Beelink U59 Mini PC

Beelink is a Chinese PC maker founded in 2011 that came to broader prominence around six years ago with an excellent mini PC product range.

It’s since expanded its products to include Google TV hardware, and it utilizes both AMD and Intel platforms in its machines.

Today we’ll be looking at the U59, a remarkably inexpensive mini-PC that has lots of potential both as a first-rung PC but also as an embedded solution.

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Price and availability

The Beelink U59 comes in two SKUs, one with 8GB of RAM and another with 16GB. Available directly from the brand in a sale, the 8GB costs only £149, whereas the 16GB model is just £169. It is also available on Amazon.co.uk, but the price is £259.95 for the 16GB option.

US customers will find it on Amazon for $203.15 for the 8GB machine.

Both memory options typically come with 512GB of SSD storage, a PSU, two HDMI cables and a small VESA mounting bracket. But some resellers are also selling a machine with 256GB of storage.

As mini PCs go, this pricing makes the U59 look like a bargain if you are willing to hunt for the best price.

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Design

The advent of the Intel NUC computers created a general specification for small systems that PC makers are happy to follow, even if they’re not using Intel silicon.

The Beelink U59 follows the NUC guidelines closely, being a tiny box measuring just 112m square and 41mm high. Inside this cute plastic enclosure, the engineers managed to squeeze a complete Intel Celeron PC with a 2280 M.2 slot and socketed memory.

As mini-PC designs go, the objective of the Beelink designers appears to have been to keep things simple. The front has three USB ports, including one USB-C and the power button, whereas the rear has more USB-A ports, dual HDMI and Ethernet LAN ports.

Those multiple port options hint at some potential uses for the U59, and with the USB-C port on the front, it is possible to drive three monitors using this hardware.

The only feature that some will miss is that there is no SD or Micro SD card reader in this design, although with five USB ports adding an external reader isn’t a huge problem.

A small metal bracket is included that is designed to connect to the VESA mounts on the rear of a monitor, turning the U59 into an all-in-one system of sorts. To help with keeping this style of deployment tidy, a very short HDMI cable is included.

What might put some off is the mostly plastic construction, but the U59 appears to have a good feature set that might appeal to many different customers.

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Hardware

Spec sheet

Here is the Beelink U59 configuration sent to TechRadar for review: 

CPU: Intel Celeron Processor N5105 (4C/4T, 4M Cache, 2.0GHz up to 2.9GHz)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: 16GB (2*8G)DDR4 RAM
Storage: M.2 2280 512GB SATA SSD
Ports: 1x USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB-C, 4x USB3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, 2x HDMI 1.4, 1 x universal audio jack
Connectivity: Intel WiFi 6E, 2x Gigabit LAN adapter, Bluetooth v5.2
Size: 112 x 112 x 41 mm (W x D x H)
OS installed: Licensed Windows 11 Pro Pre-installed Without any bloatware, Supports Windows 10.
Accessories: Wall-Mounted bracket, Adapter12V/3A, HDMI cables

We’ve seen several systems sporting the new Elkhart Lake cored Celeron N6211 recently, but Beelink went with the tried-and-trusted Celeron N5105. That is a four-core and four-thread capable processor from the Jasper Lake era launched in early 2021.

It has a base frequency of 2GHz, but can turbo boost a single core to 2.7GHz for enhanced single thread performance.

The maximum amount of RAM that this platform supports is 16GB, and it comes with embedded Intel UHD Graphics with a base clock of 450MHz and a burst frequency of 800MHz. The top supported screen resolution is 4096 x 2160 at 60Hz, and it can support multiple displays for mirroring or an expanded desktop.

The power consumption of this chip has a maximum TPD of only 10W, colouring our expectations of what performance can realistically be expected.

That said, Beelink at least gave the U59 a fighting chance by installing an SSD, and not the dire eMMC devices that make physical hard drives look speedy.

Admittedly this is a SATA SSD, not NVMe, but it performs significantly better than spinning discs or an eMMC drive, so be thankful for that.

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Access to the inside requires the removal of four screws on the underside, and once this panel is removed, the owner can get to the M.2 drive and RAM.

The machine comes with a 512GB M.2 OEM SATA drive, but it would be possible to upgrade this to 1TB or even 2TB. But the U59 also has the option for a 2.5-inch drive in a bay mounted under the floor, and any conventional hard drive or SATA SSD could occupy this slot.

That specific feature opens the possibility of using the U59 as a small media server, as conventional drives of up to 5TB are possible in this form factor.

The RAM limit is 16GB in two 8GB modules, precisely what was in the review hardware, but for those that buy the 8GB model, an upgrade path exists.

