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GEEKOM A8 review: Powerful Ryzen 9 8040 series Mini PC with dedicated NPU

GEEKOM is back with another Mini PC, this time the A8, which is an incremental update of the A7 that we reviewed a few months ago. The GEEKOM A8 comes in two different configurations (listed below). Our configuration is powered by the Ryzen 9 8945HS, which came out last December, and despite its TDP of just 45W, has a base clock of 4.0 GHz and a Turbo Boost of 5.2 GHz, invoking up to a max TDP of 54W. The Ryzen 8040 series mobile APUs are part of AMD's Hawk Point (Zen 4) announced last December.

Below are its full specifications, and bold indicates our configuration.

GEEKOM A8

Dimensions

112.4 mm x 112.4 mm x 37 mm

Weight

450g

CPU

Ryzen 9 8945HS (Base 4.0GHz, Turbo 5.2GHz 8C, 16T, 16MB Cache)
Ryzen 7 8845HS (Base 3.8GHz, Turbo 5.2GHz 8C, 16T, 16MB Cache)
cTDP: 35-54W (Default 45W)

Graphics

AMD Radeon™ 780M Graphics
12 RDNA 3 Graphics Cores @ 2700MHz or 2800MHz
768 shading units / stream processors (12 CUs),
48 texture mapping units, and 32 ROPs
NPU XDNA architecture (Up to 16 NPU TOPS)

Memory

32GB Dual-channel Crucial DDR5-5600MT/s SODIMM (up to 64GB)

Storage

1x Acer N5000CN 1TB or 2TB NVMe M.2 (PCIe Gen 4.0 x4)

Operating System

Windows 11 Pro

Bluetooth

Bluetooth v5.2

Wireless LAN

Wi-Fi 6E

Kensington Lock

No
SD Card reader Yes (left side)

Adapter

120W, 6.32A, 19V Power Adapter

Front I/O Ports

2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
1 x 3.5mm front stereo headset jack
Rear I/O Ports

1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
1 x USB 4 Gen 3 Type-C with Power delivery up to 15W (5V 3A)
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
1 x USB 2.0 Type-A
2 x HDMI 2.0b
1 x 2.5G RJ45 LAN
1 x DC-in

Price (MSRP)

$699 - $849

GEEKOM has two configurations of the A8, with the only difference being a slightly less-powerful Ryzen 7 CPU with half the storage (1TB). This knocks $150 off the price compared to the $849 Ryzen 9 configuration. In both instances, a Windows 11 Pro license is also pre-loaded.

As I said previously, this appears to be an update on the A7 with the only difference being the newer CPU.

geekom a8

The packaging has changed quite a bit from the A7. Instead of dark colors, now the box is completely white, and the foam cushion has been replaced by a cardboard mould that the A8 sits in, above a small envelope that contains a Thank you card and booklet that has guidance on all of the controls, how to access the A8 to swap out the SSD or memory, and safety information in several European languages. Upon removing the cardboard mould, you can find another cardboard compartment that contains the power lead, HDMI cable, VESA plate, and a bag of screws.

What’s In The Box

  • 1 x A8 Mini PC
  • 1 x Power Adapter
  • 1 x HDMI Cable
  • 1 x VESA plate and bag of screws
  • 1 x Envelope with booklet and Thank you card

Unlike the A7, the VESA mount option is back with the A8. In short, you have everything you need to get started.

geekom a8

Design

The exterior, aside from two screw holes for the VESA mount is exactly the same as the A7, so my description of it does not change much from that review, but as a reminder I still think it looks pretty cool. It is made from, what GEEKOM calls "aviation-grade aluminum alloy", it essentially encases the entire PC so that there is no detachable lid. The top is completely flat, with the GEEKOM logo slightly indented and in reflective silver, centered on the top of the Mini PC.

All of the edges are rounded off, so there are no sharp edges, and it definitely has a premium feel to it. The A8 is light as well; it's just 450 grams with a volume of just under a half liter at 0.47L, so it won't weigh you down when carrying it from place to place.

The front of the A8 includes two USB 3.2 Gen 2 type A ports, and again, I would have liked to have seen at least one Type C port, more and more devices are shipping with Type C connectors and come with cables that are Type C end-to-end. It's also not possible to connect a screen on the front, which is a bit of an inconvenience.

