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Beelink GS-King X review: this might be a game changer

Discussion in 'TV & Video' started by Jupit3r, Jul 12, 2020.

  1. Jupit3r

    Jupit3r Member
    Thread Starter

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    For:
    Nice design and solid build.
    High-end hardware and impeccable performance.
    Lots of connectivity options.
    Dual ES9018 Hi-Fi DAC.
    7.1-channel audio certified by DTS and Dolby.
    Bays for dual HDD with capacity of up to 32TB.

    Against:
    Operating system is not optimized to match the hardware.
    LED cannot be turned off.
    The NAS app is not user-friendly.
    NAS service is expensive.
    Range of Bluetooth is very limited.


    Last year’s Beelink GT-King Pro has drawn lots of eyeballs since its release. Not only was it the first TV box to run on Amologic’s powerful S922X-H processor, it also introduced fancy features such as Dolby Audio, DTS Listen, and dual ESS ES9018 Hi-Fi DAC that could drive headphones with an impedance of up to 600?. But have you ever imagined a TV box which can also work as a NAS device? Well, Beelink is certainly thinking ahead of most of us. The recently released GS-King X comes with the hardware which made us fall in love with the GT-King Pro, but also supports dual HDD NAS of up to 32TB!


    Main Specs
    Operating System: Android 9.0
    Processor: Amlogic S922X-H chipset
    CPU: big.LITTLE Hexa-core CPU (4*Cortex-A73@2.21GHz, 2*Cortex-A53*1.8GHz)
    GPU: Arm Mali-G52MP6
    RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
    Internal Storage: 64GB eMMc
    Storage Expansion: two 3.5’’ hard drives of up to 32TB. 1 MicroSD card.
    HDMI: HDMI 2.1 Output up to 3840*2160p@75fps
    Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.1
    Audio: DTS Listen and Dolby Audio
    DAC: Dual ESS ES9018 32bit Hi-Fi Audio DAC
    Internet Access: Dual-band WiFi 2.4GHz/5GHz, Gigabit Ethernet
    Ports: Ethernet port*1, DC-in port*1, BAL port*2?RCA port*2, MicroSD card slot*1, USB 3.0 port*3, USB 2.0 port*1, HDMI 2.1*1, SPDIF*1, 3.5mm audio jack*1, HDD bay*2.
    Dimension: 165*118*106mm
    Power Supply: 19V DC/3A
    Weight: 1070g (without hard drives)
    Chassis: dark blue, aluminum
    Retail Package: GS-King X media center*1, remote controller*1, HDMI cable*1, power adapter*1, user manual*1, service card*1, HDD bracket*4.


    Retail Packaging

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    The Beelink GS-King X comes with beautiful retail packaging. “Storage” and “DTS & Dolby Audio” are highlighted on the cover of the package, meaning these are the major selling points of this device.

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    In addition to the GS-King X media center itself, inside the package you’ll also find a DC Adapter, an HDMI cable, a remote, four hard drive brackets, a user manual, a dual-os guide card, and an HDD installation guidebook. The user manual offers instructions in many different languages, including English, German, Russian, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese.

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    The DC adapter is rated 57 watts (19V-3A), which is a huge leap from last year’s GT-King Pro (24W), mainly because the GS-King X needs more power to keep an active cooling system and two 3.5’’ hard drives working at the same time.


    Design and build

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    With a premium metal case and matte dark blue finish, the GS-King X doesn't look like a conventional TV box. It has the form factor more of a high-end mini PC. The front of the device displays a skull identical to the one found on Intel NUC Skull Canyon. The eyes of the skull will light up in green when the media center is connected to power, and turn blue when the device is booted.

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    Audio performance is a major selling point of the GS-King X, that’s why you will find “DTS Listen” & “Dolby Audio” licenses on the front side, along with a MicroSD card slot, two USB 3.0 ports and a nice-looking power button.

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    A slew of interfaces can be found on the rear side of the GS-King X. The Hi-Fi sound section plays host to a 3.5mm audio jack, two RCA ports, and two Balanced audio ports. The TV box section hosts a DC-in port, an AV port, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port with OTG, an HDMI 2.1 port, an optical SPDIF port, and an RJ45 Ethernet jack.

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    The top side displays the brand logo, as well as small ventilation dots which group into two capital letters: “GS”, citing that this device belongs to the new “GS” series.

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    Vents can also be found on the left, right and rear side of the GS-King X. Unlike average TV boxes, the GS-King X has an active cooling system inside, which prevents it from overheating.

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    The device measures 165mm x 118mm x 106mm and weighs 1070g (without hard drives). The build quality is excellent. Not only does the box look extremely polished, but it also feels quite sturdy, thanks to the premium metal build.

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    But one thing that constantly annoys me and many other testers is that the green LED lighting of the eyes cannot be turned off in the settings or by pressing any button on the box, the only way to make them go out is by unplugging.

