Zen Business Center 2

Ultra-compact machines (UCFF) have been one of the main drivers of the revival of the computer market. The trend was started in early 2010 by Intel’s NUCs. These computers typically relied on low-power processors with striking performance per watt. AMD was largely absent from this market until the introduction of the Ryzen processor. While ASRock Industrial was one of the first to release a UCFF mini-computer based on the first generation of Ryzen embedded processors, more OEMs lined up to use the second-generation AMD processors in their high-performance mini-PC lines.

The PN series represents the ASUS range of UCFF computers. The ASUS PN30 (Carrizo-L-based fanless computer) was introduced in early 2020 as the only AMD dealership 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 cheap offering, the ASUS PN50 (which we are looking at today) represents a game for the premium market using Renoir APUs in the Ryzen 4000 mobile series. and not on the basis of domestic consumers.

This is not the first look at Renoir APUs in the NUC factor. We reviewed another Ryzen 7 4800U offering in the ASRock Industrial 4X4 BOX-4800U late last year. Since then, Intel’s UCFF computers based on Tiger Lake have been introduced to the market. The electronics supply chain continues to face challenges, requiring business users to line up and qualify more implementation options. This review provides a comprehensive assessment of the performance and value of the ASUS PN50 in this context.

Introduction and product impressions

Small computers have become one of the best choices for installation in business environments. Thanks to constant improvements in the computing power of the processor, as well as energy efficiency, scenarios requiring traditional tower-shaped desktops have been significantly reduced. UCFF systems that meet business requirements such as remote management and ease of implementation have become widespread in small and medium enterprises. Intel’s vPro offering has been a major pillar in this market segment, and AMD has adopted DASH for out-of-range customer management and has enjoyed relatively limited success.

Following the introduction of Zen 2-based APUs, there has been renewed interest in SMB / SME UCFF computers based on AMD processors. Thanks to TSMC’s 7nm process and AMD’s revamped microarchitecture, Zen 2-based Renoir APUs were able to offer stiff competition to Intel’s leading processors. In addition to retaining multi-core leadership, improvements have allowed Renoir to challenge Intel’s offer in terms of single-threaded performance and energy efficiency.

AMD has given priority to delivering Renoir APUs to the notebook market, and mini-computers will follow soon. ASRock Industrial and ASUS were the first to launch UCFF systems based on these parts. Similar to the 4X4 BOX-4000 series of ASRock Industrial, the ASUS PN50 has four SKUs with 4 processor cores (Ryzen 3 4300U), 6 (Ryzen 5 4500U), 8 (Ryzen 7 4700U) and 8 (Ryzen 7 4800U)) . The latter is the leader in the Ryzen 4000 U-series, with the largest number of cores and a fully enabled GPU, and the ASUS PN50 with the Ryzen 7 4800U is the one under consideration in this review.

The ASUS PN50 uses a well-ventilated 115 mm x 115 mm x 49 mm plastic chassis to accommodate the Ryzen 7 4800U SoC. This is an octa-core SMT-enabled processor (8C / 16T) that can work with a TDP that can be configured between 12W and 25W. While the PN50 is available as barebones PCs from a variety of e-tailers, ASUS has pre-built configurations ready for deployment for B2B users — as evidenced by the memory and storage capabilities presented on the product technical specifications page. The company sampled us with a medium configuration using Intel SSD 660p and SK hynix DDR SODIMMs. The full specifications of our ASUS PN50 preview configuration 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 7 nm, 8 MB L3, 12-25 W (20 W)
Memory SK hynix HMA81GS6DJR8N-XN DDR4-3200 SODIMM
22-22-22-52 at 3200 MHz
2×8 GB
Graphics AMD Radeon Graphics (Renoir) – Integrated GPU with 8 CUs
Disk drives Intel SSDPEKNW512G8
(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 3.5 mm headphone jack
5.1 / 7.1 digital output capability with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI / DisplayPort)
Various 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 installed Windows 10 Enterprise x64
Prices (as configured) 630 USD (barebones)
774 USD (as configured)
Full specifications ASUS PN50 specifications

An overview of the chassis design and layout of the various attachments is shown in the gallery below. It should be noted that the DisplayPort output is the full size on the back panel configurable port. Models sold in the U.S. e-tailer channel have this video output, but models elsewhere could replace it with a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port or serial port. Customization is possible for B2B users with special requirements for large applications.

The B2B version of the ASUS PN50 comes pre-installed with Windows 10 Professional x64. Barebones customers can install their OS of their choice. BIOS updates and drivers for Windows are available on the product support page. One of the key aspects of distinguishing the ASUS PN50 from other UCFF computers is the bundling of the wired keyboard and mouse. Although the build quality of the two components is easily passable, they help IT staff quickly set up a system from a single package. In addition to the main unit, other package components include a compact 90W power adapter (19V @ 4.74A), a U.S. power cord, a VESA bracket, and connected screws.

Installing the barebones system or accessing the components to make it is easy to unscrew the four screws from the bottom of the chassis and slide it from the bottom plate. It should be noted that the 2.5 “drive is mounted on this underside, and the sliding allows the SATA drive to be connected to an already installed SATA drive socket in the main case. The mounting slots for SODIMMs and M.2 SSDs are also visible after opening the unit.

In terms of network support, the PN50 is equipped with an Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 adapter, which is common in modern high-end UCFF systems. ASUS also has certain configurations with 802.11ac Wi-Fi or even no Wi-Fi at all, but they are for certain B2B models that are not sold on the U.S. e-tailer channel.

On the wired side, ASUS offers a single gigabit LAN port with a PN50. For users who need faster wired networking, they offer a custom option to install a 2.5 GigE adapter instead of a DisplayPort output. But again, this only applies to custom configurations.

In the table below we have an overview of the different systems with which we compare the ASUS PN50. Keep in mind that they may not belong to the same market segment. Relevant machine configuration details are given so readers can understand why some reference numbers are skewed for or against the ASUS PN50 when it comes to these sections.

Comparative computer 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 at 3200 MHz
2×8 GB
22-22-22-52 at 3200 MHz
2×8 GB
Storage 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)
Wi-Fi 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, when built) 630 USD (barebones)
774 USD (as configured)
630 USD (barebones)
774 USD (as configured)

The following section provides an analysis of the platform – especially the differences from the ASRock Industrial 4X4 BOX -4000 series products. This is followed by sections dealing with performance measurements before we move on to some discussions of energy consumption and thermal performance.

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Naveen Kumar

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