ASRock’s AMD Ryzen NUC (4x4BOX-V1000M) Review

No Intel Inside in This NUC-like PC

Intel has dominated the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) landscape for the past years and their NUC product line has become almost synonymous with 4 by 4 inch mini PCs since their launch back in 2012. Late this year AMD announced that they’re planning to change this as their Ryzen Embedded SoC was going to power several vendors’ NUC-like products. ASRock’s 4X4 BOX-V1000M is the product we’re looking at today.

Overview

The 4X4 BOX comes from ASRock’s industrial product line, which is an interesting choice considering the rather promising GPU in it. In any case the BOX looks a lot similar to their Beebox line with its black plastic rounded case and its 4″ x 4″ (110 mm x 118 mm to be exact) form factor. It is a bit higher at 67 mm (2.65″) though. The company has two models which differ in the CPU selection: the other model is R1000V that comes with dual-core AMD Ryzen R1505G CPU whereas this V1000M model is equipped with quad-core AMD Ryzen V1605G CPU. Both models feature Radeon Vega GPUs, but again, the V1000M model has a more powerful GPU in it.

4×4 BOX next to an Intel NUC with a higher case (NUC6CAYH)

Specifications look like this:

  • AMD Ryzen Embedded V-Series V1605B CPU, quad-core, 2 GHz, boost up to 3.6 GHz, 12-25W TDP
  • AMD Radeon Vega 8 GPU, boost up to 1.1 GHz, 8 CUs, 512 shading units
  • 2x DDR4-2400 SO-DIMM slots, max. RAM 32 GB
  • Single M.2 slot (form factor 2242/2260 only) with PCIe x4 and SATA3 for SSD
  • Single 2.5″ SATA drive slot for SSD/HDD
  • Front USB ports: 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2, 2 x USB 2.0
  • Rear USB ports: 2 x USB 3.2 Gen2
  • 2x Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8111G)
  • 1x HDMI 2 port
  • 2x DisplayPort 1.2a ports
  • Intel Wireless-AC 3168 802.11ac WiFi module (in the secondary M.2 slot), Bluetooth 4.2
  • 3.5 mm audio jack for headset
  • External power brick: 12 V, 90 W
  • Dimensions: 110 x 118 x 63 mm

The design of the case has a bit too much plastic for my liking and the rounded corners don’t really do that for me. I like those matt sides, but I’d imagine that had the case been manufactured out of aluminum it would conduct a bit more heat out from the case.

ASRock 4x4 BOX

The front panel of the unit is the home for 3 USB ports and the 3.5 mm headset jack. Anecdotally the USB ports are actually upside down!

The rear panel provides exceptional display connectivity with a single HDMI 2.0a connector and two DisplayPort 1.2 connectors. All these can be used simultaneously. In addition to those you’ll find a 12-volt DC input connector, two USB 3.2 connectors, two Gigabit Ethernet connectors and the Kensington slot.

Assembling the 4X4 BOX

The 4X4 BOX is a barebones PC kit, which means that you will need to install the SO-DIMM memory modules and some form of storage into it. Luckily this is a rather straightforward process. I chose to install two 16 GB Kingston ValueRAM KVR26S19D8/16 modules that I had already got for the upcoming Intel Frost Canyon NUC review. These are DDR4-2666 modules, but they work also in DDR4-2400 mode that the 4X4 BOX requires. The 4X4 BOX also does support ECC RAM for error correction but I did not have access to any ECC SO-DIMMs and they tend to be rather expensive, so no ECC testing this time!

The M.2 slot for storage is a bit limited in size and can only take 2260 and 2242 form factor SSDs. Again, I did not have anything else than 2280 form factor NVMe drives so I resorted to using a 2.5″ SATA SSD (Kingston UV400) instead.

Ok, so let’s begin. The bottom cover is fastened to the case with four Phillips-head screws. The cover functions also as a drive holder for the 2.5″ SATA drive. The drive is attached with four screws to the holder.

4X4 BOX cover

The red SATA cables are a bit obstructing the view, but you’ve got SO-DIMM slots under them. Inserting RAM into them is a bit tricky as the front side USB ports (on the top of the picture) are a bit on the way. I ended up unfastening the two screws that hold the USB port assembly in place. After moving the assembly a bit it was easy to click the RAM modules in place.

You can see the M.2 slots on the left. The smaller one is pre-populated with an Intel Wireless-AC 3168 WiFi card but the upper one is free and can be used for an SSD – as long as it is in 2242 or 2260 form factor! At least Lexar NM520 or Sabrent SB-1342 NVMe drives (links to Amazon) should fit.

