ASRock Industrial NUC BOX-N97 and GMKtec NucBox G2 Evaluate: Contrasting Compact ADL-N Choices

Intel launched a separate microarchitecture for low-power / low-cost x86 programs within the 2008 Silverthorne Atom processors. Variation of the microarchitecture in numerous product households has since helped the corporate to span a wider efficiency / energy effectivity vary. From 2008 to 2020, every product household opted for both the Atom-class microarchitecture or the Core-class one. Nonetheless, the introduction of hybrid CPUs (beginning with the short-lived Lakefield) noticed the location of cores primarily based on each microarchitectures in the identical die. The Tremont microarchitecture (developed as a part of the Atom-family) made its debut in Lakefield earlier than gaining wider market presence via Jasper Lake and Elkhart Lake. Its successor (Gracemont) is adopting an analogous trajectory. After its introduction in Alder Lake (ADL), it underwent additional refinement in Raptor Lake (RPL). The hybrid processors in these two households teamed up the Gracemont effectivity cores with the Golden Cove (ADL) / Raptor Cove (RPL) efficiency cores. Ultimately, Intel launched a brand new line of processors underneath the ‘Alder Lake-N’ (ADL-N) tag comprising solely the Gracemont cores, a pared-down built-in GPU, and premium connectivity choices eliminated. As a substitute for the Tremont-based Jasper Lake SoCs, ADL-N has discovered its manner into quite a lot of entry-level computing programs together with notebooks and compact desktops.

ASRock Industrial’s lineup of ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) programs – the Intel-based NUC BOX series and AMD-based 4X4 BOX series – has loved important market success, permitting the corporate to commonly introduce merchandise primarily based on the most recent Intel and AMD choices. On the identical time, the increasing marketplace for compact computing programs has additionally introduced many Asian corporations reminiscent of ACEMAGIC, Beelink, GEEKOM, GMKtec, and MinisForum into play. These distributors are basically manufacturers for OEMs / ODMs with expertise in product design and manufacturing expertise. The rise of e-commerce has allowed them to search out an outlet for his or her product designs through direct-to-consumer gross sales.

As ADL-N ramps up, we’re seeing a flood of low-cost compact desktop programs primarily based on it from a number of distributors. We took benefit of this chance to supply two contrasting ADL-N mini-PCs – the ASRock Industrial NUC BOX-N97 and the GMKtec NucBox G2. Although each programs make the most of a quad-core ADL-N SoC, the function set and goal markets are very totally different. The assessment under offers an in depth evaluation of the system options, construct, efficiency profile, and worth proposition of the NUC BOX-N97 and the NucBox G2.

Introduction and Product Impressions

Fast strides have been made in CPU efficiency and energy effectivity over the past decade. This has resulted in compact programs geared up with sub-15W TDP SoCs changing into highly effective sufficient to switch cumbersome desktops for a lot of use-cases. This pattern gained mainstream consideration with Intel’s introduction of the ultra-compact form-factor (4in. x 4in.) NUC within the early 2010s. The 4×4 form-factor continues to carry sway even at the moment, as evidenced by the number of UCFF programs launched by a number of distributors yearly. The ASRock Industrial NUC BOX-N97 we’re on this assessment makes use of the tried and examined 4×4 form-factor.

The 4×4 form-factor was chosen so as to have the ability to accommodate a 2.5″ disk drives and SODIMM kits. Since that point, each storage and reminiscence applied sciences have developed considerably. Excessive-capacity M.2 2242 / 2230 SSDs have gotten frequent, and soldered RAM shouldn’t be being met with as a lot derision as earlier than. These have contributed to some distributors introducing micro-PCs with a sub-4×4 footprint. The second system evaluated as a part of this assessment, GMKtec’s NucBox G2, is one such micro-PC measuring 3.4 in x 3.4 in.

ASRock Industrial NUC BOX-N97

ASRock Industrial has been serving the economic programs market with compact boards and mini-PCs because the days of Intel Skylake (6th Gen) / Braswell. Having taken over ASRock’s Beebox design, the corporate’s product releases on this class have had a daily cadence.

The corporate has been sustaining a line of actively-cooled 4in. x 4in. NUC BOX programs primarily based on Intel’s low energy microarchitecture. Within the Tremont period, the corporate launched the Elkhart Lake-based NUC BOX-J6412. This was the successor of the NUC BOX-3xx0 primarily based on the Braswell SoCs. The NUC BOX-N97 is the corporate’s newest product within the lineup. This Gracemont model makes use of the ADL-N Intel Processor N97. Much like different merchandise within the NUC BOX line, the system if provided as a barebone, with the power to accommodate a single DDR4-3200 SODIMM and both a 2.5″ SATA drive or a M.2 2280 SATA / NVMe SSD.

Along with the principle unit, the NUC BOX-N97 bundle comes with a VESA mount and corresponding screws, and a 65W (19V @ 3.42A) energy adapter. A geo-specific energy wire is provided together with a product overview / set up brochure. The gallery under offers a complete have a look at the chassis design and I/O ports placement. The house for the two.5″ drive is on the underside of the unit (the one which must be separated out as a way to set up the RAM and disk drive). The SATA cable is affixed to the underside, as proven in one of many gallery footage.

We opted to put in a 16 GB Essential DDR4-3200 CL 22 SODIMM within the system together with a SK hynix Gold P31 NVMe SSD. It should be famous that the M.2 slot accepts each SATA and NVMe SSDs, with the latter working at PCIe 3.0 x1.

