Beelink SER4 Review – Windows 11, Ubuntu 20.04, and “overclocking” AMD Ryzen 7 4800U SoC

Beelink SER4 review

Beelink has released the SER4 which is the latest in their ‘SER’ mini PC series and it features a Zen 2 AMD mobile processor. Beelink kindly sent one for review and I’ve looked at performance running both Windows and Ubuntu and dabbled with ‘overclocking’.

The Beelink SER4 physically consists of a 126 x 113 x 40mm (4.96 x 4.45 x 1.57 inches) square metal case. As an actively cooled mini PC, it uses AMD’s 7 nm Zen 2 Ryzen 7 4800U Renoir processor which is an eight-core 16-thread 1.8 GHz mobile processor boosting to 4.2 GHz with Radeon Graphics.

The front panel has an illuminated power button, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a Type-C USB 3.1 port with Alternate Mode, dual USB 3.1 ports, and a reset pin-hole ‘CLR CMOS’.  The rear panel includes a gigabit Ethernet port, a USB 3.1 port and a USB 2.0 port, dual HDMI 2.0 ports, and the power jack.

Internally there is an M.2 2230 WiFi 6E (or 802.11ax) Mediatek MT7921K card which supports the new 6 GHz band, an M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe Gen 3.0 SSD drive (the review model included a 500 GB Intel 660p drive complete with Windows 11 Pro installed) and the ability to add a 2.5” SATA drive to the lid which is connected to the motherboard via a short ZIF cable:

There are also two SODIMM memory slots supporting up to 64 GB of memory and the review model included two sticks of Crucial 16 GB DDR4 3200 MHz memory for a total of 32 GB noting that this particular memory is single-rank:

The specifications state:

and the Beelink webpage lists all of the USB ports as 3.0 so I tested them together with the Type-C USB port using a Samsung 980 PRO PCle 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD housed in a ‘USB to M.2 NVMe adapter’ (ORICO M2PAC3-G20 M.2 NVMe SSD Enclosure) which showed that the ‘blue’ USB ports were USB 3.1 (USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 i.e. 10 Gbit/s):

and the ‘black’ rear USB port was USB 2.0:

Box contents

In the box, you get a power adapter and cord, both a short and a longer HDMI cable, a VESA mounting bracket together with a small packet of miscellaneous screws. Also included is a multilingual user manual:

 

Review Methodology

When reviewing mini PCs, I typically look at their performance under both Windows and Linux (Ubuntu) and compare them against some of the more recently released mini PCs. Where possible I now review using Windows 11 version 21H2 and Ubuntu 20.04.4 LTS and test with a selection of commonly used Windows benchmarks and/or equivalents for Linux together with Thomas Kaiser’s ‘sbc-bench’ which is a small set of different CPU performance tests focusing on server performance when run on Ubuntu. I also use ‘Phoronix Test Suite’ and benchmark with the same set of tests on both Windows and Ubuntu for comparison purposes. On Ubuntu, I also compile the v5.4 Linux kernel using the default config as a test of performance using a real-world scenario.

Prior to benchmarking, I perform all necessary installations and updates to run the latest versions of both OSes. I also capture some basic details of the device for each OS.

Installation Issues

On Windows running the pre-installed AMD Radeon Software (version 21.6.1) errored with a software and driver version mismatch:

However, this was easily resolved by downloading and installing the latest version (22.3.1):

Normally, I install WSL2 so I can easily copy across software and results to my server. Unfortunately having completed the installation with the default Ubuntu distro, running GPU Z caused the SER4 to crash with a blue screen:

So I had to reset the PC as even after a restore it would still crash. After benchmarking and whilst looking into this issue further, I found that with WSL2 installed crashes also happened when running other applications including 3DMark’s Firestrike and PCMark10. Currently, no solution has been found for this issue other than not installing WSL2.

Otherwise, running the benchmarks went smoothly with the exception of the ‘Selenium’ test from the ‘Phoronix Test Suite’. When running the test with ‘Chrome’ selected it errored with the message ‘The test quit with a non-zero exit status’. This is typically caused by the benchmark driver used by the test not supporting the newest Chrome release and has been encountered before. As a result, the Octane tests were run manually and edited into the final results.

Finally, on Ubuntu 20.04.4 the ‘dmesg’ showed some ACPI errors and the significance of which was unknown at the time of testing:

Windows 11 Performance

Initially, the Beelink SER4 came installed with a licensed copy of Windows 11 Pro version 21H2 which after applying updates was build 22000.556. A quick look at the hardware information shows it is aligned to the specification:

A brief check showed working audio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and video output from the USB Type-C port:

I then set the power mode to ‘High performance’ and ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

I also tested Cinebench R23:

For my specific set of Phoronix Test Suite tests the results were:

All these results can then be compared with other recent mini PCs:

The results show good CPU and iGPU performance given the increased core/thread count however in contrast the NVMe performance is slower, especially for ‘writes’.

