Asus ProArt PA90 Evaluate: A Highly effective Workstation PC With Model

"With a motorized lid design for ventilation, the ProArt PA90 is like a steam engine ready for your most demanding office tasks."

  • Compact and stylish design

  • Thunderbolt 3 support for future enhancements

  • Innovative design for liquid cooling and airflow

  • Fast workstation class performance

  • Can also be used for casual games if required

  • Two external power supply modules increase the mass

  • The Quadro GPU offers mediocre performance

  • The supplied keyboard is weak

Apple has resumed the tower with the new Mac Pro. However, that does not mean that there are no people who are still looking for a compact, powerful PC.

Asus & # 39; ProArt PA90 is more trash can than cheese grater. However, if you're looking for a space-saving PC, Asus & # 39; ProArt PA90 Windows 10 and discrete Nvidia Quadro P4000 graphics in a Mac Pro-inspired aesthetic. Can the slim silhouette of this small workstation convince those who are waiting for the new Mac Pro? At $ 3,000, the ProArt PA90 offers more than just a sleek silhouette. It has workstation-class performance, right where it matters.

Matte shimmer

The Asus Mini PC doesn't have the literal polish of last year's glossy Mac Pro and is available in a much more reserved, matte gunmetal finish. Choosing a sandblasted finish makes the ProArt less susceptible to dust and fingerprints if you often tend to rearrange your desk. Despite its restrained aesthetics, the ProArt is a premium PC. The choice of metal for the case not only adds to the durability of the desktop, but the material gives this 12.78-pound computer a comfortable weight.

And unlike Asus' ROG Strix gaming desktops, the ProArt is aimed only at creatives who need a workhorse PC, and its design reflects a much more reserved approach with clean lines and subtle curves. The only additional shine is a subtle blue glow from the LED, which is located above the lid. It's not as intrusive as the Corsair One Pro i180's Tron-inspired lighting, but if you switch from the much more minimalist approach of the Mac Pro, the backlighting may still be a bit off-putting.

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With a size of 14.4 inches, the ProArt looks like a towering skyscraper against desktops with a small form factor like the Mac Mini. With a footprint of 6.9 square inches, however, the circular base of the ProArt takes up less space on the desk than the 7.7 x 7.7 inch Mac Mini. This desktop is slightly shorter than the Corsair One Pro, but with the expanded motorized lid for airflow management, both PCs are about the size of a large college textbook. This form factor makes it easier for you to move the ProArt between offices or maneuver the desktop between work areas or construction sites without having to rely on steering wheels like the 2019 Mac Pro.

Unfortunately Asus could not pack all the components for the power supply of the ProArt perfectly in a compact way. While most PCs have internal power supplies to give the surrounding space a cleaner look, the ProArt is instead saddled by two massive external power supply modules, which together deliver 410 watts. This is a lot of performance, but it limits some of the portability.

Keep a lid on it

Whatever you think about the design of the ProArt, Asus made good use of the space, packed modern silicon, liquid cooling and a decent ventilation system to keep all the modern components inside.

Cool air is drawn in through the ventilation slots on the back and sides of the PC, and the motorized lid of this “trash can” is raised and lowered as needed to release hot air. While Corsair used a more aggressive grill that made the top of the One Pro i180 look more like a manhole cover, the lift cover of the ProArt is a novel solution that is reminiscent of the era of steam engines and resembles the safety valve of a boiler. Asus claims that the design allows 38 percent more air to flow through the ProArt when it is lifted, which helps the internals run at optimal performance. However, this lifting airflow system is not new for the ProArt and is used on various Asus PCs, e.g. B. The Active Aerodynamic System, with which the ROG Zephyrus laptop can roar its body out to allow a larger aerial view.

Chuong Nguyen / Digital Trends

In combination with the liquid cooling system for the processor, the air design also means that the fans don't have to spin as fast to move air through the system, which results in quieter operation. The ProArt was very quiet even under heavy load, and the technical efforts of the Asus were really worth it. The lid also helps keep dust away from an exposed top grate.

More advanced players can push for higher performance by connecting a better graphics card to an eGPU on the ProArt's Thunderbolt 3 port

The motorized plastic top cap is attached via magnets and can be removed to further maximize airflow. Once the lid is supported you will find a number of screws that are neatly hidden on the top. Removing the screws gives you access to the inside of the desktop. Hiding the screws underneath keeps the entire design clean, and still provides a way to service the ProArt when repairs are needed. Although Asus offers a way to access the ProArt internals, this is one of the least updatable workstations we've tested. Except for the RAM, everything is soldered on, which means that you want to choose your configuration carefully when checking out.

Fortunately, the ProArt includes Thunderbolt 3, which lets you at least add docks, drives, and a more powerful eGPU in case your needs change. This is not common for desktops, so we appreciate the addition here.

