The Geekom Mini Air12 review: could this be your next Cloud PC

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GEEKOM is a brand known to us here at Neowin. In recent times we’ve reviewed quite a few of their Intel and AMD-powered Mini PCs, most recently the Geekom A5 which features a Ryzen Ryzen 7 5800H. Today we’re back to Intel with the smallest Mini PC we’ve reviewed yet in the Geekom Mini Air12, and we’ll find out how it stacks up.

Below are the full specifications of it.

GEEKOM A5

Dimensions

117 mm x 112 mm x 34.2 mm

Weight

452g

CPU

Intel Alder Lake N100 (4 Cores, 4 Threads, 6MB Cache, up to 3.4 GHz)
TDP 6W

Graphics

Intel UHD Graphics (24 EU)

Memory

One channel DDR5 SODIMM, 4800MT/s, 16GB

Storage

1 x M.2 2280 PCIe Gen 3×4 SSD (Lexar NM620 512GB)

Operating System

Windows 11 Pro

Bluetooth

Bluetooth v5.2
Ethernet 10/100/1000 Realtek PCIe GbE Family Controller

Wireless LAN

Wi-Fi 6 (Realtek 8852BE)

Kensington Lock

Yes
SD Card reader Yes

Adapter

Automatic Voltage adjustment between 100 and 240V AC, 50/60Hz,
45Watts (19V/2.36A), 3Pin, 1.8 meters long & 65W (19V/3.42A)

Front I/O Ports

1 x TYPE-C (Data Only)
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type A
1 x Audio Jack (Line out/Mic in/Headphone out)
Rear I/O Ports

2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
1 x Type C TYPE-C with DP 1.4 Alt Mode
1 x HDMI 2.1 Port
1 x Mini DP 1.4
1 x RJ45 LAN (up to 1 GbE)
1 x DC-in

Price (MSRP)

$249

GEEKOM only has the one configuration listed for the Mini Air12 which includes a 12th gen Alder Lake-N N100, a CPU which debuted in January 2023, 16GB of DDR5 Single Channel RAM (4800MT/s) with an oddly small 512GB Lexar NM620 SSD for storage. A Windows 11 Pro license is also preloaded. And although the MSRP is $489, as of writing it is currently listed on the website for $249, and you can also get it on Amazon for $249.99 when you apply the $30 off discount coupon.

As you might imagine, the smaller height means that a 2.5-inch SSD cannot be added, so you’re stuck with just the one internal M.2 slot, if you need additional storage, you’ll have to do it over one of the external USB ports.

mini air12

The packaging follows the same design and experience of the full sized Mini ITxx Mini PCs, although it is less tall. After pulling the top off you are presented with the Mini PC sitting on a “shelf”, and under that there is a Thank You card. Upon removing the side cushion, card, and cardboard shelf you can find the power lead, HDMI cable, VESA plate, a bag of screws and documentation.

What’s In The Box

  • 1 x A 5 Mini PC
  • 1 x VESA Mount
  • 1 x Power Adapter
  • 1 x HDMI Cable
  • 1 x User Guide
  • 1 x Thank You Card

As you can see below, you have everything you’ll need to get started.

mini air12

Design

The look of it is alright, I guess we could say it is two-toned, since the base is the familiar blue-gray, and the lid is a dark, almost gunmetal gray color which itself is completely flat with the GEEKOM logo in white, centered on the top of the Mini PC.

All of the edges are rounded off, so there are no sharp edges, and although the outer housing is plastic, it does have a premium feel to it. The Air12 is light as well, it’s just 452 grams, so it won’t weigh you down when carrying it from place to place.

The front of the Air12 includes two USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports (Type C and A), However, neither support power delivery or the connecting of a screen on the front, which is a bit of an inconvenience. It’s nice to see Type C return to the front of a Geekom Mini PC, but it seems they fell short of offering an actually useful port.

As you can see from the image below, there’s what looks like a little hole on the left, at first I thought this was a (CMOS) reset pin hole, because we’ve seen such an option on the Beelink SER6 MAX, but it is actually an LED, more about that later.

mini air12

As far as looks go, and as previously mentioned, it’s a two-tone affair, and thanks to the fact it’s not glossy, it’s not a fingerprint magnet. Essentially, it’s a plastic shell covering a metal frame. It doesn’t feel cheap and isn’t flimsy either, and even when the base is removed it remains sturdy.

Accessing it is as easy as unscrewing the bottom plate with the four Philips head screws located in the center of each rubber foot, a small hobby screwdriver is usually enough for the job.

You may want to use a flat-head screwdriver to prise the plate free, however now you don’t have to worry about any ribbon cables, because the backplate does not include a 2.5-inch SSD sled. Helpfully, the backplate screws do not come loose from the rubber feet, so you won’t lose them either.

