Beelink SER4 4800U – The Computer I Never Knew I Wanted

It might look like an Android TV box, but it has got a lot to flex.

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SER4 4800U Feature
SER4 4800U Feature

Beelink is a company that focuses primarily on small form-factor computers. Its product lineup includes almost twenty different models ranging widely in price, performance, and CPU generation. The SER4 4800U they sent for review is one of the higher-end offerings.

At only 126mm x 113mm x 40mm (roughly 5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″), the SER4 4800U is a very unassuming little box. That comes out to a total volume of just 570ml, and it only weighs 455g (1lb). It’s not quite as small as some Intel NUC models. But it’s so close the difference is negligible (in terms of desk space, anyway) and the SER4 is packing some solid performance.

SER4 4800U First Impressions

If it weren’t for the Ryzen 7 and Radeon Graphics stickers, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the Beelink SER4 4800U and a randomly chosen Android TV box without looking closely. Even then, the only giveaways are relative weightiness compared to small ARM boxes and, more telling, the rear connectivity options.

SER4 Front
SER4 Front

The packaging for the SER4 4800U is compact, simple, and effective. It does, however, appear to be more of a thin, retail shelf style packaging with a cellophane wrapping, but my unit arrived without any damage to the exterior packaging.

SER4 in Cellophane
SER4 in Cellophane

The different pieces of packaging material bear warnings. There was a sticker indicating that the cooling inlet and outlet should not be blocked and there was a plastic wrap around the SER4 warning that attempting to power the device with USB-C power could damage it, and explained that the fan spinning at full speed for a few seconds during power-up was normal.

One of the first things I noticed about the SER4 4800U is just how small the device is. Beelink designed the chassis with a nice sturdy metal housing that doesn’t flex at all when pressure is applied. Part of this rigidity is likely due to the diminutive size leaving little leverage to aid in distorting its shape.

This all contributes to a device that is admirably solid with a build quality that feels good to the touch. The product page says, “full body metal painted plastic body,” and I’m really not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but construction is certainly metal.

SER4 Unwrapped
SER4 Unwrapped

The top surface consists, almost entirely, of a black metal mesh cooling inlet. This mesh does have some give when pressure is applied inward. But as far as mesh inlets go, it feels very secure. This same meshing appears on the sides in red, again, covering a substantial surface area, but not entirely. At the back is the exhaust. It doesn’t share the same mesh, but, rather, is unrestricted following the radiator.

SER4 Front Left
SER4 Front Left
SER4 Front Right
SER4 Front Right

I’m not a fan of the red and black aesthetic, but it’s a well-established hallmark of gaming color schemes. The black metal mesh is more prone to fingerprints than the solid housing. The mesh texture tends to mute it in a way that it’s only particularly noticeable at certain, lighting-dependent angles, while the solid housing’s more matte finish and vertical walls tend not to flaunt the fingermarks as much.

SER4 Unboxed
SER4 Unboxed

Accompanying the SER4 in the box are two HDMI cables, one a meter long and the other (an eye-balled) 30 centimeters, as well as a mounting bracket with the necessary screws. It would appear that the intended configuration is to mount the device to the back of one monitor, using the 30-centimeter cable with that monitor, and then use the longer cable to connect to another monitor.

SER4 Specifications

Operating SystemWindows 11 Pro
CPU ModelRyzen 7 4800U
8-Core/16-Thread
1.8GHz Base Clock
4.2GHz Boost Clock
CPU Power25W (TDP-Up Configuration)
iGPUAMD Ryzen 7 Mobile Processors with Radeon™ Graphics
8 graphics cores @ 1750MHz
512MB VRAM
RAM16GB or 32GB Options
Upgradeable to 64GB
Storage500GB NVMe SSD
NetworkGigabit LAN (VLAN Capable)
Wifi 6E (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 5.2
Front Connectivity2x USB Type-A 3.0
1x USB Type-C 3.0
3.5mm audio jack
Rear Connectivity1x USB Type-A 3.0
1x USB Type-A 2.0
2x HDMI (Full-Sized)
Gigabit Ethernet
DC power barrel jack
Internal ConnectivityNVMe
SATA with 2.5″ Drive Bay
Dimensions126mm x 113mm x 40mm (~5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″)
Weight455g (1lb)
SER4 4800U Specifications

CPU, GPU, Memory, and Storage

At the heart of the SER4 4800U is, as the name gives away, a Ryzen 7 4800U. The 4800U is a laptop part, but don’t let that fool you. The 4800U goes toe to toe with the Ryzen 7 2700X (assuming it hasn’t been overclocked), a desktop part, from just two years earlier and at less than a quarter of the wattage. The 2700X, which I have on my personal desktop, runs at 105W. The SER4 leverages the 4800U in the 25W TDP-up configuration.

The Ryzen 7 4800U is equipped with an 8-core integrated Radeon Graphics GPU that can be configured with up to 2GB of VRAM. But unfortunately, unfortunately, Beelink configured the SER4 4800U with only 512MB. The low VRAM capacity causes a performance bottleneck, which will be addressed later.

