Beelink SEi12 Alder Lake mini PC review with Windows 11, Ubuntu 22.04

Beelink SEI12 Alder Lake Mini PC review

Beelink have launched their first Intel Alder Lake mini PC calling it the SEi12. Featuring a mobile 12th gen Core-i5-1235U processor it is also their first mini PC to incorporate a PCIe4 NVMe slot. Beelink kindly sent one for review and I’ve looked at the performance running both Windows 11 and Ubuntu 22.04.

The Beelink SEi12 physically consists of a 126 x 113 x 42mm (4.96 x 4.45 x 1.65 inches) square metal case with a new and innovative waterproof fabric-covered top. As an actively cooled mini PC, it uses Intel’s Alder Lake Core i5-1235U processor which has a thread count of 12 with 2 ‘performance’ cores boosting to 4.40 GHz and 8 ‘efficient’ cores boosting to 3.30 GHz and includes Intel’s Iris Xe Graphics.

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

Removing the base of the device reveals a plastic bay that supports adding a 2.5” SATA drive for increased storage. The bay includes a further new feature which is a small fan that not only cools the drive but also cools the motherboard and memory underneath:

Beelink SEi12 SSD Bay

Below the drive bay is the motherboard which includes an M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe Gen 4.0 SSD drive (the review model included a 500 GB Kingston NV2 drive complete with Windows 11 Pro installed) and this in turn covers an M.2 2230 WiFi 6 (or 802.11ax) Intel AX201 card:

Beelink SEI12 motherboard

There are also two SODIMM memory slots supporting up to 64 GB of memory and the review model included two sticks of Crucial 8 GB DDR4 3200 MHz memory for a total of 16 GB:

Alder Lake Mini PC memory

One hidden feature about the new fabric top is that it acts as a built-in mouse pad albeit rather small. This could be useful if wanting to quickly configure something once the device has been set up and put to use next to a TV for example as typically a mouse doesn’t function so well on glossy surfaces or shiny table tops.

The specifications state:

Beelink SEi12 specifications

and 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 an ‘USB to M.2 NVMe adapter’ (ORICO M2PAC3-G20 M.2 NVMe SSD Enclosure) which showed that all the ‘blue’ USB ports and the Type-C USB port were USB 3.1 (USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 i.e. 10 Gbit/s):

SEI12 Windows 11 blue USB

and that the ‘black’ rear USB ports were USB 2.0:

SEI12 Windows black USB

Unfortunately, the Type-C USB port is ‘data only’ so the device can only support two 4K displays via the HDMI ports on Windows (see below for the Ubuntu limitation):

Alder Lake Windows 11 dual hdmi display

Box contents

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

Beelink SEI12 power supply 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. I now review using Windows 11 version 22H2 and Ubuntu 22.04.1 LTS. I 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. With hybrid systems like Alder Lake, ‘sbc-bench’ now shows the difference between the ‘performance’ cores and the ‘efficient’ cores. On Ubuntu, I also compile the v5.15 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 version of the OS. I also capture some basic details of the device for each OS.

Installation Issues

When booting Ubuntu 22.04.1 there are various error messages being reported in the ‘dmesg’ although the significance of which has not been determined:

Alder Lake dmesg ACPI errors

There was also an ‘unchecked MSR access error: WRMSR to 0xd10’:

Alder Lake Linux WRMSR errors

which has already had a bug report filed against the Ubuntu kernel.

The Beelink SEi12 came installed with a licensed copy of Windows 11 Pro version 22H2 which after applying updates was build 22621.675. A quick look at the hardware information shows it is aligned with the specification:

Intel Core i5 1235U HWInfo64 Windows 11 Configuration

Beelink SEI12 windows disk management Beelink SEi12 Windows 11 System Info Windows 11 HWiNFO64 AZW SEi Alder Lake Intel Iris Xe Graphics Alder Lake GPU-Z

A brief check showed working audio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet.

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:

Beelink SEi12 Windows 11Cinebench R23

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

Windows mini PC comparison November 2022

Ubuntu 22.04 performance

After shrinking the Windows partition in half and creating a new partition I installed Ubuntu as dual boot using an Ubuntu 22.04.1 ISO. After installation and updates, a brief check showed working audio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet. However, it was only possible to get one 4K display working via the HDMI ports as either Ubuntu fails to detect the second display when connecting whilst booted:

ubuntu 22.04 display undetected

Or if two displays are connected and the device booted, the UEFI (BIOS) and GRUB menus are displayed on both however on reaching the Ubuntu login screen it is only displayed on the ‘left’ HDMI port, and the ‘right’ HDMI port disconnects resulting in a blank screen:

Ubuntu 22.04 display disconnected

If only one display is connected just using the ‘right’ HDMI port then the UEFI (BIOS) and GRUB menus are again displayed but once Ubuntu boots the screen goes blank. Swapping the display then to the ‘left’ HDMI port shows the login screen and checking with ‘xrandr’ will again confirm the ‘right’ HDMI port has disconnected. There may be a way to re-enable it however simply plugging in a display to the ‘right’ port has no effect unlike on Windows.

