Saturday, April 16, 2016

Asrock Beebox N3150

The Beebox is Asrock's vision of the NUC which was introduced in Computex 2015.

Proudly touted as the World's First NUC Mini PC with a USB Type-C Port  - it's meant to be small,  light and fast like the hardworking bee.

NUC Background

The Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) is a family of small form factor PCs which debuted  a few years earlier in 2012 and are now a few generations down the road.


NUC Overview



Asrock Beebox N3150

Asrock Beebox Series
Asrock Beebox Microsite

Suggested Usage

- home theater system (due to new H.265 support in Braswell)
- daily computing PC
- quiet bedroom PC or office desktop
- other users of NUC eg. kick-proof PC, VM testing etc...

Do not get this for...
- first person shooters
- heavy data crunching eg. video encoding
- bleeding edge hardware chasers, butt itchy frequent upgraders


- cool running, low power CPU (just a parsimonious 6W)
- tiny size (maybe half a dozen stacked handphones, thereabouts)
- quiet (totally fanless in N3000 model)
- multiple communications option viz. GLAN, dual channel Intel 802.11ac wifi, Bluetooth 4.0, IR remote
- multiple video connections viz. DP, 2 x HDMI
- multiple storage options viz. eMMC, SATA, m-SATA
- multiple RAM slots with dual channel feature
- up to date ports eg. USB-C, Displayport 1.1a, HDMI 1.4

Intel Braswell

14nm System On Chip (SOC) design introduced in 2015 as successor to BayTrail (22nm)
Kodi Forum

What's New With Braswell

4K, hevc video, dual channel RAM support etc...
LR Intro
Asrock claims that the Beebox supports Up to 48CH H.265 IP Cameras in D1 (704x576) resolution!

Choice Of OS

Windows or Linux or even both, why not?!
 The case for Linux (& its variants)

* This is a decidedly impt decision as the Windows HD Audio driver from Intel still does NOT support HD Audio passthrough (will it ever?) despite long repeated requests from endusers.
Intel - the case against a HTPC on Windows

Thus, the current intention is to run both OS on the Beebox for the best of both worlds experience
- Win 10 Home on the bundled 128GB mSATA SSD for daily operations like surfing, email etc...
- Linux Mint on the onboard 32GB eMMC or Kodi/Openelec on a flashdrive, purely for entertainment eg. video watching and streaming
- file storage on an add on a cheap spinning 2.5" HDD if need be

Kodi/Openelec Discussion

Asrock Beebox's very own dedicated Kodi/Openelec thread with developer support!
Openelec forum

Team-Kodi Developer, fritsch with Openelec

This guy is doing a great job with his releases, alternative releases to look out for come from another developer, Matt Devo, amongst other builders like Milhouse

fritsch Openelec v17
Milhouse v17
LibreElec v16.1 final
Suggested settings

Braswell vs Android Media Boxes


Kodi forum warning about certain cheap Android boxes
"Its very common with dirt cheap Android devices to come with lots of Bugs and no after sales support. Most are absolute rubbish, using pump and dump Marketing techniques to seduce unwary newbie buyers. False product reviews are very common."

Future NUC

- very promising with exciting new capabilities but DDR4L only and mucho $$$
Intel Iris Pro NUC

Packaging Box






Power Adapter

Note the bundled adapter is a real compact wall plug rather than a floor heavy power brick, nice!

Infrared Remote

Combo SATA/Power Cable

suggest owners had better not lose this impt tiny thingy...

CD, Quick Guide & VESA Mount

Beebox - Exterior

Beebox - Sized Up

With measurement rulers and a CD (anyone still remembers this archaic artefact?) for comparison



Beebox - Interior

UEFI BIOS Screenshots

Sports a modern graphical UEFI implementation

Windows 10 Screenshots







Intel HD Graphics

With a PC LCD

With a Full HD Sony LCD TV

Device Manager 

Showing the onboard Samsung eMMC and bundled mSATA Team SSD (2 x USB flash devices also seen, attached for test file transfers)




With a Braswell Celeron at its core, this machine is targeted straight at budget PC users and definitely not at benchmark enthusiasts.

As such,  its benchmark numbers performance, though clearly improved over the previous Bay Trail generation as shown by many web reviews, is more of academic interest. Heavy data crunchers are simply not the target audience for these Intel budget SOC systems.

Nonetheless, those interested in hardcore numbers can reference the many web reviews listed at the end of this article. In addition, here's a detailed budget CPU shootout involving the Celeron N3150 itself - again as said, it seems an academic exercise to me cos few should be using these CPUs to do such tasks like video transcoding.
Hardware Secrets

Therefore, the focus here is on its features, capabilities and usable real life performance and less on actual numbers.

Intel 802.11AC wifi with

A simple Q & D bench as a rough gauge, using the 5GHz wifi radio via an Asus RT-AC68U 1Gbps M1 connection. More importantly, video streaming over wifi in Openelec is also smooth, totally watchable and enjoyable.

The 2.4GHz wifi radio has a patchy performance as evident in anecdoctal web reports. Bluetooth operation under Windows 10 Home was also erratic but seems to work under Openelec as shown in this screenshot.

More Openelec beta Screenshots

This Openelec beta by Fritsch is very functional but seems to lack a screenshot capability so pardon the less than optimal handphone shot photos. Installation was straightforward and fast - boot from Openelec install USB flashdrive, choose destination device and voila, an Openelec boot drive within a few minutes.

With a PC LCD, idle

With a Full HD Sony LCD TV, ongoing streaming via wifi (video playing visibly in the background)




Openelec Uptime

The Beebox has already clocked over 15 hours of total uptime over 5 days so far which works out to ~ 3 hours of video streaming per day, super nice and stable!


Initial Impressions

The Asrock Beebox fulfills a niche in the truly tiny desktop PCs for undemanding home/office users and budget HTPC enthusiasts. Budget explained as in... the lowest cost Intel based NUC so far.
Intel's cheapest NUCs yet... beg for home theater use

With its H.265 hardware support, this Braswell unit should serve quite well into the near future as a HTPC rig, especially with such enthusiastic support from the Kodi/Openelec developers. The extremely earth friendly 6W TDP Intel Braswell processor makes it ideal for a cool running, low power setup for 24/7 operations eg. download station, video monitoring etc...

In addition, the flyweight total rig (with power adapter included) also makes it super convenient to be transported around.

Asrock's bundled package is very functional and practical but can be further improved if the bundled Windows 10 Home had been installed on the larger mSATA SSD instead of the anaemic onboard eMMC.

Overall, it's also mildly interesting for beginner tinkerers too, due to the easy complete access to the interior, exposed by simply undoing a few screws.

With my interest in NUCs newly piqued, I am definitely looking forward to the next round of oncoming NUCs although current indications show that they are going to be priced much higher (~650 USD, ouch!) by Intel due to the Iris Pro iGPU used. But for now, just sit back and enjoy your budget Beebox while saving up a pretty penny for the next gen NUCs.

Goodies & Freebies

For those who prefer using their smartphone as wifi remote controls over the bundled IR unit, try these great apps

Android - Kore, Official Remote for Kodi
iOS - Official Kodi Remote
Winphone - Unofficial remote apps

Web Reviews


Play 4K Video at 30fps?