by | November 22, 2017 | Android TV Box, Reviews

Beelink is known for producing some of the best affordable TV boxes and mini PCs on the market, and the A1 is one of their latest inventions. This device, which is much smaller than an average smartphone, packs an RK3328 quad-core processor, 4GB RAM, 16GB eMMc internal storage and lots of useful features. How does it perform in our daily lives, we will try to find out in this review.

 

 

Main Specs of the Beelink A1

Operating System: Android 7.1
Processor: RK3328 Quad-Core Processor (4*Cortex-A53@1.5GHz, Mali-450MP2 GPU)
RAM: 4GB DDR3
Storage: 16GB eMMc Internal Storage, TF Card support (up to 128GB)
HDMI: HDMI 2.0a output up to 4K@60Hz + HDMI 3D video formats
Display: Digital LED display
Ports: Ethernet port*1, AV Port*1, DC port*1, Micro SD card slot*1, USB 3.0 Port*1, USB 2.0 Port*1, HDMI*1.
Dimension: 77mm*77mm*17mm (L x W x H)
Chassis: White, ABS Plastic
Retail Package: TV box*1, Remote control*1, HDMI cable*1, Power adapter*1, User manual*1

 

Retail Package

Inside the box, you will find a Beelink A1 TV box, a remote, an HDMI cable, a power adapter, and an English manual.

 

 

Design

Measured at 77mm*77mm*17mm, the Beelink A1 is the smallest TV Box we have ever reviewed. It has a much smaller footprint than the Jide Remix IO, the Jide Remix Mini and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

While lacking in size, this device still offers a slew of ports and slots. On the back side of the box you will find a 3.5mm AV multi-purpose port, an RJ45 Ethernet jack, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a DC port.

On the right side of the device, you will find two USB Type-A ports, one of USB 3.0 standard and the other of USB 2.0 standard. There’s also a Micro SD card slot which supports cards up to 128GB.

On the front side of the box you will find an IR receiver, and an LED display working as a digital clock.

The tiny casing is made of white ABS plastic, which gives the device an elegant and premium look.

The Beelink logo on the top side of the box is hidden most of the time, and can only be seen while we look at the box in a certain angle, when it reflects the lighting.

There are some vents on the bottom side to keep the box from overheating.

Like all products from Beelink, the build quality of the A1 is pretty good, even though it has a plastic shell, it still feels quite robust in our hands. The supplied remote is also well-built. Although still with a predictably lightweight, plastic finish and limited mouse pointer functionality, the box responds quickly to its commands and the infra-red range are acceptably long and broad.

 

 

Setting it up

Setting up the Beelink A1 is as easy as setting up any TV box. Connecting it to a TV via HDMI, plugging in the charger and you are good to go.

You will need to connect the device to the internet the first time you boot it, either via Wi-Fi or a LAN cable.

 

 

System & Apps

The Beelink A1 ships with Android 7.1 Nougat, but the user interface is tailor-made for a TV box. The launcher has everything laid out beautifully and is very easy to navigate. The date and time is located at the top left with the temperature widget below. In the center of the screen you have a link to the media center, internet browser and Google Play Store, There are also shortcuts to “clear memory”, app drawer, and settings laying below. To the right is an area where users can pin their most commonly used apps. Finally at the bottom left you have shortcuts to power, volume, at the bottom right you have shortcuts to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth.

The navigation bar at the very bottom is defaulted to be hidden, but you can bring it up with a mouse. It has many virtual keys, including a power key, a hide-bar key, a volume- key, a back key, a home key, a recent apps key, a volume+ key, and a screenshot key.

The A1 doesn’t come loaded with bloatware, but there are some preinstalled apps. Besides the stock Google Play Store, Android Web Browser, Calculator and Gallery, you can also find Beelink’s very own App Store, Bee Files Explorer, Media Center and Bee Music in the app drawer. There are also some third-party apps preinstalled, including the Fishing Joy game app.

