ASRock jumped into the ever-growing NUC market with the Beebox series of NUCs, offering silent operation and updated features as a result of utilizing the latest Intel Atom Braswell SoCs.
ASRock's Beeboxes will be available in three configurations: a barebones kit, a full system with OS, and a full system without OS. The three systems are identical at heart and are fanless, making them exceedingly quiet when in use. They will also be available in three colors, as show above.
To make this possible, ASRock opted to utilize Intel's Braswell-based N3000 SoC, but this is a bittersweet SoC to use. According to Intel's spec page for Braswell, the N3000 SoC has a TDP of 4 W, which makes the fanless design possible; however, the N3000 is currently the only dual-core Braswell SoC, and is therefore the lowest-performing SoC.
Though these systems are targeting low-performance market segments anyway, this isn't a major problem for most people, but it does make the Beebox less desirable as an HTPC. As a result, the Beebox feels targeted more towards workplace environments, to be used for tasks such as digital signage or simple Web browsing systems.
The available configurations ASRock sells the Beebox in seem to reinforce this.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Full System (With OS)||Full System (Without OS)||Barebones|
|SoC||Intel N3000 Processor|
|CPU||Dual-Core Up to 2.08 GHz|
|OS||Windows 10 Home||None/ Windows Compliant||None/ Windows Compliant|
|RAM||2 GB DDR3L-1600 MHz||4 GB DDR3L-1600 MHz (2x2 GB)||None|
|Max RAM Support||DDR3L-1600 MHz 2 x SO-DIMM, 16 GB|
|mSATA||32 GB SSD||128 GB SSD||None|
|HDD||Supports 1 x 2.5" SATA HDD/SSD|
|Wireless||802.11ac + BT 4.0|
|Front I/O||1 x USB 3.0, 1X USB 3.0 (Type-C), 1 x IR, 1 x Audio-out with MIC-In|
|Rear I/O||2 x HDMI, 1 x DP, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x LAN, 1 x Kensington lock|
|Power Unit||36W/12V Adapter|
|Dimension||110 x 46 x 118.5 mm (WxHxL)|
|VESA||Bracket Included, supports 75 x 75 and 100 x 100 mm|
Many NUC devices are sold as barebones systems, but not all businesses have the time to install RAM and storage into the systems, not to mention the time required to install the OS. Large businesses may need dozens of these devices, and not having to order and install additional hardware and software can save time and money.
At the same time, businesses who will only need one or two of these would likely benefit from the barebones unit, as they might ultimately reduce costs by shopping around for cheaper RAM, storage and OS. The completed model without OS gives a balance of the two scenarios, by saving time not needing to install additional hardware, but also letting users install a free OS such as Linux to reduce overall costs.
In addition to the hardware configurations available, the systems include numerous other feature enhancements compared to older Baytrail-based NUCs. The Beebox includes a USB 3.0 Type-C connector for fast charging and much greater bandwidth when transferring data. The Wi-Fi standard was also improved to the newer 802.11ac.
Also, Braswell features greatly improved graphics compared to Baytrail. While Baytrail's iGPU only had 4 EUs, was locked at a max resolution of 1080p, and supported dual-monitors, Braswell's iGPU has 12 EUs, can drive up to three displays, two over HDMI and one over display port, and features resolution support up to 4K.
ASrock said that its full-system-without-OS Beebox is the only NUC vendor that can claim that it does true 4K video because of its dual-channel memory design. This Beebox has 2 x 2 GB RAM as opposed to a single DIMM, and the company ran a demo that showed that its 4K solution outperformed NUCs using a single-DIMM design.
Furthermore, ASRock said that the first of these NUCs (the one sans OS) should enter the market in the middle of June. The barebones Beebox will cost just $140 (and users will need to purchase RAM and storage separately), while the no-OS black or white Beeboxes will be $220. (The gold model will be an extra $10, at $230.)
The Beebox that ships with a full OS installed will be "under $200." It may seem somewhat counterintuitive that a system with an OS installed should cost less than one without, but the cost difference is due to the latter's more RAM and larger storage. (Note the specs in the chart above.)
In terms of availability for the two non-barebones, they will likely launch after Windows 10 makes its official appearance on July 29.
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