Review of GEEKOM Mini Air12 mini PC with Windows 11 Pro (Part 2)

We’ve already done an unboxing and teardown of the GEEKOM Mini Air12 mini PC in the first part of the review and we’ve now had time to test Windows 11 Pro on the Intel Processor N100 mini PC equipped with 16GB SO-DIMM DDR5 and a 512GB M.2 SSD. Despite the low-end processor, the mini PC boots quite fast and it’s perfectly usable to browse the web, play YouTube videos, and perform other tasks like office work and photo editing.

In part 2 of the review, we’ll test Windows 11 Pro thoroughly with a software overview, features testing, benchmarks, storage and network performance tests, thermal performance, fan noise, and power consumption of GEEKOM Mini Air12.

Software overview and features testing

Going to System->About in the Windows settings confirms we have a Mini Air12 mini PC powered by an 800 MHz (based frequency) Intel Processor N100 CPU, with 16GB of RAM, and running  Windows 11 Pro 23H2 operating system version after an update (our sample shipped with 22H2).

Windows 11 Pro system about GEEKOM Mini Air12

HWiNFO64 provides more details about the Intel Processor N100 quad-core processor, “Intel Alder Lake-N PCH (SuperSKU ES)” motherboard, and the Intel UHD Graphics in the SoC. We can notably see the base frequency is 800 MHz and the Turbo frequency is 3,400 MHz but those numbers are meaningless under load since the processor actually runs at around 2.9 GHz under a stress test.

HWiNFO Intel Processor N100

Additional about the Intel UHD graphics can be found in GPU-Z.

GPU-Z GEEKOM Mini Air12

The PL1 and PL2 power limits are set to 15W (PBP) and 20W (MTP) respectively, while the 12th Gen Intel Processor N100 Alder Lake-N processor is advertised as having a TDP of 6W. If the latter number feels meaningless it’s because that value is valid at the 800 MHz base frequency that is virtually never used by the CPU.

Intel Processor N100 mini PC PL1 PL2

HWiNFO64 reports that the system comes with a 16 GB RAM DDR5 SO-DIMM memory stick by A-DATA technology using SpecTek RAM chips clocked at 2400 MHz (DDR5-4800).

GEEKOM Mini Air12 HWiNFO Memory

Windows Task Manager once again confirms a single 16GB memory stick running at 4800 MHz.

GEEKOM Mini Air12 Task Manager Memory

Let’s now check the network adapters in Device Manager to find more information about the gigabit Ethernet, WiFi 6 (RTL8852BE) and Bluetooth connections.

GEEKOM Mini Air12 Device Manager Network Adapters

HWiNFO64 shows a RealTek RTL8168/8111 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet NIC controller is used by the system…

GEEKOM Mini Air12 HWiNFO64 Network Gigabit Ethernet

… and confirms the RealTek RTL8852BE network card handles WiFi 6 (max link speed 1,201 Mbps).

GEEKOM Mini Air12 HWiNFO64 Network WiFi6

Back to the Device Manager, in Bluetooth->RealTek Bluetooth Adapter where you can open the properties and select the Advanced tab to find the “LMP11” string in the firmware version that looks up to Bluetooth 5.2. We also successfully tested Bluetooth by transferring files to/from an Android smartphone and connecting the Mini Air12 Windows 11 Pro mini PC with a Bluetooth headset.

GEEKOM Mini Air12 Device Manager Bluetooth

All USB ports on the Mini Air12 mini PC come with the official 10 Gbps USB logo. So we tested all five USB ports, the three USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A and the two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C ports to confirm the speed using an ORICO M234C3-U4 M.2 NVMe SSD enclosure (unless otherwise mentioned), as well as HWiNFO64 program to verify the version and speed and CrystalDiskMark to confirm the transfer speed. The 240GB SSD in the enclosure has two partitions: one 120GB EXT-4 partition for Linux testing, and one 120GB NTFS that we use in Windows and shows as the E: drive.

Disk Management patirion

 

Here’s an example of test with the USB Type-A on the front.

GEEKOM Mini Air12 USB A front speed

It shows USB 3.20 version with a “USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlus”  device speed (aka 10 Gbps), and CrystalDiskMark reports a 1048.38 MB/s read speed that’s in line with having a 10 Gbps USB port. We could repeat the same test with similar results on all USB Type-A ports and the USB Type-C port on the rear panel.

But we were not so lucky with the front USB-C port, as while the ORICO enclosure was clearly powered (the LED was on) nothing showed up in Windows. So we switched to using the Beelink Expand M USB-Dock with 512 GB SSD and it showed up as a “Generic Billboard Device”, but not usable as a drive or USB-C dock.

