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There are more “4 inch x 4 inch” form-factor mini PCs available now than you can shake the proverbial stick at, including high-priced, high-performance models like the Simply NUC Onyx NUC13OXv9 and GEEKOM Mini IT13, as well as cheaper, more energy-efficient models like the GEEKOM Mini Air12.

This little computer looks a lot like an Intel NUC. But now that Intel has shut down its NUC business, it’s up to other companies to supply the market for business-friendly little computers that balance performance, price, and power consumption with reliability. The GEEKOM Mini Air12 should fit the bill thanks to its Intel N100 processor based on Alder Lake-N architecture, and 3-year warranty. It also looks like a business-class machine, with a simple design that’s heavily inspired by the Intel NUC line.

The NUC family of 4×4 mini PCs isn’t exactly dead – ASUS has taken over marketing and development of the NUC brand. But for the most part ASUS has focused on higher-end systems since acquiring the NUC license. Mini PCs like the NUC14 Pro, NUC 14 Pro+ and ROG NUC feature Intel Meteor Lake processors, Thunderbolt 4 ports, and other premium features.

GEEKOM’s Mini Air12, meanwhile, is designed to offer decent performance at an affordable price point: The model featured in this review has an Intel Processor N100 chip, 16 GB of DDR5 memory, and a 512 GB SSD. It has a list price of $249, but Liliputing readers can also save $20 (or £20) using these coupon codes:

GEEKOM sent me a Mini Air12 unit to test. This mini PC was provided to Liliputing for free, with no requirement that the computer be returned upon completion of the review. This review is not sponsored by GEEKOM, and the company did not modify or approve the content of this article in any way.

Design & Specs

The GEEKOM Mini Air12 physically consists of a 117 x 112 x 34.2mm (4.61 x 4.41 x 1.35 inches) square plastic case. It has a fan for active cooling, and a 6-watt Intel Processor N100 chip, which is a 7nm Alder Lake-N processor with 4 CPU cores and 4 threads (it doesn’t support hyperthreading). The CPU supports frequencies up to 3.3 GHz and it’s paired with an Intel UHD integrated GPU with 24 Execution Units and a maximum frequency of 750 MHz.

The front of the computer has:

  • 1 x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 1×1 port (10 Gbit/s data only)
  • 1 x USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 2×1 port (10 Gbit/s)
  • 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 1 x illuminated power button

There’s a full-sized SD card reader on the left side of the AIR12 and a Kensington security slot on the right side.

Most of the computer’s ports are on the back, where you’ll find:

  • 1 x Power jack
  • 1 x Mini DisplayPort 1.4
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet port (RTL8168/8111)
  • 2 x USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 2×1 (10 Gbit/s)
  • 1 x USB Type-C port Gen 2×1 (10 Gbit/s) with DP 1.4 Alt Mode and PD port (above)
  • 1 x HDMI 2.0 port (below)

All of the ports are annotated however the rear USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2×1 port was incorrectly labelled.

Normally a USB-C port that supports video output via DisplayPort Alt Mode should have a DisplayPort logo. But while this port lacks the label, it does support DP Alt Mode, which means you can connect up to three displays to this little computer.

The USB-C port on the back of the computer also accepts USB Power Delivery, which means you can power the computer from a USB wall charger.

Inside the computer, the motherboard sits inside a ‘metal inner frame’ and has a soldered-on Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) Realtek 8852BE chip. This is a combo chip which also provides Bluetooth 5.2 (LMP 11.28432).

Above the Wi-Fi/BT chip is an M.2 2280 NVMe/SATA SSD slot. The review model included a Lexar NM620 512 GB M.2 2280 PCIe Gen 3 x4 (LNM620X512G-HNNG) drive with a specification of 3500 MB/s read and 2400 MB/s write speeds. It was also covered by a relatively thick thermal pad for heat dissipation.

On the opposite side of the motherboard is a single DDR5 SODIMM memory slot. This was populated in the review model with an ADATA DDR5-4800 SO-DIMM Memory Module 16 GB stick (AD5S480016G-B). This particular memory includes On-Die Error Correcting Code (ECC). However, as Dr. Ian Cutress points out “One of the dangers of DDR5 marketing is that vendors are going to market DDR5’s ‘on-die ECC’ functionality as if it’s traditional ECC. On-die ECC is only for physical reliability to increase yielding dies. You still need module-wide and controller ECC support for traditional ECC”.

The plastic top of the device can be removed simply by prising it off. This exposes a metal fan grill with two metal strips either side which form the Wi-Fi aerials.

In the box, you get a power adapter and power cord.  The adapter is from XinSPower (Shenzhen Xinspower Technology Co. Ltd.), model A481-1902360U which provides 19.0 V 2.36 A 44.84 W.

Also included in the box is an HDMI cable, a VESA mounting bracket together with a small packet of screws, a multilingual graphical instruction sheet and a ‘Thank You’ card which includes GEEKOM’s contact channels.