Each NUC BOX system reviewed earlier than had been geared up with twin SODIMM slots. The NUC BOX-N97 has just one slot, although (because the ADL-N SoCs have solely a single reminiscence channel). Apart from the DRAM slot, the remainder of the NUC BOX-N97’s internals are similar to the opposite NUC BOX programs reviewed earlier than. The system makes use of a notebook-style cooler. There are not any bells and whistles, and the chassis design and thermal answer are tried and examined variations.

GMKtec NucBox G2

The GMKtec’s NucBox G2 is the corporate’s follow-up to the still-active Jasper Lake-based NucBox 7. This micro-PC household adopts the ports-all-around scheme that we already noticed in final week’s assessment of the ACEMAGIC T8 Plus. Just like the ACEMAGIC system, the NucBox G2 additionally comes with soldered LPDDR5 RAM. A semblance of upgradability is maintained, due to the usage of a M.2 2242 SATA SSD. The system shouldn’t be accessible as a barebone equipment. Our assessment configuration got here with 12 GB of LPDDR5-4800 RAM and a 1 TB SATA SSD with Home windows 11 Professional pre-installed.

Along with the principle unit, the NucBox G2 bundle comes with a HDMI cable, wall mount with related screws, an person guide, a guaranty card, and a 36W (12V @ 3A) geo-specific wall wart with a Sort-C output. Sadly, it is a non-conforming USB Sort-C utility, and the wall wart cannot be used reliably with different units conforming to USB-PD sink requirements. The adapter can solely be used with the Sort-C energy input-only port of the NucBox G2. The highest a part of the principle unit might be pried off simply to show the M.2 2242 SATA SSD slot. GMKtec additionally provides an alternate coloured prime panel. Teardown footage are offered within the gallery under together with a have a look at the location of varied I/O ports.

The teardown footage present the M.2 SATA SSD surrounded by a plastic body on which the WLAN antenna are mounted. Unscrewing the underside reveals a LED lighting base linked to the principle board with a ribbon connector. A small notebook-style fan can also be seen together with the related copper warmth spreader. The LED lighting base has open vents permitting the fan to suck in air and blow it out over the warmth spreader fins. Taking off the warmth sink and fan reveals the ADL-N bundle and a single DRAM bundle that comes with 4 24 Gbit Micron cube.

12 GB LPDDR5-4800 Package deal Adjoining to the Thermal Paste-Laden ADL-N Package deal

The soldered RAM shouldn’t be user-upgradeable. Nonetheless, the M.2 2230 slot for the WLAN element is accessible underneath the M.2 SATA SSD slot. The pre-installed SSD is from FuturePath, and appears to have the identical SSD controller producer because the FPT310 SSD seen within the ACEMAGIC T8 Plus assessment.

The NucBox G2 got here with Home windows Professional OS pre-installed, however we needed to wipe it and set up Home windows 11 Enterprise to maintain the testing surroundings constant throughout totally different programs. The total specs of the 2 assessment samples (as examined) are summarized within the desk under.

Techniques Specs

(as examined)
  ASRock NUC BOX-N97 GMKtec NucBox G2
Processor Intel Processor N97

Alder Lake-N 4C/4T, as much as 3.6 GHz

Intel 7, 6MB L3, 12W

(PL1 = 12W / PL2 = 25W)
Intel Processor N100

Alder Lake-N 4C/4T, as much as 3.4 GHz

Intel 7, 6MB L3, 6W

(PL1 = 10W / PL2 = 25W)
Reminiscence Essential CT16G4SFRA32A.C16FR DDR4-3200 SODIMM

22-22-22-52 @ 3200 MHz

1×16 GB
Micron LPDDR5-4800 (Single-Channel / 4 x16)

52-44-44-104 @ 4800 MHz

12 GB
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics

(24EU @ 1200 MHz)
Intel UHD Graphics

(24EU @ 750 MHz)
Disk Drive(s) SK hynix Gold P31 SHGP31-1000GM-2

(1 TB; M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD, working at x1)

(SK hynix 128L 4D TLC; SK hynix Cepheus ACNT038 Controller)
Futurepath S4GXH02TV6A01T0

(1 TB; M.2 2242 SATA III 6 Gbps)

(?? NAND; ?? Controller)
Networking 2x 2.5 GbE RJ-45 (Realtek RTL8125)

Mediatek MT7921K (RZ608) Wi-Fi 6E (2×2 802.11ax – 1.2 Gbps)
2x GbE RJ-45 (Realtek RTL8168/8111)

Realtek RTL8852BE Wi-Fi 6 / Bluetooth 5 (2×2 802.11ax – 1.2 Gbps)
Audio Realtek ALC256 (3.5mm Audio Jack in Entrance)

Digital Audio with Bitstreaming Assist over HDMI and Sort-C (Alt DP) Ports
3.5mm Audio Jack

Digital audio and bitstreaming help over HDMI Outputs
Video 2x HDMI 2.0b

2x Show Port 1.4a over Sort-C Alt-Mode

(as much as 3 simultaneous 4096×2160 @ 60 Hz shows)
2x HDMI 2.0b (as much as 4Kp60)

1x DisplayPort 1.4a (as much as 4Kp60)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Sort-C w/ Alt DP Assist (Entrance)

1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Sort-A (Entrance)

2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Sort-A (Rear)
3x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Sort-A
Working System Home windows 11 Enterprise (22000.2416) Home windows 11 Enterprise (22000.2360)
Pricing (Avenue Pricing on Oct 05th, 2023)

US $260 (barebones)

US $353 (as configured, no OS)
(Avenue Pricing on Oct 5st, 2023)

US $230 (as configured, w/OS)
Full Specs ASRock Industrial NUC BOX-N97 Specifications GMKtec NucBox G2 Specifications

Within the subsequent part, we check out the system setup and observe it up with an in depth platform evaluation.



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