A NUC Zen 2 Business

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Ultra-Compact Form Factor Machines (UCFFs) have been a major driver of the resurgence in the PC market. The trend was started by Intel’s NUCs in the early 2010s. These PCs are generally based on low-power processors with convincing performance per watt. AMD was largely absent from this market until the introduction of Ryzen processors. While ASRock Industrial was one of the first to release a UCFF mini-PC based on the first-generation Ryzen onboard processors, several OEMs have lined up to use the second-generation AMD processors in their own mini-PC lines. high performance.

The PN series represents the UCFF PC family from ASUS. The ASUS PN30 (a fanless PC based on Carrizo-L) was introduced in early 2020 as the only representation of AMD in the PN series. This was followed in the third quarter of 2020 by the ASUS PN50, and more recently, the PN51. While the PN30 was a low-end offering, the ASUS PN50 (which we are reviewing today) plays a role for the high-end market using the Renoir APUs from the Ryzen 4000 mobile series. The PN series in general, and PN50 in particular, focus more on small and medium enterprises than on the home consumer base.

This isn’t our first look at Renoir APUs in the NUC form factor. We had reviewed another Ryzen 7 4800U offering in the ASRock Industrial 4X4 BOX-4800U at the end of last year. Since then, Intel’s Tiger Lake based UCFF PCs have been introduced to the market. The electronics industry supply chain continues to face challenges, forcing professional consumers to align and qualify multiple deployment options. This review provides a comprehensive assessment of the performance and value proposition of the ASUS PN50 in this context.

Product introduction and impressions

Small form factor PCs have become one of the best choices for installation in business environments. With continuous improvements in processor computing power as well as energy efficiency, scenarios requiring traditional desktop PCs have dramatically reduced. UCFF systems meeting business requirements such as remote management and ease of deployment have become widely deployed in SMBs and SMBs. Intel’s vPro offerings have been the backbone of this market segment, with adoption of DASH for managing out-of-band clients with relatively limited success.

Following the introduction of Zen 2-based APUs, there has been a resurgence of interest in SMB / SMB UCFF PCs based on AMD processors. Thanks to TSMC’s 7nm process and AMD’s redesigned microarchitecture, the Zen 2-based Renoir APUs were able to offer fierce competition to Intel’s flagship processors. In addition to retaining the multicore leadership, the enhancements allowed Renoir to challenge Intel’s offerings in single-thread performance and power efficiency.

AMD prioritized the delivery of Renoir APUs to the laptop market, followed by mini-PCs shortly thereafter. ASRock Industrial and ASUS were the first to launch UCFF systems based on these parts. Similar to ASRock Industrial’s 4X4 BOX-4000 series, the ASUS PN50 has four SKUs with processor core count of 4 (Ryzen 3 4300U), 6 (Ryzen 5 4500U), 8 (Ryzen 7 4700U) and 8 (Ryzen 7 4800U). The latter is the flagship of the Ryzen 4000 U series, with the highest number of cores and a fully enabled GPU, and the ASUS PN50 with the Ryzen 7 4800U is the one reviewed in this review.

The ASUS PN50 uses a well-ventilated plastic chassis measuring 115mm x 115mm x 49mm to house the Ryzen 7 4800U SoC. This is an SMT (8C / 16T) compatible octa-core processor capable of operating with a configurable TDP between 12W and 25W. While the PN50 is available as a barebone PC from various e-merchants, ASUS offers pre-built configurations ready to deploy for B2B customers – as shown by the memory and storage options shown in the product technical specifications page. The company sampled us with a mid-tier configuration using Intel SSD 660p and SK hynix DDR SODIMMs. The full specifications of our ASUS PN50 review setup are summarized in the table below.