Generic Billboard device Mini Air12 USB C Beelink 512GB SSD

We finally tried with the MINIX NEO Storage Plus USB-C Dock equipped with a 480GB SATA SSD and it worked, but that USB-C hub only supports 5 Gbps.

usb c front test MINIX NEO S4 SSDSo the speed is about half of what we can get with the ORICO enclosure and the other ports, but at least it works with the front USB-C port which looks to be picky with which USB peripheral it works with.

The results of all 5 ports are summarized as follows:

  • Front panel
    • USB-A – USB 3.2 – USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlus (10 Gbps) – 1048 MB/s read speed
    • USB-C – USB 3.0 – USB 3.0 SuperSpeed (5 Gbps) – 458 MB/s read speed (Note that’s only because only the 5Gbps MINIX USB-C dock with 480GB SSD would work and our other faster USB-C enclosure/dock would not)
  • Rear panel
    • USB-A #1 (top) – USB 3.2 – USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlus (10 Gbps) – 1044 MB/s read speed
    • USB-A #2 (bottom) – USB 3.2 – USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlus (10 Gbps) – 1049 MB/s read speed
    • USB-C – USB 3.2 – USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlus (10 Gbps) – 1055 MB/s read speed

GEEKOM Mini Air12 mini PC can support up to three independent displays with its HDMI 2.0, Mini DP 1.4, and USB Type-C ports on the rear panel. We don’t own a monitor with a DisplayPort input, but we could successfully test a dual display setup with the HDMI and USB-C ports.

GEEKOM Mini Air12 dual display

More specifically we used a VGA monitor connected through an HDMI to VGA adapter and the 14-inch CrowView notebook monitor connected via USB-C.

Windows 11 Pro benchmarks on GEEKOM Mini Air12

We set the Power mode to “Best performance” before running the benchmarks used to evaluate the performance of the Intel N100 mini PC under Windows 11 Pro. Note that the ambient temperature was about 28°C, so the results in other conditions may be slightly different.

Power mode Best performance

We started with PCMark 10

GEEKOM Mini Air2 PCMark 10

The Mini Air12 achieved 3,150 points. You’ll find the complete results on the 3DMark website.

GEEKOM Mini Air2 3dMark Fire Strike

The mini PC reached 1,188 points in the 3DMark Fire Strike 3D graphics benchmark.

GEEKOM Mini Air2 PassMark PerformanceTest

PassMark PerformanceTest 11 results in a score of 1,580 points, with a high Disk Mark score of 20,984 points which is known to have a significant impact on the final score. So we took the occasion to run CrystalDiskMark to test the performance of 512GB M.2 SSD M.2 512GB and the utility reports 3.4 GB/s sequence read speed and 2.9 GB/s sequential write speed.

GEEKOM Mini Air2 NVMe SSD

Both numbers are excellent considering we’re talking about an entry-level mini PC here…

Next up are Cinebench R23 single-core and multi-core benchmarks.

GEEKOM Mini Air2 Cinebench R23

The mini PC achieved 2,927 points in the multi-core benchmark, and 918 points in the single-core benchmark, with a good MP ratio of 3.19 for a quad-core processor.

We started testing the iGPU performance with Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 which rendered at 12.9 fps on average and yielded a score of 325 points at a resolution of ~1920×1080.

GEEKOM Mini Air12 Unigine Heaven Benchmark

We then tested YouTube video playback at 4K and 8K resolution in Google Chrome

4Kp60 Youtube Chrome

A 4Kp60 video did not play perfectly smoothly with 2,447 frames dropped out of 37,757 while playing the video for about thirteen minutes.

8Kp60 youtube Chrome

We still tried to play the video at 8Kp60 to see what would happen, and the results were quite similar, as in “not that much worse”,  with 3,363 frames dropped out of 41,635.

The Mini Air12 is not quite suitable for playing 60 fps videos at 4K and 8K resolution on YouTube, although it should work fine with local videos in Kodi or other players. So we switched to 30 fps videos starting at 4K (2160p) first.

4K 30fps youtube windows 11 chrome

It looks much better with the video playing smoothly at all times and zero frames dropped after over 5 minutes.

8K 30fps youtube chrome

An 8K (4320p) video played at 30 fps also played smoothly with only 1 single frame dropped out of 18,107.

[Update January 9, 2024: Before switching to the Linux review, we retested 4Kp60 and 8Kp60 using the same setup, and somehow the results are much different…

Retry 4k 60 fps YouTube Chrome

The same YouTube 4Kp60 video could be just fine in Chrome for about 13 minutes with just 10 frames dropped out of 46,829 frames.

Retry YouTube 8K p60

Video playback was also smooth, we switched to 8Kp60 (4320p60) with 46 frames dropped out of 57,908. It’s unclear what may have caused the initial issue with 60 fps video. The buffer health looks good in the screenshot, but the only reason I can think of is that a temporarily empty buffer may have caused this…

End of update]

Note that all video streams above relied on the AV1 video codec.

