Price (RRP): $5999
When ASUS asked if I would review its new mini PC ProArt PA90 I said sure, send it over. What arrived was a very large box containing a 5.8kg, 365 (H) x 176 (Square) tower.
It did not stop there. Two power supplies for its massive Intel Core i9-9900K processor and NVIDIA Quadro Pro P4000 8GB card, four Display Port outputs, and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. It is the most powerful PC GadgetGuy has tested to date. But Mini it ain’t.
It is a true workstation class PC disguised as a modern speaker!
Who is it for?
It targets Mac Pro buyers who want to use Windows 10 Pro instead. A Mac Pro costs from around $5,000 and can hit well over $10K with similar processor, RAM and storage options to the ASUS. I will resist discovering the ProArt PA90 price until I finish the review! So, number one you must be able to flash the cash.
Next, with four Display Ports, two Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) and four USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) ports it is for those who want to hook up lots of accessories – digitisers, pens, external SSD, and more. Greats for designers, still and video editors and creative types.
Finally, it has a unique ‘stay-cool’ system with a ‘pop-top’ that raises and lowers when the CPU temperature rises above 80° allowing 38% more airflow into the chassis. Not that you need it as there is liquid cooling in there as well.
Review: ASUS Mini PC ProArt PA90
Australian website here
Note: This is a review sample and specifications may change.
You can get an unlocked (overclocking perhaps?), Intel 9th generation Core i7-9700K or an i9-9900K. Both use the new Intel Z390 chipset and have an embedded Intel UHD Graphics 630 as well as the NVIDIA GPU card. Price is around US$500 for the CPU.
The i9-9900K uses a 14nm die, 8 core/16 thread, 3.6/5.0Ghz drawing 95W TDP (Thermal Design Power). It only runs with DDR4-2666Mhz RAM. Passmark is 20179. As it has 16 threads, it is roughly twice as fast in multi-core use than the i7-9700K.
The i7-9700K is also 14nm, 8 core/8 thread, 3.6/4.9GHz drawing 95W TDP and uses the same RAM. Passmark is 17200.
In comparison, an Intel 8th generation Core i7-8700K has a passmark of 15,963, so it’s a reasonable jump.
The AMD Threadripper 1950X and 2920X just beat the i9 at 21950 and 21334 respectively. Although the Threadripper 2950X is substantially faster again. TechSpot has a good rundown on processor speeds and game frame rates here.
UserBench said this CPU demolishes everyday tasks such as web browsing, office apps and audio/video playback. Additionally, this processor can handle intensive workstation and even full-fledged server workloads. Finally, with a gaming score of 100%, this CPUs is suitable for 3D gaming.
GadgetGuy’s take: Currently the fastest Intel desktop CPU. Gaming enthusiasts are more likely to want the Intel Core i9-9980XE, 18-core but it costs $1500 more and draws 165W TDP, so I think ASUS has made the right choice for its target market.
The processor chips dictate the use of DDR4-2666Mhz RAM. It has 4xSO-DIMM slots and comes with 4×16=64GB. Both processors support 128GB (if you could get 4x32GB PC4-2130 1.2V SO-DIMMs). If you look at current prices of 64GB they are around $2,000 – so let’s see what that does to the end price.
It has a 256GB Samsung MZVLB256HAHQ – this is an OEM version of 960 EVO series. Samsung claims 3200/1300MBps sequential read and writes and 130/310K IOPS random read/write. We achieved higher in tests, and we put that down to the i9-990K processor.
It also has a 1TB Seagate ST1000LM049 Hard disk. This is the OEM version of the Seagate Barracuda Pro, a 7200RPM, SATA 6 drive. This has a maximum sustained data read rate of 160MBps and is for low-cost storage.
It has two M.2 (2280) Slots (one with the Samsung SSD) and can support Intel Optane memory to speed up the spinning disk. GadgetGuy has an overview here and for an extra $20 it pays to add a 16GB Optane module.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
It uses the new Intel Wi-Fi AC 9560 chipset. This supports dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz, 2×2 Antenna, MU-MIMO. It also supports 160MHz (HT160) that some routers now have enabling a peak speed of 1.73Gbps.
