Gone are the days when I need a large tower system to serve as my day-to-day desktop or as a hypervisor for my home lab. I don’t need space for multiple large disks because I now have a NAS. The CPUs that small-form-factor machines have, and the rise of affordable M.2 NVMe SSDs and SATA 2.5″ SSDs make mini PCs suitable for most home tasks. Intel NUCs are popular choices, but what about other small PCs like the ASUS PN63-S1? I recently got my hands on one. Let’s see how it stacks up.
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ASUS PN63-S1 Specs
- Powered by Intel Quad-Core i5-11300H (3.1GHz – 4.4GHz) processors with integrated Iris Xe Graphics; support high-speed DDR4 3200MHz memory up to 64GB total
- Triple-storage design with up to a 2.5-inch HDD and two M.2 SSDs up to PCIe Gen 4×4.
- A new thermal module with a heat pipe for better heat dissipation, and an aluminum heatsink for more efficient conductivity. In addition, the exclusive ASUS Anti-Dust Self-Cleaning System effectively removes dust to maintain a cleaner heatsink and prolong the lifecycle of the product
- Support up to 3*4K displays simultaneously (via HDMI, DisplayPort, mini DisplyPort 1.2)
- Compact MiniPC at 0.9 Liter volume for space-saving solution
Here are the specs for the PN63-S1:
|CPUs||Intel® Core™ i3-1115G4 Processor 3.0GHz (6M Cache, up to 4.1GHz)|
Intel® Core™ i5-11300H Processor 3.1GHz (8M Cache, up to 4.4GHz)
Intel® Core™ i7-11370H Processor 3.3GHz (12M Cache, up to 4.8GHz)
|Graphics||Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics or Intel® UHD Graphics for 11th Gen Intel® Processors|
|Wireless Data Network||Wi-Fi 6 (6e on i5 and i7 models), Bluetooth 5.0|
|LAN||One Intel 2.5 Gbps port|
|Front/Side Ports||1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2, 1 x Audio Jack (Line out/ Mic in/ Headphone out)|
|Back Ports||2 x USB 3.2 Gen2, 1 x HDMI 1.4, 1 x Mini DisplayPort 1.2, 1 x Intel (RJ45) 2.5G LAN, 1 x Padlock ring|
|Hard Drives||2 x M.2 Slot (one PCIe Gen3, one PCIe Gen4) & 1 x 2.5” HDD slot|
|Memory||2 slots, up to 64GB of DDR4-3200 MHz RAM|
|Dimensions||120 x 130 x 58 mm (4.72 x 5.12 x 2.28 inches)|
|Weight||.75 kg (1.65 lbs)|
These are the specs for the barebone kits (no memory or hard drive included).
Outfitting the ASUS PN63-S1 with storage and memory.
This machine was going to replace my 12+-year-old tower running Proxmox. To be able to run a sufficient number of VMs for my environment, I went with 32 GB of Crucial DDR4 3200 Mhz RAM. The beauty of this mini PC is that it has two slots for M.2 NVMe drives (in addition to a 2.5 SATA drive). I like to run the OS on one drive and the VMs off a separate drive and it’s great that they can both be fast storage.
Taking apart the ASUS PN63-S1 and installing drives and memory is pretty easy, as you can see in the pics below. You simply loosen the four screws and open the bottom up gently. There is a ribbon connecting the board connected to the base and the main housing. There are two clips at the top that you can use to release the ribbon to make it easier to install the RAM and storage.
The M.2 slot inside the case is Gen4, while the one on the bottom of the case is Gen3.
BTW, I went with the Intel Core™ i5-11300H processor as I didn’t think the i7 would offer much noticeable performance benefit for my use and that allowed me to save a few dollars.
ASUS PN63-S1 in use
I installed Proxmox on this machine without incident. However, I did have to turn on the appropriate virtualization options (VT-x) in the BIOS. It has been running stable for a couple of months. Compared to my Intel NUC, this machine is a little bigger but more powerful and quieter.
The things I like about it:
- Powerful CPU
- 2 M.2 slots, with one of them being Gen4
- 2.5 Gbps Intel Ethernet. I don’t have 2.5 Gbps switches yet, but this device will already be ready
- It has a good set of ports (HDMI, displayport, USB-C, USB 3.2 ports)
- Easy to install storage and RAM
Really, there aren’t any things I don’t like about it, except that it doesn’t use a Gen 12 Intel CPU, but it has more than enough power.
This is a good addition to my list of small-form-factor Proxmox hardware and it is a great addition to my smart home. A box like this could also serve as my next desktop machine. It compares favorably to similar Intel NUCs and is usually a little less expensive. If you’re looking for a capable mini-PC, this should be on your list.