Paired with the CPU are a 500GB NVMe drive and your choice of either 16GB or 32GB of RAM. The unit Beelink sent me was configured with a 32GB RAM chip and an Intel NVMe SSD rather than the Kingston that Beelink advertises. The model of SSD is essentially the OEM version of the Intel 660p. While the drive is not a slouch, there are certainly better options out there, like the advertised Kingston.

Connectivity

On the networking front, there’s both the mundane and the exciting. The mundane is that the ethernet connectivity is the same old gigabit that we’ve seen for too long (Beelink does have some other models with 2.5Gb, though). I think that it’s time we start seeing more 2.5Gb given that it’s not as exotic as it used to be.

The exciting, on the other hand, is that Beelink included the Mediatek 7921, which is a WiFi 6E (802.11ax) radio with onboard Bluetooth. If you’re lucky enough to have some WiFi 6 gear, then you’re sure to benefit from this cutting-edge equipment. Sadly, the reality for most, myself included, is that WiFi 6 gear is costly and not worth the upgrade when so few client devices support it.

SER4 Rear Ports
SER4 Rear Ports

The connectivity of SER4 4800U is probably walking the middle ground for most. With four USB Type-A ports, one of which being 2.0, and a 3.0 Type-C, there’s certainly enough peripheral connectivity. But it’s spread between the front and the back of the device. This will surely be inconvenient to some and will likely require the involvement of a USB hub unless you opt to mount the SER4 behind your monitor with the included bracket.

I used my USB-C (cheap off-brand) hub in the front USB-C port (being sure to unplug the power to the hub first) and which was quickly and easily picked up on with my peripherals, as well as the two monitors plugged into it. I was surprised that both monitors were operational given that the SER4 4800U is advertised as supporting up to three monitors, two via the two (full-sized) HDMI ports on the rear, and one via the USB-C port on the front.

As suggested by the NVMe SSD among the specifications, there is an NVMe slot in the SER4 that can be used to upgrade to a larger capacity or a higher speed model. In addition to the NVMe slot, though, is a 2.5″ SATA drive bay and connector. With this, you can install a secondary storage device, albeit a much slower one, but you can take advantage of the better capacity pricing available in SATA drives.

The front also includes an obligatory 3.5mm audio jack. As with the USB ports being split between the front and back, the audio jack being in the front might appeal to some. But for those who keep a set of speakers connected, a cable running around the front could be unsightly (again, you could opt to mount it). So, this one is going to be entirely subjective.

Operating System

The SER4 4800U comes with, like almost all non-Apple devices, Windows. But comes with, not just Windows 11, but Windows 11 Pro. The upgrade to Pro will likely only appeal to some seeing as how the benefits of Pro over Home for personal use have been diminishing over time, especially with Windows 11 Home supporting up to 128GB of RAM. The inclusion of Windows 11 Pro, though, does mean that the SER4 is business-ready out-of-the-box.

For those who prefer Linux, there seem to be drivers for everything in the SER4 4800U. The Linux kernel even supports the Mediatek 7921 wireless chipset. I experienced no issues running Proxmox on it, either.

Everyday use on the SER4 4800U

The general performance of the SER4 4800U is very snappy and responsive. As I mentioned, the 4800U is on par with the 2700X, which was the CPU to have in its heyday just four years ago. So, there’s little left to be wanted with the obvious concessions made in producing a device this small.

The included SSD is quick, possibly quicker if you nab a Kingston model. The Intel 660p, having been out for a while now, has pretty well-known performance characteristics. I observed read speeds peaking at about 1,700MB/s and the write speeds around the 1,000MB/s to 1,100MB/s range for sequential reading and writing in my unit.

The Kingston SSD, on the other hand, will read at 2,531MB/s and write at 1,971MB/s, according to Beelink’s product page. It would be nice if the SSD was faster, but with SSDs being as cheap as they’ve become, I don’t think this should be considered a dealbreaker for those who need the extra speed.

Beelink SR4 4800U Bechmark

One thing I noticed, though, was that installing a particular Windows update took much longer to install than I expected. It’s unclear whether this was just Windows Update being Windows Update, or if it was relevant to the SSD. I didn’t observe any sluggish behavior outside of this instance, so I think it’s safe to assume it was just Windows Update falling back on old habits.

The fan in the SER4 4800U is probably the most interesting I’ve heard. Beelink states on their site that the average computer is 69Db, or about as loud as the average office environment or typical television volume, which they also attribute as being “noisy and nerve-wounding.”

In contrast, QuietPC.com says that the average PC is a much quieter 30Db to 50Db. The thing with SER4’s fan is that it is constantly changing speeds. So, it might be very quiet one second, but much louder the next, returning to quiet yet another second later. Beelink reports the noise level of the SER4 to be 53Db, which is a touch above Quiet PC’s quoted typical. I suspect that the figure was a composite measurement because it was certainly louder than most computers I deal with.

The really interesting, and somewhat humorous, thing with the fan, though, is that the metal mesh over the inlet really muffles and softens the fan to the point where you don’t hear any droning of the fan’s motor, it’s just the rush of air. That combined with the changing fan speeds, and the inherent change in tone, as a result, make the SER4 a (really expensive) relaxation noise machine that mimics waves on a shoreline pretty well.

