GEEKOM is a global operation headquartered in Taiwan. Started by a gentleman named Kom de Olde, it has been making a wide variety of computer products for almost twenty years.
One market where GEEKOM is particularly active 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’re looking at today.
These are exclusively Intel-based designs, with 8th and 11th generation silicon that includes Celeron, Core i3, i5 and i7 class processors.
The MiniAir 11, as the name suggests, uses an 11th generation Celeron CPU and is currently the cheapest NUC design offered by this brand.
What does the MiniAir 11 have to offer in an exceptionally competitive market that makes it worth considering?
Price and availability
Currently, GEEKOM only sells the MiniAir 11 in just one SKU with 8 GB of RAM and . 256 GB SSD straight from its website. The cost is $229 (£199), which includes US and UK sales tax.
It can be found on Amazon.com for $235.99 for those who prefer that source
In the UK, Amazon offers two SKUs of the same hardware, with the 8GB + 256GB model costing £203.90. At the moment, the 8GB + 500GB option is not priced or available.
There are cheaper NUC format systems available, but the price is competitive.
Given the narrow definitions Intel has created for NUC computers, they all tend to follow a predictable pattern, and the MiniAir 11 is no exception.
While the exterior is largely molded plastic, the weight of this unit makes it feel more substantial than others we’ve evaluated. And, unless abused, this equipment should give good service for a few years.
As this is not an actively cooled design, airflow was high on the designers’ agenda. Both sides have sections of perforated metal for air to enter and along the back is a larger slotted exhaust.
The number and placement of ports are often a good indication of what the designers thought the machine would be used for. Those on the MiniAir 11 all point to a light office role rather than an embedded function.
To that end, the front has two USB ports, each of Type-A and Type-C, along with the power button and 3.5mm audio jack.
On the left is the full size SD card reader and on the right is a security slot, with all other ports remaining on the back. These include three more USB ports, an HDMI 1.4 output, Mini DP output, and a single gigabit LAN port.
A definite strength of this design is the USB ports, as there are five in all, three from the old Type-A variant and two from the newer USB-C. Three of these are 5Gbit and two are 10Gbit, one for each port type.
Along with the MiniAir 11 in the box are an HDMI cable, an adapter to convert MiniDP output to HDMI, a VESA mounting plate (with screws), a laptop-style PSU and a soft carrying case.
While the soft case is a nice touch, we suspect most MiniAir 11s will probably be mounted on the back of a monitor or placed under one on the edge of a desk.
It’s easy to get into the MiniAir as you can take the top off and the bottom can be detached with four screws running through the four small rubber feet.
Taking the top off isn’t that convenient, but the bottom provides access to the M.2 storage and the DDR4 memory slots, both of which can be changed.
There is nothing remarkable about this design, but neither is there anything disastrous.
Here is the GEEKOM MiniAir 11 configuration sent to Ditching for review:
PROCESSOR: Intel Celeron processor N5095 (4 cores, 4 threads, 4M cache, up to 2.90 GHz)
Graphic: Intel UHD graphics 605
RAM: 8 GB DDR4 RAM (expandable up to 32 GB)
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 Universal Audio Jack, 1x SD card reader (USB2.0)
Connectivity: Dual-band WiFi, 1x Gigabit LAN adapter, Bluetooth v4.2
Mate: 117 x 112 x 34mm (W x D x H)
Operating system installed: Licensed Windows 11 Pro
Accessories: Wall Mount Bracket, Adapter12V/3A, HDMI and DisplayPort Cables
In theory, the N5095 silicon in this machine is the only Jasper Lake (Tremont-based) Desktop Celeron Intel has made. Although, depending on the documentation you read, it’s also a mobile part, confusing.
The exact designation seems to be determined by power consumption, and the N5095 does have the range to use in a laptop with active cooling or, as 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 but higher clock speeds, and others have switched to Elkhart Lake’s mobile chips.
Compared to the remarkably similar N5105, the N5095 is a disappointment. It costs 15W, not 10W, and has an identical 2GHz base clock and 2.9GHz burst clock as the N5105. With less performance but more excitement, this makes sense to none other than Intel.
Both chips have four cores, 8 PCIe lanes, no hyperthreading and can address 16 GB of RAM.
But the N5015 has AX-class integrated wireless networking and a GPU with 24 execution units. Conversely, the UHD Graphics in the N5095 has only 16 units and a lower burst clock on the GPU.
Where AMD and Nvidia manufacture their chips at 5nm and even 4nm, Intel made them at 10nm, limiting their energy efficiency and performance compared to these counterparts.
To be clear, neither the N5015 nor the N5095 are anything special, but the designers may have made a mistake by going for the N5095 as it is undoubtedly the less impressive of the two.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but evidence of these claims shows up in our benchmarks.
Another choice made here is more understandable but is one of the tough choices designers have to make with using such a low power silicon.
In complimenting this design on the number and specification of the USB ports, we didn’t take into account that the N5095 only has eight PCIe Gen 3 lanes.
Exactly how these lanes are divided is not clear, but based on the performance of the NVMe drive in this system, only two lanes are allocated to the M.2 slot.
The speeds on this port are still faster than SATA, but not the great performance you’d expect from a desktop M.2 NVMe slot with four PCIe 3.0 lanes.
Another issue is that GEEKOM has dubbed it the MiniAir, showing that it’s best placed for wireless networking. But that is an incorrect assumption as the N5095 does not have integrated AX-class WiFi and the chosen wireless module only offers WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2.
The onboard Wi-Fi can still work well, but those who want a more reliable connection are better served with the Ethernet LAN port and a cable.
What we liked about this, and many NUC designs, is that it can be easily upgraded.
Removing the bottom cover takes a few seconds and once inside, the NVMe drive can be swapped out and the memory expanded. The test machine came with a 256 GB M.2 2280 drive, and it can be replaced with up to 4 TB in this form factor.
The memory is fortunately socketed and the single stick of 8 TB can be expanded with another of this capacity to bring the RAM up to 16 GB.
Wrongly stated on the GEEKOM website that it can be upgraded to 32 GB, but the limit on the N5095 is 16 GB.