AMD has been steadily creeping into what once was mostly Intel’s territory for years now, first with desktop CPUs and then with laptops. Now the company’s Next Unit of Computing (NUC) Mini PC team better watch their backs. Because ASRock’s 4X4 BOX-4800U mini PC (opens in new tab), powered by AMD’s top-end mobile Ryzen 7 4800 CPU, is impressively speedy, and comes equipped with a cadre of next-gen connectivity. If you’re after a capable desktop in a tiny 4.3 x 4.6 x 1.9-inch form factor, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything better.
Just know that gaming performance is limited to lower settings with the integrated Radeon Vega graphics. And while the $599 price doesn’t sound too bad, you’ll have to provide your own storage, RAM and operating system. If you have room for a larger desktop, you can get a much better deal — or at the very least, better performance -- by opting for one of the best gaming PCs. The 4X4 BOX-4800U does, though, come with a VESA mounting bracket, so you can mount the system behind most (or at least many) monitors for a tidy DIY AIO solution.
Also, just as we’ve seen with other 4800U-based devices throughout the year (like Lenovo’s Yoga Slim 7), the 4X4 BOX-4800U (opens in new tab) can be tough to find in stock. ASRock tells us that the stock of the system it’s supplied to Newegg has sold out very quickly. So keep an eye out for it if you’re after the best possible performance (you can sign up to be notified of new stock at the link above). But if you can get by with a bit less CPU and GPU grunt, the company will also offer up a 4x4 BOX-4500U (opens in new tab) (for $429) and a 4x4 BOX-4300U (opens in new tab) (for $339). So if you don’t need 16 threads and a CPU that clocks above 4 GHz, there will be other Ryzen-based options, which (if the history of other 4800U-based products is any indication) should have much better supply. But note the Ryzen processors on those lesser models lack multithreading, and have lesser integrated graphics.
ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U Specifications
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 7 4800U||Additional Cost|
|Memory||Patriot RAM PSD432G32002S (x2)||$110 (x2)|
|Storage||Patriot M.2 SSD P300P512GM28 (512GB)||$60|
|Networking||Realtek RTL8125BG 2.5GbE||✗|
|Realtek R8111FPV 1GbE||✗|
|Intel intel AX200NGW Wi-Fi 6 module||✗|
|Ports||Front: Headphone/mic jack, one USB 3.2 Gen2 Type A, two USB 3.2 Gen2 Type C||✗|
|Rear: Two USB 2.0 Type A, two Ethernet, lock slot||✗|
|Video Output||1x HDMI 2.0a||✗|
|1x DisplayPort 1.2a||✗|
|Power Supply||90W external power adapter||✗|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home||$139.00|
|Dimensions||4.3 x 4.6 x 1.9 inches (110 x 117.5 x 47.85 mm)||✗|
|Price as Configured||$599||$419|
|Total cost for ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U and Additional Components||$1,018|
As noted earlier, the top-end $599 Ryzen 7 4800U-powered ASRock 4X4 BOX doesn’t come with storage or RAM (and neither do any of the lesser models). ASRock sent along some for testing, in the form of a 512GB NVMe P300P512GM28 M.2 SSD ($60) and two 3200MHz PSD432G32002S SODIMM sticks ($110 each), both from Patriot. If you add a full-priced license for Windows (although there are ways to get Windows 10 for free or cheap), that puts the total price at $1,018 as of this writing.
For that price, you could of course build a desktop that’s much more capable at gaming or high-end productivity. So what you’re paying for here is for high-end Laptop-like performance in a very small package. That said, if you don’t need quite as much performance, the lesser 4500U and 4300U models might be worth considering.
Regardless of which model of the 4x4 BOX you opt for, you get fairly impressive IO for a system this compact. The front is outfitted with a headphone/mic combo jack, two USB-C ports and a USB-A port. All of these are speedy USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) ports.
Around back, there’s the barrel connector for the external laptop-like 90W power brick, a pair of USB 2.0 ports (handy for your keyboard and mouse) and DisplayPort and HDMI ports for video. Also here is a lock slot and a pair of Ethernet jacks -- one 1Gb and one 2.5Gb, both powered by Realtek.
Despite being tiny, the chassis is well vented with mesh windows on both sides and vents at the back, above the ports.
Of course, you’ll have to install your storage and memory and an operating system before getting the ASRock 4x4 Box up and running. This process should be very familiar to anyone who’s ever set up an Intel NUC.
To get into the 4X4 BOX-4800U, you’ll need to remove four Philips-head screws embedded in the feet on the bottom.You can then pop the underside off to get access to the storage and RAM slots. Adding the M.2 drive and a pair of SODIMM sticks is pretty much the same here as you would do in a laptop, just in a more confined space.
