Wrap Up: Best Value Barebones Mini PC
Initially we were unable to get 4K video to run at more than a few frames per second on the Beebox using Media Player Classic and the supplied 4K content from Asrock. For 4K playback to work, Media Player Classic must have HEVC hardware decoding enabled for UHD (4K) playback and D3D fullscreen must also be enabled.
So the Beebox can in fact support 4K playback under the right conditions. It's also worth noting that we removed a stick of memory and tried 4K playback with single-channel memory as Asrock says this is why other NUCs can't deliver smooth playback, and they are right. Using single-channel memory playback is noticeably laggy.
Performance aside for a moment, let's look at pricing. The Beebox that comes with Windows 10 Home, a small 32GB mSATA SSD and 2GB of DDR3 memory costs $200. The version we reviewed with the 128GB SSD and 4GB DDR3 memory kit costs $220, but remember you have to bring your own operating system. Finally, for just $140 there is the barebones option which lets you choose your own mSATA SSD, DDR3 memory and operating system.
The barebones Beebox N3000 is extremely competitive. The Intel NUC DN2820FYKH costs roughly the same amount yet falls short when comparing its processor, wireless solution, connectivity and internal hardware support. The Beebox is clearly the better product of the two.
Next to the ECS Liva X, the Beebox looks and feels better along with boasting much better hardware support, connectivity and wireless. The Beebox is also cheaper. The Liva X costs $190 for the 64GB eMMC storage version with 4GB of DDR3 while the model we looked at costs $220 but features a much bigger and faster SSD.
ECS is releasing its own Braswell mini PC called the 'X2' using the Celeron N3050 but already we can see that it lacks the connectivity options of the Beebox and can't support a larger 2.5" drive despite being slightly bigger.
Meanwhile, the Beebox N3000 is similar enough to Gigabyte's BRIX BXBT-2807 in price yet it provides considerably better connectivity, a more compact design and uses the latest Braswell SoC.
We feel the Beebox is the best value barebones mini PC available at the moment. The barebones model is a bargain at $140 but it's also tough to beat the $220 Beebox with 4GB of DDR3L memory and a 128GB SSD. That's an extra $80 but you'd spend at least $90 buying the RAM and SSD separately, possibly more.
As sweet as the Beebox may be, Asrock's execution wasn't flawless. The data cable that connects to the 2.5" drive needs some work as crushing it into place is far from ideal. We also had trouble with the power button, which began to stick and would cause the computer to turn off after 10 seconds. Asrock has informed me that we received an engineering sample and that the button issue we ran into will be fixed once the Beebox hits retail.
Other than those two issues the Beebox worked flawlessly and proved to be a great little PC. Those hoping to get the most out of the Beebox should consider the quad-core N1350 version and we hope to check that one out shortly.
Pros: Fanless, excellent connectivity, dual-channel memory for up to 16GB DDR3, supports mSATA and 2.5" storage, triple display output, extremely power efficient, tiny foot print, great value.
Cons: The advertised 4K playback requires HEVC hardware decoding support to work. The power button on our review unit would often get stuck turn the PC off, though we are told this will be fixed in the retail product.