Let’s compare the results of the GEEKOM Mini Air12 benchmarks test in Windows 11 against other Alder Lake-N mini PCs such as the Blackview MP80 (N95) and Beelink EQ12 (N100) as well as more powerful GEEKOM systems namely GEEKOM A5 (AMD Ryzen 7 5800H), GEEKOM IT11 (Core i7-11390H Tiger Lake) and GEEKOM AS 6 (AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX) have all been tested under a similar environment with a room temperature at 28-30°C, except for the Beelink EQ12 that was reviewed by Ian.

But first, let’s summarize the main features of the 6 mini PCs.

GEEKOM Mini Air12Blackview MP80Beelink EQ12GEEKOM A5GEEKOM IT11GEEKOM AS 6
SoCIntel Processor N100Intel Processor N95Intel Processor N100AMD Ryzen 7 5800HIntel Core i7-11390HAMD Ryzen 9 6900HX
CPU4-core Alder Lake-N processor up to 3.4 GHz4-core Alder Lake-N processor up to 3.4 GHz4-core Alder Lake-N processor up to 3.4 GHz8-core/16-thread processor up to 4.4 GHz4-core/8-thread Tiger Lake processor up to 5.0 GHz8-core/16-thread processor up to 4.9 GHz
GPU24 EU Intel UHD Graphics up to 750 MHz16 EU Intel UHD Graphics up to 1.2 GHz24 EU Intel UHD Graphics up to 750 MHz8-core AMD Radeon Graphics96 EU Intel Iris Xe Graphics up to 1.4 GHzAMD Radeon Graphics 680M
TDP6W15W6W45W28-35W45W
Memory16GB DDR5 @ 4800 MHz16GB LPDDR5 @ 3200 MHz16GB DDR5 @ 4800 MHz32GB DDR4-320032GB DDR432GB DDR5-4800
Storage512GB M.2 NVMe SSD512GB M.2 SATA SSD512GB M.2 NVMe SSD512GB NVMe SSD1TB NVMe SSD1TB NVMe SSD
Default OSWindows 11 ProWindows 11 ProWindows 11 ProWindows 11 ProWindows 11 ProWindows 11 Pro

We’ll notice the Beelink EQ12 and Mini Air12 have the same basic specifications, and this will also allow us to compare Alder Lake-N mini PCs against other mini PCs that are 2 to 4 times more expensive…

GEEKOM Mini Air12Blackview MP80Beelink EQ12GEEKOM A5GEEKOM IT11GEEKOM AS 6
PCMark 103150
3196N/A648548676408
- Essentials7467
7213 N/A11007998310300
- Productivity45984894N/A985065378933
- Digital content creation24712515N/A682947957762
3DMark (Fire Strike)118810381181415737185986
PerformanceTest 11.0158012862217.84526.83686.33976.6
- CPU Mark618046496327.421493.611209.923915
- 2D Graphics Mark248281277.3751.7242.9372.5
- 3D Graphics Mark888901891.63186.12833.94701.8
- Memory Mark249221412801.82876.32956.32857.9
- Disk Mark2098438438065.321094.122189.124979.1
Cinebench R23
- Single Core918913946139713881506
- Multi Core29272673294710146553010847

The Mini Air12 has a slightly lower performance than the Beelink EQ12 but that could be due to lower testing temperature, and the Mini Air12’s SSD really shines and almost matches the performance of the more powerful and expensive mini PCs. The main differences against the higher-end mini PCs are the 3D graphics performance, and the higher number of CPU cores/threads matters a lot in multi-core tests delivering 3 to 4 times the performance.

Networking performance (GbE and WiFi 6)

We tested Ethernet and WiFi networking performance using the iperf3 utility, a Xiaomi AX6000 WiFi 6 router and 2.5 GbE TP-Link switch, and the UP Xtreme i11 on the other side of the connection,

Let’s start with the gigabit Ethernet port

  • Upload

  • Download


949 Mbps in either direction, so the Ethernet port works as expected.

Now let’s do that with WiFi 6.

  • Upload

  • Download


That’s 220 Mbps for uploads and 463 Mbps for downloads. A bit underwhelming in our testbed, but on the good side, the connection is stable and the speed does not fluctuate. We expect the WiFi throughput to be higher in Linux as it has been our experience in the past with most other machines.

Thermal performance

We started testing cooling with 3DMark Fire Strike using HWiNFO64 to monitor the temperature and check for potential CPU throttling. The latter did not happen, and the temperature never went above 78°C.

GEEKOM Mini Air12 temperature test

We let the computer cool down a bit and restarted it to run Cinebench R23 multi-core benchmark and the maximum temperature was 82°C with no CPU throttling occurring.

