The Kaby Lake-U (KBL-U) series with 15W TDP CPUs was introduced along with the 4.5W Kaby Lake-Y ones in Q3 2016. The first set of products with Kaby Lake-U were ultrabooks. However, ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) PCs were not long behind. There are already three vendors in the market with Kaby Lake UCFF PCs - ASRock (Beebox-S), GIGABYTE (BRIX), and MSI (Cubi 2). We have already reviewed the MSI Cubi 2 - a no-frills Kaby Lake 'NUC' The most important differentiating features of the ASRock Beebox-S 7200U include a USB 3.1 Gen 2 bridge, as well as a LSPCon (for HDMI 2.0 / HDCP 2.2 support) on the motherboard. This review takes a look at how the ASRock Beebox-S 7200U fares in typical UCFF PC workloads.

Introduction

Ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) PCs have become quite popular after Intel introduced the NUCs. They have become powerful enough to be the primary computing platform for many households. In addition to the Intel NUCs, many system vendors have come up with their own approach to UCFF PCs. These include ASRock (with the Beebox series), ECS (LIVA), GIGABYTE (BRIX), and MSI (Cubi) amongst others.

Kaby Lake-U, as per Intel's claims, is fabricated on a much more mature 14nm process and brings about a 11% improvement in performance for the same power consumption. The GPU's media engine has also been updated. On the whole, the performance improvements look good for UCFF PCs - particularly for those upgrading from the first or second-generation systems.

We have reviewed multiple Beebox systems before (Cherry Trail, Skylake), and, from an industrial design viewpoint, the Beebox-S 7200U Kaby Lake version is no different. The dimensions are one of the smallest to allow the installation of a 2.5" drive. Unlike the MSI Cubi 2, the Beebox-S 7200U supports a M.2 2280 SSD (with the help of a M.2 riser - the same as the one used in the Skylake Beebox-S 6200U).

The Kaby Lake Beebox series is currently made of two SKUs, one based on the Core i3-7100U and another based on the Core i5-7200U. Both of these come barebones (no storage, memory, or OS). ASRock sampled us the version with the Core i5-7200U. The Beebox-S 7200U can take up to two DDR4 SO-DIMMs (operating at 2133 MHz). We completed the hardware build to result in the following specifications for our Beebox-S 7200U review configuration. Note that we processed most of our benchmarks with the NVMe drive, but a few testing routines used the SATA SSD (the relevant sections will go into the details).

ASRock Beebox-S 7200U Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-7200U
Kaby Lake, 2C/4T, 2.5 GHz (up to 3.1 GHz), 14nm PLUS, 3MB L2, 15W TDP
Memory G Skill F4-2133C15-8GRS DDR4
15-15-15-36 @ 2133 MHz
2x8 GB
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620
Disk Drive(s) Samsung SSD 950 PRO
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; 40nm; MLC V-NAND)
(OR)
Crucial MX200 CT500MX200SSD1
(500 GB; 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s; 16nm; MLC)
Networking Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
1x Intel I-219V Gigabit LAN
Display 1x mini-Display Port 1.2 (3840x2160 @ 60 Hz)
1x HDMI 1.4b (4096x2160 @ 24 Hz)
1x HDMI 2.0a (3840x2160 @ 60 Hz)
Audio 3.5mm Headphone Jack & Microphone Combo Jack
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 3x USB 3.0 (Type-A)
1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Type-C)
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 10 Pro x64
Pricing $350 (barebones)
$815 (as configured with NVMe SSD) / $666 (as configured with SATA SSD)
Full Specifications ASRock Beebox-S 7200U specifications

The ASRock Beebox-S 7200U kit doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but does come with a CD containing Windows drivers. In any case, we ended up installing the latest drivers downloaded off ASRock's product support page. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 65 W (19V @ 3.42A) adapter with a US power connector, a VESA mount (along with the necessary screws), a driver CD, user's manual and a quick-start guide. In addition, we also have the appropriate cables - both data and power - to install a 2.5" drive in the system. A small IR remote control with a pre-installed CR232 battery (not shown in the picture below) is also part of the package.

The unique part of the package is a small plastic tab and an additional screw that allows for installation of a M.2 2280 SSD in the unit. Note that even though Kaby Lake-U can theoretically support up to three simultaneous displays, the Beebox-S 7200U supports only two at a time (either HDMI 2.0 + HDMI 1.4 or HDMI 2.0 + DP). Other components that reside on the underside of the motherboard include the ASMedia ASM1142 USB 3.1 bridge chip and the MegaChips LSPCon to enable the HDMI 2.0 output from the DisplayPort output of the Kaby Lake-U SiP. The most important update from the Skylake Beebox is the additional HDCP 2.2 capability and DRM capabilities enabled by the Kaby Lake-U processor.

The PCIe lanes from the SiP are distributed as follow:

  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #4      In Use @ x1 (ASMedia ASM1142 USB 3.1 xHCI Controller)
  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #5      In Use @ x1 (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 AC HMC WiFi Adapter)
  • PCI-E 2.0 x4 port #9      In Use @ x4 (Samsung NVMe SSD Controller)

ASRock's BIOS has plenty of features that are missing in the BIOS from other vendors. I will not go into the details of all the BIOS features, but, readers interested in checking out the available options can peruse the user manual available here.

