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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  • amakula77 - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    This review is good but I think it needs an extra section to test this out as a low end gaming machine , with Bluetooth controller, this thing I'm sure could play older emulators and GOG and older steam games. Reply
  • amakula77 - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    I did not see the Dolphin emulator test this is good by more gaming tests are needed to determine if this will be a suitable low end gaming machine Reply
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    Yeah, I'm thinking there is a missing graphic - normally they publish Dota 2 numbers or something. From Performance Metrics - I "GPU performance shows a similar trend to the CPU performance. The difference when compared to Bay Trail is considerable." But all I see is 3D Mark, where it is marginally faster than the LIVAX. Then on Performance Metrixs - II, it is marginally slower than LIVAX for Dolphin. I guess I'm not seeing anything in the way of GPU improvements from these data points. Did I miss something or is something missing? Reply
  • blakehaas - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    I like the power usage, but the available ports are lacking. The CI320 has esata and a plethora of usb3.0. Reply
  • barleyguy - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    eSata especially is a big advantage. (All of my media is stored a 4 TB eSata hard drive.) Reply
  • Kracer - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    Is eSata that common?
    A NAS seems a much more universal solution.
    Reply
  • Pissedoffyouth - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    I'd like to see an i5 5775c in a box like this especially with the quiet laptop style blowers a lot of newer PC's have. Reply
  • barleyguy - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    Zotac has some pretty powerful boxes similar to this. The EN860 is an i5 4210u with NVidia GTX 860M graphics. They will soon have an EN960 with 970M graphics. The EN860 has a silent cooler (completely silent at idle, and about 35 dB when gaming).

    They are a lot more expensive though. The EN860 is $500 barebones, and the EN960 will be coming in around $700 barebones.
    Reply
  • owarchild - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    @Ganesh T S, can you try this alpha version of OpenELEC: http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=231955&... Is should work on the Beebox as it has been used in a ASRock N3150 board. Reply
  • savagemike - Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - link

    I don't understand your pricing comment that 128GB is a nice premium over 32GB for only $20. This also entails the loss of an operating system which costs around $100+ if that is the OS you want.
    In the same vain I don't understand the pricing of your system. How did you get 4GB/128GB and Windows 8.1 Pro 64 for $220?
    Reply

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