As you can see from the above images which can be enlarged when clicked on, there is ample room to manage the single SODIMM, and Lexar 512 GB PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD, so you can swap them for something else if you want.

Usage

geekom mini air12

On first boot, you are prompted to complete the setup of Windows 11 Pro, meaning you do not have to fork out for a license, which is nice. After the setup was completed, I saw that it landed on 22H2 (build 22621.2283) which is relatively recent (September 2023) so even though I had to install a bunch of updates to get to 23H2, it wasn’t like having to upgrade from the original Windows 11 from 2021. In addition, GEEKOM does not include any bloatware in their PCs, so that is always a bonus.

It’s possible to attach three screens to the Mini Air12 using the HDMI, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C, or Mini DisplayPort 1.4 ports if you wanted. The Air12 supports up to 8K @ 30Hz through USB Type C, and Mini DP 1.4, or 4K @ 60Hz over the HDMI 2.0 port. I was able to connect my Samsung Odyssey Neo G9, but I could only get 5120 x 1440 @ 60Hz over HDMI. However, for the purpose of this review I was also switching between the ZSCMalls 17.3″ FullHD 144Hz portable screen which was powered by the rear USB Type C port.

Regarding connectivity, on the back there is one HDMI port, two USB 3.2 Gen 2, one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C port, one Mini DP 1.4 port, an RJ45 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, along with a barrel port for power on the back.

Around the front, there are two more USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, with one being Type A and the other Type C, and a port for a 3.5mm headphone jack. Unfortunately the type C port is data only so you can’t connect a screen, or charge a phone with it, I was able to link my Edifier 360DB speakers over Bluetooth 5.2, and I did not experience any noticeable audio delays.

As you can see from the images above, you can affix a Kensington lock on one side, and read an sdCard on the other side. Both sides are otherwise entirely a plastic grill for air cooling, of which smaller grills can also be found on the back and on the bottom backplate.

Benchmarks

Before I started running benchmarks, I ensured that Windows 11 and drivers were up to date. At the time of testing, the Air12 was running Windows 11 Professional 22H2 build 22621.3007 and I also upgraded to the latest Intel 31.0.101.5085 (WHQL Certified) Iris Xe drivers.

With that out of the way, and because people like that sort of thing, I ran some benchmarks and compared it to my (now retired) PC which I built in 2019 and benchmarked in December 2022 purely for reference against these Mini PCs.

The reference PC consisted of the following:

  • Intel Core i9-9900K (stock)
  • Gigabyte Z390 AORUS PRO WIFI (BIOS revision F12)
  • 64GB DDR4-3200 G.Skill Ripjaws (16-18-18-38) dual channel
  • Samsung 980 1TB NVMe
  • KFA2 RTX 2070 SUPER (Nvidia driver 527.37)
  • Windows 10 22H2 build 19045.2311

For the benchmarks, I used 3DMark, PCMark 10, Geekbench, and Cinebench R23. 3DMark Time Spy tests gaming capability with DX12 graphics performance.

PCMark tests are a mix of CPU and real-world productivity tests, such as using an office suite, web browsing, light photo/video editing, and making conference calls.

Cinebench stresses the entire CPU as it is a multi-threaded rendering test. Finally, Geekbench is a synthetic benchmark that is great for a quick look at the potential performance across a wide range of workloads.

3DMark
(Time Spy)
PCMark 10,
Extended

Geekbench: Single,
Multicore,
Compute

Cinebench:
Single,
Multicore

7-Zip

GEEKOM Mini AIR12
Intel N100
327 2,784
2,293
906
2,602
3,992
899
2,556
17,517
GEEKOM A5
Ryzen 7 5800H
1,663 6,402
5,545
1,432
8,646
17,861
1,413
10,359
74,002
Beelink SER6 Max
Ryzen 7 7735HS
2,740 7,048
6,676
1,600
9,806
32,217
1,563
12,846
GEEKOM AS 6
Ryzen 9 6900HX
2,430 6,382
6,113
1,586
9,326
27,784
1,544
11,244
GEEKOM AS 5
Ryzen 9 5900HX

1,597

6,582
5,664
1,549
8,532
16,973
1,492
11,456

Intel NUC 13
Intel Core i7-1360P
1,845 6,152
5,701
1,823
10,154
18,337
1,903
11,883
GEEKOM Mini IT12
Intel Core i7-1260P
1,740 5,629
5,218
1,739
8,628
17,277
1,671
8,162
Selfbuild
Intel Core i9-9990K
9,995 6,619
8,853
1,300
8,186
99,450
1250
11,711

As you can see, the N100 in the Air12 is the worst performing CPU we’ve tested. It doesn’t come close to any of the Intel Core or AMD Ryzen mobile solutions we’ve seen in other Mini PCs.