Ports not designed for consumers

The ProArt has a healthy range of connectors that make it easy to process all the peripherals and accessories you need for this system. Even if expensive high-end gaming rigs are shipped today without Thunderbolt 3 support, the ProArt does not. Thunderbolt 3 support means you can add a Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C dock that is perfect for office environments to this system, or even connect an eGPU to the ProArt to improve graphics. Although the Nvidia Quadro P4000 graphics meet your needs today, in the future you can easily upgrade to the newer Turing-based RTX graphics from Nvidia by connecting an eGPU package like Razers Core X Chroma.

Chuong Nguyen / Digital Trends

On the front there are two USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 ports, a headphone jack and a microphone jack. As with the One Pro, the placement of these ports at the bottom of the ProArt makes this desktop more suitable for use on a desk than on the floor next to your desk. Two additional USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C ports, Gigabit Ethernet, a second audio jack and four DisplayPort ports round off the port selection on the back of the ProArt.

In view of the ProArt workstation heritage, the ProArt lacks an HDMI connection for end users. Though the Quadro P4000 GPU on our updated $ 3,299 configured device is competitive with Nvidia's GeForce GTX series of consumer graphics, gamers are becoming concerned due to the lack of HDMI support and business-class pricing of the ProArt probably look somewhere else. Here, the video output on the ProArt is routed via the DisplayPort or USB-C ports on the back.

Full steam ahead

Because of its price in relation to performance, the ProArt is a cheaper alternative to the Apple Mac Pro. All ProArt configurations come with the latest 9th generation processors from Intel – a Core i7 processor is standard on the entry-level model for $ 2,999, while our updated tester for $ 3,299 has a better Core i9-9900K processor On an Asus board with Intel, the X390 chipset comes with 32 GB of memory. Given the Core i9-9900K processor, the performance of the ProArt is very similar to larger game systems like the Neuron from Origin PC and the Aventum X from Digital Storm.

Given the similarities, the ProArt's processor performance is very similar to that of its gaming rivals, despite the compact size of this workstation. The ProArt's single-core score of 6,290 points and multi-core performance of 34,410 points on Geekbench 4 make it competitive with the Origin PC Millennium with 6,357 and 34,309 points, respectively, since both PCs use similar processors.

However, creatives working on larger files should consider desktops with even more computing power. Corsair's One Pro i180 comes with a 12-core Intel Core i9-9920X, while the larger Origin PC Neuron is equipped with an 18-core Intel Core i9-9980 XE Extreme processor for even better performance. For comparison: The more powerful processor of the Corsair One Pro achieved a multi-core score of 36,609 with the same benchmarking tool. Although the HP Z2 Mini G4 has no discrete graphics options, it can also be configured with Intel Xeon processors.

The Asus ProArt PA90 took 78 seconds to encode a video using our handbrake video test. The result here is similar to the 77 seconds it took the Origin PC Millennium to complete this task. These results were slightly slower than the 73 seconds that the Corsair One Pro i180 equipped with the Intel Core i9-9920X took to encode the same video. These markings are certainly impressive, and the results also apply to real use. With the ProArt PA90, you could quickly process multiple browser tabs, Microsoft Office files, and even medium to large media files with Adobe's Creative Cloud applications. The system is even ISV certified and comes with a relatively clean version of Windows 10 to ensure fast performance.

The ProArt supports up to three drives. Our test device comes with a fast 512 GB Samsung NVMe solid-state drive together with a 1 TB Seagate hard drive. This is a good compromise that allows you to store apps on the faster SSD, using the cheaper hard drive to store larger files. Although it's not the fastest solid-state drive we've tested, the ProArt's SSD is still pretty fast, with 1111MB per second and 632MB per second read and write performance. The M.2 SSD can be replaced in the future.

Graphics at GTX level

All configurations of the ProArt PA90 come with Nvidia's discrete Quadro graphics from the workstation class, and our updated test device came with a Quadro P4000 card. Get GTX-level graphics based on the previous generation Pascal architecture from Nvidia, not the new Turing-based RTX graphics. This means that the ProArt does not benefit from the new ray tracing or tensor cores of the graphics of the RTX series. The performance difference probably explains why the price for the ProArt is up to $ 2,000 below the price of the competitor graphics with RTX 2080 Ti, the Corsair One Pro i180.

As expected, the ProArt PA90's 3D Mark Time Spy score of 5,527 points using Underwriter Laboratories' graphics benchmarking tool was 57% lower than the Corsair One Pro's 12,842 point score. Performance is what you get with Nvidia's GTX 1650 Ti processor. Although the ProArt is not designed as a gaming system, this is enough graphics performance for gamers who want to play most modern games with FHD resolution. Creative people working in multimedia workflows like video editing and detailed rendering may want to add an eGPU to the ProArt or choose an alternative that offers more graphics performance.