How it performs

The review model came with Windows 11 Pro Version 22H2 OS build 22621.2283 which was activated once connected to the internet. After updates, OS build 22621.3007 was used for testing. Interestingly, I was never offered an update to 23H2 even though I turned on “Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available” and repeatedly checked for updates.

After checking for updates, I shrank the Windows partition by half and installed Ubuntu 23.10. This is a non-LTS release, but I wanted to ensure I had a later kernel that supported the Wi-Fi RTL8852BE chip.

First off I checked the known problem areas for mini PCs include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and audio output from the 3.5mm jack. These all worked without any issues in both Windows and Ubuntu.

I started performance testing by using Crystal Dew World’s CrystalDiskMark to measure storage performance on Windows.

All the USB ports performed as expected. The review model’s Lexar 512 GB SATA drive performed very well with read and write speeds matching the drive’s specification.

I also tested the SD card reader however the performance was disappointing. This is because the Mini Air12 uses a Realtek USB 2.0 Card Reader which only gave speeds of under 30 MB/s for both read and write.

The following table shows all the actual storage speeds achieved during testing on Windows.

Geekom Mini Air12 Windows Storage
M.2 2280 NVMeUSB-C 3.2

(Front Left)

USB 3.2

(Front Right)

SD CardUSB 3.2 (Rear Left Upper)USB 3.2 (Rear Left Lower)USB-C 3.2

(Rear Right)

CrystalDiskMark
Seq1M Q8T1 Read3421.201086.821068.7827.601068.851068.841086.93
Seq1M Q8T1 Write3055.011056.891024.9826.181025.231024.611056.94
Seq1M Q1T1 Read2513.78
Seq1M Q1T1 Write2695.66
RND4K Q32T1 Read425.72
RND4K Q32T1 Write314.64
RND4K Q1T1 Read60.08
RND4K Q1T1 Write140.38

For the performance benchmarks, all were run with the power mode set to “High performance” on Windows, and the CPU Scaling Governor set to “performance” on Ubuntu. By default, the Power Limits (PL) were with PL1 at 15 W and PL2 at 25 W.

On Windows I ran:

  • PassMark Software’s PerformanceTest (general performance)
  • UL’s 3DMark (CPU and graphics) and Procyon (office productivity)
  • Maxon’s Cinebench (CPU)
  • Primate Labs’s Geekbench (CPU and graphics)
  • Unigine’s Heaven (graphics)
GEEKOM Mini Air12 benchmarks (Windows)
Windows Performance Mode (PL1=15W & PL2=25W)
PerformanceTest 10.2
PassMark Rating2457.6
CPU Mark6247.2
2D Graphics Mark340.7
3D Graphics Mark868.7
Memory Mark2551.3
Disk Mark21073.2
3DMark
Night Raid Score4741
Graphics score4997
CPU score3677
Fire Strike Score1173
Graphics score1224
Physics score6525
Combined score462
Procyon
Office Productivity score3971
Word score3888
Excel score3835
PowerPoint score4457
Outlook score3528
CINEBENCH R23
CPU (Multi Core)3008
CPU (Single Core)933
CINEBENCH 2024
GPU (System Requirements)
CPU (Multi Core)196
CPU (Single Core)60
Geekbench 6.2.1
Single-Core Score1226
Multi-Core Score3249
OpenCL Score3315
Unigine Heaven 4.0
FPS13.3
Score334

I initially ran PerformanceTest 11.0 rather than version 10.2, however the 3D Graphics Mark failed to complete due to a known issue when the test is run on the N100 processor. So I had to remove the benchmark and install PerformanceTest 10.2.

The low “FPS” performance achieved in Heaven shows that this mini PC is unsuitable for “AAA” games.

On Ubuntu I only ran the following benchmarks:

  • PassMark Software’s PerformanceTest (CPU and memory)
  • Primate Labs’s Geekbench (CPU)
  • Unigine’s Heaven (graphics)
  • Thomas Kaiser’s “sbc-bench” (server performance)
GEEKOM Mini Air12 benchmarks (Ubuntu)
Ubuntu Performance Mode (PL1=15W & PL2=25W)
PerformanceTest 11.0
CPU Mark6172
Memory Mark2514
Geekbench 6.2.1
Single-Core Score1214
Multi-Core Score3241
Unigine Heaven 4.0
FPS12.0
Score303
sbc-bench
Memory performance
memcpy10445.4
memset10582.9
Cpuminer average37.13
7-zip average13863
OpenSSL average
aes-128-cbc 16 bytes974961.09
aes-256-cbc 16384 bytes1232573.78

Normally “sbc-bench” uploads the results to the web. However after completing it was unable to upload the full text results, so I don’t have a link to share. As the program comes with a warning that the tool is meant to run on Ubuntu up to its “Lunar” (23.04) release and I was running “Mantic” (23.10), this may be the reason.

Ubuntu’s CPU performance is very similar to that on Windows being within 1%. However the iGPU performance is noticeably lower at just over 10% worse.

Network connectivity throughput was measured using ‘iperf3’ on both Windows and Ubuntu.