It has a dual antenna connector on the back and connects to an external antenna (supplied). This minimises the effect of any case shielding or RF interference.
At 2m from our reference, D-Link HT160 enabled AC5300 router we achieved the peak speed – impressive.
It also has a 1000Gbps Ethernet RJ45 port. We did basic file transfer testing of both Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Ethernet is full duplex and achieved nearly 700Mbps, and Wi-Fi is half duplex (standard) and achieved just under 600Mbps. If your router does not support HT160, then expect Wi-Fi to achieve around 300-400Mbps.
Bluetooth is version 5.0 and supports Hi-Res sound codecs as well as SBC.
NVIDIA claims its Quadro Pro P4000 8GB GDDR5 (website here) is the world’s fastest single-slot professional graphics card. It supports the four DisplayPort that in turn each support up to 5K displays (5120 x 2880 at 60Hz) with HDR colour support.
It is VR ready and supports H.264 and HVEC de/encoding on the fly. NVIDIA aim this at video editors, animators, visual effects, and 3D texture painting
It is not a pro gamers card at 1792 CUDA cores but should handle most games well enough. The closest comparison is that it sits between the GTX 1060 and 1070. Benchmarks are here.
The lower specified Pro P2000 has 1024 CUDA Cores and 5GB GDDR5 RAM and will support four x 5K monitors as well.
The ASUS reviewers guide states, “Although ASUS does not officially support graphics card upgrades, we cannot prevent more experienced users from performing this kind of upgrade, although such modifications void product warranty. Note that ASUS will also offer the PA90 with the latest graphics cards, such as the NVIDIA RTX series.”
The Intel UHD Graphics 630 embedded processor powers monitor hooked up via the Thunderbolt 3 port and any downstream dock.
Noisy – no it is very quiet
At full load ASUS claim 32dB, and we can confirm that it is whisper quiet. It also remained cool to touch after 12 hours continuous, heavy load use.
It comes with two power bricks. One is 19.5V/11.8A (230W), and the other is 19.5V/9.23A (180W). Although not marked the supplies need to be connected to the correct ports. The right port (from the rear) is for 230W (for the PC) and the left is 180W (for the graphics card).
In the absence of a manual (which we have no recevied), we tried to boot with one supply, but it did not. This is a relatively power-hungry device.
Nothing a desktop should have. Obviously, it does not have a microphone or camera, so think about that when buying a monitor. And it does not have an external Blu-ray player.
Also missing are instructions on how to ‘open’ the case for upgrades. I suspect this will be an issue that ASUS needs to address. The
“Slots placed on the rear of the mainboard cannot be accessed without removing the mainboard from the chassis, which will void warranty.”
ASUS has not given a recommended price, but we found it at the lowest price at iFrog (here).
- ASUS ProArt PA90 mini PC, Intel i9-9900k, QUADRO P4000, 32GB ram, 512GB SSD, liquid cooling, Win 10 Pro, three years onsite service PA90-9I9M32S512W10P. $5,999 plus delivery, but iFrog have it at $5,003.33 cash price.
The chances are that all your favourite PC stores (list here) will have it as well.
At the beginning of this review, I said I would not look at the price – until the end. I am pleasantly surprised that this is well below a MacBook Pro and yet offers higher specifications. Although you can’t compare Windows and macOS or programmes developed for each. But if your programmes have Windows equivalents this is the workstation to buy!
GadgetGuy’s take: ProArt PA90
I am impressed with the price, performance and ASUS design. I think it is more for business use than gaming – the latter would look to an ASUS Republic of Gaming (ROG) Desktop and an NVIDIA RTX graphics card.
We are waiting to get our hands on the new ProArt PA32UCX 32” 4K HDR Mini LED backlit monitor that is an ideal match for this. It has
- 1000+ zones of local dimming
- multiple HDR formats (HLG and HDR10)
- true 10-bit colour
- 97% DCI-P3 colour space coverage
- I/O ports including dual Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort and 3 x HDMI 2.0 ports
In all – would not look out of place on a creative types desk.