As mentioned above, I opted for a SATA SSD so my setup looked like this before attaching the drive to the bottom cover and closing the bottom cover.

4X4 BOX with components

After closing the cover I connected the 4X4 BOX to the mains, keyboard, mouse and display and booted it up. There’s your usual, maybe slightly old-fashioned text mode BIOS configuration tool where I set the time and verified that the components were detected as expected. After getting so used to the graphical Intel Visual BIOS on the NUCs the text mode BIOS seemed a bit arcane and it did not have very many options. There are no overclocking possibilities for this 4X4 BOX for example.

Disassembly

Of course I wanted to see the other side of the mainboard as well as the cooling solution. Here’s still one picture of the mainboard removed from the chassis.

Flip it around and you can see the cooling solution. There’s a relatively small fan compared to the Intel Bean Canyon NUCs.

After unfastening a few screws we can get access to the CPU. It is covered by a generous application of silver paste to transfer the heat from the CPU to the heat sink.

The components in this NUC are very similar to the Intel NUCs as is the TDP of the CPU. I wonder why they had to build a higher than normal case for this. Presumably it has something to do with air flow but it would definitely have been neater if it was in a smaller enclosure.

Keep reading

Move to the next page and read about performance.

8 Responses

  1. Mounter says:

    Thanks to the review, but I would be more curious regarding some more in-depth HTPC capabilities, specially UHD / HDR playback (with possibly high bitrate videos) also when using MadVR. A run with some more sophisticated and MadVR compatible playback option like MPCHC, DSPlayer or Jriver on Windows.

    (Might need to check the “On a budget and need basic 4K UHD video processing:” section of this tutorial in the first post for the fitting setup: https://www.avsforum.com/forum/26-home-theater-computers/2364113-guide-building-4k-htpc-madvr.html ).

    What I’m afraid of in this case, that the max. 2400MHz RAM speed limitation would hold far back the IGP’s horses in this case… A more consumer version of this Box, with more headroom for the RAM clock would be much more desirable and less doubtful regarding.

    • Olli says:

      Thanks for the comment! I’ll have a go with MPC-HC and MadVR and let you know how it goes. At least initially the performance looked bad (sometimes it worked ok and sometimes it seemed like a slideshow of pictures). Also the fan starts to run at full speed when the GPU is stressed…

      • Mounter says:

        Thanks! Did you configure MadVR as stated in the linked tutorial for Vega IGP’s? Well, if you did, than it’s sounds like I’we expected and the RAM’s are too slow for this purpose yet. Let’s juts hope Asrock will bring a more flexible AMD APU NUC sometime, it would have the potential and also the market I guess. Intel wouldn’t get any near to the performance of AMD IGPs anytime soon as I see now.

  2. ed says:

    Thanks for the review! Glad to see some AMD CPUs in the NUC space.

    I have a bunch of AsRock motherboards, and they all perform flawlessly. The only knock I have against them is that the BIOS support usually stops after a year or two, unless it’s a popular product. Perhaps it’s a different story with their “industrial” line…

    I mention that because one thing Intel got right with their NUC line is the long-term product support. I just retired a functional five or six year old N2820 NUC that was still receiving BIOS updates this year (!)

    • Olli says:

      Thanks for the comment! Indeed, you’re right – Intel has been pretty good at providing updates even for older NUCs. I also have an ASRock mainboard on my desktop PCs that’s been solid since day 1. However, no BIOS updates for long time…

  3. 400$ for the V1000M? This is not an interesting offer IMHO. If you can live with a little more space used, the buying the ASRock DeskMini A300 + Ryzen 3400G + Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 will be a lot faster, whisper quiet and still reasonably small. For about 80 bucks LESS (!!!). And you can use fullsize DIMMs and faster memory as well – WiFi costs extra though (which I personally do not care about much).

    And next year, Zen 2 based AMD Renoir CPUs might be compatible with it and be even fast, we should see within two weeks or so what AMD announces at CES.

  4. su yen liu says:

    To buy a 4X4Box in Europe or other regions, there are ASRock Industrial disty in major of EU countries and you can check disty information for your region on ASRock Industrial website / Where to Buy page and contact the disty for your inquiry. Where to Buy page : https://www.asrockind.com/general/buy.asp

    Or leave ASRock Industrial an inquiry, they will have a disty contact you. https://event.asrockind.com/ipc.asp

    Hope this will help. thank you.

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