This is where you can fast forward to the final section of the review, and get a quick recap and points on the ASRock Beebox.
Pre-Built Out of the Box: Many SFF PCs require the user to install storage and memory, and that can be a turn off for many consumers who are too scared to do the job themselves. ASRock has done a good job of selecting fast components to compliment the Intel Celeron SoC. You still need to install an OS, and ASRock is providing a version of the Beebox that comes with an OS pre-installed.
Dual-Channel DDR3L for 4K: The ASRock Beebox is advertised as having dual-channel memory, and it is unique in that aspect considering most others have implemented single-channel memory per Intel's specification. The dual-channel memory should theoretically provide more bandwidth, which should support seamless 4K streaming.
Versatile SATA, mSATA, mPCIe, and SO-DIMMs: ASRock didn't go the solder route like some other SFF PCs such as the LIVA X and the Intel Compute Stick, instead they are allowing the user to replace the WIFI/BT card, mSATA SSD, and even memory DIMMs. While my sample came with an mSATA SSD, I can still add even more storage with a 2.5-inch drive, providing many possibilities for a media center PC.
Included Remote Control!: Other than ASRock's VisionX which costs over $1000, the ASRock Beebox is the only SFF PC I have reviewed to date which comes with its own remote control. I think that if a PC is going to be sold as a media center/HTPC it should come with a remote, and while many SFF PCs come with IR receivers, they usually don't supply a remote.
Sleek Looks: Let's be honest, a media center PC is going to be seen, so it better look nice. The Beebox is cute, it's clean, it's elegant, and it's sleek. I actually like the gold champagne body, and I am sure it will become a conversation piece when guests come over.
Very Affordable: The black and white versions of the prebuilt system I tested today are estimated to cost $220, and that is an awesome price considering it comes with 4GB of DDR3L and a 128GB mSATA SSD.
Noiseless: Since there are no moving parts on the N3000 model of the Beebox there is no noise, making the Beebox great for the bedroom or living room.
The CPU is slow: This is perhaps the biggest downside to the Beebox, the CPU isn't meant for CPU heavy tasks, especially not ones which take advantage of multi-threaded capabilities since the N3000 is only a dual-core. CPU performance is similar to that of the LIVA X and the Intel Compute Stick, which means it can do basic tasks like stream, browse the web, use Microsoft Office, and do other basic tasks. On the upside, performance feels faster than the benchmarks let on.
Wireless AC at 1T1R is a bit on the slow side: While I didn't have issues streaming Netflix, the benchmark tests show that the wireless AC is quite slow. Granted it is a 1T1R system which limits it to 433Mbps compared to 2T2R which is limited at 867Mbps. It will be a little faster than Wireless N, but not noticeably so.
The cost of the black and white versions of the Beebox I reviewed today is estimated at $220 (with mSATA SSD and DDR3L included), I think the gold version might cost a few dollars more. At that price, the Beebox is one of the only SFF PCs to have this feature set and include 4GB DDR3L and a 128GB mSATA drive. Together the same storage and memory can cost you anywhere from $100-200 more on top of the purchase price of a bare-bone.
The value of the Beebox is immense, and while it does have its shortcomings in the CPU and wireless departments, its performance is acceptable for its price and use scenarios. I know many people feel buyer's remorse after buying a mini-PC with a strong CPU, and using it just for streaming Netflix, and the Beebox is the solution to that scenario. It offers a different balance of CPU versus system, and it should prove to be quite useful.
Product Summary Breakdown
|Quality including Design and Build||90%|
|Bundle and Packaging||94%|
|Value for Money||97%|
|Overall TweakTown Rating||91%|
The Bottom Line: At the price point of the ASRock Beebox, you can't expect it to replace your main computer, but it will offer excellent value and solid performance as an HTPC, streaming box, wireless access point, digital signage, or even a low use desktop all without making any noise.
PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.
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