Wednesday, December 30, 2020

New PCs - Asus PN50

The Asus PN50 series of computers are based on AMD's Renoir APUs based on their Zen 2 architecture and combines the CPU with integrate graphics.  The PN50 are mini computers that fits in the palm of your hands and utilizes the mobile versions of the APU (4300U, 4500U, 4700U and 4800U).  Note that these are generally bare bones systems which means that it doesn't come with memory or storage.  There are now enough info around the web and on Youtube talking about these APUs and also specifically about the PN50, but I had questions about these systems that none of the articles or videos talked about

I recently bought the 4800U and 4500U versions to replace my wife's desktop and my personal desktops of the past 7+ years and I want to answer the questions I had in case others also had the same questions.

Q:  Does the configurable port on the back mean that I can change it to what I want (VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet)?

A:  No, they are fixed.  You need to find the exact model you want with the type of port you want and some not available in some region.  I really wanted one with an extra Ethernet port but no seller in the US listed it.  The most common in the US has a DisplayPort.

Q:  Asus offers one version (4800U w/ 16GB memory, 500GB SSD and Windows 10 Pro) that isn't a bare bones system but it doesn't say what the components are.   

A: Here is what is in this system:
  • 2x 8GB 3200 DDR4 so-dimm by SK hynix
  • Intel 660p Series m.2 SSD
  • keyboard
  • mouse
  • Windows 10 Pro OEM (pre-loaded on the SSD)
The keyboard and mouse are pretty cheap quality feeling.

Q: Can it be used for playing games?

A:  Maybe not for hard core gamers or people wanting to play Cyberpunk and high graphics settings, but the 4500U works very well for playing games like Genshin Impact out-of-the-box and the default game settings.

The systems I got was the bare bones 4500U version and the non-bare bones 4800U.  I transferred the memory and SSD from the 4800U to the 4500U since I wanted 32GB of memory instead and a bigger drive.

The new configuration for the 4800U is:

  • Ryzen 7 4800U (8 cores / 16 threads, base clock 1.8GHz, max 4.2GHz - 8 GPU cores - RX Vega 8)
  • 32 GB Crucial DDR4 3200Mhz  RAM (2x16GB)
  • 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus (M.2 NVMe interface) SSD
  • 500GB Crucial MX500 SATA SSD (2.5")
The main feature that I sacrificed was the second ethernet drive that my current Shuttle PC has.  The PN50 also has fewer USB ports but does have a USB Type C port that is capable of DisplayPort.  I thought about just building a desktop with the Ryzen desktop CPUs or APUs when they become available, but I think that I will miss the small form factor which has help me avoid the temptation of wanting to upgrade because it sits out-of-sight.  :-)

I believe that running with the base clock of 1.8GHz is fine and it is when I compile stuff that I really need more speed and power over my existing system.  Compiling C/C++ code are really the only times that I might think about getting a new computer.  Occasionally, I might wonder if I can play a game but since I moved over to console gaming (to avoid the constant upgrade cycle), but generally even my 7+ years old machine have remained speedy.

This is really more a splurge buy for myself because of the holidays and that my wife wanted to co-op Genshin Impact on something other then her mobile phone.

There are some competitors to the PN50 including the Asrock 4x4 Box series which are just as small and comes with dual lan interfaces.  However, they are completely sold out everywhere.  I've previously owned the Asus Vivo Mini and was very happy with it for both its quality and how quiet it is so I've been partial to the PN50 when it was first announced.

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