Short on desk space, but don’t want to resort to a laptop and its keyboard and display limitations? Consider a Windows-based mini PC. The best of these tiny systems offer effective performance in a small chassis, often at reasonable prices. The $299 Geekom MiniAir 11 Special Edition is a case in point. It measures just 2.3 by 4.7 by 5.1 inches (HWD), but its 11th-generation Celeron N5095 (“Jasper Lake”) processor can handle common office tasks, like word processing , spreadsheets, web browsing, and even light (Very light games). What we like about the Geekom MiniAir 11 is how complete of a package it is at such a low price, letting you provide just the keyboard, mouse and screen. You even get a Pro version of Windows 11 to work with.

What’s so special about this special edition?

The MiniAir 11 unit we received for review is Geekom’s so-called “Special Edition”. (List price is $299, but we’ve seen it on sale at various times during this review for $279 or $259 direct from Geekom.) This version adds a few tchotchkes to the box, like a mouse pad, a funky little mascot and a trail of indecipherable hieroglyphics across the top of the PC case. Geekom adds $20 to the list price for these (the base model is $279 and sells for up to $50 less) and wraps the package up in a beautiful presentation pouch.

Geekom MiniAir 11 Special Edition with figure

If you find this cute, or perhaps intend the MiniAir 11 as a gift, it might be worth the extra special edition cash. But either way, with or without the special edition add-ons, the MiniAir 11 costs less than $300.

That’s not a bad price for a fully configured little PC out of the box; it features 8GB of DDR4 memory, a 256GB M.2 solid-state drive, and pre-installed Windows 11 Pro. Heck, just buying a retail Windows 11 Pro license to add to a barebones PC will cost you more than half that.

Geekom MiniAir 11 Special Edition Top view

Compare this to the most popular mini PCs available – the various Intel NUC families. Intel kicked off mini PCs years ago with the launch of its original line of mini NUCs. (NUC stands for Next Unit of Computing.) Intel has released many versions of the NUC concept in larger sizes over the years, but the typical classic NUC is a barebones, small form factor PC measuring only about 4 square inches and a inch or two tall, depending on model.

Most NUCs, and many of the current similar NUCs from competing vendors, supply the case, motherboard, and CPU. You must provide the memory, storage (SSD), and operating system. Depending on the model, the CPU can range from a Celeron to (in some of the larger NUCs) a Core i9. (AMD’s Ryzen CPUs appear in some non-NUC models; Intel NUCs are built, of course, around Intel chips.)

Geekom MiniAir 11 is a PC ready to use after connecting the keyboard, mouse and display. While none of these essentials are included in the box, considering it’s already budget-priced with an operating system preloaded, we’re okay with these omissions.

A look at the chassis: Lots of ports

While our review unit does not include a keyboard and mouse, it is otherwise ready to use right out of the box. The MiniAir 11 we tested is a low-end configuration; memory is a single 8GB stick of DDR4 SO-DIMM RAM, and the M.2 SSD is 256GB (to its credit, a real SSD, not just eMMC storage). However, the card has dual RAM slots that will support up to 32GB (as two 16GB sticks), and the M.2 slot can be upgraded to a different SSD up to 1TB in capacity.

Geekom MiniAir 11 special edition inside

Updating is easy. You will notice four screws on the bottom of the PC – remove them and open the case. Replacing or upgrading RAM is a simple matter of simply swapping sticks. Increasing the SSD is a bit more difficult, because the MiniAir 11 only has that single M.2 slot; you will need to replace the installed drive. Geekom offers a reinstall of Windows 11 on a new M.2 drive with a download in the support section of its website. Using a program like Zinstall or LapLink is another approach. Most users will leave things as they are, or simply increase the RAM, an upgrade that only takes a few minutes.

Geekom MiniAir 11 Special Edition front doors

Not only is the MiniAir 11 easy enough to upgrade, but it also offers plenty of ports, so you should be able to use it in many home and remote work environments. The front panel has two USB ports: one USB Type-C (USB 3.2 Gen 1) and one Type-A (USB 3.2 Gen 2). Here, too, there’s a 3.5mm microphone or headphone jack, the power button, and, though not visible, an infrared receiver, should you decide to use your PC as a media server. (No actual IR remote is included.)

The two side panels are mesh to provide ventilation, with a Kensington lock notch on the right panel and a full-size SD card slot on the left.

Geekom MiniAir 11 special edition rear doors

The back panel is filled with ports. From left to right is the power jack, a mini DisplayPort output, an Ethernet jack, two USB Type-A ports and one USB Type-C, and a full-size HDMI output. Geekom includes a mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable to make it easy to use a dual monitor setup. Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4 are provided; while these are a generation behind what’s currently available, both performed acceptably in our tests.

