Here are key points about the ASRock Beebox-S.
Small In Size But Not Storage: The Beebox-S is very small - one of the smallest NUCs I have reviewed - but it still can fit a 2.5" drive in its lid and a 2280 M.2 SSD. At first glance, you would think there is no way a 2280 M.2 drive could fit. ASRock's tiny bracket allows you to extend the screw hole out a few millimeters extra from the 2260 hole so that it screws in right above some of the IO ports. I also had no problem whatsoever with my 950 Pro NVMe drive and the Beebox-S.
Intel i5-6200U Skylake-U: At 15W, Intel's i5-6200U is quite formidable. The previous Beebox used an N3000 Celeron, and I figured since the device was so small the sluggish performance was acceptable, but the i5-6200U proved me wrong. The i5-6200U brings some serious performance increases to the table. The unit is faster not only in benchmarks but also real-world performance.
4K Anyone?: Many older devices have trouble playing 4K video smoothly, but Skylake CPUs bring dedicated 4K hardware to the table so that you don't need a $300+ GPU to playback what you recorded without lag. The Beebox-S takes things a bit further by improving the standard HDMI output. The device has two HDMI ports. The first is an HDMI 1.4 port which is shared with the DisplayPort and can output 4K at 30Hz. The second is an HDMI 2.0 port from a dedicated MegaChips IC that can output 4K at 60Hz. The Beebox-S can even output both HDMI ports or the HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort at the same time, so you can actually use two 4K monitors side by side watch a movie on one and do work on the other.
USB 3.1 and 1GBit NIC: I wasn't expecting USB 3.1 because of the size constraints. Since USB 3.1 isn't native to the SoC, vendors must use a third-party IC. ASRock is using the ASMedia ASM1142 more commonly found on desktops to drive the USB 3.1 type-C port at the front. The unit is also using the i219v; the same Intel PHY used on desktop CPUs, and network performance is excellent.
Glossy Surface: The glossy surface looks nice, but it's a fingerprint magnet.
Tight Fit: The Beebox-S is a tight fit if you install the longer 2280 M.2 drive and a 2.5" SSD. I was able to install both, but you have to be very careful with the SATA wiring when you close the device. I also wasn't sure how to install the M.2 extension bracket; I didn't think of unscrewing the preinstalled standoff until I read the manual.
At $319, the Beebox-S isn't cheap, but you get what you pay for. The unit carries a very formidable 15W Intel Skylake SoC with enough horsepower to do basic desktop tasks. Productivity won't be hampered by the CPU as long as you aren't doing heavy editing, rendering, or gaming. I also liked that the unit didn't get very loud when I stressed it to maximum levels, but it does get a bit warm. The hardware that ASRock used is also top notch; the VRMs are built from very high-quality parts so that they won't overheat.
ASRock's addition of the HDMI 2.0 port was unexpected. When teamed with the IR remote, you can see how this could be a really good 4K streaming device. It's not easy to playback 4K outside of YouTube, which heavily downgrades quality. I was very impressed with the performance of this little device, especially considering its size.
At $319, the unit still requires storage, memory, and OS so you will end up spending close to $550 for a very capable system. However, if you want high-performance features in a tiny space, the ASRock Beebox-S might be exactly what you are looking for.
|Quality including Design and Build||92%|
|Bundle and Packaging||89%|
|Value for Money||89%|
|Overall TweakTown Rating||91%|
The Bottom Line: ASRock's Beebox-S is a very tiny mini PC designed with high performance desktop grade features that won't disappoint.
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