Earlier this year, Asus announced the latest addition to its prosumer Mini PC range in the form of the ProArt PA90.
It’s not “mini” by any stretch of the imagination, and if you hadn’t heard of the range before, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a small form factor PC for basic computing tasks.
But no. It equates to a real Mac Pro competitor, even down to the aesthetic hat-tip to the trash can Apple computer of years gone by.
It’s likely the most powerful and expensive computer I’ve ever plugged into the wall, and in many ways is something I’d probably never buy.
I’m not creative. I don’t need to crunch video. I most definitely don’t require more than 32GB of RAM (although there’s something about opening a million tabs and knowing that they won’t be unloaded from memory). And I certainly don’t need a PC for “computer-aided design (CAD) and content creator workflows”.
What I will focus on in this hands-on is the design, and more pragmatic aspects, primarily the practicality of the PA90.
As a form factor, it’s understandable why the cylindrical shape is so appealing. Asus has topped the ProArt PA90 with a plastic top vent, which can vary its opening size based on component temperature.
At 80°C or hotter, the lid pops all the way up, increasing airflow by 38%, according to Asus. You definitely notice this while running Unigine Heaven, or even installing Windows Updates (which should be considered a benchmark at this point, tbh).
It’s a nifty little feature, but it is mechanical so you may want to guard against dropping anything heavy on the top cover.
As the opening grows wider, fan noise becomes more apparent too.
For those who want a workstation that emits absolutely no noise, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Asus notes the ProArt PA90 is still less noisy than a conversation at full load, but its decibel emissions aren’t something to write home about. It only really whispers quietly at idle.
It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s particularly noticeable without noise-canceling headphones or an otherwise quiet room.
And to be fair to Asus, I don’t think any device with this amount of high-end horsepower can possibly be whisper quiet around the clock. But I’m merely calling out the marketing here.
The ProArt’s facia is matte metal, flanked by vertical ventilation grating all around.
Around the rear, you’ll find two USB 3.1 Gen 2 slots, a line-out jack, and two WiFi antenna connections. The antenna, located in the box itself, can be screwed on to increase the wireless range. Surprisingly, I found that with my router near the ProArt, the antenna wasn’t really needed. And if you are planning to use this as a workstation, it’s likely you’ll want to plug this thing into your router using metal spaghetti.
Also at the rear are four DisplayPort slots, which was a painful realization.
I don’t own a screen that uses DisplayPort, so I had to purchase a DisplayPort-to-HDMI adaptor. However, when I plugged it in, the ProArt would only run at 1920×1080 60Hz, and not the native 2560×1080 of my LG ultrawide display.
Perhaps it was the adaptor? I didn’t have another DisplayPort device to test, so I can’t draw a conclusion here. I, however, have issues finding a driver for the Quadro that would output this resolution, or even recognize that my display was 21:9.
If you want to use the ProArt as a daily driver, ensure you grab the screens to match. It would be a travesty to purchase the Mini PC is you don’t have the accompanying display technology to take advantage of it.
Nevertheless, the ProArt PA90 also features two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support, which enables a host of opportunities.
Hate the Quadro because you play more than work? Get an external GPU cradle and grab a 1080Ti. Are four DisplayPorts not enough for you? Buy a display dock and plug even more monitors into this thing. Transferring gigs of 4K video that would otherwise take days over USB 3.0? Go bananas.
Beneath it lies a Gigabit RJ45 network port, so at least fast wired networking is covered too.
Asus ProArt PA90 features
- The tall but small form factor means it can fit practically everywhere.
- Asus has gone through great pains to dissipate heat without throwing out too much noise. I think it largely accomplished this, provided you don’t live in a monastery.
- An abundance of ports means you’ll probably always have an empty slot for whatever screen or device you want to plugin.
- It’s loaded with hardware. Our review unit came with an Intel i9-9900K, Nvidia Quadro P4000, a 512GB NVMe SSD, 1TB of spinning storage, and 32GB of DDR4 RAM. There’s probably not much more you could want.
- It’s as simple as plug-in-and-switch-on. You will need to run through the Windows 10 Pro install steps, and wade through the murky waters of Windows Updates for the best part of a day, but no building is required. You needn’t build this machine yourself.
Asus ProArt PA90 price is approximately US$ 2,899.00, I think it’s a good amount to pay for this wonderful item.