REVIEWS: ASUS PN41 miniPC (Celeron N4500 and N5100), passively cooled box – Introduction of both boxes

I believe there will be many readers who have ever come into contact with small Intel NUC computers or other small boxes, whether for industrial or other uses. Some Friday back, I had the opportunity to test an interesting ASUS PN51 box with an AMD Ryzen 3 4300U processor, and this year I had the opportunity to test even smaller and passively cooled ASUS PN41 boxes.

These small boxes are sold in stores as barebones without SSD, RAM and OS, or they can be fitted. It is also possible to order your own configuration from ASUS if we do not like what e-shops offer. This can be interesting for companies that need a hundred such boxes, such as thin clients for employees, or for schools and so on.

For these reasons, the boxes are rated a little worse, as there is a whole host of configurations on the market, in addition, it is possible to order your own for the needs of the purchasing entity.

The current offer (valid at the end of April 2022) looks like this:

ModelCPURAMSSDWLANPortOSCena
PN41-BC032ZVCeleron N4500 (fanless)1x4GB DDR4128GB PCIe NVMe Gen3INTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)VGAWin10 PRO ETDCZK 7,590
PN41-BC034ZVCeleron N5100 (fanless)1x4GB DDR4128GB PCIe NVMe Gen3INTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)VGAWin10 PRO ETDCZK 7,890
PN41-BC034ZVS1Celeron N5100 (fanless)1x4GB DDR4128GB PCIe NVMe Gen3INTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)VGAWin11 PRO ETD (MM3)CZK 8,590
PN41-BC032ZVS1Celeron N4500 (fanless)1x4GB DDR4128GB PCIe NVMe Gen3INTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)VGAWin11 PRO ETD (MM3)CZK 8,290
PN41-BBC129MVCeleron N4500 (fanless)nic1*M.2 Slot+ 1* 2.5″ SlotINTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)VGAWHERE/OSCZK 5,490
PN41-BBC029MCCeleron N4500 (fanless)nic1*M.2 Slot+ 1* 2.5″ SlotINTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)COMWHERE/OSCZK 5,490
PN41-BBC130MVCeleron N5100 (fanless)nic1*M.2 Slot+ 1* 2.5″ SlotINTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)VGAWHERE/OSCZK 5,690
PN41-BBP131MVPENTIUM SILVER N6000nic1*M.2 Slot+ 1* 2.5″ SlotINTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)VGAWHERE/OSCZK 6,390
PN41-BBC129MVS1Celeron N4500 (fanless)nic1*M.2 Slot+ 1* 2.5″ SlotINTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)VGAWHERE/OSCZK 5,590
PN41-BBC130MVS1Celeron N5100 (fanless)nic1*M.2 Slot+ 1* 2.5″ SlotINTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)VGAWHERE/OSCZK 5,790
PN41-BBP131MVS1PENTIUM SILVER N6000nic1*M.2 Slot+ 1* 2.5″ SlotINTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)VGAWHERE/OSCZK 6,490
PN41-BBC029MCS1Celeron N4500 (fanless)nic1*M.2 Slot+ 1* 2.5″ SlotINTEL 9560 802. 11ac, BT5.1(2*2)COMWHERE/OSCZK 5,590

I received two different boxes with different processors in a barebone configuration without RAM, SSD, but both boxes are like Windows 10 Pro. These are custom configurations that ASUS has lent through its customer, so they are not barebone configurations from the e-shop.

The first box is rather cheaper, it is equipped with a dual-core Intel Celeron N4500 processor and does not have an audio codec, the front 3.5 mm audio jack is also missing, which can be ordered. As part of price optimization, I installed one 8GB DDR4-3200 CL22 1Rx16 module pulled from the Lenovo ThinkPad L15 Gen2 into this box. The processor supports a maximum of 16GB RAM in a 2x8GB RAM configuration (one 16GB module did not like it) and the memory works in 2933 MT / s mode. The older OEM Samsung PM961 512GB PCIe NVMe x4 Gen3 M.2 2280 served as an SSD here, this SSD is an OEM variant of the Samsung 960 EVO and thus belongs among the very melting SSDs.

The configuration looked exactly like this:

  • Intel Celeron N4500 2C/2T – 1,1GHz, Turbo až 2,8GHz, 4MB L3 cache, 6W TDP, 10nm
  • 1x8GB RAM DDR4-2933 CL-21-21-21-47 1T
  • Intel UHD Graphics 16EU
  • Samsung PM961 512GB M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe Gen3 x2
  • Realtek RTL8125 2.5GbE
  • Intel AC 9560 (802.11ac + Bluetooth 5.0)
  • 65W adapter
  • Windows 10 Pro v21H2

I was interested in the fact that the tested configuration has 2.5 Gbit / s ethernet from Realtek, I expected Intel’s gigabit chipset, but why not. The slightly more expensive model has the same network card, which differs mainly by the presence of a 3.5 mm combo jack and a better quad-core Intel Celeron N5100 processor. I changed the configuration by adding a second 8GB DDR4-3200 CL22 1Rx16 module for epic 16GB RAM, which is completely unnecessary for a thin client, but I wanted to add some power by dual channel RAM and I didn’t have 4GB modules on hand.

