Introduction and Setup Impressions

ASRock had taken an early lead in serving the mini-PC market, thanks to its Vision / Core series units. Based on motherboards meant for the notebook market (smaller than mini-ITX, but larger than pico-ITX), they have been regularly refreshed since the ION days. Over the last couple of years, mini-PCs in the ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) - tagged as NUCs after being made popular by the Intel Next Unit of Computing systems - have emerged as one of the bright spots in the troubled PC market. Strangely, ASRock didn't have any play in this UCFF NUC form-factor. That changes with the arrival of Intel's Cherry Trail based on 14nm Braswell. The ASRock Beebox is a NUC based on the Intel Celeron N3xxx, and carries some unique features that include fanless operation, a USB Type-C port in the front panel and support for up to three simultaneous display (including 4K ones).

The ASRock Beebox is available with either the Celeron N3000 or the Celeron N3105 as the internal SoC. Each of these units can come either barebones (i.e, no internal storage or memory) or, as a ready-to-go system (with or without the OS). ASRock supplied us with the following reference pricing sheet for the N3000 series.

For a $20 premium, the increase in the internal storage from 32GB to 128GB is quite welcome. Both memory slots get occupied (and 4 GB of RAM is appropriate for the system's use-cases in the intended target market - digital signage, embedded applications and industrial usage). Note that only the N3000 series is fanless. The N3150 series uses active cooling. The specifications of our ASRock Beebox N3000-NUC review configuration are summarized in the table below.

ASRock Beebox N3000-NUC Specifications
Processor Intel Celeron N3000
(2C/2T Airmont x86 @ 1.04 / 2.08 GHz, 14nm, 2 MB L2, 4W TDP, 3W SDP)
Memory 2x 2 GB DDR3L-1600 C11
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Disk Drive(s) Team Group TIM3F49128GMBA04S6 128 GB mSATA 6 Gbps SSD
Networking 1x Realtek RTL8168 GbE, 1x1 Realtek 8821AE 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output over HDMI
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 8.1 Pro x64
Pricing (As configured) $220
Full Specifications ASRock Beebox N3000-Series Specifications

The ASRock Beebox N3000-NUC 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 36 W (12V @ 3A) adapter with a replaceable 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 is also part of the package.

The gallery below takes us around the hardware in the unit.

One of the interesting aspects shown in the gallery above is the chassis and motherboard design to accommodate a 2.5" drive with the SATA port and the power pins to the right of the SO-DIMM slots. The other aspect is the maximum possible memory in the system. Even though Intel's official specs indicate a maximum memory size of only 8 GB, we were able to install 2x 8GB panram P8D3L1600C116G2VS sticks for a total of 16 GB of RAM. These operate with the same latencies as that of the pre-installed sticks - no benchmark improvements were found with the panram sticks, but there was a slight increase in the power consumption. So, we retained the pre-installed DRAM kit for our benchmarking purposes.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the ASRock Beebox N3000-NUC against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment, but all of them are fanless units. 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 N3000-NUC when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect ASRock Beebox N3000-NUC
CPU Intel Celeron N3000 Intel Celeron N3000
GPU Intel HD Graphics (Gen8-LP) Intel HD Graphics (Gen8-LP)
RAM Team Group TI9B8S05H41159
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
2x2 GB
Team Group TI9B8S05H41159
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
2x2 GB
Storage Team Group TIM3F49128GMBA04S6
(128 GB; mSATA 6Gb/s; 20nm; MLC)
Team Group TIM3F49128GMBA04S6
(128 GB; mSATA 6Gb/s; 20nm; MLC)
Wi-Fi Realtek 8821AE Wireless LAN 802.11ac
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Realtek 8821AE Wireless LAN 802.11ac
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $220 $220
Performance Metrics - I
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  • MapRef41N93W - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    He said he wants to play ripped blu-ray's perfectly, so I assume he means straight off the disc loseless MKVs. iPad can't do that (you'd need to compress the files to H.264). Reply
  • khanov - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    Numbers or pure speculation? I think you might be surprised how many people have home theater systems. Reply
  • Navvie - Friday, July 17, 2015 - link

    This. My parents have had a 50" TV and 6.1 surround sound for, well, years now. I'd struggle to be 100% accurate, but I'd guess 8 years.

    And this is not me giving them my old equipment, they had speakers and an AV amp/receiver before I did.
    Reply
  • johnhopfensperger - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    Bitstream audio doesn't offer any advantage over PCM. Reply
  • abhaxus - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    Things may have changed but the two AVRs I have do not perform full audio processing on Multichannel LPCM. One of them will not even do Audyssey correction. Not going to replace a fantastic sounding $600 AVR when other devices (notably chromebox) can Bitstream under Linux for less money. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    Correct. Very few AVRs will perform processing on LPCM. There are pros and cons to this, but in most cases, it's a con. HD bitstreaming has been "a thing" for a decade now. It's inexcusable for a new CPU/IGP to not support it. Laughable, even. Reply
  • joex4444 - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    Being able to send DTS-MA over optical/coaxial does offer an advantage if the AV receiver can decode it, though. Very uptight audiophiles may be concerned that a) the AV receiver decodes it "better" or b) the use of multiple 3.5mm to RCA cables to transfer 5.1/7.1 audio introduces more noises than a purely lossless digital connection would. However in a system like this, it's more important that the small amount of CPU power it does have isn't being burned to decode the audio but is instead saved by simply dumping it bit-for-bit over the coaxial/optical connection. Reply
  • Gadgety - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    @losergamer04

    I totally agree.
    Reply
  • twizzlebizzle22 - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    It finally looks like somebody understands that an extra 16GB of nand shouldn't cost the consumer £100. Reply
  • fic2 - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    But it is hard to know what the price is. For $20 you go from 32G->128G SSD, 2G->4G memory, but loose the Win10 Home license. Reply

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