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    The GS-King X is not just another TV box, with NAS being a big part of its identity. But 64GB internal storage is obviously not enough to make NAS out of it, that’s why the box comes with not only one, but two 3.5’’ HDD slots, and supports storage of up to 32TB.

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    Installing the hard drives is as simple as it can get. The provided brackets also serve as guiderails of the hard drive, all you need to do is to push the HDD into the slot after fixing the brackets on it. The process only takes a few minutes if you follow the instructions of the guidebook and do everything right.

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    The supplied remote is a little bit plasticky, but still feels fairly well-built. The GS-King X responds quickly to its commands and the infra-red range are acceptably long and broad. The remote also comes with a 2.4GHz USB receiver, which can turn the remote into an air mouse once plugged in. When you run apps not specifically optimized for Smart TV or TV boxes, this feature will be extremely helpful.

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    The remote also supports voice control, and allows you to ask Google Assistant to launch apps, play videos, mount web searches simply by saying “OK Google” followed by your command. For me, this saves a lot time when I am searching for certain videos in the YouTube app, as typing is not always convenient using the virtual key board on the screen.

    Setting it up

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    The Beelink GS-King X doesn’t need much setting-up. Connecting it to a TV set (or projector) via HDMI, plugging in the DC power adapter and you are good to go. After being powered on, the capital letters “GS” will show up on the TV screen, with some animation going on around it. The startup is quite fast, as the familiar Beelink homescreen will appear only seconds later.
     


  2. Jupit3r

    Jupit3r Member
    Thread Starter

    System & Apps

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    The Beelink GS-King X ships with Android 9.0 Pie, with the very familiar Beelink TV box skin on top. While the operating system may seem dated, considering that the latest smartphones are running either Android 10 or Android R now. But for TV boxes, this is arguably as up-to-date as you can get. Many smart TV and TV boxes on the market are still running Android 6 or Android 7.

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    The launcher has everything laid out beautifully and is very easy to navigate. The date and time are 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 favorite apps. Finally, at the bottom left you have shortcuts to power, volume, at the bottom right you have shortcuts to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB Mounted storage and Network Storage. 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 button, a back button, a home button, a recent apps button, a screenshot key, a volume- button, a volume+ button and a hide-bar button.

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    Like all Beelink products, the GS-King X doesn’t come loaded with bloatware, but there are some preinstalled apps. Besides the stock Google Play Store, Chrome and Gallery, you can also find Beelink’s very own App Store, Bee Files Explorer, Media Center, and Movie Player in the app drawer.

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    The Google Play Store is the normal phone and tablet variant instead of the TV version found on many other Google certified TV boxes. Although there are more apps in the tablet-version Play Store, you won’t get most of your favorite TV apps here.

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    Still, you can install the TV version of YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video from Beelink’s very own App Store, those apps work better with a remote. If these are not enough, there’s always an option to directly install .apk files of the apps you want.

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    Inside the retail package you can also find a MicroSD card which can be used for booting CoreELEC. The CoreELEC operating system provides TV/IPTV entertainment content available through Kodi. Switching from Android 9 to CoreELEC is very simple, you only need to press the power button on the front of the box, and click the virtual “System Switch” button on the screen.


    NAS and SAMBA

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    NAS (Network Attached Storage) is the main difference between the GS-King X and last year’s GT-King Pro. Beelink is working with WeLine to provide NAS service to its users. The WeLine app allows users to access content stored in the HDD anywhere via WiFi or mobile data. We can also upload photos and videos to GS-King X for backup right after we took them. However, the WeLine App isn’t very easy to use, there are a lot of settings you need to get right before using the service.

    Everyone who adds the GS-King X to their device list (by scanning the QR code on the bottom of the device) gets 50 credits, which will translate into data rates for you to visit the GS-King X’s storage with a different device. Once you use up these credits, you will need to purchase additional credits to keep the service alive, but they are not cheap. I would personally prefer a monthly or annual plan with unlimited data rate, but that’s not available at the moment. Beelink promises to offer free and better alternatives in the near future, but for now, WeLine seems to be the only answer, and it’s not that ideal.

    In comparison, NAS with Linux-based operating system still offers much better user experience. But Android has limitless possibilities, and we have reason to believe that it might be the future of NAS solutions.

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    Fortunately, we can always use a SAMBA server instead, which allows us to visit the GS-King X storage with other devices (smartphones, PCs, tablets) in the same network. I am using the CX Explorer at the moment, and there are also many other alternatives you can find in Play Store. Beelink is going to integrate a native server into the GS-King X’s operating system, which will surely improve the convenience.
     
  3. Jupit3r

    Jupit3r Member
    Thread Starter

    Performance

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    The Beelink GS-King X is powered by the Amlogic S922X-H SoC., the same processor found on last year’s GT-King Pro. It contains 4 cores of Cortex A73 clocked at 2.21GHz, 2 cores of Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.8GHz, and a beefy Mali-G52MP6 GPU clocked at 846MHz. There’s also 4GB LPDDR4 RAM under the hood to take care of multi-tasking.

