Asrock Beebox-S 7200U: Kaby Lake vs. Skylake

Asrock's compact yet powerful Beebox-S was tested four months ago and is one of our most popular mini-PCs due to its price, features, build quality, and 14nm dual-core Skylake-U processor. Although the Core i5-6200U SoC is over a year old, the system is efficient and surprisingly affordable: $ 165 for the 6100U and $ 320 for the 6200U.

I have been using the latter since August as my daily HTPC and it has done a fantastic job so I did not expect it to be replaced a few months later. Nevertheless, Asrock sent an updated Beebox-S model with Intel's new 7th generation processor based on the Kaby Lake-U architecture.

Instead of looking at the Beebox-S 7200U in more detail, we're going to focus on upgrading to Kaby Lake, as that's the only notable change.

Which is which?

While our official Intel Kaby Lake desktop coverage won't be released until early next month, the low-power mobile processors and processors have been in the wild for several months. With the introduction of this new Beebox-S, we thought it was interesting to carry out benchmarks with the previous model. Both use 15-watt U-series parts with low power. Since the Core i5-7200U effectively replaces the i5-6200U, this is an ideal comparison.

Before we jump to the benchmarks, let's look at the improvements you can expect from the new 7th generation core chip. Intel has made some improvements to its 14nm process to deliver additional performance, including an improved fin profile and transistor channel load. These claim to achieve ~ 12% improvement in processing performance, which should make Kaby Lake more efficient in combination with architectural advantages.

Back in August, Intel's press material suggested that Kaby Lake would perform 25% better per watt than Skylake. Intel also saw double-digit gains when comparing the new Core i7-7500U with the Core i7-6500U: 12% better "productivity" and 19% better web performance. At the time, however, we found that a large part of these gains were due to Kaby Lake's higher clock speeds rather than pure IPC improvements.

One of the key improvements in Kaby Lake is an improved media engine based on the company's Gen9 graphics architecture. The multi-format codec (MFX) has been updated to support the latest media standards, including 4K 10-bit HEVC decoding / encoding, 10-bit VP9 decoding and 8-bit VP9 encoding. The Video Quality Engine (VQE) also sees improvements that offer HDR tone mapping and support for Wide Color Gamut (Rec. 2020).

On paper, the biggest difference between 7200U and 6200U is the clock speed. The Core i5-7200U runs at a 9% higher base clock frequency (12% higher for boost frequencies). The integrated GPU has also been updated to HD Graphics 620. Otherwise, you get the same two physical cores with four-thread hyper-threading support, a 3MB L3 cache, and the same 15-watt TDP.

The processor's MSRP remains at $ 218, although the new Beebox S models are currently receiving a $ 30 premium. Let's look at the results to see how much faster Kaby Lake really is. We compare them with different systems to get a better context:

Test system specifications

AMD APU system specifications

  • AMD A10-7800 (3.5 GHz – 3.90 GHz)
  • AMD A8-7600 (3.1 GHz – 3.80 GHz)
  • Asrock FM2A88M Extreme4 + (AMD A88X)
  • 8 GB (2×4 GB) DDR3 RAM
  • Crucial MX200 1 TB
  • SilverStone Essential Series 500w
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

AMD AM1 system specifications

  • AMD Athlon 5350 (2.05 GHz)
  • Asrock AM1H-ITX
  • 8 GB (2×4 GB) DDR3 RAM
  • Crucial MX200 1 TB
  • SilverStone Essential Series 500w
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Intel Haswell system specifications

  • Intel Core i3-4130 (3.4 GHz)
  • Intel Pentium G3220 (3.0 GHz)
  • Asrock Z97 Extreme9 (Intel Z97)
  • 8 GB (2×4 GB) DDR3-2400 RAM
  • Crucial MX200 1 TB
  • SilverStone Essential Series 500w
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Asrock Beebox system specifications

  • Intel Celeron N3000 (1.60 GHz – 2.40 GHz)
  • 4 GB (2×2 GB) DDR3 RAM
  • Team group M3F49 128 GB SSD
  • 36W / 12V adapter
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Intel braswell system specifications

  • Intel Pentium N3700 (1.60 GHz – 2.40 GHz)
  • Asrock N3700-ITX
  • Intel Celeron N3050 (1.60 GHz – 2.16 GHz)
  • Asrock N3050B-ITX
  • 8 GB (2×4 GB) DDR3 RAM
  • Crucial MX200 1 TB
  • SilverStone Essential Series 500w
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

ECS Liva X system specifications

  • Intel Celeron N2808 (1.58 GHz)
  • 4 GB (1×4 GB) DDR3 RAM
  • 32 GB eMMC SSD
  • 36W / 12V adapter
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

MSI Cubi 2 Plus system specifications

  • Intel Core i3-6100T (3.20 GHz)
  • 8 GB (2×4 GB) DDR4-2133 RAM
  • Samsung SM951 512 GB
  • 90W / 12V adapter
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Asrock DeskMini system specifications

  • Intel Core i5-6500 (3.20 GHz)
  • 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-2133 RAM
  • Samsung SM951 512 GB
  • 120W / 12V adapter
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Asrock Beebox-S 6200U

  • Intel Core i5-6200U (2.80 GHz)
  • 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-2133 RAM
  • Samsung SSD 960 Pro 1 TB
  • 65W / 12V adapter
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Asrock Beebox-S 7200U

  • Intel Core i5-7200U (3.10 GHz)
  • 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-2133 RAM
  • Samsung SSD 960 Pro 1 TB
  • 65W / 12V adapter
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Intel nuc6i7kyk system specifications

  • Intel Core i7-6770HQ (2.60 GHz)
  • 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-2133 RAM
  • Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512 GB
  • 120W / 12V adapter
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Memory and synthetic benchmarks

DDR3-2133 memory is implemented in both versions of the Beebox-S. As you can see, the Core i5-7200U offers the same 26GB / s memory bandwidth as the previous generation 6200U processor.

The 7200U can be clocked up to 11% faster, but here we see a fairly large jump in performance of 21% for the L1 cache bandwidth, which now exceeds that of the Core i3-6100T processor. The improvement in L3 cache bandwidth was not quite as impressive and increased by 17%. That is still remarkable and it will be interesting to see how these benefits translate into real applications.

The Cinebench R11.5 benchmark shows only a 15% improvement in the multithreading score, which doesn't mean much if you take this advantage of 11% clock speed into account. Nevertheless, we found a 20% improvement for the single thread test, which is interesting. This jump made the 7200U equal to the Core i3-4130 and 6100T processors.

The 3DMark Cloud Gate Score increased 7% with the 7200U, which in my opinion is solely due to the fact that this new model runs at higher clock speeds and nothing else.

Back to 3DMark 06 we noticed that the Beebox-S 7200U is 16% faster than the older 6200U model. This is a good boost and placed the 7200U in front of the AMD APU systems and the Core i3-4130.

This PCMark 7 result could be very meaningful and give a strong indication of how the real application tests will go. Despite this clock speed advantage, the Beebox-S with 7200U was only 2% faster, which is a disappointing result.

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