The Intel AX200NGW Wi-Fi 6 module comes pre-installed in a slot below the NVMe SSD M.2 slot, so you’ll install the SSD atop it. If you want to add bulk storage or a SATA SSD, there’s a mounting tray for a 2.5-inch drive in the base of the chassis, and a SATA data/power combo cable is pre-attached to the small motherboard.
With our ample 64GB of RAM and (comparatively) modest 512GB SSD installed, I proceeded to install Windows 10 -- or at least I tried to. When installing off my trusty flash drive, I kept running into an error about a missing driver. Eventually, after investigating the issue, it turned out the simplest solution was to use an optical disc for my Windows install.
So I dug a spindle out of the back of my closet, pulled a portable DVD burner from a drawer and burned a Windows installation disc, which solved the missing driver complaint and had me booting into windows within (several) minutes. Then I began installing programs, benchmarks and games to see just what this little Ryzen box was capable of.
ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U Performance
Since we don’t often test standard-sized NUCs, or barebones systems in general, we don’t have anything reasonably similar to compare the 4X4 BOX-4800U against for a full set of benchmarks. But to give you some sense of where things stand, we’ll be running some of the same tests we ran on Intel’s NUC 9 Extreme. While technically a NUC, that machine is much bigger (though still compact, at 9.4 x 8.5 x 3.8 inches) than the ASRock Ryzen box. The NUC also has a higher, 45-watt TDP Intel Core i9-9980HK CPU compared with the Ryzen 4800U, which is configurable between 10 and 25 watts. But both processors have eight cores and 16 threads, though the Intel CPU also has a higher top speed of 5GHz (compared to 4.2 on the Ryzen 4800U). But as we’re about to see the higher speed and thermal envelopes don’t always add up to a major advantage for Intel.
In Geekbench 4.3, the AMD Ryzen 4800U-powered ASRock box scored 27,253 in the multi-core test, compared to 30,176 for the 9980HK in the Intel system. That’s a little over a 10% advantage for Intel.
In our Handbrake test, it took the NUC 9 Extreme 7 minutes and 44 seconds to transcode our 4K video to 1080p, with the ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U just one second behind (7:45).
When it comes to gaming, we have to abandon our NUC 9 Extreme numbers, as that (comparatively larger) system was tested with a dedicated RTX 2070, a fairly powerful previous-gen Nvidia card that added $420 to the $1,640 barebones price of the NUC as tested.
While the smaller ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U doesn’t have room for dedicated graphics, its Vega 8 integrated GPU is still up for some gaming with AAA titles, so long as you keep your settings low.
In Borderlands 3 at 1080p and low settings, the game’s built-in benchmark ran at 30 frames per second (fps). If you step down to 720p, that jumps to a much-smoother 50.1 fps. We also ran the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark, and saw not-quite-playable frame rates of 27 fps at low settings at 1080p. But stepping down to 720p, the frame rate was smoother at 40 fps.
In short, while you shouldn’t consider the ASRock 4X4 BOX-4800U a gaming rig, it will be able to play many modern games at low settings, which is more than can be said for most older Intel-based NUCs. That may soon change though, when Tiger Lake NUCs arrive with Intel’s new Xe graphics.
It’s also worth noting that, unlike a few tiny AMD-based machines of the past, the ASRock 4X4 is surprisingly quiet under load. You can hear the fan spin up and down occasionally if you’re near the system, but fan noise was never louder than a low whir during our testing. What was far more distracting was a green LED inside the system that blinked brightly and often through the mesh side panel. But it turns out that was an activity light on the SSD. If the SSD you choose has a similarly bright light, at least the system is small enough that it;s easy to move it to a place where the blinking is less of a bother.
Just as we saw with Lenovo’s Yoga Slim 7 laptop (which features the same CPU), the top-end Ryzen 7 4800U is an impressive slice of silicon. ASRock manages to slip it into a tiny desktop that’s full of speedy connectivity with the 4X4 BOX-4800U. But like most 4800U-equipped devices we’ve been promised this year, it’s tough to find in stock. ASRock told us that lesser models should be available on Newegg and elsewhere in the coming weeks, if you don’t need multithreading or quite as much graphical grunt.
If you can find it in stock, ASRock’s Ryzen 4800U-powered mini PC packs a performance punch, while bringing along fast USB 3.2 Gen2 ports, 2.5GbE and Wi-Fi 6. Lesser models will bring the same connectivity prowess. The Ryzen 4000-based 4X4 line overall looks to be an exceedingly capable (and quiet) mini PC option for productivity or digital signage. But like Intel-based NUC’s, they’re expensive once you add the requisite RAM, storage and OS.