GEEKOM also claims on the product page that the A8 series underwent the following tests prior to production:

  • Vibration Test
  • Drop Test (unspecified height)
  • High-Temperature Test
  • Cold Temperature Test
  • Humidity Test
  • Altitude Test

Again it's disappointing that there is no more information about the above tests, I have again asked my contact if GEEKOM plan to clarify any data points that customers can look in on, and will update when if I hear back on this.

The low noise claims (up to 45dB) appear to be missing from the A8's product page, maybe GEEKOM were proven wrong by some reviewer, and they decided to omit it from the A8's features, all the same I have asked my contact why they left it out.

geekom a8

However, it appears that GEEKOM have come with a new cooling system called the IceBlast 1.5 Cooling System, that might be affecting noise levels:

GEEKOM's self-developed cooling system "IceBlast 1.5" brings a brand-new experience with low noise and high airflow to dissipate heat faster, maintain high performance and say goodbye to hot panels.

I can confirm the A8 generally did not get hot to the touch beyond a bit of warmth on the top of the Mini PC during the Cinebench 2024 test, and barely made any noise that I could hear.

geekom a8

As far as looks go, it is completely silver, and thanks to the shell being made from one piece of aluminum, there are no joints to be seen on the sides or up top where you would normally find a "lid" that can be removed to access the internals. It goes without saying, thanks to the aluminum finish, it isn't a fingerprint magnet. The top GEEKOM logo is a nice touch too, it looks and feels like premium hardware.

Accessing the A8 is exactly the same as the A7. First of all you have to remove the four rubber feet which are glued on, a small flat head screwdriver is enough for the job. Under that you will find four of the smallest screws that are used in computers, they are essentially the same ones used to hold down a NVMe M.2 SSD drive. Upon removing the four screws, you can then detach the plastic cover, which exposes another metal cover that is also fastened with four of the same screws. In total, eight screws.

Again, as I discovered with the A7, the Wi-Fi antenna is taped to the bottom plastic cover and routed through the metal plate, and with only about 1 centimeter left at the corner screw hole, which caused it to detach from the PCIe Wi-Fi card that is located under the NVMe M.2 SSD. However I was able to detach the WiFi card from it's slot and carefully remove the plastic shield above the wire connections, reattach the cable and then reattach the plastic shield.

As was the case with the A7, I challenge anyone to remove the bottom covers without causing the Wi-Fi antenna to detach. It simply is not possible with only around 1cm between the metal cover and the Mini PC. On a positive note, the four rubber feet also have "flaps" or "wings" that can be inserted into tiny slots as you reattach then, meaning the rubber feet do not rely entirely on the less sticky glue to stay in place.

As it is not possible to add another SSD, you may not need to access it anyway, but if you plan to expand the memory from 32GB to 64GB, for example, you'll need to be really careful with that Wi-Fi antenna wire.

Usage

geekom a8

BIOS

One thing I keep forgetting to mention is about the BIOS. The A8 (and many of their other mini PCs) use an AMIBIOS, which is similar to what HP, Dell and other PC manufacturers use to lock down customization of the machine's values, like CPU or memory over/underclocking as well as power management. All you can pretty much configure here is the time and date, some security related settings (like Secure Boot and so forth) and the Boot order of devices.

WINDOWS

On first boot, you are prompted to complete the setup of Windows 11 Pro, meaning you do not have to fork out for a license. After the setup was completed, I discovered I was on build 22631.3296 and only had to install a few updates that included the May 2024 Patch Tuesday update (KB5037771) and, the KB4023057: Update Health Tools update. In addition, GEEKOM does not include any bloatware in their PCs, so that is always a bonus.

Following on from my malware test of AceMagic, Beelink, and Geekom Mini PCs, I felt it was only right to at least ensure Microsoft Defender was updated and then run a Full Scan and after that an "Offline scan", which restarts the computer and scans the entire computer for rootkits or persistent malware before Windows loads. I am pleased to say that our A8 came back clean. But don't take my word for it, always check your newly bought pre-loaded PCs for malware.

The A8 supports up to 4 screens at 8K @ 30Hz through the single USB 4 and USB 3.2 Gen 2 (DP 1.4) ports or 4K @ 60Hz over the two HDMI 2.0b ports. However, I also used my ZSCMalls 17.3" FullHD 144Hz portable screen, which was also powered by one of the rear USB Type C ports.

