Asus PN50 Desktop review

A few weeks ago I bought an ASUS PN50 as a new desktop (to replace an aging Intel Skull Canyon NUC, which was starting to crash once a week – presumably with a hardware fault).

I’d given up waiting for Intel to release a new NUC version – but of course a few weeks after I took the plunge they did release a new version…. Oh well.

Anyway, why this PN-50 thing ?

  • Relatively low power consumption
  • Hopefully quiet(ish)
  • Doesn’t take up much room (smaller than most Intel NUCs)
  • Faster than previous computer (and more processor cores)
  • Supports up to 64Gb RAM (I wanted something with at least 32Gb)
  • I could re-use the memory and m.2 storage from the skull canyon (although it only supports one of my two m.2 drives 🙁 )
  • Supports up to 4 monitors (I have 3×27″ Dell UHD monitors) out of the box (HDMI and displayport over USB C)
  • Integrated graphics etc
  • Easy to setup/install – it’s effectively an AMD “NUC”.

So, here’s a non-scientific review …

Setup – this was fairly straight forward, although I did need to update the BIOS for some reason (perhaps as I was trying to get multi-monitor support working? Initially it wasn’t behaving, until I started using the DisplayPort MST functionality of my Dell monitor to daisy chain one monitor off the other…..).

Performance – it seems fairly quick (quicker than my Skull Canyon) but in the process of ‘upgrading’ I changed from Debian Buster to Ubuntu 20.10 …. so it’s possible I’m not quite comparing like-for-like. I also don’t have any test values to support any statement(s).

Quietness – the BIOS allows for setting quiet / performance / normal fan behaviour. When the fan is busy, it is noisier than the skull canyon. This has made me realise just how quiet the skull canyon was in comparison. It’s crashed a couple of times – with no kernel trace given – so I’ve recently changed from ‘quiet’ to ‘performance’ setting to see if this would make any difference and so far it seems to be OK.

Hardware wise – my Dell USB soundbar seems to reset itself every 30+ minutes when I’m on a video call – what I experience is the sound turning off for about 3-4 seconds (presumably while the USB stack or hardware reset itself). I’m not sure if this has fixed itself yet – as I applied a BIOS update a few days ago and haven’t had many calls since.

So as a rubbish summary – it’s a shame ASUS didn’t put better heat sinks in / improve the thermal design of it ….. it could have been better (in terms of quietness). It feels like there are a few BIOS related issues to solve (USB/Soundbar etc), but hopefully they’ll get resolved soon. Once they are, it’ll become a near perfect ‘desktop’ for me.

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