After shrinking the Windows partition in half and creating a new partition I installed Ubuntu using an Ubuntu 20.04.4 ISO as dual boot. After installation and updates a brief check showed working audio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and video output from the USB Type-C port:

The key hardware information under Ubuntu 20.04.4 is as follows:



I then set the CPU Scaling Governor to ‘performance’ and ran my Linux benchmarks for which the majority of the results are text based but the graphical ones included:

and the latter can be directly compared to when run in Windows using the OpenGL render:

I also ran PassMark PerformanceTest Linux:

which can be directly compared to the results from when it was run on Windows:

For the same set of Phoronix Test Suite tests the results were:

The complete results together with a comparison against other recent mini PCs are:

again highlighting the improved processor performance but slower NVMe speeds.

Video Playback in Browsers & Kodi

For real-world testing, I played some videos in Edge, Chrome, and Kodi on Windows and in Firefox, Chrome, and Kodi on Ubuntu. No issues were encountered playing up to 4K 60 FPS videos.

I also attempted playing an 8K 60 FPS video on YouTube on both Windows and Ubuntu but regardless of browser the video continually stalled:

Gaming on an AMD Ryzen 7 4800U mini PC

Given the Unigine Heaven scores, I decided to test three games under Steam  (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Grand Theft Auto V and Shadow Of The Tomb Raider) at both 1080p and 720p using default settings in both CS:GO and GTA V and with the graphical preset of ‘high’ and ‘low’ in the built-in benchmark of SOTTR. The very respectable average FPS results were as follows:

with Ubuntu out-performing Windows.

The SER4 uses active cooling which is very effective. Running a stress test on Ubuntu saw the CPU temperature climb to a peak of 62°C where it remained for the duration of the test:

During the stress test, the maximum temperature I recorded on the top of the device was around 29.4°C in an ambient room temperature of 23.3°C and the fan whilst audible was not excessively loud reaching 48 dBA on my sound meter next to the device during the test and around 38 dBA when idle. Note that Beelink are in the process of releasing a new BIOS which alters the fan curve such that the fan is inactive under low to medium loads resulting in this being a very quiet mini PC however the review testing was performed using BIOS version 1.08.

If the CPU frequency is monitored during the stress test it can be seen that it averages 2835 MHz:

which is much lower than what the CPU is capable of.

Networking (WiFI and Ethernet)

Network connectivity throughput was measured on Ubuntu using ‘iperf’:

Using Dual-Rank Memory and Increasing the Power Scheme

Initially, I wanted to see the effect of running dual-rank memory however I didn’t have two 16GB sticks but did have two 32GB sticks of 3200 MHz RAM so I installed them:

As I didn’t notice much of a performance gain I decided to also look at increasing the power.

The BIOS Power On Reset (POR) maximum setting is 25W and the CPU frequencies achieved during the stress testing are not very high given there was plenty of headroom as the CPU temperature only reached 62°C. Interestingly the CPU is not supported by ThottleStop.

So by using ‘RyzenAdj’ from Jiaxun Yang (FlyGoat) I experimented with adjusting the power management settings. I found the highest CPU clocks could be achieved by setting the Actual Power Limit (PTT Limit Fast) to 50 W, the Average Power Limit (PPT Limit Slow) to 50 W, and the Sustained Power Limit (STAPM Limit) to 50 W:

 

This effectively doubles the power and rerunning some of the tests showed significant improvement. For example with PassMark PerformanceTest, Geekbench and Heaven on Windows:

and on Ubuntu:

Some other Windows benchmarks achieved very impressive results :

Unfortunately, even though the Unigine Heaven scores improved this wasn’t reflected with significant gaming improvements, primarily as the games were already GPU bound:

The obvious drawback of increasing the power besides using more electricity is that the fan ramps up more frequently and more often to its maximum although this will depend on the version of BIOS used (see the note in ‘Thermals’ above).

Power Consumption

The power consumption for the stock configuration was measured as follows:

  • Initially plugged in – 1.0 Watts
  • Powered off (shutdown) – 0.4 Watts (Windows) and 0.4 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • BIOS*  – 18.7 Watts
  • GRUB boot menu – 17.2 Watts
  • Idle – 5.6 Watts (Windows) and 4.1 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • CPU stressed – 36.1 Watts (Windows ‘cinebench’) and 30.8 Watts (Ubuntu ‘stress’)
  • Video playback** – 25.4 Watts (Windows Edge 4K60fps) and 30.6 Watts (Ubuntu Chrome 4K60fps)

*BIOS (see below)
**The power figures fluctuate notably due to the fan so the value is the average of the median high and median low power readings.

Powering up the mini PC and hitting the F7 key results in a boot menu that includes access to the BIOS. The BIOS is unrestricted and the following video includes both the ‘POR’ and ‘Auto Power On’ settings:

Final Observations

Whilst the supplied memory is single-rank, a slight improvement can be gained by using dual-rank memory. Additional performance gains can be achieved by using a faster NVMe drive. However, even though the OOTB (out-of-the-box) experience is satisfactory, by far the most impressive and best performance gains are from increasing the power settings whilst not encountering thermal throttling.

HighlightsLimitations
Power tweaks achieve excellent price-performanceNo SD card slot
Additional SATA drive expandabilitySlow NVMe drive
Stylish designSingle-rank memory

I’d like to thank Beelink for providing the SER4 for review. It retails at around $749 for the tested configuration from Beelink or Amazon.

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