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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  • redwingsbb - Saturday, November 28, 2020 - link

    I don't think spikebike was saying that they would wait 2 years to buy I think they were saying it would be interesting to wait until CES in a couple of months to see whether there could be Zen 3 based NUC coming out in the next few months which in their opinion would be a big enough upgrade over a Ryzen 4000 based NUC to last them a full year or two longer. Reply
  • ifThenError - Monday, November 30, 2020 - link

    You are very right, Zen3 in a small form factor would be a formidable plattform for many use cases. I'd happily swap my old box for such a device.

    Unfortunately I wouldn't expect this to happen anytime soon. Currently there is no such thing as a Zen3 based APU. The Zen2 based Renoir has just been released and still seems to have limited availability. It is more than a year behind the desktop and server Zen2 chips. Even if a Zen3 mobile chip was anounced in January, we would probably still be at least a year away from any SFF using it.

    Looks like the devices from Asus and ASRock are your best bet, or you need a lot of patience.
    Reply
  • Valantar - Thursday, November 26, 2020 - link

    Pretty damn impressive seeing this hit above 1300 in Time Spy and nearly 14000 in night raid. My ITX 4650G with the iGPU@2100, RAM @3800c16 and IF@1900 hits >1600 TS and >17000 NR, but that also consumes ~100W from the wall. With this sitting in the 50s of watts except for initial spikes, that's very good performance for the tiny power draw.

    Really looking forward to how boxes like this evolve with DDR5.

    Oh, and the dual NICs are brilliant. The 4350G version of this would make for a great PFSense box.
    Reply
  • DanaGoyette - Thursday, November 26, 2020 - link

    Realtek Virtual IPMI, on the Platform Analysis page....

    huh, does this have out-of-band management capabilities? If so, it could be useful as a server.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, November 26, 2020 - link

    Yes, the 1G port has Realtek DASH enabled. I am actually investigating that feature right now (couldn't complete it in time for publishing the review), but information / guides are hard to come by. Realtek's own software that talks to DASH clients is a mess / very user unfriendly. Reply
  • watersb - Saturday, December 19, 2020 - link

    And here (for reference) is the DASH overview article. Excellent!

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/16319/asrock-4x4-bo...
    Reply
  • zakelwe - Friday, November 27, 2020 - link

    Who cares about this? Where are the graphics card reviews from Amd and nVidia ? Reply
  • abufrejoval - Friday, November 27, 2020 - link

    I had ordered the PN50 in summer with the Ryzen 4800U when a major EU retailer promised only 2-3 days deliver delays. Alas, the only thing that moved was the delivery delay, which increased and wound up as unknown. The Ryzen 4800U SoCs requires perfectly binned Renoir chips and those are likely to remain rare even while they are being replaced by 5800U chips (eve more attractive and harder to get?).

    I had to resort to team blue, which has some advantages in my KVM live-migration scenarios and could become especially interesting: if I can get Thunderbolt 40Gbit networking to work, I’d use that for the cluster/gluster interconnect and switch the USB 2.5Gbit NICs to the front-end. ASRock is doing the right thing here, I wish 2.5Gbit had long since become default everywhere, especially since I can’t believe Realtek charges more than a few cents extra for the speed uplift.

    In the mean-time I’d just like to report that the NUC8i7BEH has had its price reduced to around €300 including EU VAT, while the BXNUC10I7FNH currently goes for €450. That comes down to €75/core and pretty much to core/€ parity with the 4800H at €600, which is why I got one of each in the end. Their combined idle power may actually not be higher than the AMD unit, while peak heat and noise are very well managed via OS independent BIOS settings on Intel NUCs these days.

    The Bean Canyon’s Iris 655 iGPU main advantage is that it doesn’t cost one cent extra vs the ordinary i7-10700U UHD630, just as the 128MB eDRAM are given away for free and that L4 cache does at least deliver measurable performance advantages to the CPU, even if they aren’t noticeable. Both give an i7-7700K a run for its money on bursty desktop/server workloads, but less so as members of a render or compile farm.

    While I’ll use both pretty much only for CentOS/oVirt, I did test them intensively on Windows with all sorts of graphics loads. AT basically infected me with curiosity about these larger Iris iGPUs years ago. 3DMark Night Raid at 1920x1080 IMHO shows their basic potential and why Apple used them as their main staple for a while, but the most impressive demo remains Google Maps with their AI created 3D view in Chrome (much slower in Firefox, unfortunately), which not only runs smoother on my 4k display, than Microsoft’s 2020 FlightSim on my RTX 2080ti/Ryzen 7 5800X game rig, but actually reflects what’s on the ground. FlightSim resorts to pure parametric random algorithms, which create ground structures and traffic patterns that not only carry no resemblance with ground truth, but don’t make sense, even at propeller speeds.

    While I would probably still rationally prefer NUC innards as Mini-ITX boards for better options on cooling and general modularity, I’ve come to appreciate those NUCs mostly because the chassis and power supply come basically for free and at excellent build quality, while expansion on mobile SoCs is mostly external anyway.
    Reply
  • Gadgety - Saturday, November 28, 2020 - link

    Nothing on physical size or noise? Reply
  • Gadgety - Saturday, November 28, 2020 - link

    110.0 x 117.5 x 47.85mm Reply

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