As a TV box, the A1 is designed mainly for media consumption, and you can find a great number of media playback apps in Google Play, including YouTube, Netflix, Kodi and Hulu. The A1 has no problem streaming 4K videos smoothly on YouTube, but I did notice some hiccups while playing a few local videos with Kodi.

Another thing I need to mention is that I could not find a way to play local videos in full screen with the Beelink’s Media Center app.

Fortunately I don’t really need to use it that often, other media playback apps such as Kodi, Mobo Player and MX Player all work well with full-screen video playback. Only when I needed to use the PiP (Picture in Picture) function would I open the Beelink Media Center, as it works great if you want to keep your eyes on two things at once.

Another relatively unusual feature of the Beelink A1 is its ability to act as a Networked Attached Storage (NAS) device although that’s only going to be really useful if you’ve an external storage connected. That’s not an area I am particularly interested in but I know there are users desperately wanting it. There’s also settings to activate the A1 as a portable WiFi hotspot, but only at 2.4GHz.

Since it is running on Android 7.1 Nougat, the A1 can also serve other functionalities such as E-Mails, Web-browsing and social networking, but you will need a mouse and a keyboard for those tasks, as it would be too awkward typing texts with a remote and the on-screen keyboard.

Another notable feature of this box is the ability to receive OTA (Over-the-Air) firmware updates. My unit received 3 OTA updates during my two weeks’ testing it.

Performance

The Beelink A1 is powered by a Rockchip RK3328 quad-core processor and 4GB RAM. It wouldn’t really match those flagship Android smartphones when it comes to benchmark scores, but as a TV box, it has a lot of power under the hood.

In Antutu V6 benchmark test, the A1 scored 33,992, ranking above competitions such as the Jide Remix IO (32,981), the Zidoo X9s (33,990) and Jide Remix Mini (23,919).

In Geekbench 4 CPU test, the A1 notched 569 in single-core, 1,470 in multi-core, and 1,128 in computing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a way to run 3DMark, PCMark for Android and Androbench tests on the A1.

As for the real-world performance, the A1 was pretty smooth when we set the HDMI output at 1080P resolution. At 4K, however, the A1 became less responsive, and there were frequent stutters and delays with different tasks.

The A1 had no problem playing most 1080P videos we threw at it, but it did struggle with some 4K clips. In the Antutu Video Tester Benchmark, the A1 scored 668, compatible with most of the video formats included in the benchmark test.

Thanks to the 4 gigabits of RAM underneath, the A1 could handle a decent amount of multi-tasking. It remained smooth and responsive even though there were quite a number of apps running in the background.

Heavier productivity tasks such as editing a video with VidTrim or making a Presentation with Microsoft PowerPoint might be a little challenging for the A1. But not many people will try those tasks with a TV box, even though it is more capable of handling them than some so-called Android mini PCs. Sorry, Jide!

Generally speaking, the A1 is designed to perform well as a media consuming device, and it does.

 

 

Connectivity

The X1 offers many connectivity options. It supports 2.4GHz/5GHz dual band Wi-Fi, and the Wireless connection is very solid. It was able to pick up wireless hotspots at places where the Remix Mini couldn’t. If Wireless connection isn’t enough, there’s an RJ-45 Ethernet jack. There’s also Bluetooth 4.0 on board to take care of local data transfer and connecting with audio and input devices.

The HDMI 2.0 port on the A1 can output videos up to 4K@60Hz, and should work well with most TV and projectors. The USB 3.0 port does have problems reading some external USB storages, but the USB 2.0 port worked fine with all external drives I plugged in. The Micro SD card slot had no problem reading my 32GB Samsung card and my 64GB Transcend card.

 

 

Verdict

Priced at $69.99, the Beelink A1 is extremely affordable and offers a lot for the money. In fact it is arguably one of the best TV boxes out there. With an elegant design, a slew of outputs and inputs, and a lot of horsepower under the hood. It works fine as a TV box as well as a Home Theater PC, and there aren’t many similarly priced alternatives out there that offer the same amount of value.

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