Beelink is known for its wide variety of mini PCs scaling from ultra-low-power to high performance. Their broad range includes both AMD and Intel models. The SEi12 is one of the latter brandishing the Alder Lake Core-i5 1235U, a twelfth-generation Intel Core-i part.
Beelink has sent a few products for review over the past few months, so if you’re interested, you should check out the reviews.
|CPU||Intel Core i5-1235U (Intel 7)|
10C/12T 1.3GHz Base Clock
2 P-Cores 4.4GHz Max Turbo Clock
10 E-Cores 3.3GHz Max Turbo Clock
|Memory||16GB DDR4 3,200MHz|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Xe Graphics|
80 Execution Units at 1.2GHz
|Storage||500GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD|
|Network Connectivity||Wifi 6 (AX), Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.2|
|Front IO||2x USB Type-A 3.0|
1x USB Type-C
3.5mm Audio Jack
|Rear IO||2x USB Type-A 2.0|
1x Gigabit Ethernet
DC Power Barrel Jack
|Internal IO||M.2 NVMe/SATA Drive Slot – PCIe 4.0 Capable|
2.5″ SATA Drive Bay
|Dimensions||113mm x 126mm x 42mm (598ml)|
|Operating System||Windows 11 Pro|
The SEi12 leverages one of Intel’s twelfth-generation CPUs that take a page out of the mobile giant’s book with an approach similar to ARM’s big.LITTLE performance- and efficiency-core arrangements. The Core-i5 1235U has two performance cores that support hyperthreading and eight efficiency cores that do not support hyperthreading. This is what gives the SEi12’s Core-i5 1235U such an odd core and thread count of ten cores and twelve threads. Additionally, the Core-i5 1235U supports PCIe 4.0, which has a throughput that is twice that of PCIe 3.0.
In the Box
I was a bit surprised when I received the SEi12. The packaging dimensions of Beelink’s products have been extremely consistent in my experience so far. Given that they’re all mini PCs with very similar footprints, this is to be expected. But the SEi12 made a distinct departure from this, for a reason that became apparent fairly quickly.
The packaging was, however, efficient, as always with Beelink. There is little to no waste. The majority of the materials are recyclable, with only a few plastics.
The SEi12 includes a much larger power adapter than its SEi and SER cousins. The output of the power adapter is capable of up to 60W at 20V. This is in contrast to the 12V power adapters for the other models with varying output wattages. As it turns out, the ten cores of the Core-i5 1235U are ready for a sprint or a marathon, but more on that later.
The complete package contents are
- The Beelink SEi12
- User Manual
- 60W Power Adapter
- 2x HDMI Cables
- VESA Mounting Bracket
- Mounting Screws
The SEi12 comes wrapped in a plastic sleeve that bears a warning about providing a powered USB Type-C cable to the USB Type-C port on the front, as well as steps for using a non-Microsoft account to login, in and some verbiage instructing to remove the sleeve before running the device.
Again, coming as no surprise from Beelink, there are two HDMI cables and a VESA mounting kit. This is one of the aspects of Beelink’s products that I really enjoy. The inclusion of a second monitor output on the device is of significant value to office workers. As is the ability to alleviate desk clutter by fixing the device to the back of a monitor. It’s an inexpensive feature that might go unused by many. But it’s a quality-of-life component within the device experience that I believe is very considerate of Beelink.
The pattern with Beelink is that the unboxing experience is very plain but a good kind of plain. It’s all very easy to unpack, or even repack if needed. It’s efficient and effective, and it minimizes waste; it’s a win-win-win. My only ask would be that the few plastic and foam packaging components be replaced with others that are more environmentally friendly to make for a perfect packaging system.
Beelink SEi12 First Impressions
As mentioned, the SEi12 is similarly proportioned compared to other Beelink mini PCs. Additionally, like the SEi11, the SEi12 is fairly weighty. This weight contrasts with the size, which communicates a feeling of quality.
Again, falling in line with the other Beelink products I’ve reviewed, the modest size of the SEi12 belies its rigid and unyielding chassis. The same can be said regarding the plastic construction of the outer shell. The juxtaposed qualities quickly fade, though, next to the readily apparent sturdiness.
The exterior is primarily composed of plastic. However, there are a variety of recesses, cutouts, portholes, and other features across the SEi12’s facade. This, in my opinion, adds to the impressiveness of the obstinate form.
The top face of the SEi12 is where the primary air intake is located. The SEi12 departs from the typical Beelink fashion here, though. Rather than the metal mesh that Beelink has made good use of in other models, there is a fabric covering. Beelink’s product page for the SEi12 says that it’s a “high quality felt cloth,” though, it doesn’t feel quite like felt to me. In any case, the fabric is an unusual design decision for a computer. It’s not necessarily out of place, but I can’t help but feel it’s a particular taste that not all would share.