The key hardware information under Ubuntu 22.04.1 is as follows:

KINGSTON SNV2S500G ubuntu disk management SEi12 Ubuntu info


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:

AZW SEi Ubuntu Geekbench 5 CPU Beelink SEi12 Ubuntu Octane 2.0 Beelink SEi12 Ubuntu Heaven 3D graphics benchmark

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

Beelink SEi12 Windows 11 Heaven OpenGL

I also ran PassMark PerformanceTest Linux:

Ubuntu 22.04 Intel Core i5-1235U CPU Passmark

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

Beelink SEi12 Windows 11 CPU Memory PassMark

Finally, the results from running ‘sbc-bench’ and I’ve highlighted where it shows the difference between the ‘performance’ cores and the ‘efficient’ cores when measuring memory performance and the OpenSSL results:

Alder Lake SBC Bench.sh

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

Linux mini pc comparison November 2022

Video playback in browsers (YouTube) & Kodi

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

Beelink SEI12 Windows 11 YouTube 4K 60fps Chrome

However on Ubuntu whilst Firefox had no issues, Chrome did occasionally drop frames at 4K 60 FPS and also when the ‘Quality’ was decreased. Interestingly at ‘1080p60’ the codec changed from ‘vp09’ to ‘av01’:

Beelink SEi12 Ubuntu 1080p60 Chrome

I also played variously encoded videos in Kodi all of which played up to 8K @ 60 FPS using hardware for decoding and without issue on Windows:

Kodi Alder Lake Windows 8K video norway Kodi Alder Lake Windows 8K video

However, on Ubuntu both 8K @ 30 FPS and 8K @ 60 FPS failed to display properly:

Kodi Ubuntu Alder Lake 8K norway Kodi Ubuntu Alder Lake 8K peru

I did wonder whether this was an issue with ‘Wayland’ so I switched to ‘Xorg’ on login but the issue persisted even though both ‘vainfo’ and ‘vdpauinfo’ showed no errors:

Beelink SEi12 Ubuntu 22.04 vainfoBeelink SEi12 Ubuntu 22.04 vdpauinfo

I only looked at gaming on Windows as setting up gaming on Ubuntu is just too fiddly, time-consuming, and sometimes unreliable nowadays. I tested 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’ at ‘1920×1080’ and ‘low’ at ‘1280×720’ in the built-in benchmark of SOTTR. The average FPS results for the games were as follows:

Beelink SEi12 Windows 11 CSGO 1280 Beelink SEi12 Windows 11 GTAV 1280 Windows 11 sottr 1280 Beelink SEi12 Windows 11 gaming FPS

Basically, older games at 1280×720 resolution are playable but newer games will struggle.

Thermals

The Beelink SEi12 uses two fans for cooling. Running a stress test on Ubuntu saw the CPU temperature rise quickly to 88°C and then drop to 69°C before climbing to an average temperature of 77.3°C:

Beelink SEi12 10-core processor ubuntu stress 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 21.9°C and the fans were hardly audible reaching 42.3 dBA on my sound meter next to the device during the test. If the CPU frequency is monitored during the stress test it can be seen that it averages 3060 MHz during the test:

Beelink SEi12 Ubuntu CPU frequency

Networking (WiFi and Ethernet)

Network connectivity throughput was measured on Ubuntu using ‘iperf3’:

Beelink SEi12 network throughput

and showed lower-than-expected 5.0 GHz WiFi performance. After benchmarking I disassembled the device to photograph the internals and I accidentally went too far in that I removed the entire motherboard from the case:

Beelink SEi12 motherboard antennas

I forgot that the WiFi leads are actually soldered to antennas stuck to the top of the case:

TWX-SEI_12-MAIN-V0 WiFi antenna

On removing the motherboard, I saw that the WiFi ‘AUX’ cable was not connected. Whether this was like it before I took it apart or whether I broke the connection when I opened the device (most probably) and whether this is the reason for the poorer performance has not been determined because after reassembly the WiFi performance was the same and Bluetooth still worked. However, as a PSA, do not attempt to remove the motherboard from the case!

Power consumption was measured as follows:

  • Powered off (shutdown) – 0.6 Watts
  • UEFI (BIOS) – 15.4 Watts
  • GRUB boot menu – 16.3 Watts
  • Idle – 19.5 Watts (Windows) and 8.4 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • CPU stressed* – 59.6 Watts (Windows ‘Cinebench’) and 51.5 Watts (Ubuntu ‘stress’)
  • Video playback* – 34.2 Watts (Windows Edge 4K60fps) and 51.7 Watts (Ubuntu Chrome 4K80fps)

*The power figures fluctuate due to the fan so the value is the average of the median high and median low power readings.

Final Observations

Both the benchmarks and gaming results place the SEi12 above Beelink’s earlier Intel SEi11 but below their AMD SER4 and later models. The new inclusions of the SSD bay fan for additional cooling and the upgrade of the NVMe drive to PCIe4 will assist in improving performance for certain types of usage such as significant data manipulation.

