Win Intel HTPCs/NUCs & Kodi-native 3D MVC Playback
Beelink BT3 Intel Atom X5-Z8300 3D MVC Review, by hdmkv on April 6, 2016 (updated April 8)

Verdict: A-; based on afedchin's March 25 Kodi 17 MVC Windows build
  • PQ = A++ (As with pretty much all MVC compatible Intel h/w and as others have reported, 3D looks just amazing, with excellent depth, details)
  • AQ = A- (BT3 does not bitstream HD audio, but like RPi, it passes all 5.1 to 7.1 formats as lossless PCM multichannel)
  • User Experience = A- (as a home theater box using Windows 10)
  • Ease of set-up = A- (Nothing to assemble like NUC's or DIY HTPC's; just update drivers, install Kodi MVC build, configure settings, and enjoy Smile)
  • Value = A- (As on 'limited sale' now for $124 shipped)

Overview:

Beelink's BT3 relies on Intel's Atom X5-Z8300 chip. It comes with Windows 10 32-bit preinstalled, 2GB RAM, gigabit LAN, 40GB user disk partition, with 20GB OS-partitioned.

My thanks to Everbuying for sending me a review sample.

Photo Gallery:

watch gallery


Performance:

Beelink's BT3 is fairly snappy, but don't expect i3 (or even Celeron N2820) level performance. For Kodi use, along with Chrome browser, virus scanner, CCleaner and Windows processes running, it does the job well. Boot-up takes about 32 seconds from pressing power button to Windows desktop (not bad, but for comparison my Dell Micro 3050 is 23 seconds; it also has a faster Celeron however). Also, BT3 relies on 32-bit Windows, but for Kodi not an issue as it too is 32-bit.

BT3 feels a bit more like a set-top box or media player as its form factor is like the many other Amazon Fire TV-like Android boxes on the market. Install Launcher4Kodi and boot straight into Kodi. As I've been using Windows 10 far more for home theater use than I ever did since Windows 7 days, the more I'm warming up to it. Why deal with Android's shortcomings when you can have full 3D, HD audio (lossless PCM in this case), plus HD Netflix/Amazon? Get an air-mouse for times you're in Windows 10 and use tablet mode with tiles so you get more of that media player feel.

Set-Up:
  • Graphics and audio drivers. I had some trouble with these initially, causing sluggishness or freeze-ups within Kodi and audio break-ups. First test Kodi w/pre-installed drivers, but if you have issues, what worked for me may work for you, which was to update via Device Manager (and not Intel's website or Driver Utility). See screenshots in photo gallery above.
  • For Kodi, choose settings options as detailed in @afedchin's dev thread here. For audio, you can enable passthrough and choose DIRECTSOUND option to get regular DD/DTS bitstreamed and HD audio formats passed as LPCM.

A/V Tests:

As noted already, BT3 does NOT bitstream TrueHD/ATMOS and DTS-MA/X. It does decode these formats to lossless multichannel. Also, @wesk05 had suggested I check if BT3/X5-Z8300 does correct channel mapping for below, and I'm happy to confirm, yes to all, and LPCM output sounds great...
  • [Audio] DD5.1 (640Kbps) = pass
  • [Audio] DD+ 5.1/7.1 = passed to multichannel 5.1/7.1 fine (but, should be able to bitstream DD+ based on audio driver properties, so will check)
  • [Audio] TrueHD 5.1/7.1 and ATMOS = passed to multichannel 5.1/7.1 fine
  • [Audio] DTS (1.5Mbps) = pass
  • [Audio] DTS HRA 5.1/7.1 = passed to multichannel 5.1/7.1 fine
  • [Audio] DTS-HD MA 5.1/7.1 and X = passed to multichannel 5.1/7.1 fine
  • [Audio] AAC 5.1 = passed to multichannel 5.1 fine
  • [Audio] FLAC 5.1 = passed to multichannel 5.1 fine
  • [Audio] LPCM 5.1 = pass
  • [Audio] LPCM 7.1 = pass
  • [Video] 29.970 MPEG2 (VOB from a DVD rip) = pass, playback at proper framerate
  • [Video] 29.970 MPEG2 1080i 4:2:0 = pass, playback at proper framerate
  • [Video] 29.970 MPEG2 1080i 4:2:2 = some stutters, but not bad at all considering even nVidia Shield and HiMedia Q10 Pro can't handle this type
  • [Video] 59.940 MPEG2 720p = pass, playback at proper framerate
  • [Video] 23.976 1080p H.264 = pass, playback at proper '23.97' framerate (as my projector indicates)
  • [Video] 24.000 1080p H.264 = pass, playback at proper framerate
  • [Video] 29.970/60.000 1080p H.264 = pass, playback at proper framerate
  • [Video] 25.000/50.000 1080p H.264 = pass, playback at proper framerate
  • [Video] 23.976 1080p VC-1 = perfect playback
  • [Video] 29.970 1080i VC-1 = perfect playback; wasn't expecting this; nice
  • [3D MVC] 23.976 3D ISO = pass, solid playback (didn't notice any frame skips or microstutters)
  • [3D MVC] 23.976 3D MVC = pass, solid playback (same as above)
  • [3D MVC] Left/right eye swap = pass, automatic w/latest Kodi MVC builds
  • [2D MKV] Pass, no issues with straight MakeMKV rips w/HD audio
  • [Forced subtitles] Supported
  • [Bitrates] Birds clips up to 90Mbps = no sweat, perfect playback
  • [Bitrates] Jellyfish: Birds up to 255Mbps, perfect playback. Wasn't expecting this out of Intel ATOM; impressive
    (I don't test hgher than 255Mbps as there's no point; no existing or upcoming 4K is expected to go higher than 128Mbps)

Extras:
  • HD steaming of Netflix, Amazon, etc. (either via Windows store apps or simply via Google Chrome) as added value, making this a nice all-in-one box!
  • For Logitech Harmony remote control users, both MCE or FLIRC dongles work. I don't think BT3 has IR, but it does have Bluetooth, so it may be possible to pair Harmony Uttimate directly (but, I don't know how; need to research this).

Wrap-Up:

Who is the Beelink BT3 for? Those of us who don't need HD audio bitstreaming (are are fine with lossless multichannel output), but do need full 3D MVC. Also those of us who don't want to fuss with assembling own HTPC's or even a NUC's, but want a box with everything included, ready to use after just a little set-up effort. And, the benfit of not bitstreaming HD audio means no lip-sync error as with other budget Intel h/w options (namely N2820).
[H]i-[d]eft [M]edia [K]een [V]ideosaurus
My Family Room Theater
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Messages In This Thread
RE: Intel-specific HTPC/NUC Selection w/reliable MVC 3D ISO - by hdmkv - 2016-04-07, 00:00
What about xvYCC / x.v.Color - by ma9ick - 2016-04-15, 14:01
June 30 download link broken? - by CooperCGN - 2016-08-02, 08:18