The sides are much more typical of Beelink’s mini PCs. The metal mesh air intakes occupy about a third of the side faces. The SEi12 has a secondary fan for cooling the SSD and memory. I would imagine that the side intakes assist in facilitating the secondary cooling fan’s efforts.
The front is pretty plain with the basic connectivity options, the power button, and a clear CMOS button. The most interesting thing about the front face is probably the awkwardly placed Intel Core i5 sticker. The sticker is about half the height of the SEi12, which doesn’t leave any good place to put it. So, this isn’t something Beelink can do much about unless they provide the sticker separately and allow the user to choose if and where it should go.
The bottom is home to the maintenance panel. The maintenance panel has two rubber or silicone feet that run the length of the device, giving it about a 1mm lift that can help prevent scratches on your desk. Additionally, there’s also a silicone thumb grip tab to assist in removing the maintenance panel.
Lastly, at the rear, there are various portholes in addition to the cooling exhaust. The exhaust is rather large in comparison to what’s typically seen on laptops and, for better or worse, also benefits from significantly less obstruction of the airflow due to the lack of a protective grill.
Features and Connectivity
The SEi12 is on par with the rest of Beelink’s lines for connectivity for both the great and the mediocre. There are a total of five USB ports on the SEi12, with two USB 3.0 Type-A and a USB 3.0 Type-C on the front and two USB 2.0 Type-A at the back. While it totally makes sense to keep the higher-speed ports at the front, I still don’t feel that the two rear USB ports are enough, especially if this product is targeting productivity users that will have multimedia requirements for online meetings. Sure, USB hubs can be used to remedy this, but it’s not the same. Especially when there is room below the HDMI ports for additional USB ports.
My opinions about USB availability aside, the SEi12, just like many, if not most, other Beelink mini PC products, has a solid array of connectivity options. The SEi12 has Wifi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.2. Beelink’s product page advertises speeds of up to 2.4Gb/s, and, while I can’t confirm that myself, it’s also the speed that’s advertised by Intel, who produces the AX201 chipset that the SEi12 uses for both the Wifi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity. In addition to wireless networking, there is also the painfully standard gigabit ethernet. A device capable of 2.4Gb/s wireless should have an equally capable ethernet adapter. Given the cost of 2.5Gb/s ethernet controllers in bulk is only a few dollars, I think it’s time for all vendors to start including it as the defacto rather than the exception.
Moving past the external connectivity and on the internal, we’re met with a bit of a surprise. Mini PCs are known for one thing more than anything else, whether it’s the first thing that comes to mind or not. There are always compromises and concessions. Whether that’s reduced RAM capacity, reduces storage, poor cooling, or difficulty to perform maintenance, there’s always something. The SEi12, though, strikes a very respectable balance being relatively easy to disassemble, at least insofar as the user-replaceable components, providing adequate cooling with its primary cooling fan on the CPU and the secondary fan for the RAM and SSD, and providing upgradeability.
Immediately behind the bottom access panel, you’ll find the 2.5″ SATA III drive bay. SATA III speeds are a small fraction of what the PCIe 4.0 NVMe drive is capable of. But it’s a welcome inclusion, given that a cheaper hard drive or 2.5″ SSD with significantly more storage can be installed. Some might prefer a second M.2 NVMe slot, which the Core-i5 1235U can certainly accommodate with its 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes, only four of which are occupied by the existing M.2 slot. But, as I mentioned, mini PCs always come with compromises. So, the SATA III bay is still very much welcome.
With one more step inward, behind the 2.5″ drive housing, which doubles as the SSD and RAM fan housing, the SO-DIMM and M.2 slots are accessible. The SEi12 includes two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots. The Core-i5 1235U has DDR5 support, but again, concessions are always present.
Overall, the Beelink SEi12 has a respectable amount of connectivity, but I can’t help but think it could be made a touch better with the inclusion of a couple more USB 3.0 Type-A ports on the back which would make the device much more flexible without inviting dongle dysphoria into the mix.
Beelink SEi12 Performance
The Core-i5 1235U that the Sei12 comes with is a solid CPU for productivity, and even some other activities, as I’ll touch on, but it’s not a performance CPU. Core-i5s, in general typically aren’t marketed that way, with the exception of some high-clock desktop parts that perform well in certain games at a reasonable price; the Core-i5 line is more the middle of the line in terms of performance. Adding to that, the 1235U is one of the lower-spec CPUs in the twelfth-generation lineup.
Despite the 1235U’s place in the lineup, it interestingly has one of the highest recommended prices, according to its Intel Ark page. At a recommended price of $340USD, it is more expensive than seven of its twelfth-generation companions, on par with two, and only outclassed by the 1240P at $353 (and for whatever reason, not the seemingly more capable 1250P, which has a recommended $320 price). This might be due to lower planned production quantities driving up the price, but I could only speculate.
In any case, I was very much surprised by the performance of the 1235U. It was able to breeze through Windows updates and application installs while I performed a few tasks. The 12-thread 1235U can easily farm out productivity tasks to the ultra-efficient Alder Lake E-cores without as much as a stutter.