Maybe this is a selling point. Is your office environment stressful? Would some shoreline white noise help? The Beelink SER4 might be the right product for you.

Fun aside, the fan was about as loud as a bad laptop gets. It’s particularly noticeable when it’s within arm’s reach. But I’m sure that if you had it tucked away somewhere or mounted behind a monitor, the noise level would be much less noticeable.

The SER4 4800U will troop through just about any productivity task thrown at it. The SER4 has the componentry of a workstation, albeit a mobile workstation, it will, nonetheless, perform splendidly (and make you feel like you’re on a tropical vacation).

Gaming Performance

This is a touchy subject that I alluded to earlier. The 4800U includes an integrated GPU with an OEM configurable VRAM capacity (with the limit being 2GB). Beelink has opted to equip the SER4 4800U with just 512MB of VRAM. Because of this, gaming performance seems to be a little bit all over the place.

While the SER4 is definitely capable of gaming, the titles will be limited. AMD’s FreeSync is a big boon for gaming, though. That means that, with a supported monitor, you can get a much smoother experience, particularly when dipping below the native refresh rate of the monitor.

Beelink’s own words on the gaming performance (for the Ryzen 7 4800U, that is) are:

AMD Ryzen 7 4800U delivers strong performance in gaming tests, reaching around 69FPS for CSGO, 60FPS for Call of Duty: WWII, 52FPS for PUBG and 63FPS for League of Legends.

The general consensus is that the 4800U will perform reasonably well when it comes to popular multiplayer titles. Rocket League was flawless for me. Skyrim, granted it’s ten years old, ran very well with all graphics settings maximized. No Man’s Sky (2016), though, was barely playable with settings configured low and the resolution set to 720p. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 (the remake) managed a consistent 40fps.

As mentioned, the VRAM seems to be the bottleneck for gaming performance. As soon as the graphical assets are loaded into RAM rather than VRAM, things start to slow way down.

At the SER4’s price point, there are certainly much more cost-effective gaming setups. A used desktop with a discrete GPU, even if an older model, will outperform the integrated GPU of the 4800U by a mile. Alternatively, newer Ryzen CPUs have integrated GPUs that are much higher performance, like in the Steam Deck. The added benefit of newer Ryzen products is that they use faster DDR5 memory, which helps performance when VRAM is full.

For those that are interested, Beelink has the GTR5, which is equipped with the Ryzen 9 5900HX, which is also worth checking out.

Home Lab

This is where I think the SER4 4800U really shines. Many IT professionals like myself like to set up lab environments at home for tinkering. This can be very expensive. Those who make a hobby of it often spend thousands of dollars on equipment and then reap the electricity bills that follow.

Even entry-level equipment like used servers, a server rack, power equipment, etc, can be cost-prohibitive for many. Others require family approval to install equipment somewhere in the house. And none of that speaks to the noise that servers and rack-mount network equipment make nonstop.

The SER4, and similar products, create, what is in my opinion, an extremely attractive product for running a home lab. The SER4 will never replace real server hardware with redundant storage and networking. Not to mention the potential CPU cores and memory.

But for those that don’t need the real hardware, small form-factor computers can be an excellent way to host a virtualization environment. Or even a cluster of virtualization hosts. All while keeping space requirements, power consumption, noise, and heat production low.

Using the SER4 with Proxmox I was able to configure a VLAN trunk to my OPNsense firewall through my Netgear Nighthawk 1900 that’s running dd-wrt. Despite the SER4 only having only a single NIC, I was able to create virtual interfaces on the trunked VLANs.

Then, with OPNsense installed in a virtual machine, I was able to create a router-on-a-stick configuration via the Proxmox trunk and the OPNsense virtual machine NICs. Creating the router-on-a-stick configuration would have been quicker and easier to do by installing OPNsense directly onto the SER4, but that’s no fun.

Using this router-on-a-stick configuration along with a managed switch (with VLAN support), you can actually use it as your main router. By connecting the ethernet from your modem into one of the switch ports with a VLAN designated to it, then trunking both the WAN and LAN ports to the SER4 (or another single-NIC computer).

I had a lot of fun playing with the SER4 4800U. The SER4 has helped me rethink how I should build my home lab going forward.

Conclusion

The SER4 4800U has an incredible amount of performance in a box that’s probably smaller than your lunch. It can provide a half-decent gaming experience and it will plow through productivity tasks. It’s really a jack-of-all-trades.

You can check out the SER4 4800U here on Beelink’s website. It starts at $599.99 for the 16GB model, but prices vary depending on the reseller, Beelink is selling it for $470 on Amazon (US) right now, for example. So keep your eyes out for the best deal.

The SER4 4800U isn’t something I could recommend to everyone. It’s a bit pricy, and it’s not the best option for everyone, arguably not the best for many people given that there are more cost-effective alternatives in most use cases. But the SER4 successfully maximizes performance while minimizing footprint, and while that is an appealing feature on its own, I would argue that it is the SER4’s strongest selling point.

Devin McElheran

Devin McElheran

IT professional by day and various hobbies by night.