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Asus Mini PC ProArt PA90 review: Finding the incredible

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £3090
inc VAT

A staggeringly powerful mini workstation with enough style to grace even the most demanding of studios


  • Powerful workstation
  • Impressive processors
  • Controls temperature and noise levels well


  • Comes with two power bricks
  • Can't upgrade components
  • Internal faults cannot be fixed

Asus’s tagline is “In search of the incredible” and, with the AsusMini PC ProArt PA90, it might just have found it. From the moment you power up this workstation and watch in wonder as the top plate moves up and down like a miniature TARDIS engine, you know it’s something different.

If that phrase has the ring of Apple to it, I make no apologies; the ProArt PA90 itself has more than an echo of the Mac Pro. A cylindrical workstation dressed in dark grey isn’t a wholly novel concept, after all.

This machine is taller than the Mac Pro, though, standing just over a foot high. Asus is also less shy than Apple when it comes to showing you what’s inside the ProArt, with components visible through the honeycomb-like skin. And what a set of components those are.

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Asus Mini PC ProArt PA90 review: Specifications

The headline act is an Intel Core i9-9900K processor, with eight cores and 16 threads. They run at 3.6GHz as standard, but Asus has found space for watercooling inside the PA90 and overclocked them to 4.7GHz. It deserves plenty of kudos here: not only does it control temperatures but also noise levels.

There’s always a noticeable hum coming from the ProArt, but it’s quiet enough to fade into the background of an office, and even when you really push this system to the max, it only rises in volume by a notch. Besides, you’ll be so besotted by the sight of the plate lifting to increase airflow that you won’t care.

Then we come to the Nvidia Quadro P4000 graphics card. This has just been usurped by the Quadro RTX 4000, but remains a powerful all-rounder for rendering and 3D modelling. Add 32GB of 2,666MHz DDR4 RAM (not ECC) and a speedy PCI-E SSD and you have a potent-sounding machine.

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Asus Mini PC ProArt PA90 review: Performance

We don’t have the willpower to include results for every single test we put this machine through, but it’s within touching distance of other workstations costing around £2,500.

Much as it would be nice to include the Mac Pro in such a collection of comparable workstations, it hasn’t been updated since late 2013 so our benchmarks have evolved almost as much as British politics.

A new Mac Pro is rumoured for release later this year, but we shall see. This leaves the Armari Gravistar CZR Micro we tested recently as the PA90’s closest opposition, measuring 203 x 400 x 330mm (WDH).

While it’s a similar height, the overall volume is substantially bigger – but this did mean that Armari could include a Quadro RTX 4000 and overclock its 9900K processor to 4.9GHz. Together with marginally faster memory, this proved enough to give the Armari a significant lead in many of our workstation-oriented benchmarks.

Whether you look at 3D modelling software such as 3ds Max, Maya and Creo, or rendering benchmarks such as LuxMark 3.1 and IndigoBench 4, there’s no doubt the Armari will finish that little bit quicker.

However, the key thing to take away from is that this compact machine is phenomenally powerful. It may not look like one, but the ProArt PA90 is a true workstation.

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Asus Mini PC ProArt PA90 review: Features

While Asus has restrained itself to two USB-A 3.1 ports and dedicated mic and headphone jacks on the front of the ProArt, it hasn’t been so shy about shoving ports onto the rear. Here you’ll find two further USB-A 3.1 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a line out and two connectors for the stylish fin-shaped aerial.

This is for the 802.11ac wireless chip within, but I simply took advantage of the Gigabit Ethernet port. You can drive four monitors via the DisplayPort outputs, or take advantage of those Thunderbolt 3 ports. For a compact PC, that’s a staggering amount of video outputs, although I suspect that many people will be tempted to use the Thunderbolt ports to expand on the 1.5TB of total storage.

For a modern workstation, that sounds light. The other key design choice Asus made is to use external power supplies rather than have a kettle lead go directly into the rear of the tower. So, unlike the Mac Pro or iMac Pro, you’ll have to find room for two power bricks. And it’s no surprise when you see how much power this machine gobbles up.

In idle, it’s satisfied with 32W, but fire up all those cores and the graphics card and the figure ramps up to 244W. Unsurprisingly, there’s no way to get inside the PA90 to upgrade components or replace faulty parts – if you attempt to disassemble the unit, you’ll void the warranty – but Asus claims this is one rugged system that can “cope with extreme conditions, ranging from dry -40°C temperatures, to humid and hot environments exceeding 60°C for long periods of time”. Not something I’d want to test.

Asus Mini PC ProArt PA90 review: Verdict

So it’s time to make a decision. And it boils down to this: how much do you value stylish design over storage capacity and expandability? The Armari costs £100 less yet offers double the storage capacity, including a 1TB PCI-E SSD, while stealing a lead in every benchmark. There’s only one rational answer, but the ProArt is such a winner when it comes to designer chic – if you can hide the power bricks – that you have every right to be tempted.

Asus Mini PC ProArt PA90 specifications
Processor3.6GHz Intel Core i9-9900K processor
MotherboardAsus Z390 motherboard
Graphics card8GB GDDR5 Nvidia Quadro P4000 graphics
Front USB ports2 x USB-A 3.1
Rear USB ports2 x Thunderbolt 3 USB-C
Operating systemWindows 10 Pro
Dimensions176 x 176 x 365mm
Warranty3yr warranty (6 months C&R, 2yr parts, 3yr labour)

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