Beelink X45 Mini PC Review with Windows 10 and Ubuntu 16.04/18.04

Beelink X45 Mini PC ReviewThe Beelink X45 mini PC is now available, and Lightinthebox.com have provided a unit for review. It is very similar in style to Intel’s latest NUC Windows mini PC, the NUC7CJYSAL reviewed earlier. However it contains an Intel Celeron Processor J4105 SoC which is a quad core processor bursting up to 2.50 GHz together with the Intel UHD Graphics 600 processor that is capable of 4K support at 60Hz.

It is physically small consisting of an approximately 4.5″ by 4” case about 1¾” tall with a front panel that includes the power button and a couple of USB ports and a headphone jack with the rest of the ports including two HDMI (2.0) ones at the rear:

Beelink X45 Features

The specifications include:

Beelink X45 Specifications

A key point to note is the Beelink X45 comes with 64GB eMMC with pre-installed Windows 10 Home together with 4GB DDR4 RAM (soldered and is non-expandable) with space and connectors for both an mSATA and SSD.

Beelink X45 Windows disk management

Starting with a quick look at the hardware information shows it is mostly aligned to the specification but see the note below about the memory:

System-X45 hwinfo-Beelink-X45

As usual I ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

The results need interpreting carefully otherwise they could be misleading when compared to other Intel mini PCs. This is because mini PC benchmark results are heavily influenced by the quantity and type of memory and storage installed:

Intel mini pc windows comparison
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Broadly speaking however the Beelink X45 performance is similar or better than the earlier J4005 device, especially with the CPU comparisons where its quad cores out perform the dual core processor.

Next I shrunk the Windows partition and created new a 15GB partition so I could install and dual boot Ubuntu using an Ubuntu 16.04.5 LTS ISO.

Once installed I first ran some basic commands to look at the hardware in more detail:


Note that the memory is 2133 MHz and not the advertised 2400 MHz.

I then ran my usual suite of Phoronix tests to look at performance in Ubuntu. First I looked at the Beelink X45 in comparison with the earlier Intel NUC NUC7CJYSAL model each using their original ‘OOTB’ configuration:

The results highlight that the key performance gains are from the extra cores and faster processor speed and performance loses are from the slower eMMC.

Ubuntu’s Octane result was also tested and it was slightly better than in Windows:

Beelink-X45-Ubuntu-octane2
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Next I looked at real-world usage by playing videos under Windows using both Edge and Chrome browsers. Under both browsers [email protected] and [email protected] videos played fine:

Beelink-X45-windows-edge-browser-4k-video
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Beelink-X45-windows-edge-browser-4k-at-60fps-video
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Beelink-X45-windows-chrome-browser-4k-at-60fps-video
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Beelink-X45-windows-chrome-browser-4k-video
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although on Chrome the [email protected] video had the occasional dropped frame which was unnoticeable.

In contrast playing videos in Chrome on Ubuntu was a similar story to on other Intel processor-based mini PCs with [email protected] being unwatchable but fine when played at 1440p:

Beelink-X45-ubuntu-chrome-browser-1440p-video
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The [email protected] video resulted in the frames being dropped and was unwatchable:

Beelink-X45-ubuntu-chrome-browser-4k-at-60-video
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however [email protected] was fine with only the occasional unnoticeable dropped frame.

Playing videos using Kodi on Windows worked for VP9 codec encoded video but used software for decoding resulting in high CPU usage and higher CPU temperatures:

Gemini-Lake-Windows-10-kodi-vp9
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whereas an H.264 codec encoded video used hardware to decode without these overheads:

Gemini-Lake-Windows-10-kodi-h264
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as did videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC:

Beelink-X45-Gemini-Lake-windows-kodi-hevc
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Both VP9 and H.264 codec encoded videos used software to decode in Kodi on Ubuntu. The VP9 was unwatchable with picture corruptions:

Gemini-lake-ubuntu-kodi-vp9
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However the H.264 although skipping frames was watchable:

Gemini-Lake-ubuntu-kodi-h264
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but H.265 or HEVC videos were unwatchable experiencing frequent loss of frames:

Gemini-Lake-ubuntu-kodi-hevc
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Gemini-lake-ubuntu-kodi-h265
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As can be seen the software decoding creates high CPU usage resulting in higher internal temperatures. The Beelink X45 includes a virtually silent fan and is only just audible even under these conditions as it cycles on and off. Cooling is effective and under Ubuntu I ran an H.264 video in Kodi for 20 minutes and the internal temperature remained under control averaging around 72°C with the external temperature of the device a constant 27°C:

Intel-GLK-Mini-PC-fan-effectiveness
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Audio works on Windows:

Beelink-X45-windows-sound-hdmi Beelink-X45-windows-sound-headphones

and also on Ubuntu without issues:

Beelink-X45-ubuntu-sound-hdmi Beelini-X45-ubuntu-sound-headphones

Network connectivity throughput was measured using ‘iperf’:

Beelink X45 network throughputThe results were unusual in that both Ethernet and 5.0 GHz wireless showed a very slow upload speed whereas for 2.4 GHz the upload was twice as fast as the download speed.

As mentioned the device comes with space to add an SSD:

Beelink X45 SSD HDD

Beelink X45 Board
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So I decided to repeat the entire testing using an Intel 180GB M.2 SSD housed in an SSD enclosure so I could directly compare the Beelink X45 with the NUC7CJYSAL, but this time using Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (18.04.1 ISO installed) to see if the performance under a later version of Kodi would improve. Windows was installed using the Microsoft ISO and all the necessary drivers were found and updated automatically with Windows activating immediately.

First the standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

Intel-NUC-vs-Beelink-X45-windows-performanceThis time the CPU difference can be clearly seen and is reflected through slight performance improvements across all the results.

Then I ran my usual suite of Phoronix tests again to look at performance in Ubuntu 18.04:

Again the results show the key performance gains from the extra cores and faster processor speed.

Ubuntu’s Octane result was also tested and it was slightly better (15958 for the Beelink X45 vs 15824 for the NUC7CJYSAL).

The main improvement for both devices was through using the later release of Kodi on Ubuntu 18.04.

Whereas before software decoding was used for each format tested, this time hardware decoding for VP9, H264 and some HEC/H265 videos resulting in smooth playing:

Beelink-X45-Ubuntu-18.04-kodi-vp9
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Beelink X45 Ubuntu 18.04 Kodi H.264
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Beelink X45 Ubuntu- 18.04 kodi-h265
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with one 10-bit HEVC video still stalling:

Beelink X45 Ubuntu 18.04 kodi-10-bit-hevc
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It was also just possible to play a 4K 60FPS video and although skipping was reported it was not noticeable:

Beelink-X45-Ubuntu-18.04-kodi-60fps
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I also repeated testing network connectivity throughput again using ‘iperf’:

Ubuntu 18.04 network throughput

The results show a marked improvement for both Ethernet and 5.0 GHz wireless. However it was impossible to connect to a 2.4 GHz network regardless of the router used. This indicates an software/driver issue rather than a hardware issue and will probably be fixed by a future Ubuntu 18.04 package upgrade.

Power consumption with the SSD was measured as follows:

  • Powered off – 0.7 Watts
  • BIOS*  – 5.1 Watts
  • Boot menu – 4.9 Watts
  • Idle – 4.1 Watts (Windows) and 3.4 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • CPU stressed – 15.8 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • Video playback** – 9.6 Watts (4K in Windows) and 8.3 Watts (1080p in Ubuntu)

* BIOS (see below)
** The power figures fluctuate so the value is the average of the median high and median low power readings.

The BIOS appears to be fully unlocked and a brief overview is available in the following video:

As shown the Beelink X45 is comparable to the NUC7YJYSAL. An advantage of the Beelink device is that it the storage is initially larger (64GB vs 32 GB) which means Windows updates without issue, and it is expendable not just with an SSD but also includes space for an mSATA. It is also slightly cheaper. The disadvantage is that the memory is fixed at 4GB RAM and doesn’t come with a three (3) year warranty.

One minor point to also note is that the USB ports are very close together meaning if you have a physically large USB drive or a USB cable with a wide plastic end then you may effectively only have two rather than four ports. The front right-hand USB port is also very close to the headphone jack again meaning size interference may occur.

Overall the device performs well and is worthy of consideration and Lightinthebox are currently selling the Beelink X45 for $184.99. If installing Ubuntu I’d recommend only considering the 18.04 LTS release to ensure the latest version of drivers and packages like Kodi.

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Not sure anyone cares but I noticed the RAM is reported as 2133Mhz instead of the advertised 2400Mhz and also it seems to be running in single channel only. I wonder how much that affected the benchmarks and video tests?

Also, anyone else see the NVMe entry in the BIOS and wished they squeezed in an M.2 2280 slot?