Tech

GEEKOM MiniAir 11 Mini PC Review

GEEKOM is a global operation headquartered in Taiwan. Started by a gentleman named Kom de Olde, it has been manufacturing a wide range of computer products for almost twenty years.

One market GEEKOM is particularly active in is the Mini PC sector. It currently makes four models including the Mini IT11, Mini IT8, Mini IT8 SE and the MiniAir 11 that we are looking at today.

These are exclusively Intel-based designs, including 8th and 11th generation silicon including Celeron, Core i3, i5 and i7 class processors.

The MiniAir 11, as the name suggests, uses an 11th Gen Celeron CPU and is currently the cheapest NUC design offered by the brand.

In an incredibly competitive market, what does the MiniAir 11 have that makes it worth considering?

Beelink U59 Mini PC

(Image credit: Mark Picavance)

Price and availability.

Currently, GEEKOM is only selling MiniAir 11 with 8GB RAM in one SKU. 256GB SSD directly from its website. It costs $229 (£199), and includes sales tax in the USA and UK.

It can be found on Amazon.com for $235.99 for those who prefer this source.

In the UK, Amazon offers two SKUs of the same hardware, with the 8GB+256GB model priced at £203.90. Currently, the 8GB+500GB option is not priced or available.

There are cheaper NUC-sized systems available, but the price is competitive.

GEEKOM MiniAir 11 Mini PC

(Image credit: Mark Picavance)

Design

Given the narrow definitions that Intel has created for NUC computers, they all follow a predictable pattern, and the MiniAir 11 is no exception.

While the exterior is mostly plastic, the weight of this unit makes it feel more substantial than others we’ve evaluated. And, unless abused, this equipment should give a few years of good service.

Because it’s not a functionally cool design, airflow was high on the agenda for its designers. There are perforated metal sections on both sides for air intake and a large slotted outlet along the back.

The number and placement of ports is often a good indication of what the designers thought the machine would be used for. All those on the MiniAir 11 point to a light office role rather than an embedded function.

To that end, the front has two USB ports, one each of Type-A and Type-C, along with a power button and a 3.5mm audio jack.

There’s a full-size SD card reader on the left and a security slot on the right, leaving all the other ports behind. These include three more USB ports, an HDMI 1.4 out, Mini DP out and a Gigabit LAN port.

GEEKOM MiniAir 11 Mini PC

(Image credit: Mark Picavance)

A particular strength of this design is the USB ports, as there are five in total, three of the old Type-A and two of the new USB-C. Three of these are 5Gbit and two are 10Gbit, one for each port type.

In the box comes an HDMI cable with the MiniAir 11, an adapter to convert the MiniDP output to HDMI, a VESA mounting plate (with screws), a laptop-style PSU and a soft carry bag.

While the soft bag is a nice touch, we suspect most MiniAir 11s are likely to be mounted on the back of a monitor or placed under one on the edge of a desk.

Getting inside the MiniAir is easy, as you can unscrew the top, and the bottom comes apart with four screws that go through four small rubber feet.

Removing the top isn’t as useful, but the bottom provides access to the M.2 storage and DDR4 memory slots, both of which are replaceable.

There’s nothing remarkable about the design, but equally, nothing catastrophic.

Hardware

Specific sheet

Here’s the GEEKOM MiniAir 11 configuration sent to TechRadar for review.

CPU: Intel Celeron Processor N5095 (4 cores, 4 threads, 4M cache, up to 2.90 GHz)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 605
Ram: 8GB DDR4 RAM (expandable up to 32GB)
Storage: M.2 2280 256GB NVMe SSD
Ports: 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1x USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1xUSB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x Mini DisplayPort, 1x Audio Jack Uni SD Card Reader (USB2.0)
Connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi, 1x Gigabit LAN adapter, Bluetooth v4.2
Size: 117 x 112 x 34 mm (W x D x H)
Install OS: Licensed Windows 11 Pro
Accessories: Wall mounted bracket, adapter12V/3A, HDMI and DisplayPort cables

In theory, the N5095 silicon in this machine is the only Jasper Lake (Tremont-based) desktop Celeron made by Intel. Although depending on the documentation you read, it’s also a mobile part, confusing.

Its exact designation seems to be dictated by power consumption, and the N5095 has room to be used in laptops with active cooling or, as it is in the MiniAir 11, with a passive cooler.

Instead of using this chip, many NUC designers have opted for the Mobile N5105, which has a lower wattage draw but higher clock speed, and others have opted for Elkhart Lake Mobile chips.

Compared to the remarkably similar N5105, the N5095 is a disappointment. It draws 15W, not 10W, and has the same 2GHz base clock and 2.9GHz burst clock as the N5105. With lower performance but higher voltage, it doesn’t make sense for anyone but Intel.

Both of these chips have four cores, 8 PCIe lanes, no hyperthreading, and can address up to 16GB of RAM.

But the N5015 integrates AX-class wireless networking and a GPU with 24 execution units. In contrast, the N5095 has only 16 UHD graphics units and a lower burst clock on the GPU.

While AMD and Nvidia build their chips at 5nm and even 4nm, Intel builds them at 10nm, limiting their power efficiency and performance compared to their counterparts.

Clearly, neither the N5015 nor the N5095 is anything special, but the designers may have made a mistake going for the N5095, as it is arguably the less impressive of the two.

Don’t want to spoil anything, but the evidence for these claims falls within our standards.

GEEKOM MiniAir 11 Mini PC

(Image credit: Mark Picavance)

Another choice was made here that is more understandable but is a difficult choice that forces designers to use such low-power silicon.

When appreciating this design with its number of USB ports and specs, we didn’t overlook the fact that the N5095 only has eight PCIe Gen 3 lanes.

How precisely these lanes are allocated is unclear, but based on the performance of the NVMe drive in this system, only two lanes are allocated for the M.2 slot.

Speeds on this port are still faster than SATA, but not the stellar performance you might expect from a desktop M.2 NVMe slot with four PCIe 3.0 lanes.

Another problem is that GEEKOM named it the MiniAir, figuring it’s the perfect place for a wireless network. But this is a false assumption as the N5095 does not have AX class Wi-Fi integrated, and the selected wireless module only offers Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2.

The onboard Wi-Fi can still work well, but those who want a more reliable connection may be better served using an Ethernet LAN port and cable.

What we like about it, and many other NUC designs, is that it’s easily upgradeable.

Removing the bottom section takes a few seconds, and once in, the NVMe drive can be replaced, and memory can be expanded. The review machine came with a 256GB M.2 2280 drive, and it can be replaced with up to 4TB in this form factor.

Thankfully the memory is socketed, and the 8TB single stick can be expanded with another one up to that capacity to bring the RAM up to 16GB.

By mistake on the GEEKOM website, it says it can be upgraded to 32GB, but on the N5095 the limit is 16GB.

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