An ordinary desktop is too big for a workplace at home, and a laptop has an inconvenient keyboard and a small screen. There is an alternative: a mini-PC, which in terms of characteristics is not inferior to powerful laptops, but takes up as much space as a small router. Such, for example, as ASUS ExpertCenter PN64.
ASUS ExpertCenter PN64 specifications
|CPU||Intel Core i5-12500H|
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe Graphics|
|RAM||2x DDR5 SO-DIMM, 2х16 GB|
|Drive||1x M.2 2280 PCIe Gen4x4 slot, 1x SATA 6Gb/s connector for 2.5″ drive|
Intel AX211 (Wi-Fi 6E + Bluetooth 5.3)
|Audio||Realtek ALC3251, without built-in speakers|
|Ports||2x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C (one with DP1.4 support, PD), 3x USB 3.2 Gen2, 2x HDMI 2.0, 1x DisplayPort, audio jack (Line out/ Mic in), 1x RJ45|
|Power supply||20 V, 6 A, 120 W|
|Weight||700 г (without drives and memory modules)|
|Approximate cost in Ukraine||24 thousand UAH|
In the box
In a small box (several times smaller than those in which modern video graphics are currently delivered), in addition to the device itself, you can also find an external power supply unit, a cable for it, a set of screws, a mounting plate for mounting on a device with a VESA mount, technical documentation and, somewhat unexpectedly, a CD with drivers (of course, there is no optical drive in a mini-PC).
If anyone still remembers such a thing as CDs, the ASUS ExpertCenter PN64 is slightly smaller than a stack of six CDs. The body is made of black matte plastic, and fingerprints remain on it, but they are almost invisible. The top panel is smooth, the sides are covered with ventilation grilles. Interestingly, the only logo to be found on the case is HDMI; The manufacturer’s logo is missing on the mini-PC.
The power button, two USB 3.2 ports, one USB-C 3.2, a minijack for connecting a wired headset, and a drive activity indicator are located in one row on the front panel. On the back, there are two HDMI ports, one DisplayPort, another USB 3.2 and USB-C 3.2 — the latter with DisplayPort and Power Delivery support, so if desired, the ASUS ExpertCenter PN64 can be connected to a monitor capable of transmitting power (at least 20V/4.5 A), after which the need for a separate power supply disappears. There is also an Ethernet port nearby, which allows you to connect to a local network not only via Wi-Fi but also via a wired method. Above the connectors, you can see a wide gap through which warm air is blown out of the case.
There is a VESA-compatible mount at the bottom – you can connect the mounting plate included in the delivery to it and mount a mini-PC, for example, on the back panel of the monitor (most modern models are equipped with a similar mount) – this will allow it to be completely removed from the desktop table and free up additional space.
ASUS ExpertCenter PN64 can be delivered both with a full configuration and as a barebone — that is, without RAM and storage, which the user will have to purchase separately and install by himself. We got this version of the system. The mini-PC is very easy to disassemble: four screws are hidden in the rubberized legs, which must be unscrewed completely and carefully, so as not to damage the ribbon cable, to remove the upper part of the case – the user manual explains this in detail.
On the motherboard, there are two SODIMM slots for DDR5 memory, one PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot for NVMe SSD storage, and one compartment for a 2.5″ SATA HDD or similar SSD (only 7 mm height models are supported). Note, that the Wi-Fi module Intel AX211 WIFI 6E also occupies the M.2 slot.
An Intel Core i5-12500H processor was installed in the sample that we had for inspection. ASUS ExpertCenter PN64 configurations with Intel Core i7-12700H or i3-1220P, and with 13th generation processors – i5-13500H or i7-13700H are also available.
Intel Core i5-12500H is a high-performance mobile processor based on the Alder Lake architecture announced in early 2022. It includes 4 performance cores with HyperThreading support that can operate at frequencies from 2.5 to 4.5 GHz, and 8 efficient cores with frequencies from 1.8 to 3.3 GHz. In total, the processor can process up to 16 threads simultaneously. The basic thermal package is 45 W, in turbo mode, it can rise to 95 W at short-term loads. Intel Iris Xe Graphics integrated video is responsible for the graphics.
As mentioned above, we got the barebone configuration option — without RAM and storage. For tests, we installed two SODIMM modules with a total capacity of 16 GB in the system – Kingston Fury Impact KF548S38IBK2-16 16GB (8GB x2) DDR5-4800, NV2 PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD KINGSTON SNV2S250G (250GB) was the system drive.
The Intel AX211 module (Wi-Fi 6E + Bluetooth 5.3) is responsible for wireless communication, and the Intel Ethernet Controller I225-V (2.5Gbe) is responsible for wired communication. The sound subsystem is based on the Realtek ALC3251 codec.
ASUS ExpertCenter PN64 performance
The Intel Core i5-12500H shows decent performance in both complex synthetic benchmarks and purely processor tests – this is the level of a powerful enough laptop with integrated video, so if desired, it can be used without any problems for almost any application tasks that do not need especially high-performance hardware.
In the AIDA64 stress test, the processor is initially overclocked to 3.8 GHz (the thermal package is 67 W) but quickly drops to 2.7 GHz (33 W TDP), after which the rest of the test is performed at these parameters. Throttling by the utility is formally fixed only at the beginning, the processor temperature is ~73°.
In the BIOS settings, you can choose between two options for the cooling system — Normal and Quiet. In quiet mode, the ASUS ExpertCenter PN64 is quiet enough to be almost inaudible at a distance of half a meter, even during the multi-core test in Cinebench R23 in a room with an open window. In “normal” (which is the default setting), the noise level is noticeably higher, but still within reasonable limits (~50dB).
Performance in Quiet mode, quite expectedly, decreases in multi-core tasks and remains unchanged in single-core tasks: for example, in Cinebench R23 the system scored 1729/8924 points, while in Normal – 1723/10269. At the same time, the performance cores of the processor in Quiet Mode worked at a frequency of 2.45 GHz, the efficient ones at 2 GHz (2.7 and 2.2 GHz, respectively, in Normal mode), the TDP was 32 W (against 37 W in Normal), the temperature of the CPU in both cases was the same, ~75°.
As you can see, the TDP in the ASUS ExpertCenter PN64 is quite significantly limited compared to the processor specifications. With the help of the ThrottleStop utility, we managed to increase the thermal package and, accordingly, get higher performance: yes, in Cinebench R23, the system scored 1715/12040 points, while the processor TDP rose to 53 W, the temperature reached 93 °, and the cores worked at frequencies of 3.2 /2.6 GHz.