In our gaming benchmark, all of the games we tested were played smoothly in 1080p, so players who don't push for maximum details at higher resolutions will have no problems with the Quadro P4000 graphics on the ProArt. Casual gamers will do well with a default setting, but enthusiasts can push for higher performance by connecting a better graphics card to an eGPU on the ProArt's Thunderbolt 3 port. With the Nvidia Quadro P4000 graphics, games with less graphics playback can be brought to 2K resolution and achieve good performance with higher game settings, while games with higher playback with a resolution of more than 1080p are struggling.

When testing Quadro graphics with modern, less graphics intensive games like Fortnite and Civilization VI, we found that the system plays over 60 frames per second (FPS) in all game settings above 3K resolution. At 4K, both titles dropped to 40 FPS.

Graphics-intensive games like Battlefield V and Assassins Creed: Odyssey both had problems struggling with the highest game settings when played in 1080p resolution. For example, Battlefield V ran at 63 FPS at medium settings and a resolution of 1080p, but fell below 60 FPS once the settings were set to Ultra. The situation was similar with Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and the stuttering was noticeable in ultra mode even at 1080p. Both titles stayed below 60 FPS with noticeably lower frame rates thanks to 2K and 4K resolutions.

Lighter titles like Fortnite and Civilization VI can even be brought up to 1440p or 2K resolution at lower game settings. At this resolution, games with more complex rendering may show signs of stuttering.

On the one hand, it's nice to know that the graphics card can handle most games. Given that this workstation is aimed at creatives, many of whom pair the ProArt with a powerful 4K display, use higher resolutions for workflows, and be limited to only 1080p for casual games, this can be a staggering experience. Aside from playing, ProArt shows its strength in workstation-related tasks like content creation. Working with CAD rendering files, Photoshop edits and video editing from Adobe Premiere Pro was quick. The Quadro P4000 graphics architecture has been optimized for this type of task. The speed indicates when you are using the ProArt PA4000 for what it should be doing.

If you specify the limits of this space-saving form factor, it is understandable why Apple has returned to the classic tower. The 2019 Mac Pro can now support up to four graphics cards thanks to the higher volume of the tower. This is the compromise for the smaller, closed design of the ProArt.

And although the ProArt is a capable PC for creative work, productivity tasks, and even games, you probably want to invest in better peripherals for this system. Business users and gamers who are used to higher quality keyboards may want to bring their own keyboard and mouse to get a better experience. The ProArt comes with a matching keyboard and mouse, but the included accessories are weak – the plastic feels cheap, the keys are mushy, and the keyboard itself creaks and rattles.

guarantee

With Asus' guarantee for ProArt, this system feels more like a consumer system than a system designed to cope with the more difficult conditions of a corporate environment. The ProArt comes with a standard guarantee of one year. However, there are no options to expand or update coverage. PC manufacturers who target their systems to companies like Dell, HP and Lenovo either offer longer standard warranty periods of up to three years or allow buyers to extend the insurance period up to five years for an additional fee. Even the competing Corsair One Pro i180 comes with a two-year warranty.

In addition, many of these companies also offer coverage upgrades that include on-site repairs or next business day shipping.

Our opinion

The Asus ProArt PA90 is a modern alternative to Apple's Mac Pro trash can and, because of its performance in relation to price, is a much cheaper option than Corsair's One Pro i180 for offices that may not need such extreme performance from a compact workstation. Equipped with the latest 9th generation Intel processor, the ProArt is a fast PC that makes it a great companion for creative people.

However, there are limits. It doesn't have the graphics performance that other workstations offer, and upgradeability remains an issue.

Is there a better alternative?

If you're in the market for a gaming system, there are better alternatives for $ 2,999. Mainstream gaming towers like the Omen Obelisk from HP and the Alienware Aurora R8 from Dell have similar 9th generation Intel Core i9 processors and newer RTX 2080 graphics. These PCs also cost less than the starting price of the ProArt. However, if you need a powerful workstation in a compact package, there are relatively few alternatives.

The Corsair One Pro i180 is perhaps the closest competitor to the ProArt. As a premium alternative, the Corsair offers a more powerful Intel Core X Extreme processor and improved RTX 2080 Ti graphics, making it a more versatile and versatile system for work and leisure. However, at $ 4,999, the price is significantly higher.

Another great option is the tiny Mac Mini. Although there are no discrete graphics, we found its performance admirable, especially given its size.

How long it will take?

The ProArt PA90 has a lot of performance, but due to its dependency on an older graphics architecture, you may encounter this bottleneck in the future. Due to its limited internal upgrade potential, the ProArt feels and behaves more like a laptop. If you need more graphics power, Thunderbolt 3 support gives this PC a lot of flexibility. Adding an eGPU may be an easy way to improve ProArt performance. The desktop space occupied by the external graphics housing, however, negates the space-saving advantages of the compact form factor of this PC.

Should you buy it

Yes, as long as you need a unique PC like the ProArt. Few workstations are so stylish and powerful, and while they're not for hobbyists, creatives will be happy with the simplicity and performance.

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