you need (10th gen Core i5 processor, 16 GB of RAM, 500 GB SSD) to get started running a robust Proxmox server.

Here are some Beelink Mini PCs you should consider:

Option #3: Refurbished small form factor desktops

HP Elitedesk Small Form Factor

If you are okay with refurbished computers and slightly older hardware you can get some great deals on refurbished Lenovo ThinkCentre, HP Elitedesks, HP Prodesk, and Dell Optiplex small form factor PCs. They are bigger than NUCs and the Beelink, but still small compared to a regular desktop.

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If you are on a budget, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M700, Dell Optiplex 3050 SFF, or HP EliteDesk 800 G3 will give you all you need to start with and are upgradable. The HP Prodesk 600 G2 will get you even more performance for a little bit more money.

Here are a few of these refurbished/renewed machines at different price points:

HP EliteDesk 800 G3 Mini Business Desktop PC Intel Quad-Core i5-6500T up to 3.1G,16G DDR4,256G SSD,VGA,DP Port,Windows 10 Professional 64 Bit-Multi-Language-English/Spanish (Renewed)
HP EliteDesk 800 G3 Mini Business Desktop PC Intel Quad-Core i5-6500T up to 3.1G,16G DDR4,256G SSD,VGA,DP Port,Windows 10 Professional 64 Bit-Multi-Language-English/Spanish (Renewed)
Operating this PC is fast and easy with the user friendlyWindows 10 Pro operating system.; Includes: USB Keyboard & Mouse, Microsoft office 30 days free trail.
$151.49
Lenovo ThinkCentre M700 Tiny Business Desktop PC, Intel Quad Core i5-6500T up to 3.1GHz, 16G DDR4, 512G SSD, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, Windows 10 64-Multi-Language Support English/Spanish/French (Renewed)
Lenovo ThinkCentre M700 Tiny Business Desktop PC, Intel Quad Core i5-6500T up to 3.1GHz, 16G DDR4, 512G SSD, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, Windows 10 64-Multi-Language Support English/Spanish/French (Renewed)
Includes: USB Keyboard & Mouse, Microsoft office 30 days free trail..; Operating System: Windows 10 64 Bit – Multi-language supports English/Spanish/French.
$155.98

Option #4: Protectli and Qotom mini PCs

Qotom  hardware

Sometimes you want a small form factor virtualization host with multiple NICs. If that’s you, take a look at the Protectli and Qotom machines. I’ve recommended many of these machines for pfSense hardware, and in fact, I use a Qotom for my own pfSense router.

These machines are whisper quiet, but they do have a little less power than the other recommendations in this article. If you need a beast, these might not be the machines for you, but I think they’ll work great for most home labs.

This Qotom comes with a whopping six gigabit NICs. This Protectli machine comes with six gigabit NICs also and has as much power (some have more power) as many of the NUCs I’ve listed. Here are some additional Qotom and Protectli options:

Qotom Qotom-Q555G6-S05 Computer with Core i5 7200U Processor and 6 Gigabit NICs AES-NI Fanless Mini PC (4G DDR4 RAM + 32G MSATA SSD)
Qotom Qotom-Q555G6-S05 Computer with Core i5 7200U Processor and 6 Gigabit NICs AES-NI Fanless Mini PC (4G DDR4 RAM + 32G MSATA SSD)
Main Port: 1 HD Video + 1 COM + 2 USB 2.0 + 2 USB 3.0 + 6 LAN.; Configuration: 4GB DDR4 RAM, 32GB mSATA SSD, NO 2.5" SATA HDD, NO WiFi, Fanless
$321.10
Qotom 4 LAN Mini Pc I5 Q355G4 5Th Generation Intel Core I5-5200U AES-NI 8Gb Ddr3 Ram 16Gb Ssd, 4 Intel LAN,X86 Mini PC OPNsense
Qotom 4 LAN Mini Pc I5 Q355G4 5Th Generation Intel Core I5-5200U AES-NI 8Gb Ddr3 Ram 16Gb Ssd, 4 Intel LAN,X86 Mini PC OPNsense
8G RAM 16G SSD NO WIFI; PORTS: 4xIntel I211-AT Gigabit LAN, 1x USB 3.0,3x USB 2.0, 1x HD Video
$399.00
Protectli Vault FW6C - 6 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Dual Core i5, AES-NI, Barebone
Protectli Vault FW6C - 6 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Dual Core i5, AES-NI, Barebone
PORTS: 6x Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC ports, 4x USB 3.0, 1x RJ-45 COM, 1x HDMI
$509.00
Sale
Protectli Vault 6 Port, Firewall/Mini PC - Intel Quad Core i5 (8250U), AES-NI, Barebone
Protectli Vault 6 Port, Firewall/Mini PC - Intel Quad Core i5 (8250U), AES-NI, Barebone
PORTS: 6x Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC ports, 4x USB 3.0, 1x RJ-45 COM, 1x HDMI
$629.00 $599.00
Protectli Vault 6 Port, Firewall/Mini PC - Intel Quad Core i7, AES-NI, Barebone
Protectli Vault 6 Port, Firewall/Mini PC - Intel Quad Core i7, AES-NI, Barebone
PORTS: 6x Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC ports, 4x USB 3.0, 1x RJ-45 COM, 1x HDMI
$739.00

Option #5: Other mini PCs

There are many brands of mini PCs out there that can get the job done. I recently bought an ASUS PN63-S1 (my review here) barebones to replace my more than decade-old loud and aging tower Proxmox host and it has been great (review coming). Here are a few more options to explore:

This is my latest Proxmox small-form-factor host. Works great!

Final thoughts

Virtualization is a great tool to maximize the computing power in your home lab while minimizing hardware maintenance. You can also maximize your space by using a small form factor computer for virtualization. These small computers pack plenty of power for most home lab needs.

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Did you find a good option for your Proxmox or other virtualization software needs? Is there one you’d recommend that I don’t have here? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

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5 Great Proxmox Small Form Factor Hardware Options

by HomeTechHacker time to read: 5 min