AMD-based ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) systems are slowly gaining market acceptance, with the Zen architecture slowly catching up with Intel on both the performance as well as power consumption front. AMD's latest and greatest has been reserved for the high-end desktop market, with the parts meant for low-power / compact systems appearing a few quarters later. Zen 3-based desktop CPUs were introduced recently. However, Zen 2-based parts with 12-25W TDP (Renoir APUs) have started appearing in compact desktop systems only recently. ASRock Industrial launched the Ryzen 4000U-based 4X4 BOX-4000 series in September. The review below looks at the flagship model - the 4X4 BOX-4800U - and how it compares against the equivalent Comet Lake-U-based Frost Canyon NUC from Intel.

Introduction

The PC market has grown in the last few years, thanks in no small part to ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) and gaming systems. Intel's NUC line-up has been ruling the roost in the former category. Given AMD's focus on multi-threaded performance and core counts with the first-generation Zen microarchitecture, Zen and Zen+-based Ryzen APUs did not have good enough power efficiency and performance per watt to make a dent in Intel's success in the NUC space. ASRock Industrial did release UCFF systems based on the AMD Ryzen Embedded Processors lineup (we reviewed one such system - the 4X4 BOX-V1000M). While the GPU prowess and multi-threaded performance turned out to be appreciable aspects, the single-threaded performance, power efficiency, and driver issues made it a tough sell against competing Intel-based NUCs. The introduction of Zen 2-based APUs (Renoir) fabricated in TSMC's 7nm process changed the equation by addressing all the aforementioned weak points.

AMD prioritized the delivery of Renoir APUs to the notebook market, with mini-PCs following soon after. ASRock Industrial was again at the forefront. Along with Asus's PN50, they were one of the first to launch systems based on these parts. The 4X4 BOX-4000 series has three different SKUs with CPU core counts of 4 (Ryzen 3 4300U), 6 (Ryzen 5 4500U), and 8 (Ryzen 7 4800U) each. The last one is the flagship, and that is the one we are looking at today.

The 4X4 BOX-4800U has a 104mm x 102mm main-board housed in a 110mm x 117.5mm x 47.85mm plastic chassis. The system matches the Intel NUCs in the footprint department. The board comes with a soldered processor - the Ryzen 7 4800U belonging to the AMD Renoir APU series. It is an octa-core processor with SMT enabled (8C/16T). It can operate with a TDP configurable between 12W and 25W.

ASRock Industrial sampled us a barebones version of the system. In partnership with Patriot Memory, they also provided us with their recommended storage (Patriot P300 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD) and memory (Patriot Signature Line 2x32GB DDR4-3200 SODIMM) for usage with the PC.

The specifications of our ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U review configuration are summarized in the table below.

ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U Specifications
Processor AMD Ryzen 7 4800U
Zen 2 (Renoir) 8C/16T, 1.8 - 4.2 GHz
TSMC 7nm, 8MB L3, 10 - 25 W (15W)
Memory Patriot Memory PSD432G32002S DDR4 SODIMM
22-22-22-52 @ 3200 MHz
2x32 GB
Graphics AMD Radeon Graphics (Renoir) - Integrated GPU with 8 CUs
Disk Drive(s) Patriot P300
(512 GB; M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4; Kioxia 96L 3D TLC)
(Silicon Motion SM2263XT Controller)
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
(2x2 802.11ax - 2400 Mbps)
1x Realtek RTL8111G Gigabit Ethernet Controller
1x Realtek RTL8125 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet Controller
Audio 3.5mm Headphone Jack
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 2x USB 2.0
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 10 Enterprise x64
Pricing (As configured) $600 (barebones)
$878 (as configured)
Full Specifications ASRock Industrial 4X4 BOX-4800U Specifications

The ASRock Industrial 4X4 BOX-4800U kit doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but does come with a CD containing the drivers. In any case, we ended up installing the latest drivers downloaded off the product support page. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 90 W (19V @ 4.74A) adapter, a US power cord, a VESA mount (along with the necessary screws), a driver CD, user's manual and a quick-start guide. Installing the storage and RAM is straightforward - a matter of popping off four screws on the chassis underside and mounting the components in the appropriate slot.

The above gallery shows the package components along with the chassis design and the internal components. The system also includes support for the installation of a 2.5" drive, with a very flexible SATA power / data cable already in place.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 4800U AMD Ryzen 7 4800U
GPU AMD Renoir (Radeon RX Vega 8 / GCN5) AMD Renoir (Radeon RX Vega 8 / GCN5)
RAM Patriot Memory PSD432G32002S DDR4 SODIMM
22-22-22-52 @ 3200 MHz
2x32 GB
Patriot Memory PSD432G32002S DDR4 SODIMM
22-22-22-52 @ 3200 MHz
2x32 GB
Storage Patriot P300
(512 GB; M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4; Kioxia 96L 3D TLC)
(Silicon Motion SM2263XT Controller)
Patriot P300
(512 GB; M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4; Kioxia 96L 3D TLC)
(Silicon Motion SM2263XT Controller)
Wi-Fi Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
(2x2 802.11ax - 2400 Mbps)
Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200
(2x2 802.11ax - 2400 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $600 (barebones)
$878 (as configured)
$600 (barebones)
$878 (as configured)
Platform Analysis
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  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - link

    Dangerous. People are not often the brightest and help lines would probably be called when owners try to plug in a crappy usb c charger. Reply
  • 1_rick - Thursday, November 26, 2020 - link

    If your GPU can detect you didn't plug in the PCIe power plugs and refuse to let the computer boot there's no reason they can't do the same here. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Monday, November 30, 2020 - link

    People buy cheap chargers for phones. Nothing will change in this case. Reply
  • dontlistentome - Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - link

    ... Thunderbolt please. Can then power with it and have multiple 4K screens and peripherals hanging off 1 cable. Can then just swap the cable between this and my work PC when I work at home. Reply
  • timecop1818 - Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - link

    Alt mode HDMI is dead, there are literally zero devices which support or implement it. It only exists as a specification. There's very little point anyway because dp alt mode is superior in every way, such as being able to reduce lane count to share usb3hs. But with hdmi alt mode, you are using all 4 lanes just to transmit 1080p. Reply
  • SeanFL - Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - link

    Price is comparable to the Asus PN50 with the 4800U. Anyone have thoughts on which would be the one to buy?

    I've not been successful at finding the PN50 locally, Microcenter had a couple in stock then was sold out.
    Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - link

    Thanks Ganesh! The overall performance is decent, the problems with HTPC use unfortunate. One other piece of information I might have missed: just how noisy does this unit get, and how annoying is the fan noise? I am asking as especially smaller fans can be a lot more annoying than the simple dB(A) numbers suggest. Having had a laptop with this "feature", I now always ask about that before even thinking of buying. Reply
  • smilingcrow - Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - link

    It seems a major omission for a system that was reviewed for HTPC features and might end up in the lounge. Reply
  • spikebike - Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - link

    Nice, been waiting for a decent NUC like product with an AMD CPU. This looks quite competitive, but seems like waiting until CES in January will be worth it. The Zen3 is a killer upgrade and might well mean it's worth keeping for another year or two. Reply
  • grant3 - Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - link

    Most hardware refreshes are annual, and you're willing to wait 2 years? With that mindset you'll never, ever buy anything because you know a better version will eventually arrive in that timeframe. Maybe 2 better versions. Reply

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