Regarding connectivity, there are two HDMI 2.0b, a USB 3.2 Gen 2, and USB 4 Gen 3 Type C ports, one USB 2.0 port, an RJ45 2.5 GbE Ethernet port, along with a barrel port for power on the back. Around the front, there are two more USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports and a port for a 3.5mm headphone jack. Unfortunately, there is no Type C on the front. For audio output, I linked my Edifier 360DB over Bluetooth, and I did not experience any noticeable audio delays.

As you can see from the above images, there's no Kensington lock option here, which is a shame. The entire top and sides are one piece of aluminum with ample venting on the sides for air cooling.

geekom

The above image should show a bit more clearly how small this thing is, it is even smaller than the slim and lightweight Mini Air12, which also can't be expanded with a 2.5-inch SSD, and it pales in comparison in size to the Beelink SER6 Max.

Benchmarks

Before I started running benchmarks, I ensured that Windows 11 and drivers were up to date. At the time of testing, the A8 was running Windows 11 Professional 23H2 build 22631.3593, and I also upgraded to the latest available Adrenalin 24.5.1 WHQL certified driver (May 2024).

With that out of the way, and because people like that sort of thing, I ran some benchmarks and compared it to my main PC that I built last year.

The reference PC consists of the following:

  • AMD 7950X3D (1.30 BIOS)
  • ASRock X670E Steel Legend
  • 64GB DDR5 Kingston Fury Beast RGB 6000MHz
  • WD_Black SN850X 1TB NVMe
  • ASUS ProArt GeForce RTX 4080 SUPER 16GB OC Edition (Nvidia driver 551.52)
  • Windows 10 22H2 build 19045.4046

For our benchmarks, UL Solutions provided us with Professional (commercial use) licenses for 3DMark, PCMark 10, and Procyon. In addition, we used a licensed version of Geekbench 5 and Cinebench 2024.

3DMark Time Spy tests gaming capability with DX12 graphics performance and 7-Zip for compression and decompression speeds. PCMark tests are a mix of CPU and real-world productivity tests, such as using an office suite, web browsing, light photo/video editing, and making conference calls.

Cinebench stresses the entire CPU as it is a multi-threaded rendering test. Finally, Geekbench is a synthetic benchmark that is great for a quick look at the potential performance across a wide range of workloads.

We were also interested to see what happens in UL's Procyon, which is an Inferencing benchmark meant to test AI and ML performance. We know the Ryzen 8945HS has an NPU but unfortunately, at the moment, Windows still can't recognize it as DirectML does not yet support AMD's NPU.

However, AMD had confirmed that support would be added soon and you will be able to monitor NPU usage when a future Task Manager update is rolled out to Windows 11.

GEEKOM A8
Ryzen 9 8945HS
GEEKOM A7
Ryzen 9 7940HS
AtomMan X7 Ti
Core Ultra 9 185H
Selfbuild
Ryzen 9 7950X3D

3DMark Time Spy
Steel Nomad Light
Steel Nomad

3,287
2,832
508
3,401|3,291
2,708
488

3,480
2,695
647

25,785
6,581
30,178

PCMark 10
Extended test
7,714
7,473
7,804|7,552
7,468|7,297
6,903
6,900
9,781
14,185
Procyon NPU
GPU
(Windows ML) CPU

-
-
134

-
-
96|63

279
378
113
-
-
114
Geekbench 5 Single
Multicore
Compute (OpenCL)
1,962
12,039
37,651
2,008|1,982
12,192|12,064
38,640|38,358
1,843
13,036
29,674
2,102
22,418
266,805
Cinebench 2024 Single
Multicore
108
930
106|107
880|873
107
1,053

112
1,857

7-Zip 105,947 104,323|103,160 101,496 207,569

The highest temperature recorded during benchmarking was in Time Spy at 93C, which incidentally came out lower than the score recorded in the A7 which has the older Ryzen 9 7940HS. I ran the Time Spy test three times and recorded the highest score.