Compared to the MSI Cubi 2 with Kaby Lake, we find the Realtek GbE adapter replaced by the Intel I-219V. The Wi-Fi adapter is the Intel AC3160 compared to the AC3168. Compared to the barebones Core i5 version of the Cubi 2 (Cubi2-006BUS) at $375, the Beebox-S 7200U with the same processor is cheaper at $350 and also comes with better capabilities.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the ASRock Beebox-S 7200U against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the ASRock Beebox-S 7200U when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect ASRock Beebox-S 7200U
CPU Intel Core i5-7200U Intel Core i5-7200U
GPU Intel HD Graphics 620 Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM G Skill F4-2133C15-8GRS DDR4
15-15-15-36 @ 2133 MHz
2x8 GB
G Skill F4-2133C15-8GRS DDR4
15-15-15-36 @ 2133 MHz
2x8 GB
Storage Samsung SSD 950 PRO
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; 40nm; MLC V-NAND)
Samsung SSD 950 PRO
(512 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; 40nm; MLC V-NAND)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $350 (barebones)
$815 (as configured)
$350 (barebones)
$815 (as configured)
Performance Metrics - I
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  • fanofanand - Thursday, February 09, 2017 - link

    Your logic is sound, but most failures don't occur within the warranty period. Sometimes it seems they set the warranty period based on failure rates during QA testing. If they have a 50% failure rate on year 4 they just make sure the warranty is 3 years (oversimplified and inaccurate figures but that's the gist of it). Auto manufacturers have been doing this for decades, there was a reason most powertrain warranties went to 50,000 miles but massive head gasket failures or transmission failures would occur at 60k (I experienced both with GM products which is why they won't be getting any more of my hard earned money). Reply
  • OzzyLogic - Monday, February 20, 2017 - link

    It's like you took the words out of my mouth, i really dislike fanned systems because of the dust build up that you will eventually get. No matter what you do, dust will always find its way into your system somehow. Also one of the reasons why i bought my self one of these. https://www.logicsupply.com/eu-en/ml100g-50/ Reply
  • thesloth - Tuesday, February 07, 2017 - link

    I probably just need to RTFA properly, but I don't see any graphics or mention of noise (dB). For a HTPC I would have thought that relevant. Reply
  • Sene - Tuesday, February 07, 2017 - link

    Why don't you test the GPU with MadVR. Even if it has limited power it would be interesting to know the best settings it can support Reply
  • David_K - Tuesday, February 07, 2017 - link

    From my testing with a 7700K and its build in HD 630, madVR is just too heavy for the gpu, on 4K videos it becomes a stutterfest. Reply
  • Samus - Wednesday, February 08, 2017 - link

    Same experience on my i5-7600k with HD630...only reason I bothered trying was because my 1070 took a week longer to arrive than the rest of the parts. I wasn't optimistic going in but figured I'd see what Intel GPU's can do since I haven't really toyed with one since my 4th gen Haswell laptop. Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Wednesday, February 08, 2017 - link

    I'm still incredibly dissapointed in intel's lack of improvements in the iGPU race. HD 630 is onyl, on average, 2FPS faster in games then the hd 4600 from haswell.

    three years and a whole 2FPS, mostly thanks to a better memory controller. Why cant intel start offering more chips with iris graphics?

    Raven ridge cant get here soon enough.
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Wednesday, February 08, 2017 - link

    I haven't really looked into iGPU performance improvements at all since Ivy Bridge's HD 4000. Is that really all we've gained in the past few years out of non-Iris Intel graphics? They've got to be hitting some kind of shared system memory bottleneck that makes it a difficult prospect to wring more out of their iGPUs. Though that doesn't explain the A-series GPUs being fairly quick despite lacking any sort of additional memory bandwidth. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Wednesday, February 08, 2017 - link

    There's not much to look into unless you play mostly older games. People are creative and I've seen playable frame rates on non-Iris IGP newer games, but it usually involves 720p resolution and minimal settings or INI hacks to disable engine features. Even the most powerful Intel IGP (Iris Pro) chokes on games like Doom (2016) and Tomb Raider (latest). Context is everything.
    https://youtu.be/LV8Msa-Pxl8
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, February 09, 2017 - link

    Thanks for the response. I'd gotten a vague sense that Intel wasn't really leaping ahead with iGPU performance by the fact that the company's announcements stressed additional features as opposed to "x-times more performance" or "y-percent faster than last gen graphics" but I didn't realize things have gotten so stagnant recently. The fact that Iris exists sort of glosses over and distracts from the much more common eDRAM-less iGPU performance.

    *rant disclaimer* Iris has really done a lot of damage to the GPU market in general. By raising the bar of iGPU performance to the point where lower end discrete cards are rivaled by Iris parts, Intel's effectively eliminated the low end discrete GPU segment altoghether. At the same time, Iris is an uncommon thing so while the performance exists, it's not available for purchase and there aren't GPUs available to fill the gap between the iGPUs you can actually buy and the bottom end of the current discrete GPU product stack. Thanks for that crap Intel. Thanks a lot for sticking us with the choice of a 75W TDP discrete card or an anemic iGPU that hasn't gotten faster in years.
    Reply

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