MiniAir 11 Special Edition Test: Basic productivity for under $300

We compared the MiniAir 11 to four other similarly sized mini PCs we’ve reviewed recently, although many of these came with more powerful CPUs and/or more RAM and storage for those tests. We’re comparing the MiniAir 11 to the Beelink GK Mini, ECS Liva Q3 Plus, Geekom IT8 Mini PC, and an Intel NUC 11 Pro kit. As tested, these computers have a mix of CPUs, including Intel Celeron and Core i5 processors, and an AMD Ryzen V1605B. Every system in the group uses built-in graphics, the norm for PCs this size.

Productivity tests

First up in our series of benchmarks is UL’s PCMark 10 suite, which simulates a variety of Windows apps to provide an overall performance score for office-centric tasks like word processing, web browsing, and video calling. This test is especially important, as these are the apps most likely to run on a PC of this size and configuration. With PCMark 10, we run both the main test and the Full System Storage subtest; the latter measures program load time and boot drive throughput. Both tests produce a numerical score: higher numbers are better.

Next, Handbrake is an open source transcoder for converting media files in different resolutions and formats. This test will give you an idea of ​​how well the MiniAir 11 edits and converts video. We record the time it takes, rounded to the nearest minute, to encode a 12-minute 4K video file (the Blender Foundation film Tears of Steel) to a 1080p copy. We also run the seminal Maxon Cinebench, a CPU test that uses the company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene. Its multi-core benchmark fully exercises all cores and threads of a processor.

Primate Labs’ Geekbench is another benchmark that runs a variety of CPU workloads designed to simulate real-world applications. We record its multi-core results. Finally, we have PugetBench for Photoshop from Puget Systems, which uses Adobe’s popular image editor to measure the performance of Windows (and macOS) computers for content creation and multimedia applications. Performs a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks. (Spoiler: That wouldn’t work.)

In the PCMark 10 main test, the MiniAir 11’s score dipped towards the lower end, just ahead of the Beelink GK Mini. This is not surprising, since the Celeron configuration tested by the MiniAir 11 is underpowered compared to the others, which have more memory, a more powerful CPU, or both. The PCMark 10 Storage benchmark is perfect for the SSD; we didn’t test some of the other machines as they had bare-bones configurations (for which storage speed will vary based on the drive you choose); the test would fail on the eMMC-based ECS.

Handbrake is primarily a CPU test in which the MiniAir 11 predictably doesn’t excel. The second slowest competitor here is the ECS Liva Q3 Plus, held back by its CPU and eMMC storage. The MiniAir 11 took a whopping 34 minutes and 15 seconds to complete the operation.

It’s clear by now that this mini PC isn’t a powerhouse, but the 2,144 Cinebench score the diminutive PC scored puts it back in the middle of the pack, between the 639 scored by the Beelink and the 5,434 the Intel NUC recorded with a Core i5 processor. Rendering is a CPU-intensive process, so that’s also to be expected. As far as Geekbench goes, the MiniAir 11 also finished in the middle, with a score of 2.005. The Beelink failed to run this particular benchmark, and as expected, the Core i5 NUC tops the scorecard at 4,600.

The PugetBench Photoshop benchmark wasn’t able to run on enough systems, including the MiniAir 11, for the results to be all that useful, so we haven’t reported it here. It crashed the MiniAir 11, probably due to the underpowered CPU; works on many systems with 8GB of RAM. It’s safe to say that you shouldn’t expect much in the way of photo editing from the MiniAir 11.

Graphic tests

While all of these devices work with integrated graphics, how well they render images still needs to be seen. The first is UL’s 3DMark, a graphics test suite for Windows that contains a number of benchmarks for various GPU functions and software APIs. We run two DirectX 12 graphics tests on all PCs: Night Raid, appropriate for PCs with integrated graphics, like this batch, and Time Spy, a high-end test.

The MiniAir 11’s 3DMark Time Spy score was second lowest. (The Beelink refused to run both 3DMark tests.) The Intel NUC also struggled on the Time Spy test, though it outperformed the other systems on Night Raid, scoring 11,685 versus the MiniAir 11’s 2,694. Iris Xe graphics used in the NUC are in a whole other class than the rest of this batch.

With our GFXBench tests, both of these tests crashed when run on the MiniAir 11, although this was the case for several other PCs in the group as well. Again, don’t read too much into this, as Geekom in no way positions the MiniAir 11 as a gaming machine.

Verdict: A decent mini PC on the cheap

Benchmarks only tell half the story. The other half is what features and functionality the PC offers and at what price. Sure, you can get better performance than the MiniAir 11 in the same form factor, but it’s sure to cost more, sometimes up to hundreds of dollars more.

Geekom MiniAir 11 Special Edition Top Panel

At well under $300, the MiniAir 11 will do just fine for office suite-type work, web browsing, and even as a media streaming box. Whether you decide to shell out for the special edition with the stylish case artwork, mouse pad and mascot figure, or save some money and go for the basic model, you’ll get the same mini PC running Windows 11 Pros included. If you don’t need a more powerful machine to meet your needs, you’ll be quite happy with the money you saved.

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