Windows
EthernetWi-Fi 2.4 GHzWi-Fi 5.0 GHz
Download949 Mbits/sec141 Mbits/sec406 Mbits/sec
Upload947 Mbits/sec117 Mbits/sec216 Mbits/sec
Ubuntu
EthernetWi-Fi 2.4 GHzWi-Fi 5.0 GHz
Download941 Mbits/sec235 Mbits/sec616 Mbits/sec
Upload942 Mbits/sec205 Mbits/sec536 Mbits/sec

As usual, the mini PC performed better when connecting to networks by Wi-Fi and running Ubuntu.

The Mini Air12 is marketed as supporting three displays with support for up to 8K resolutions. But only the DisplayPort and USB-C ports actually support 8K/30Hz displays. The HDMI port only supports up to a 4K/60Hz screen.

So for real-world testing of the integrated graphics, I played various videos in YouTube on Edge and Chrome on Windows, with resolutions of up to 8K@60 and using each of the video ports: HDMI, mini DP and USB-C.

Whilst there were no serious issues, there was the occasional dropped frame. I also tested YouTube videos played using Chrome on just the USB-C port using resolutions of 4K@30, 4K@60, 8K@30 and 8K@60. All played fine without dropping any frames.

However on Ubuntu whilst playing 8K 60FPS videos, Chrome immediately started to drop frames and ultimately repeatedly froze when I used the latest stable version of Google’s web browser for Linux.

When l tested YouTube videos played using Chrome with resolutions of 4K@30, 4K@60, 8K@30 and 8K@60, only 4K@30 played without dropping frames. For 4K@60, 129 frames from 5003 were dropped; for 8K@30, 2028 frames from 5026; and for 8K@60, 2982 frames from 5075.

So I installed the “intel-gpu-tools” package and ran “intel-gpu-top” to see how the video is processed when playing. This showed that only software rendering was being used with no hardware acceleration even though Chrome’s flags showed hardware acceleration would be used for decoding and the Video Acceleration API (VA-API) driver was installed..

After a bit of research, I found that the current version of Chrome did not support VA-API GPU acceleration on Wayland. However it was available in the latest Beta version of Chromium which could be installed using “snap”. After launching the Chromium snap with the correct combination of flags the results improved considerably.

Both 4K@30 and 8K@30 played without dropping any frames. For 4K@60, 4 frames from 5055 were dropped. Interestingly 8K@60 was now much worse and basically unwatchable, with 4122 frames from 5034 being dropped.

Comparing “intel-gpu-top” when running Chrome vs Chromium shows the significant benefit of actually using hardware acceleration. On Chrome, the process of playing a 4K60 video constantly uses most of the CPU.

With Chromium and VA-API, the CPU usage drops by over 55% as video decoding is undertaken by the iGPU.

Thermals and Noise

The GEEKOM Mini Air12 uses active cooling which is both effective and very quiet. For example, during “Fire Strike” on Windows, the highest temperature logged for the CPU was only 67.94°C with the iGPU only reaching 53.00°C.

Similarly during “cpuminer” on Ubuntu the highest temperature logged for the CPU was just 64°C. Although the fan ramped up during the various benchmarking tests, it only made a very low humming sound which did not register a reading on my sound meter next to the device during testing.

Power Usage

Power consumption was measured as follows:

  • Powered off (shutdown) – 0.6 Watts
  • UEFI (BIOS) – 13.1 Watts
  • GRUB menu – 16.4 Watts
  • Idle – 9.5 Watts (Windows) and 9.1 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • CPU stressed* – 25.2 Watts (Windows “cinebench”) and 21.8 Watts (Ubuntu “stress”)
  • Maximum power reading observed for a sustained period.

Verdict

The GEEKOM Mini Air12 is a very quiet, relatively low-powered and low power-consuming mini PC that is capable of being used as a basic PC for daily computing activities.

It is perfectly suitable for the typical office tasks of reading/writing emails, browsing the internet, and light Microsoft Office usage of Word, Excel and Powerpoint. It is particularly suitable for businesses as it comes both with Windows 11 Pro and a 3-year warranty.

The inclusion of an NVMe drive and DDR5 memory future-proofs the mini PC to a certain extent. However it would have been nice to see a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port instead of just a Gigabit one.

I’d like to thank GEEKOM for providing the review unit. At time of publication, the GEEKOM Mini Air12 is available from Amazon and GEEKOM.com.

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  1. I have a GEEKOM 4 X4 i-7 for about $350 rather than Neosway 5105 which is one gen behind a 100. I tried the 100 and 200 but there were arguably worse than the 5105. I could do Streaming Recording using PlayOn and limited editing but only one thing at a time. Adding running email brought it down. So the 5105 cost me about $200 for 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD and the i-7 cost about $350 16GB and 1Tb. So don’t skimp unless you don’t need much.

  2. I like the collection of video outputs; it annoys me how often these boxes are HDMI-only. And the fact that it can be powered over USB-C is nice – I could just swap it in where I dock my laptop and use it without connecting any other cables!

    $229 feels a little pricey when I’ve seen other N100 boxes for as low as $120 recently, with lots of options for $150-180.

    I wonder why linux gets so much better wifi speed?