GEEKOM Mini Air12 temperature Cinebench

Fan noise

The mini PC has a very quiet fan in normal use, and under load, there’s some noise but it’s barely audible, and the noise is much lower than other GEEKOM mini PCs we’ve recently reviewed. We measured the noise with a sound level meter placed approximately 5 cm from the top case:

  • Normal work, general web surfing: 39-41.5 dBA
  • 3DMark Fire Strike: 40.00-46.9 dBA

The sound level meter measures 37-38 dBA in a quiet room.

GEEKOM Mini Air12 power consumption

Power consumption was measured with a wall power meter as follows:

  • Off – 0.8 Watt
  • Boot – 8 to 24 watts
  • Idle – 8 to 10 Watts
  • Normal use (enter website) – 8 to 21 Watts
  • 3DMark Fire Strike – 13 to 24 Watts
  • Video playback – 12 to 24 watts (YouTube in Chrome 8K60fps)

The mini PC was connected to WiFi 6, a USB keyboard, a USB mouse, and a VGA monitor through an HDMI to VGA adapter, and nothing else during the measurements.

Conclusion

Albeit not the smallest, the GEEKOM Mini Air12 is one of the smaller mini PCs we’ve reviewed and comes with Intel Processor N100 CPU, 16GB DDR5, and an ultra-fast 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD that makes the system work at its best and offers a good performance/price ratio. We could play 4Kp60 and 8Kp60 YouTube videos with no issue, and we could almost not tell the difference against more powerful machines when browsing the web and doing other tasks such as writing this review and editing photos.

Providing five USB ports with 10 Gbps speed is also a plus on this type of hardware, although we had an issue with the front USB-C port that only worked with one external USB drive out of three. Another issue is that the system cannot handle 4K and 8K YouTube videos at 60 fps very well with many frames dropped but that’s the same experience as with other Alder Lake-N. We would have hoped for a 2.5GbE interface in the mini PC, but the Gigabit Ethernet port works well, and Wi-Fi 6 is stable, but the throughput in Windows is somewhat underwhelming.

While the system is not fanless, we found the fan to be inaudible during idle or “normal” conditions, and we could only hear it under heavy load, but it was not really disturbing or annoying. We could not make the CPU throttle under load so the cooling solution is fully adequate for the system. We’ll soon switch to Ubuntu 22.04 to test a Linux distribution on the GEEKOM Mini Air12.

We’d like to thank GEEKOM for sending the Mini Air12 mini PC with an Intel Processor N100 CPU, 16GB DDR5 SO-DIMM RAM, and an M.2 512GB NVMe SSD for review. The model reviewed here can be ordered in the company’s online store for $249, but you can get an extra $20 discount with coupon code cnxsoftware20. Alternatively, the mini PC is also available on Amazon, and the code WJKL697Z provides a 10% discount. Users in the UK can purchase the mini PC for 229 GBP when using coupon code cnxsoftware20.

Continue reading “GEEKOM Mini Air12 mini PC review – Part 3: Ubuntu 22.04 Linux

CNXSoft: This review is a translation of the original article on CNX Software Thailand by Suthinee Kardkaew.

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8 Comments
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Theuis
Theuis
3 months ago

Thanks for the review.

I believe your Youtube test is flawed somehow?

Maybe your setup was displaying 50Hz? I have tested the same video with an Morefine M9S N100@60Hz, at 4K having 37 frames dropped initialy but none later, 8K losing 1-3 frames every 1000 shown.

With screen set to 50Hz around 15% frames where dropped at 4K.

Bill
Bill
3 months ago

Despite the picky front USB-C port, having another 4 that operate at 10Gb/s is a big plus, as is that fantastic SSD speed. It is also on par, price wise with the EQ12, which might be a potential problem, as it has had time to how consistency of operation and positive reviews. I was initially surprised that 4k 60fps is a problem in Chrome as other reviews I have seen tend to show otherwise but then I remembered that VP09 is used in other reviews, so nice to see AV1 being pushed to it’s limit. The N100 has certainly been… Read more »

nbi
nbi
2 months ago

Thanks for the review. I bought the Air 12 and I also have USB port problems:

As soon as I connect a stick or a hard drive to the USB A sockets, the Air 12 hangs and does not boot. With the 2 USB C sockets all works well.
I got the original Air 12 replaced by GEEKOM, but the new Air 12 behaves the same.
As you didn’t mention this issue: Does it not exist on your side?

Camillo
Camillo
1 month ago

Hello, nice review!

I bought Air12 as well, aesthetics is beautiful, installation was fine, but it started to freeze and crash randomly with really light and low usage (browsing the internet). Support from Geekom is lacking.
Even Windows diagnostic is crashing…

I bet if they sent the good ones for review…
Any suggestion?
Thank you

Khadas VIM4 SBC