Beelink X55 Review – An Intel Gemini Lake mini PC Tested with Windows 10 and Linux

Orange Pi Development Boards

Beelink X55 Review

The Beelink X55 is very similar in style to Intel’s NUC7PJYH NUC reviewed earlier except that it is not a kit but a fully functional Windows mini PC.

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 x55 featuresThe specifications include:

Beelink x55 specification

The key highlights are that the Beelink X55 comes a 128GB mSATA SSD with pre-installed Windows 10 Home together with 8GB DDR4 RAM (soldered and is non-expandable) and space plus a connector for an SSD.

Beelink Gemini Lake Mini PC-disk-managementStarting with a quick look at the hardware information shows it is mostly aligned to the specification but see the note below about the memory:

Beelink Gemini X system

Beelink Gemini X hwinfoAs usual I ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

At this point I normally prefix the discussion of the results with the caveat that the results need interpreting carefully otherwise they could be misleading when compared to other Intel mini PCs because mini PC benchmark results are heavily influenced by the quantity and type of memory and storage installed:

Intel low power mini pc windows benchmarks comparison

However the Beelink X55 performance is only a slight improvement CPU-wise over the Beelink X45 and is worse than the equivalent NUC7PJYH. The major disappointment is with the graphics performance which is markedly lower. These poor results warranted further investigation so first I looked at the performance under Ubuntu. [Update October 11, 2018: Updated Beelink X55 drivers and BIOS have now been provided, and many of the performance issues mentioned above and below are solved].

Having shrunk the Windows partition and created a new 20GB partition I installed as dual boot Ubuntu using an Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS ISO.

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 X55 in comparison with the earlier Beelink X45 model each using their original ‘OOTB’ configuration:

Beelink-X45-vs-X55-ootb-systems
Click to Enlarge
Beelink-X45-vs-X55-ootb-overview
Click to Enlarge
Beelink-X55-ootb-visualize
Click to Enlarge

The results show performance gains from the faster processor speed although there is an unintentional skew caused by the difference between Ubuntu releases (16.04 vs 18.04).

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

Beelink-X55-ubuntu-octane2

As the Ubuntu results failed to show any indications as to why the graphics performance was worse under Windows I next 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-X55-windows-edge-browser-4k-video
Click to Enlarge
Beelink-X55-windows-edge-browser-4k-at-60fps-video
Click to Enlarge
Beelink-X55-windows-chrome-browser-4k-video
Click to Enlarge
Beelink-X55-windows-chrome-browser-4k-at-60fps-video
Click to Enlarge

although on Chrome the [email protected] video had dropped frames but were unnoticeable while watching.

In contrast playing videos in Chrome on Ubuntu was a similar story to on other Intel processor-based mini PCs with [email protected] dropping too many frames and pausing making it really not watchable but fine when played at 1440p:

Beelink-X55-ubuntu-chrome-browser-4k-at-30-video
Click to Enlarge

The [email protected] video resulted in the frames being dropped and was unwatchable:

Beelink-X55-ubuntu-chrome-browser-4k-at-60-video
Click to Enlarge

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:

Beelink-X55-windows-kodi-vp9
Click to Enlarge

whereas an H.264 codec encoded video used hardware to decode without these overheads:

Beelink-X55-Mini-PC-windows-kodi-h264
Click to Enlarge

as did videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC:

X55-windows-kodi-h265
Click to Enlarge
Beelink-X55-windows-kodi-hevc
Click to Enlarge

Both VP9 and H.264 codec encoded videos used hardware to decode in Kodi on Ubuntu and played fine:

Beelink-X55-ubuntu-kodi-vp9
Click to Enlarge
Beelink-X55-ubuntu-kodi-h264
Click to Enlarge

but some H.265 or HEVC videos used hardware whereas others used software and were unwatchable experiencing frequent loss of frames:

X55-ubuntu-kodi-h265
Click to Enlarge
X55-ubuntu-kodi-hevc
Click to Enlarge

As can be seen the software decoding creates high CPU usage resulting in higher internal temperatures. The Beelink X55 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 a 4K video in Chrome for 20 minutes and the internal temperature remained under control averaging around 78°C with the external temperature of the device a constant 31.7°C:

Beelink-X55-fan-effectiveness
Click to Enlarge

Interestingly the poor benchmarking graphics performance hasn’t affected the overall performance of the device playing videos.

Checking audio and it works on Windows:

Beelink-X55-windows-sound-hdmi

Beelink-X55-windows-sound-headphones

and also on Ubuntu without issues:

Beelink-X55-ubuntu-sound-hdmi Beelink-X55-ubuntu-sound-headphones

Network connectivity throughput was measured using ‘iperf’ on Ubuntu:

Beelink X55 network throughputThe network results were unusual in that both Ethernet and 5.0 GHz wireless showed a very slow upload speed however it was impossible to connect to a 2.4 GHz network regardless of the router used. This indicates a software/driver issue rather than a hardware issue and will probably be fixed by a future Ubuntu 18.04 package upgrade.