ASUS PN50 specifications
Processor AMD Ryzen 7 4800U
Zen 2 (Renoir) 8C / 16T, 1.8 – 4.2 GHz
TSMC 7nm, 8MB L3, 12-25W (20W)
Memory SK hynix HMA81GS6DJR8N-XN DDR4-3200 SODIMM
22-22-22-52 @ 3200 MHz
2×8 GB
Graphic AMD Radeon Graphics (Renoir) – Integrated GPU with 8 CPUs
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4; Intel 64L 3D QLC)
(Silicon Motion SM2263 controller)
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
(2×2 802.11ax – 2400 Mbps)
1x Realtek RTL8111G Gigabit Ethernet Controller
audio 3.5mm headphone jack
Capable of 5.1 / 7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI / DisplayPort)
Miscellaneous I / O Ports 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (front)
1x microSDXC UHS-I
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (rear)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (rear)
Operating system The B2B unit comes with Winodws 10 Professional, but we have installed Windows 10 Enterprise x64
Price (as configured) $ 630 (barebones)
$ 774 (as configured)
Full specification ASUS PN50 specifications

An overview of the chassis design and the layout of the various ports is shown in the gallery below. Note that the full-size DisplayPort output on the rear panel is a configurable port. Models sold in the e-tailer channel in the US have this video output, but models elsewhere could replace it with a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port or a serial port. Personalization is possible for B2B consumers with specific requirements for large-scale deployments.

The B2B version of ASUS PN50 comes with Windows 10 Professional x64 preinstalled. Barebones buyers can install the operating system of their choice. Windows BIOS and driver updates are available on the product support page. One of the main differentiating aspects of the ASUS PN50 from other UCFF PCs is the bundling of a wired keyboard and mouse in the package. While the build quality of both components is just passable, they help IT staff quickly deploy a system from a single package. In addition to the main unit, other components in the package include a 90W (19V to 4.74A) compact power adapter, US power cord, VESA bracket, and associated screws.

Setting up a barebone system or accessing building components is as easy as removing four screws from the underside of the chassis and sliding out the bottom panel. Note that the 2.5 “drive is mounted on this underside, and sliding it allows the SATA drive to connect to the SATA drive receptacle pre-installed in the main chassis. Locations for installing SODIMMs and M.2 SSDs are also evident after opening the unit.

When it comes to network support, the PN50 comes equipped with an Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 adapter, which is common in contemporary high-end UCFF systems. ASUS also offers some configurations with 802.11ac Wi-Fi or even no Wi-Fi at all, but these are intended for specific B2B models not sold on the US e-commerce channel.

On the wired side, ASUS offers a single gigabit LAN port with the PN50. For customers who need a faster wired network, they offer a custom option to install a 2.5 GigE adapter in place of the DisplayPort output. But again, this is only for custom setups.

In the table below we have an overview of the different systems with which we compare the ASUS PN50. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. Relevant machine configuration details are provided so that readers understand why some benchmarks are skewed for or against the ASUS PN50 when we discuss these sections.

Comparison of PC configurations
Aspect ASUS PN50
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 4800U AMD Ryzen 7 4800U
GPU AMD Renoir (Radeon RX Vega 8 / GCN5) AMD Renoir (Radeon RX Vega 8 / GCN5)
22-22-22-52 @ 3200 MHz
2×8 GB
22-22-22-52 @ 3200 MHz
2×8 GB
Storage room Intel SSDPEKNW512G8
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4; Intel 64L 3D QLC)
(Silicon Motion SM2263 controller)
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4; Intel 64L 3D QLC)
(Silicon Motion SM2263 controller)
Wireless Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
(2×2 802.11ax – 2400 Mbps)
Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
(2×2 802.11ax – 2400 Mbps)
Price (in USD, once built) $ 630 (barebones)
$ 774 (as configured)
$ 630 (barebones)
$ 774 (as configured)

The following section provides the platform analysis – in particular, the differences from ASRock Industrial 4X4 BOX-4000 series products. This is followed by sections dealing with performance benchmarks before moving on to discussions of power consumption and thermal performance.

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