Sunday, January 17, 2021

My Systems (2021)

2021 brings upgrades to the computers in the house that has been fairly static over the past 7-8 years.   I got a couple of new systems and repurposed some parts from the old systems so this post is mainly to inventory the new configurations for my own reference.



System 1 (Asus PN50 4800U) [replaces system 3]

  • Ryzen 7 4800U [Zen2] (8 cores / 16 threads, base clock 1.8GHz, max 4.2GHz - 8 GPU cores - RX Vega 8, 15W)
  • 32 GB Crucial DDR4 3200Mhz  RAM (2x16GB)
  • 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus (M.2 NVMe interface) SSD
  • 500GB Crucial MX500 SATA SSD (2.5")
  • Intel WIFI 6, BT 5.0
  • 2 Dell U2311H (existing) monitors
  • 1 Dell U2421HE (24" 1080p) monitor
  • Dell AC511M soundbar
  • Unicomp Ultra Classic keyboard (2009)
  • Logitech Wheel Mouse

The PN50 replaced my trusty Shuttle DS87 as my daily driver.  All the components are new except for the two Dell U2311H monitors, keyboard and mouse.  I added a third monitor, Dell U2421HE, because it has ethernet and a USB-C interface that can connect with the PN50 for DisplayPort, USB hub and ethernet.  This lowered the number of cables between the PN50 and peripherals and reduced clutter on my desk.

Despite its small size, the PN50 is still very high performing, but you do pay a price premium for having something small AND fast.  I did lose some connectivity (fewer USB ports and only 1 Ethernet port).  The USB ports can be addressed with a hub and I use the monitor's built-in ethernet port for the one I loss since the PN50 only has one.

The Dell AC511M is a USB soundbar and can be attached to the monitor stand (not to the monitor itself).  It draws its power from the USB connection but I found three flaws with it: 
  1. It has no power button so it turns on when the PC turns on.  To use the audio-in jack and the speaker means the PC must be turned on. 
  2. The speaker has a hiss to it like many speakers but with no power button the hiss is always there.  I had to plug something into the headphone jack so I don't hear it.
  3. When something is plugged into the audio-in jack no audio goes through the USB.  If there are two audio sources (e.g. PC and music player) they need to share a connection.  I have two PCs connected to the monitor (one on display port and one on hdmi) and I can't have one play through USB and one through the audio in without plugging-and-unplugging the audio-in cable.  Instead, I have a cable from the monitor's audio-out to the soundbar's audio-in and each machine plays through the DP/HDMI outputs.
My ideal system would still be to have a something like the DS87 housing with a Ryzen 4700G (or 5700G), but those CPUs aren't very readily available and there is not DS87-like small form factor cases for them.  Update:  The day after I posted this, Shuttle announced this exact PC.  ^_^;  With my new monitor, though, I would like the new Shuttle to have an USB Type C connection, but at least if I wanted to get more power then I know the option is now out there!

System 2 (Asus PN50 4500U) (replaces system 4)

  • Ryzen 5 4500U [Zen2] (6 cores / 6 threads, base clock 2.3GHz, max 4.0GHz - 6 GPU cores - RX Vega 6, 15W)
  • 2x 8GB 3200 DDR4 so-dimm by SK hynix
  • Intel 660p Series m.2 500GB SSD
  • Intel WI-FI 6 (GIG+) + BT 5.0
  • *Crucial 128BG m4 2.5" SSD

This system replaces my wife's Shuttle XH61 system and is an upgrade across the board over its predecessor.

System 3 (Shuttle DS87)

  • Shuttle PC DS87
  • Intel Core i7-4790S Processor (4 cores / 8 threads, 8M Cache, base clock 3.2 GHz, max 4.0GHz, 65W)
  • Samsung 850 EVO 500GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E500B/AM)
  • 2 x Crucial 16GB Kit (8GBx2) DDR3 1600 MT/s (PC3-12800)
  • *Intel Network 7260.HMWG WiFi Wireless-AC 7260 H/T Dual Band 2x2 AC+Bluetooth HMC
  • *Samsung 840 EVO Series 120GB mSATA3 SSD

This Shuttle had been my reliable daily driver for over 6 years running Linux.  I repurposed an Samsung SSD and Intel wireless card from my Asus VivoMini to install Windows and add WIFI and bluetooth to the system.   The antennas that was in the VivoMini was hard to extract so I took the antennas from an old ASUS Chromebook laptop that wasn't being used anymore.  