The power consumption ranges from just a mere 12W all the way up to 55W with its maximum turbo. This is in no doubt due to the power sipping Alder Lake efficiency cores. With the low-end consumption averaging 1W per thread (ignoring the integrated GPU), it’s easy to see just how efficient this CPU is. The 55W high-end of the TDP is also not particularly high in comparison to other Alder Lake i5 models, like the 12600HX’s 55W base power and 157W max turbo power consumption. Why that’s important is that, this is, after all, just a mini PC. The SEi12 doesn’t have a dual heatpipe cooling system like many laptops do. This device appears to simply have a fan on a heatsink that’s making direct contact with the CPU.
Despite what might appear to be a half-baked cooling, the cooling is actually fairly effective. The fan is audible when the device is under full load, including the GPU, but it’s whisper quiet at about a meter away without any obstructions. I would imagine that if it were mounted to the rear of a monitor as promoted, it would be barely audible, even under load. With all that said, the SEi12 did appear to thermal throttle, which is a critical factor, and the reason why I believe the cooling to be only fairly effective.
The PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD provided with the SEi12 is the Kingston SNV2S500G. This aspect of the SEi12 is a little underwhelming. At least in comparison to the blazing speeds of many PCIe 4.0 SSDs on the market. My testing yielded sequential read speeds of 3,613MB/s, which is an incredible 20% above the 3,016MB/s average noted by harddrivebenchmark.net. Similarly, the 2,883MB/s sequential write speed I observed is 30% faster than the 2,223MB/s average, according to harddrivebenchmark.net. My suspicion is that the active cooling provided by the secondary fan might be positively influencing the performance of the SSD. Despite the atypically high performance of the SSD, it is still within the performance of the PCIe 3.0 SSDs available on the market.
Despite not being the fastest among the PCIe 4.0 litter, the Kingston SNV2S500G does offer a very quick and snappy experience, with its performance matching the peak of the last generation. Modern PCIe 4.0 drives are blazing fast, with speeds reaching 7GB/s. But they’re also very expensive and, for most people, not worth the extra cost. The Kingston SNV2S500G in the SEi12 is actually more than twice the speed of the Intel 660p I have in my personal desktop, which I’ve never had complaints about. Adding to that, there’s always the option to upgrade, whether you want a faster experience or expanded storage.
Between the Core-i5 1235U, Kingston SNV2S500G SSD, and 16GB of RAM, the SEi12 is a very robust mini PC that can plough through productivity tasks like Microsoft Office, coding, and some light media work.
SEi12 Gaming Performance
The Sei12 doesn’t have a discrete GPU. The entirety of the graphical capability is on the 80 Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics execution units. The memory is also shared with the CPU. In spite of that, the SEi12 completely shocked me with its gaming performance. Intel has always had hardware capable of some e-sports titles on lower settings. But this CPU and its integrated graphics really surprised me.
As usual, I tried No Man’s Sky. It was a little bit rough. So, I turned down some settings, removed the motion blue. And it was playable. There was some stuttering here and there, but it was definitely playable. Then I moved on to Stray. Similarly, with the out-of-the-box settings it was rough. However, after I turned down some settings, it was playable. I ten moved on to Horizon Zero Dawn. Again, it wasn’t great, but I tweaked the settings and played with FidelityFX Super Resolution, AMD’s GPU-agnostic upscaling software. It was also very much playable, maybe even more so than the other two because of FSR.
This isn’t to say that the SEi12 is a gaming desktop replacement. Discrete hardware will likely always beat out integrated graphics. Nonetheless, I’m very impressed with the performance of the Core-i5 1235U for gaming.
SEi12 for Home Labbing
I always like to mention the potential for running a home lab with small formfactor computers like the SEi12. Second-hand servers decommissioned from enterprise environments can be found online for fairly cheap, there are other reasons someone might not be able to afford that, like power draw or physical footprint, not to mention a rack, and possibly cooling. Even a few old desktops might be too space-consuming for those in small apartments. That’s where these mini PCs really shine.
The SEi12 is a solid example of a powerful computer with many threads, fast storage, and a decent amount of RAM depending on the workload. Some virtualization platforms might be tricky on it given the heterogenous CPU architecture. That is, the inclusion of performance- and efficiency-cores. But there are virtualization platforms that support configuring VM CPU affinity, meaning assigning specific cores to a VM as opposed to just a quantity. Overall, though, I think the efficiency and performance of the SEi12 make it a solid contender for anyone looking to make a miniaturized home lab.
I started the review of the SEi12 expected to be let down. I didn’t have much hope the Core-i5 1235U with its heavily skewed P-core and E-core ratio. But not only did it pull through, it really impressed me. Combining that with the effective cooling system and small formfactor of the SEi12 and I think it’s an excellent option for a home user, office worker, and light gamer.