Overall, the expandability of the machine is better than most mini-PCs, and certainly better than many laptops.

In use

The U59 comes with Windows 11 pre-installed, which is fine if you like the new interface and less wonderful if you prefer Windows 10. It is technically possible to install Windows 10 on this hardware for those prepared to take the time to do that.

And, for diversity’s sake, any current Linux distro should work here too.

When the U59 is fired up for the first time and can access the Internet, Microsoft unleashes a small Tsunami of updates at it, which in this machine took at least 90 minutes to download and install.

This is the reality of Windows today, and the useability of the PC during this was fine for using a web browser or launching basic applications.

Once the update frenzy is completed, the U59 is a decent runner within the envelope of a 10W four-core processor without hyperthreading. Expecting it to run 3D modelling and CAD is unrealistic, but it runs most Microsoft Office applications admirably.

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

For those with multiple monitors, the dual HDMI outputs make using two easy, and it is possible to use the USB-C port to add a third.

But one of the best aspects of this design is the dual LAN ports. This instantly allows the U59 to operate as a Firewall bisecting the LAN, but it also allows for a 1GbE link to a dedicated NAS that can’t be accessed by the general network.

Our only disappointment with the ports available is that all the USB ports are 5Gbit, whereas one 10Gbit (USB 3.2 Gen 2) might have been useful for backing up to an external drive.

Overall, the user experience is much better on the U59 than on many small form factor systems and has much in common with a typical entry-level desktop.

Performance

Benchmarks

Here’s how the Beelink U59 scored in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Wild Life: 2596; Fire Strike: 1057; Time Spy: 354;
Cinebench R23 CPU pts: 620 (single-core); 2042 (multi-core)
GeekBench 5: 658 (single-core); 2048 (multi-core), 3711 (OpenCL)
CrystalDiskMark: Sequential Read: 543.56MB/s; Sequential Write: 497.44 MB/s
PCMark 10 (Office Test): 2439
Windows Experience Index: 6.6

Given the processor doesn’t offer hyperthreading and Intel’s UHD Graphics aren’t famous for delivering anything that isn’t mediocre, we had concerns that most of these benchmarks would return painfully small numbers.

However, Beelink had mitigated some of the classic bottlenecks we’ve seen in tiny systems that made the U59 perform much better than we’d feared.

First, what’s not good here?

There isn’t much getting around how poor the UHD Graphics GPU is, and in the 3DMark tests, it predictably suffered. With this GPU, this system will never be a good gaming platform, and we’d avoid it for any job that requires GPU acceleration.

We’d also warn against plugging this into three 4K screens and expecting it to play videos on each one smoothly. Maybe one screen using 4K or two at 1440p, but unless the resolution is reduced markedly, it can’t handle three.

It might not be great at graphics, but in other respects, the results are respectable and using this for web work or office tasks is entirely plausible.

How Beelink achieved this with a relatively slow CPU is threefold; plenty of RAM, an SSD, and the Windows installation.

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The RAM and SATA SSD combination enable the system to boot rapidly and applications to be launched smartly, and with 16GB of memory, you can load up plenty of apps before things get sluggish.

But, what really makes the U59 fly is that Beelink didn’t hobble it with a horrible Windows 11 installation and a dozen whiny pieces of bloatware that some system builders just can’t resist.

There is a lesson here for those that think every user wants Norton Security, or its ilk, plastered over their machines. These choices hurt the user experience and, ultimately, that brand.

With a relatively clean installation, an SSD and enough RAM, Windows 11 will work smoothly on a modestly powered machine, and the U59 proves it.

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Final verdict

The masterstroke in this mini-PC is that instead of going with an Elkhart Lake series processor, Beelink stuck with an affordable quad-core chip from the previous generation.

And, it doubled down on that choice with a decent amount of RAM and an SSD.

How much more useable this machine is compared to the ZOTAC ZBOX PI336 Pico we recently covered is dramatic, as typical office tasks using the U59 are easily accomplished.

Even with Windows 11 squandering its resources, the U59 doesn’t get itself tied in knots when background tasks need more cycles. The pain of the initial upgrade is much shorter, and you can use the PC while they’re downloading and installing.

The U59 is a mini-PC which could fit well in a dozen niche scenarios like a basic office PC, firewall, promotional video display driver and so on. Personally, this platform would be ideal for managing multiple 3D printers using OctoPrint, especially given the very high cost of a Raspberry PI these days.

It’s not of much value for gaming, but at this price and scale, that’s probably an unrealistic expectation.

Overall, the Beelink U59 is fantastic value for money and a solution that isn’t as compromised as many of its counterparts are.

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