IT Pro Verdict
Smart internal layout
Slightly underwhelming graphics performance
Unless your limbs are of giant proportions, it isn’t possible to fit the Asus Mini PC PN50 into the palm of your hand – but this barebones PC comes phenomenally close. Its 11.5cm2 footprint takes up fractionally more space than a drinks coaster, and yet it packs more power than the towering desktops it could easily replace.
That power comes thanks to yet another brilliant AMD processor: the Ryzen 7 4800U. This might be a mobile chip, but it doesn’t act like one, with eight cores that can peak at 4.3GHz and run consistently at 3GHz under load. Its overall score of 213 in our benchmark tests can’t quite match the Ryzen 5 Pro 4650G inside the StonePC Lite and its result of 254, but it chewed through our tough video-editing benchmark at a speed that embarrasses Intel’s equivalent. The i7-10510U-powered Dynabook Portégé X50 managed a comparatively paltry overall score of 88, which is a significant difference even once you account for the usual performance disparity between laptop and desktop devices.
This is easily a match in terms of performance for anything else at this price, and you’ll struggle to notice any performance hang-ups. What’s more, most of the time its fans are barely noticeable: it’s only when pushed to the maximum that these go above a gentle hum, while its power consumption peaks at around 45W and generally hovers at 15W.
The only area where the PN50 falls short is graphics, relying on an integrated Radeon GPU. It can run reasonably demanding games at 720p – F1 2020 averaged 63fps at High settings, Metro: Last Light returned 61fps – but 1080p will prove a challenge. That said, dropping the settings to Low in F1 2020 saw a playable 49fps, and, sticking to Low, it managed 32.7fps in the demanding Metro Exodus. So while it’s not a rendering powerhouse, some light graphics-accelerated workloads shouldn’t be a challenge.
All these results were with the addition of 32GB of Corsair Vengeance RAM, which Corsair kindly supplied to take advantage of the PN50’s 3,200MHz memory support. The Mini PC would have provided fractionally faster scores if we had an M.2 PCIe SSD to hand, but instead we opted for a slower SATA 2.5in SSD.
You will have to budget for these extras – and Windows, although note that you can buy a Windows 10 Pro licence for £40 by heading to the PC Pro store – as Asus doesn’t supply RAM or storage. Fortunately, it’s easy to add your own, with four crosshead screws securing the base and the SODIMM sockets and storage slots arranged for easy access.
Asus provides four versions of the PN50 in the UK, with the cheapest being a Ryzen 3 4300U for £280 inc VAT. Prices rise steadily as you head up the range, with this 4800U model at the top, and all include Wi-Fi 6 courtesy of an add-in Intel AX200NGW card.
If you prefer a physical network connection then you’ll be cheered by the rear panel of the PN50, which includes a Gigabit Ethernet port along with three video outputs: HDMI, USB-C and a DisplayPort. You can even run four displays at 4K.
The USB-C port can also be used to connect external storage devices, but for power you’ll need the external adapter. A necessary annoyance, its 74 x 79mm footprint could only be considered large when compared to the PC it’s powering.
Most people will use the two USB-A ports at the rear for a keyboard and mouse, but Asus provides further USB-A and USB-C ports on the front. There’s also a 3.5mm combo audio jack and a microSD slot, as well as an infrared sensor if you decide to use the PN50 as a media centre. Look very closely and you’ll even see two microphones – perfect for all those endless online meetings.
It’s also good to see a VESA mounting kit in the box, as this is one of the most logical uses of a compact PC. But we shouldn’t pigeonhole this flexible barebones system. Its brushed metal looks mean it would fit equally well in an office, a meeting room and in the home. It also has flexibility when it comes to potential uses, with only gamers likely to be disappointed by its turn of pace.
Provided you don’t mind fitting your own RAM and storage, the Asus Mini PC PN50 is an excellent choice for anyone seeking a quiet, fast and compact PC. And if you’re looking to save money, the 4300U option for £280 looks particularly excellent value. T
Asus Mini PC PN50 specifications
|Processor||8-core 1.8GHz/4.3GHz AMD Ryzen 7 4800U processor|
|RAM||2 x unfilled SODIMM sockets (supports up to 64GB 3,200MHZ DDR4 RAM)|
|Graphics adapter||Integrated Radeon Vega 7 graphics|
|Storage expansion||M.2 slot (up to 512GB), SATA 3 connector (up to 1TB)|
|Graphics outputs||2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, HDMI, DisplayPort|
|Other ports||Gigabit Ethernet, microSD card reader, 3 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 3.5mm audio jack|
|Dimensions, mm (WDH)||115 x 115 x 49mm|
|Weight (kg)||Approx 500g (without SSD and memory)|
|Operating system||No OS supplied|
Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro, the UK's biggest selling IT monthly magazine. He specialises in reviews of laptops, desktop PCs and monitors, and is also author of a book called The Computers That Made Britain.
You can contact Tim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.