Beelink SEA is the latest offering from the well-known manufacturer. It is considered a high performance media box with almost the same specs to the successful Zidoo X9s model reviewed here and the newly released X10 model. It also has a significantly lower price compared to both of them so at the end we will have to see how it performs.
Packaging – Specifications
The unit arrived in a black box.
On the inside, you can find the media box itself, an HDMI cable, the remote, the power adapter and basic documentation.
In terms of specifications, Beelink SEA stands out in almost every aspect.
Realtek’s RTD1295 has proved to be a great choice for multimedia and gaming performance.
4K, HD Audio and 3D are supported. 24p auto frame rate switching as well (more later in the testing section)
2GB of RAM are plenty and the 32GB of ROM will be more than enough for many applications and games (~25GB are free after first boot)
I/Os are very rich with 1x HDMI 2.0a out, 1x HDMI in (HDCP protected),1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB3.0 port, 1x SD card slot, 1x S/PDIF and 1x SATA port at the bottom of the chassis for the installation of an internal 2.5” HDD (2GB model was tested and worked properly).
For networking, the Gigabit Lan, the Dual Band Wi-Fi and 4.0BT is one of the best combinations available.
Android 6.0 is the operating system of choice.
Beelink SEA is a bit bigger than what we are used to. Almost at the same rectangular size seen in Zidoo X9s. It comes in black color only, with fake aluminum-like brushing on the top. It is made of plastic but the overall build quality is good. We would prefer an aluminum chassis matching the impressive specifications list, but its relatively low price justifies the selection.
At the front, there is a small clock display. Although it is not really dim, it will not distract at all during viewing in a dark place.
The majority of I/Os are located at the back and right side. If you don’t use USB ports, you will be able to have a proper cable management since all major connections (power, HDMI, LAN) are located at the back side.
At the bottom you will find the enclosure for the 2.5” HDD. Installation is pretty simple since you only have to slide the cover, insert the HDD and then close it. Although we have seen sturdier and safer similar solutions, Beelink’s proposal is definitely acceptable. Since Beelink SEA is fanless, it would be better to avoid fast performance HDD’s for better heat dissipation and lower overall temperatures.
The remote is exactly the same as the one we found in Ultimate GT1 model from the same company. The grip is great and the layout will make you feel comfortable from the first minute of use. The range is good and that is also the case for the feel when pressing the keys. A numeric keypad is included as well.
The remote can be programmed (learning mode) with instructions on how you can do that written on the back.
Menus – Settings
SEA model shares the same user interface with the other Beelink media boxes.
The main gray theme provides a very pleasant look. Big icons beautifully designed are there for all the popular options and apps (HDMI In recorder, Play Store, Web browser, File manager and Settings) while a very nice clock/weather widget adds a nice touch to the left side.
There is only one main page since the other two are used for favorites. You have the option to add shortcuts of your own.
The settings menu is the classic stock Android one. It is not exactly media player friendly (no big icons for the major settings) but it will not cause trouble either. All known settings are here (with the exception of HDR although it is supported) and you will be able to set it up according to your preferences quickly.
Judging from Zidoo X9s’ excellent performance, we would expect the same from the similar spec’d SEA model. Fortunately that was the case with some only minor differences (mostly in approach).
Browsing the user interface was really fast and responsive. We experienced the same performance when switching from application to application.
As usual, playback of mp3/flac files was effortless but we got 48 Hz instead of 96 in PCM stereo files though.
Regarding video playback, performance had some interesting parts, but was still great nonetheless.
Although Beelink has a photo of QODI (fork of KODI) shown in the official SEA page, none was found/pre-installed. This actually affects only audio bitstream and 24p auto frame rate switching. Beelink instead of developing a dedicated version of KODI, preferred to use the internal video player for the implementation of HD-Audio and auto frame rate switching. You can use the latest KODI version with all the goodies, but you will be limited to stereo out only (not a problem for the majority of users who will connect the media box directly to their TV) and manual frame rate switching.
Attention needs to be paid while launching the internal video player. Since there is no dedicated app icon, it is only launched from a file manager. The stock one pre-installed can see only physical disks (from USB ports or the internal one). In order to playback the files stored in a NAS box or server, you must carefully pick a file manager that not only reads network places (that is the easy part) but launches the internal video player in a proper manner. To be more specific, when we launched the internal video player from the pre-installed file manager, we were able to get HD-Audio and auto frame rate switching. When we launched it from ES file manager (paid version) we only got DTS/DD and no auto frame switching. It was possible though from other file manager applications found in Play Store. You must search and find one that does the job for you. It is actually not that complicated since once you install it once, it will not worry you again.
Although the internal video player does not support the extended GUI of KODI, the playback is flawless. All popular 4K encodings alongside with high bitrate BLU RAY remux files had perfect playback. Motion handling was great (auto switching to 24p works as promised) and gamma/black levels appear to be proper. There are 3D and subtitle settings as well.
KODI works great as well with the limitations mentioned above.
HDMI In application has exactly the same options like the one at Zidoo X9s. PiP is supported but don’t try to record protected material since there is HDCP protection. Recordings are saved in TS format and there is option for scheduled recordings. Recordings are up to 1080p resolution.
Miracast is supported and works great with supported smartphones.
USB 3.0 has upgraded performance compared to USB2.0 but is still not up to par to desktop pc solutions. We were able to get a ~38mb/sec performance (to be honest we rarely witness better USB3.0 performance in Android media boxes).
Internal storage has a similar write performance (~40mb/sec) which is quite good for a flash type ROM.
Network performance is also very good. Streaming 4K and Full BLU RAY remux files via wired and dual band Wi-Fi was flawless.
Gaming experience is very good and you will be able to play almost any modern game from the Play Store with almost no stutters and lags.
Overall great performance, just as expected from a RTD1295 SoC.
No major differences compared to what we usually see.
The Marshmallow version of Google’s platform is installed and nothing is left behind. Play Store, You-Tube (up to 1080p), Chrome and all applications and games are ready to be installed (~27GB free after first boot).
No 3rd party applications are pre-installed.
The device is not rooted, and there are OTA update options. Although we did not receive one, we were informed that beta versions are released online (upgraded manually). Beelink is a well-known manufacturer and you should expect great support.
Beelink SEA is a great media box placed nicely into the market in terms of pricing and specifications without directly competing with the similar spec’d Zidoo models.
The performance is similar to the more expensive Zidoo X9s (only the full BLU RAY menus are missing) and the only performance differences have to do with HD-Audio and auto frame rate switching being possible only from the internal video player (Zidoo has developed a dedicated version of KODI for these). Furthermore, if you take into account the internal HDD enclosure, you get a great deal for almost $100 (there is a cheaper 16GB ROM version as well).
Beelink released a media box with great performance and specifications list at an affordable price. Definitely keep it in your shortlist.
We would like to thank www.gearbest.com for sending the player in exchange of an unbiased presentation.
- If this review helped you towards making your decision, we would appreciate if you made your order through the previous affiliate link(s). This way we will be able to review more products in the future.