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    Having tested the GT-King Pro, I was returned with predictable results in the benchmarks I threw at the GS-King X. While these numbers might not seem impressive to you, especially when compared to modern flagship smartphones and tablets. In the world of TV boxes, probably the only device beating the GS-King X in terms of horsepower is the Nvidia Shield TV.

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    The GS-King X is extremely smooth. Even with the HDMI output set at 4K@60Hz, I rarely experienced any hiccups, lags or delays when navigating through homescreens and settings, launching and switching between apps, loading image-heavy webpages.

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    As a pure media streamer, the GS-King X does as well as, if not better than, most competitions, thanks to the Advanced Video Engine Gen10 VPU integrated into the Amlogic S922X-H processor. In the Antutu video tester benchmark, the GS-King X scored 1072, out of the 30 tested items, only two video codecs were not supported.

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    I also played many videos of different formats in Kodi and MX Player, the GS-King X rarely struggled with anything I threw at it. Like last year’s GT-King Pro, the GS-King X supports Advanced HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and PRIME HDR, with the right videos and a nice HDTV, it is capable of delivering satisfying video playback experiences.

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    I haven’t encountered even the slightest of problems streaming 4K videos in the YouTube TV app or in Chrome. Only when I switched the resolution to 8K (in Chrome) did I notice serious lags and delays. Since the GS-King X can only output resolution up to 4K, there’s no point streaming 8K anyway.

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    Unfortunately, although the GS-King X supports the highest Widevine L1 DRM, you won’t be able to stream high-definition videos in Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, probably due to license issues. This might potentially be a deal-breaker for many devoted Netflix fans, and really a shame given how capable the hardware is.

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    The GS-King X is not designed to be just a streaming box. The mali-G51MP6 has enough power for most games you can find in Play Store. In the 3DMark app, the device notched 1608 and 1187 respectively in Slingshot and Slingshot Extreme tests.

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    I tried many games, including some of the most demanding titles on the GS-King X, most of them ran smoothly at moderate settings. But if you want the highest level of visual effects, you should expect some frameskip and even serious delays. A joystick is necessary if you intend to use the device as a gaming console.


    Audio

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    The GS-King X also features dual ESS ES9018 HiFi DAC, which offers DNR up to 135dB, –120dB THD+N, and enables the box to drive headphones with high impedance (up to 600?). I plugged in my HiFiMan HE300 headphones and listened to a lot of music during the three weeks of testing, the sound coming from the GS-King X was significantly better than the that from my computer or smartphone. The GS-King X offers a 3.5mm headphone jack, RCA ports, and BAL ports for users to enjoy audio enhanced by the HiFi DAC.

    The S922X-H processor has DTS Listen and Dolby Audio licenses, and the box itself is compatible with 7.1 audio systems. If you happen to have speakers certified by Dolby or DTS, you will be able to enjoy discrete surround sound from movies encoded with Dolby and DTS audio. The box features an optical SPDIF port for transmitting 7.1-channel audio,


    Connectivity

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    The GS-King X offers lots of connectivity options. It supports 2.4GHz/5.8GHz dual-band Wi-Fi, but not the latest WiFi 6 or Wi-Fi 6+. Fortunately, the box has solid reception and is able to pick up more Wi-Fi hotspots than most of my older TV boxes and mini PCs. The 1000M Ethernet jack also comes in handy whenever I want enhanced stability and even higher bandwidth. There’s also Bluetooth 4.1 on board to take care of local file transfer and pairing with audio and input devices, saving u from all kinds of annoying wires. When connected with speakers and headphones, the supported codecs are SBC and AAC, you won’t get superior codecs like aptX or LDAC.

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    The HDMI 2.1 port on the GS-King X can output videos up to 4K@75Hz, and should support most TV sets, monitors and projectors. In comparison, the Nvidia Shield TV and many other TV boxes are still using HDMI 2.0 or HDMI 1.4 ports.


    Verdict

    The GS-King X is an interesting device with many fancy features and a ton of potential. But Beelink needs to work hard to improve the NAS service and make it more affordable to its users.

    At $289, the Beelink GS-King X is a lot pricier than last year’s GT-King Pro ($145), which runs on the same processor and serves identical TV box functionalities. But the GS-King X does have its advantages. Besides dual HDD NAS, it also offers more ports, and has an active cooling system to prevent overheating. But are these features worth digging deeper into your pocket? Different people will surely have different answers.

    For average consumers who just want a top-of-the-line TV box for video streaming and occasional gaming, I would still recommend the GT-King and GT-King Pro, both of which can handle TV box tasks as well as the GS-King X. Even if storage is important to you, please do not forget that these boxes are also able to mount mobile drives of up to 4TB, only that you won’t be able to use them as NAS devices.
     
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