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

Beelink X55 board
Click to Enlarge

Beelink x55 msata

Because the graphics issue was still unresolved I decided to repeat the entire testing using an Intel 180GB M.2 SSD housed in an SSD enclosure allowing me to directly compare the Beelink X55 with the equivalent Beelink X45 results and also with the Intel NUC7CJYSAL. I had previously used this SSD in the Beelink X45 device having installed Windows using the Microsoft ISO and all the necessary drivers. Installing the SSD in the Beelink X55 showed that Windows was activated with everything ready to use without the need for any further updates.

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

Intel-NUC-Beelink-x45-x55-windows-3-way-performance

The obvious point to notice is that the graphics performance is much improved than the original testing for the Beelink X55 and is aligned to expectations for this CPU/GPU combination.

These tests were then repeated to look at the performance comparison with the NUC7PJYH installed with the same SSD:

Intel-NUC7PJY-Beelink-X45-X55-windows-4-way-performance

This time the CPU/GPU difference can be clearly seen and is reflected through performance improvements across all the results.

So finally I reinstalled Windows on the original 128GB mSATA SSD. Unfortunately not all drivers were found:

Beelink-X55-windows-missing-drivers

Pressing on and I started to run my standard set of benchmarking tools again. Unfortunately I discovered that somehow the graphics driver had also failed to install even though no more Windows updates were outstanding:

3DMark-no-compatible-benchmarks-found-missing-graphics-driver

I was able to add the graphics driver using Intel’s Driver & Support Assistant:

Windows-install-intel-graphics-driver
Click to Enlarge

however I was unable to fix the earlier missing device drivers:

Beelink-X55-windows-missing-drivers

Running the benchmarking tools gave and the following results:

Again the graphics performance increased compared with the original ‘Out Of The Box’ experience highlighting a problem with the original factory Windows installation:

final-windows-performance

Interestingly included in the box is a contact address to be used if encountering problems:

Beelink contact card / customer service

Unfortunately as it is currently Golden Week public holiday in China requesting assistance has so far not received a solution.

As an aside I did earlier contact them regarding Linux installation and was sent just a couple of links which led to a tutorial and an ISO for installation. It was not clear why an ISO link was included rather than referring to a standard Ubuntu ISO so perhaps they have modified their ISO in some way?

Finally I measured power consumption with Windows installed as follows:

  • Powered off – 0.3 Watts
  • BIOS* – 5.9 Watts
  • Idle – 3.8 Watts (Windows)
  • Video playback** – 8.2 Watts (4K in Windows)

* 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:

The key drawback for this device at present is its initial configuration with poor graphics performance. Although this can probably be resolved in a number of ways (e.g. dumping the drivers and performing a re-installation of Windows or specifically trying to update the existing graphic driver) it is disappointing that it doesn’t work correctly from the outset. Another possible limitation is that the memory is fixed at 8GB RAM and support in terms of drivers, BIOS updates is likely to be patchy and informal at best.

As mentioned with the casing of the Beelink X45 and because the casing on the Beelink X55 is identical, another 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.

I’d like to thank Gearbest for providing the unit for review and they are currently selling the Beelink X55 for $249.99.

Support CNX Software - Donate via PayPal or become a Patron on Patreon

9
Leave a Reply

avatar
4 Comment threads
5 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
7 Comment authors
SeboosPedroSteveKarlLinuxium Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Sander
Guest
Sander

“approximately 4.5″ by 4” case about 1¾” ” … please …
There are only 3 countries that use inches: Liberia, Myanmar, and the United States of America. And maybe UK (IDK). The other 190 countries use metric.

So can we please use metric here?

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

11.50 x 10.20 x 4.53 cm (from Ian’s Beelink X45 review)

Linuxium
Guest

Point taken. Specification picture includes metric measurements.

Steve
Guest
Steve

UK officially uses metric for most measurements other than road distance (miles) and road speed (miles per hour), and beer is still served in pints. Imperial measurements (inches and pounds etc) are still commonly used in daily life (we always say our height in feet and inches and most people give their weight in stones and pounds) but no longer officially used in most areas.

Karl
Guest
Karl

I used the measurement cup before. Didn’t go over well either.

Pedro
Guest
Pedro

Hi,

Were these tests already performed with the new version of Bios that supposedly includes several improvements?

http://www.bee-link.com/forum.php/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=42469&extra=page%3D1

Linuxium
Guest

I’ll try upgrading and then share my results.

Linuxium
Guest

Part 2 (https://www.cnx-software.com/2018/10/11/review-beelink-x55-drivers-bios-uefi/) covers adding the missing drivers and the result of upgrading the BIOS.

Seboos
Guest
Seboos

“Note that the memory is 2133 MHz and not the advertised 2400 MHz.”
On Beelink website: 8GB LPDDR4/2400M/HZ
Beelink lying?