The more expensive configuration looked like this:

  • Intel Celeron N5100 4C/4T – 1,1GHz, Turbo až 2,8GHz, 4MB L3 cache, 6W TDP, 10nm
  • 2x8GB RAM DDR4-2933 CL-21-21-21-47 1T
  • Intel UHD Graphics 24EU
  • Samsung PM961 512GB M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe Gen3 x2
  • Realtek RTL8125 2.5GbE
  • Intel AX201 WiFi 6 (802.11ax + Bluetooth 5.0)
  • 65W adapter
  • Windows 10 Pro v21H2

It should be added that the boxes can be fitted with slightly faster Intel Celeron N4005, N5105 processors and a Pentium® Silver N6000 processor. The N6000 seemed to me to be the most interesting, but unfortunately it was not available. I will immediately reveal that the tested Celerons are not very fast and sometimes I felt like I was using a computer with a Core2Duo processor.

As I mentioned earlier, the boxes are configurable and it is possible to order certain extras from ASUS. One rear port is interchangeable, we can have a 15-pin D-Sub connector (often called VGA), a serial COM1 9-pin connector, a large DisplayPort 1.4 or a second Gigabit Ethernet with an RJ45 connector. The tested configurations are equipped with a classic 15-pin D-Sub for the possibility of connecting a VGA compatible monitor.

So let’s look at the packaging of the boxes and their accessories, it was basically the same. Inside the fairly compact box we find a heatsink for PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD, which we have to install. I tried how the Samsung PM961 512GB fried without a cooler and it was about life. The controller temperature climbed over 100 ° C during the installation of Windows 10 updates, and during the reboot, the BIOS complained of a crashing SMART system drive, which frightened me slightly. If you plan to install a heavier NVMe SSD, this metal heatsink is a must. Otherwise, the M.2 slot provides a maximum of two third-generation PCIe lines, which is not a big problem, as the brake will be the processor and most entities will probably reach for a cheaper SATA solution, or use a configuration with soldered 64GB eMMC storage.

The box includes a set of manuals, safety notices and a DVD with drivers. There are also a few screws and a VESA mount so that the box can be attached to the monitor.

The equipment ends with a 65W power adapter, which is extremely oversized, as this box takes a little over 10 watts under load (technically, if we install all USB ports, there will be an increase in consumption).

Now to the miniPC itself, both boxes have an almost identical front end (the model with the N4500 does not have an audio jack), there is a 10Gb / s USB-C port, a 5Gb / s USB-A port, a drive activity LED and a power button. The dimensions of the entire miniPC are 115 x 115 x 49 millimeters.

On one side of the box we can see the ribbing, which allows some movement of air through the miniPC. Next to the exhaust there is a socket for a Kensington type lock.

On the back of the box we find another cooling outlet and the rest of the port equipment. Here you will find HDMI output, USB-C 10Gb / s with support for DisplayPort 1.4, configurable port (in our case there is a 15-pin D-Sub aka VGA), RJ45 hung on Relatek RTL8125 2.5 GbE chipset, two USB-A 5Gb / with ports and power connector. Up to three monitors can be connected to the box, multiple Intel processors are not supported.

Since both boxes are sold as barebones, I had to add RAM and a disk to them. At the bottom of the box we can see the threads for the VESA holder and four screws. Just unscrew them and the whole bottom will then slide out of the miniPC.

Now we can see the insides of the miniPC, we find one SATA connector, two DDR4 SODIMM slots and two M.2 slots. An Intel AC 9560 WiFi card is housed in one M.2 2230 slot. The other M.2 slot has a standard length of 80 millimeters and provides two third-generation PCIe lines. Here I strongly recommend screwing in the NVMe disk cooler, the computer is passively cooled and the heat does not have to escape very well. I don’t know what exactly the heatsink looks like, I didn’t want to damage the box, the device doesn’t seem to be made so that the board can be easily removed.

In this photo we can see the DDR4 SODIMM memory and NVMe SSD with heatsink. Again, I prefer that the box with the Celeron N4500 is equipped with one 8GB module and the box with the N5100 is equipped with two 8GB modules.

The box with the Celeron N4500 has, in addition to a smaller number of cores, a weaker UHD graphics card, which has only 16 EU. You can load two kernels without any problems today, all you need to do is update Windows or install games via Steam, which is not exactly something that will be run on PN41.

The box with the Celeron N5100 is a bit better, thanks to two extra processor cores, more RAM and also has a stronger iGPU with 24 EU.

Both processors have a maximum TDP set to 6 Watts, making the ASUS MiniPC PN41 a very economical device. You will especially appreciate this if you operate hundreds to thousands of such boxes. I tested the boxes in Windows 10 Pro v21H2, as there is a license for it, I switched the Samsung SSD PM961 512GB from one miniPC to another, so the installation was the same.

Additionally, Windows 10 Pro users may enjoy the following message.


Source: Diit.cz by diit.cz.

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