Another weird anomaly was consistently lower scores in the A8 than its predecessor. The scores for the A7 in italics were recorded in our review that was completed in February on Windows 11 Professional 23H2 build 22631.3155, with the January Adrenalin 24.1.1 WHQL certified drivers. When running all of the tests on the A7 again (highlighted in bold in the above table) in the updated build 22631.3593 with the newer Adrenalin 24.5.1 WHQL certified drivers, all of the benchmarks scored consistently lower than in February, which tells me something happened between Patch updates, or the AMD drivers somehow got worse. I also saw this anomaly with the A7, in which the older Ryzen 7 7735HS bettered the Ryzen 9 7940HS in the Inferencing benchmark.

The Windows ML score saw the biggest drop as it was 34% slower on the 7940HS now, and half the performance of the 8945HS as the 7000 series chip only managed to put up 63 points.

This was very surprising considering we tested the CPU here, and the 7940HS CPU-wise is supposed to be near identical to 8945HS in terms of AI processing power as the core specs are very similar and the support for AI-influencing instructions like AVX remain the same. The latter does have a much more powerful NPU (rated at 16 TOPS vs 10 TOPS on 7940HS) but the NPU was not leveraged in the test.

For those wondering, the Ryzen 8945HS is built on Zen 4 and is part of the Hawk Point family. The 7950X3D score was also much closer to the others than we expected, as it is, after all, a 16-cored desktop part.

However, as you might see from the Timespy and Compute scores, don't think you can replace your gaming desktop with this, you'd still need a dedicated GPU if you intended to do much of any gaming on it.

I also tested the SSD's capability using AS SSD and CrystalDiskMark 8.0.5.

AS SSD CrystalDiskMark

Despite running all of the above benchmark tests, the A8 did not get hot to the touch, more like warm, and there were no annoying noises coming from the single fan that cooled the unit.

As I did this on all the previous Mini PCs, I decided to give Quake Champions a go to see if it would be playable. Everything was detected as "Low" in the video settings.

It was definitely playable, it didn't lag or glitch. I was even able to bump the Details, Post Processing, and Texture Filtering to Medium, which is probably helped by the extra 256 CUDA Cores present in the Radeon 780M compared to Vega 8, as well as a 35% bump in Boost Clock .

geekom a8

Conclusion

As with all the Mini PCs I've reviewed in the past couple of years, the A8 isn't a gaming PC. You will not be able to enjoy graphically intensive games on it. Still, it is suited as something like an office workstation with a mixture of light gaming, or perhaps a good solution for a student or office worker without a permanent desk, affording the ability to pack this away after every use. This thing also doesn't take up much room in your bag if you need to move it from place to place.

When it comes to Mini PCs, the market is saturated with cheaper options, but you'll be quickly disappointed to find they might not include USB 3.2 Gen 2, USB 4, dual channel memory, and more. Some manufacturers are also still selling "new" Mini PCs with 8th gen Intel Core mobile CPUs, so you really have to be on the lookout.

When you're spending a hundreds of dollars to replace the job of a full-sized PC, you're going to want it to replicate as much of the capability as possible, aside from the obvious lack of GPU prowess.

As I said earlier, the decision ultimately comes down to what you're willing to pay for the options you need. This Mini PC will let you connect up to four displays, all operating at 4K @ 60Hz, whereas cheaper solutions might be limited to just two screens.

geekom a8

Coupon code

It's available right now for $849 on the official website, or on Amazon, and you can save a further $42 if you apply the NEOA8 coupon at GEEKOM or NEOWINA8 coupon code on Amazon during checkout. My contact tells me that the coupon codes expire after July 10.

For this A8 Mini PC, which includes a Ryzen 9 8945HS processor, 32GB of 5600MT/s DDR5 memory, and a 2 TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe with Windows 11 Pro installed on it, it's pretty good value for money.

For me, this loses a point for the weird design choice with the Wi-Fi antenna, making it almost impossible to access without the cable detaching from the Wi-Fi PCIe card, which cannot be removed to reattach the wire, and another point for not having a USB Type C port on the front, a USB 2.0 port, and for sticking with HDMI 2.0b for some reason.

This is a seriously capable Mini PC that includes a dedicated NPU for accelerating AI workloads, which will eventually get support in Windows 11, along with a quick PCIe 4.0 SSD and DDR5 5600MT/s memory. I give it a solid thumbs up!

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Verdict
8
Great!
GEEKOM A8
Pros
USB4 Dedicated NPU Cool aluminum case Ultra modern Ryzen 8000
Cons
USB 2.0 HDMI 2.0b No front Type C No second M.2 slot
Price
$849
Release
June 2024

 

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