Asus PB60 review: Great hardware hindered by irritating software

It's important to have a well informed opinion about the technology you're buying.

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A powerful ultra-compact desktop replacement, but it’s let down by aggressive software bundling

Pros

  • Impressive Core i7-8700T processor
  • Keyboard, mouse and bracket included
  • Fitted with an abundance of ports

Cons

  • Noisy fan
  • Messy OS install

The second you open its packaging, you know that Asus is positioning the PB60 as a ready-to-run mini PC that’s just as suitable to techies as it is to the masses.

It’s one of just two systems we tested to include a bundled keyboard and mouse, and you’ll also find a stand for vertical use and a VESA bracket to hide the system behind your monitor.

Sadly, Asus’s bundling practice doesn’t stop with physical accessories. As soon as the system is powered up and the Windows configuration dance begins, the company’s interference makes itself known.

Click carefully, or you’ll find yourself signing up for an entirely pointless Asus Account alongside your Microsoft Account – the secret, with no Cancel button in sight, being to just leave the boxes blank and click Next twice to skip the sign-up process.

More aggressive still is a “free” copy of McAfee antivirus software, which turns out to be a 30-day trial that pops up multiple dialog boxes exhorting the user to upgrade to a one-year licence for “just” £49.99 – a discount, it claims, from a frankly ridiculous £89.99 “regular price”.

Asus PB60 review: Specifications and features

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It’s a shame that Asus felt the need to attempt to cash in on its new customers this way, because the hardware in the PB60 is pretty impressive. Its Core i7-8700T processor, with six cores and 12 threads, tore through our in-house benchmark suites with some of the fastest times of any machine on test.

its multitasking capabilities are somewhat hampered by Asus’s decision to fit the 16GB of RAM in a single 2,400MHz SODIMM running in single-channel mode. At least this makes upgrading to 32GB in the future easier.

Another slight disappointment comes from the storage: while the 256GB SSD is connected to the machine’s M.2 slot, it’s a SATA rather than faster NVMe model. For storage expansion, a SATA adapter cable is included in the box and there’s room to mount a single 2.5in SSD or hard drive within the case.

The PB60’s front panel is festooned with ports, packing a single USB-C 3.1 port, two USB-A 3.1 Gen 1, two faster USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 and analogue audio in and out ports.

It’s the rear where the really interesting port is to be found, though: as well as the Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI port, and a standard DisplayPort, there’s a second DisplayPort in a multifunction slot: at the point of ordering, this can be swapped out for an analogue VGA or RS232 serial as required.

Asus PB60 review: Performance

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The speedy CPU performance isn’t carried across to the graphics processor, sadly. The chip’s integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 is fine for desktop use and even basic gaming, but at the 720p Low preset failed to reach above 20 frames per second on the (admittedly beefy) Unigine Superposition gaming benchmark.

The PB60 isn’t targeted at gamers, though: Asus positions the machine as being ideal for businesses, much like Lenovo’s rival ThinkCentre M910x Tiny – which is the only other machine to include a bundled keyboard and mouse.

That helps to explain the firm’s comprehensive warranty: each PB60 is covered for a full three years, with on-site service – and the company also helpfully promises to make every effort to be there the next business day, providing your request is logged early enough in the morning.

For a system with six physical CPU cores, the PB60 is surprisingly light when it comes to power needs.

At full load, we measured the system at 87.9W, dropping to a lightweight 8.4W at idle. The fan, though, certainly makes its presence felt through a high-pitched and extremely annoying whine at higher CPU loads. For its size, the Asus PB60 definitely punches above its weight.

Asus PB60 review: Verdict

For a little more money, it’s possible to pick up the Intel Hades Canyon NUC system, which offers a slight downgrade in raw CPU performance in exchange for a major boost in graphics horsepower.

Coupled with Asus’s inability to offer a clean operating system install, the PB60 becomes difficult to recommend for anyone who doesn’t absolutely need a compact system with a full six processor cores and 12 simultaneous threads.

Asus PB60 specifications

  • Processor-Intel Core i7-8700T
  • RAM-16GB DDR4
  • Front USB ports-USB-A 3.1 Gen 2, 2x USB-A 2
  • Rear USB ports-USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, 2 x USB-A 3.1
  • Gen 1, 2 x-USB-A 3.1 Gen 2
  • Graphics-Intel UHD Graphics 630
  • Storage-256GB SATA SSD
  • Warranty-3 year on-site, NBD

Source: expertreviews.co.uk