On paper, the N100 —introduced in Q1 of 2023, at first glance looks impressive enough with support for AV1 decode, HDMI 2.1, WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, LPDDR5, DDR5 and DDR4, but with a TDP of 6W and only 4 E-cores; but on the flip-side it only supports a maximum of 16 GB of single channel memory, with a measly 24 EUs, so we’re entering Chromebook-level territory here. The lack of bandwidth due to the single channel memory reflects in the poor Time Spy score as both the CPU and GPU were clearly fighting over scraps.

It’s a Celeron, even if Intel isn’t calling it that anymore, therefore any expectations should be adjusted with this fact.

Processor E-cores L3-cache Turbo clock GPU GPU-clock TDP
Intel Core i3-N305 8 6MB 3,8GHz 32 eu’s 1,25GHz 15W
Intel Core i3-N300 8 6MB 3,8GHz 32 eu’s 1,25GHz 7W
Intel Processor N200 4 6MB 3,7GHz 32 eu’s 0,75GHz 6W
Intel Processor N100 4 6MB 3,4GHz 24 eu’s 0,75GHz 6W

Even Geekom isn’t touting this as something you can use for light gaming, in fact the product page doesn’t even give a single example of use cases for this Mini PC.

I also tested the SSD’s capability using AS SSD and CrystalDiskMark.

AS SSD CrystalDiskMark

Despite running all of the above benchmark tests, the Air12 did not get hot to the touch, and there were no annoying noises coming from the single fan that cools the unit. The 6W TDP really leaves its mark here.

Speaking of the fan, the Air12 also includes a laptop inspired cooling system that Geekom claims minimizes overheating and noise, and I can confirm the Air12 never got hot to the touch and barely made any noise that I could hear.

geekom mini air12

As I did this on all the previous Mini PCs, I decided to give the 2017 released Quake Champions a go to see if it would be playable, and after toning down the screen resolution to 1920 x 1080 with everything set to “Low” (which was auto-detected anyway).

I can say that it was barely playable, and it didn’t look great. Gameplay was a bit choppy, and the graphics were blocky with everything set to low, I tried bumping the Details, Post Processing and Texture Filtering to Medium but it just made it lag even more.

geekom mini air12

Conclusion

As can be expected of a Mini PC, the Air12 isn’t a gaming PC. You will not be able to enjoy even light gaming on it, but it is suited as something like a cloud PC office workstation, or perhaps a good solution for a student or office worker without a permanent desk affording the ability to pack this away after every use.

This thing also isn’t taking up much room in your bag, or you can screw it to the back of a screen if it has VESA support with the included mount plate.

When it comes to Mini PCs, the market is saturated with cheaper options, but you’ll be quickly be disappointed to find they might not include USB 3.2 Gen 2, or basic things like a Kensington lock or sdCard reader and more. Some manufacturers are also still selling “new” Mini PC’s with the now six and a half year old 8th gen Intel mobile CPUs, so you really have to be on the lookout.

When you’re spending a few hundred dollars to replace the job of a full-sized PC, you’re going to want it to replicate as much of the capability as possible, aside from the obvious lack of GPU prowess.

As I said earlier, the decision ultimately comes down to what you’re willing to pay for the options you need. This Mini PC will let you connect up to three displays all operating at 4K @ 60Hz, whereas cheaper solutions might be limited to two screens.

geekom mini air12

Also, as mentioned earlier on the front of the Air12 there’s a green LED that is always on when the Mini PC is powered on. I asked my contact at Geekom what purpose it serves and was told that it is a HDD LED; considering it never blinks, I can only assume that there’s something wrong with mine, however task manager did not show the NVMe being hit all the time, with proper idle use being observed.

However, at (as of writing) only $249 on the official website, or $249.99 on Amazon (with a $30 coupon applied), for this Mini Air12 PC which includes a CPU launched only a year ago, 16 GB of 4800MT/s DDR5 memory, and a 512 GB PCIe 3.0 NVMe with Windows 11 Pro installed on it, it’s not going to leave a massive dent in your wallet.

For me this loses a point for the tiny NVMe storage that was included, and another point for not having a USB Type C port on the front that supports a screen and power delivery, but at only $250 perhaps we can forgive this omission.

If you’re happy with the weak CPU and GPU, you are still getting a capable office-class Mini PC with a vast array of connectivity options that utilize a tiny footprint. It may not be clamoring to set any records as a Mini PC, but this could be a smart decision for small businesses that utilize a cloud PC environment or maybe as a HTPC for super energy efficient home use, which we’ll also test in the near future.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Pros

Light and quiet
DDR5 memory
Energy efficient (6W TDP)

Cons

Small (512 GB) storage
USB C port on front is data only
HDD LED stays on, does nothing

 

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News Article Courtesy Of Steven Parker »