HighlightsLimitations
Improved Intel processor performanceType-C USB has no ‘Alternate Mode’ support
PCIe4 NVMe supportNo SD card slot
Additional cooling fan
Some issues with Ubuntu

I’d like to thank Beelink for providing the Beelink SEi12 for review. Further details can be found on their website where the mini PC is up for pre-order for $459.00 and up. Alternatively, it can also be found in limited quantities on Amazon.

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15 Comments
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Jqpabc123
Jqpabc123
3 months ago

What fails first?

Either the fans or the power supply. Are these user replaceable?

A really cheap PC might be considered disposable but this one exceeds the cost of “disposable” so repairability becomes more of a concern.

FreekiedeCakie
FreekiedeCakie
3 months ago

The power brick looks bog standard, so no worries there.

Fan also looks like a generic laptopfan you can source from Ebay or Aliexpress quite easily.

Stuart Naylor
3 months ago

Yeah usually with a bit of head scratching and hopefully finding an article of someone else having success aliexpress likely will have the fans.

$459+ is prob the real consideration.

FreekiedeCakie
FreekiedeCakie
3 months ago

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

Could you use a higher resolution image for it, the results are starting to get blurry.

linuxium
3 months ago

After you ‘right click’ the image of the table which opens it in a new window, just remove the ‘?lossy=1&w=2560&ssl=1’ from the end of the URL and hit ‘return’. You will then be able to ‘click’ to zoom into a much larger image of the table.

freekiedecakie
freekiedecakie
3 months ago

Weird, I already removed that part at home but it was still blurry. (even refreshing the cache didn’t work)

But at work it works fine now.

Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft)
Admin

I’ve changed some settings on the server, so in the future linked images will show in full size and not be limited to 2560 pixels wide.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 months ago

The sbc-bench results show that peak performance is only possible for a fraction of time: the cpuminer score drops from 125.69 kH/s in the beginning within 5 seconds to just 80% (~101.5 kH/s), same with the 7-zip scores.

Have you had the chance to check ‘powercap-info -p intel-rapl’ or choose another ‘performance profile’ in UEFI settings?

linuxium
3 months ago

[email protected]:~$ sudo powercap-info intel-rapl enabled: 1 Zone 0   name: package-0   enabled: 1   max_energy_range_uj: 262143328850   energy_uj: 1379393075   Constraint 0     name: long_term     power_limit_uw: 35000000     time_window_us: 27983872     max_power_uw: 15000000   Constraint 1     name: short_term     power_limit_uw: 55000000     time_window_us: 2440     max_power_uw: 0   Constraint 2     name: peak_power     power_limit_uw: 100000000     time_window_us: 0     max_power_uw: 0   Zone 0:0     name: core     enabled: 0     max_energy_range_uj: 262143328850     energy_uj: 134146812     Constraint 0… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 months ago

‘Looks like’ the 55W short_term limit then kicking in. But honestly this RAPL stuff is over my head 🙂

linuxium
2 months ago

Or it is thermal throttling. Some simple monitoring of running cpuminer compared with running a stress command. In particular compare the Core 0 (C0) frequency with the package (pkg) temperature for each: cpuminer: Time - 15-16-32 Util - 0% Freq - C0 2500 MHz C1 2500 MHz C2 1068 MHz C3 2500 MHz C4 2500 MHz C5 2500 MHz C6 2500 MHz C7 2500 MHz C8 2500 MHz C9 2500 MHz C10 2500 MHz C11 2500 MHz Temp - C0 33°C C4 33°C C8 30°C C9 30°C C10 30°C C11 30°C C12 31°C C13 31°C C14 31°C C15 31°C Pkg… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
2 months ago

Are the clockspeeds the cpuinfo_cur_freq or scaling_cur_freq sysfs nodes?

linuxium
2 months ago

They are taken from ‘/proc/cpuinfo’ – maybe I should be using ‘scaling_cur_freq’?

linuxium
2 months ago

I now repeated the monitoring using ‘scaling_cur_freq’ which shows similar results for the frequencies and thermal throttling. cpuminer: Time - 18-31-33 Util - 0% Freq -C0 2996 MHz C1  516 MHz C2 1107 MHz C3 2978 MHz C4  428 MHz C5  739 MHz C6  530 MHz C7  891 MHz C8  463 MHz C9  862 MHz C10  798 MHz C11  864 MHz  Temp - C0 29°C C4 26°C C8 32°C C9 32°C C10 32°C C11 32°C C12 32°C C13 32°C C14 32°C C15 32°C Pkg 32°C Time - 18-31-34 Util - 0% Freq -C0  716 MHz C1 3059 MHz C2 1596… Read more »

Kent Welch
Kent Welch
2 months ago

I’m running into the same issue with a dual monitor setup in Linux Mint on the SEI12. Anyone figure this issue out yet? Will two monitors work in Linux on the SEI12?

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