The VivoMini was being used for kid's remote/distance learning but was a bit under-powered for handling some of the video conferencing features so this system will now take its place.

System 4 (Shuttle XH61)

  • Intel Core i7-2600S Processor (4 cores / 8 threads, 8M Cache, base clock 2.8 GHz, max 3.8GHz, 65W)
  • *Seagate 300GB 7200RPM HDD Cosair MX500 CT500MX500SSD1 500GB 2.5in SATA 6Gbps SSD
  • TP-Link USB WiFi Adapter for Desktop PC, AC1300Mbps USB 3.0 WiFi Dual Band Network Adapter with 2.4GHz/5GHz High Gain Antenna, MU-MIMO
  • 8GB RAM

This system was originally put together in 2012 (with an SSD) and even in 2020 was a perfectly good system for most tasks.  When running Windows 10 or some basic games (Minecraft, Don't Starve) it still felt pretty snappy.  I wouldn't try running any graphics intensive games on it.  

The SSD from this system was moved to the PN50-4500U (system 2) and replaced with a 2.5" Seagate 300GB 7200RPM hard disk drive that I pulled out of the Chromebook laptop that I pulled the antenna from.  After switching to the mechanical disk drive, the system felt noticeably sluggish.  A solid state drive makes a big difference!  

I'm keeping this system around for schooling.

System 5 (ASUS PN50 4300U)

  • Ryzen 3 4300U [Zen2] (4 cores / 4 threads, base clock 2.7GHz, max 3.7GHz - 5 GPU cores - RX Vega 5, 15W)
  • 16 GB Crucial (CT8G4SFRA32A) DDR4 3200Mhz  RAM (2x8 GB)
  • 500GB Samsung 970 EVO Plus (M.2 NVMe interface) SSD

This system is meant to be a more portable system for when I'm working at another location.  I paired this up with a portable monitor rather then getting a laptop since I don't need this to be a mobile system but one that I can easily transport.

ASUS VivoMINI UN62


The ASUS VivoMini UN62 is a wonderfully small and quiet bare bones system with very good build quality.  It was this system that gave me confidence in getting the ASUS PN50.  I actually own 3 of these system and use them for different purposes which have changed over time (e.g. media station, always-on server for minecraft, etc).  More recently, however, the Raspberry Pi 4  have replaced the VivoMinis for some of the tasks.

The specs for my UN62s are:
  • Intel i3-4030U (2 cores / 4 threads, 1.9 GHz, 3 MB cache, 15W)
  • 16GB Crucial (2x8 GB DDR3-1600) 204-pin sodimm
  • Samsung 840 EVO 128GB msata3 SDD
  • Intel Network 7260.HMWG WiFi Wireless-AC 7260 H/T Dual Band 2x2 AC+Bluetooth HMC
Two served as the kids' computers until I upgraded their setup.  One was repurposed as the machine for schooling when remote/distance learning was put in place due to covid-19.  This system was replaced by System 3 and its drive and wireless card got moved to that system.

Raspberry Pi 4

  • Broadcom BCM2711, Quad core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.5GHz
  • 4G BLPDDR4-3200 SDRAM
  • 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz IEEE 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 5.0, BLE
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 2 USB 3.0 ports; 2 USB 2.0 ports.
  • Raspberry Pi standard 40 pin GPIO header (fully backwards compatible with previous boards)
  • 2 × micro-HDMI ports (up to 4kp60 supported)
  • 2-lane MIPI DSI display port
  • 2-lane MIPI CSI camera port
  • 4-pole stereo audio and composite video port
  • H.265 (4kp60 decode), H264 (1080p60 decode, 1080p30 encode)
  • OpenGL ES 3.0 graphics
  • Micro-SD card slot for loading operating system and data storage
  • 5V DC via USB-C connector (minimum 3A*)
  • 5V DC via GPIO header (minimum 3A*)
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE) enabled (requires separate PoE HAT)
  • Operating temperature: 0 – 50 degrees C ambient
  • Raspberry Pi ICE Tower Cooler, RGB Cooling Fan (excessive but looks cool on the desk).

The Raspberry Pi 4 is a small wonder of a machine that replaces what I originally used the ASUS VivoMini for and is significantly cheaper.


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