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It’s 2070. You’re on a train from New York to Boston. If you could see outside, it would be mostly open landscape. Maybe a nuclear plant or two, but otherwise green space—none of the urban sprawl, wind farms, solar arrays or biomass operations we’ve been taught to expect from an ecologically responsible future. But you can’t see outside, because you’re underground, traveling 300 miles an hour on a maglev train alongside superconducting pipes transporting the energy from those nuclear plants.
This is 2070 as Jesse Ausubel sees it, anyway, and his vision—a brazenly pragmatic one that puts land conservation and energy efficiency above all else—isn’t making him a lot of friends in the environmental movement. “Some of my colleagues have put forth what are called green or renewable solutions or technologies, and they’re OK at a boutique scale—single households,” says Ausubel, who is director of the Program for the Human Environment at the Rockefeller University in New York City. “But when you look at two billion households, you find out that the solution isn’t green at all. Things that work on a boutique scale don’t necessarily work for billions of people and terawatts of power.”
Simultaneously a technology-loving futurist and an ardent naturalist, Ausubel points out that a wind farm delivering the same energy as a 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant would cover 308 square miles; a solar plant, 58. Even organic farming, he suggests, is justifiable in the context of landscape preservation only if the per-acre yields equal those of conventional farming.
Dismissing moves toward renewable and organic initiatives as misguided flies in the face of green dogma. Papers and presentations with titles like “Fallout from Renewables and Consequent Directions for Energy Research” and “Does Climate Still Matter?” haven’t helped Ausubel’s standing in the mainstream green movement.
But although environmentalists may disagree with him, they can’t simply write him off. In addition to his role at Rockefeller, Ausubel is vice president of programs for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, where he oversees the Census of Marine Life, a 10-year, 80-plus-nation effort to catalog the biodiversity of the world’s oceans. As a fellow at the National Academy of Sciences in the late 1970s, he was, he says, “one of the first half dozen or so people to be paid full time to work on global warming.” He was also one of the organizers of the first U.N. World Climate Conference in 1979. The man has earned the right to have opinions.
Ausubel has spent most of his career modeling a future that assumes a population of about 10 billion—what many experts believe the world will bear over the next century—and reasoning backward from there to explain how such a world could be powered and fed, and how much land could be spared for nature.
Part of what alarms his critics is how un-alarmist his conclusions have turned out to be. For example, instead of using policy to change how people will behave in the future, Ausubel prefers exploring technological responses to what he believes people are going to do regardless. His favorite defense of this laissez-faire approach is to explain that, absent any policy dictating that it should happen, energy consumption over the past 100 years has steadily “decarbonized.” That is, humankind has moved to fuel sources with progressively better ratios of carbon atoms to hydrogen atoms—wood at 10:1, coal at 2:1, oil at 1:2, natural gas at 1:4 and, eventually (in the future Ausubel envisions) 100 percent hydrogen. He thinks technology inevitably improves things. “That’s not to say I don’t worry about the downsides of technology,” he says. “A lot of my work is about that. But my general interest is new and high-tech ways of dealing with problems.”
The high-tech world in 2070, as Ausubel sees it, will look something like this:
ENERGY: Within a few decades, after methane plants have replaced coal plants, according to Ausubel’s decarbonization model, the move is on to full nuclear. His plants would produce electricity during peak daytime hours and be used to dissociate water to make hydrogen by night. “With the nuclear industry making two products instead of just one,” he says, “the economics become more attractive.”
Where to get all the uranium for the hundreds of new nuclear plants that Ausubel’s world would require? Extracting it from oceans, he believes, could supply enough energy for 10,000 years or more. The low concentrations in seawater—about 3.3 parts per billion—make the extraction process difficult, but Japanese researchers have successfully mined uranium from ocean currents, although not yet at costs that would be economically feasible.
NUCLEAR WASTE: Ausubel cites Russian and British research into “self-sinking balls” of nuclear waste with shells most likely made of tungsten and heated by their radioactive contents to the point where, once disposed of in deep holes in the Earth’s crust, they would melt the surrounding lithosphere and bury themselves several miles deep. “Nuclear waste is hot and heavy,” he says. “The idea of self-sinking capsules takes the heat and gravity as positive attributes. The idea is quite straightforward.”
While the capsules remain theoretical for now, Michael Ojovan, an engineer at the University of Sheffield in England who has published extensively on the concept, says that in addition to removing waste, acoustic monitoring of the capsules could reveal data about the structure of the Earth’s interior. “The [scientific] importance of launching such a capsule is on the order of an expedition to Mars,” he says.
TRANSPORTATION: It’s all fuel-cell cars and planes (using hydrogen from the nuclear plants) and maglev trains. “Take the problem of airport congestion,” Ausubel says. “Having planes take off every 20 or 30 seconds is hard. But you could subtract all those shuttle flights from high-flux routes like New York–Boston by connecting them with maglevs. Put those shuttle routes underground with the maglevs, and save the runway slots for the routes where you can’t justify building expensive tunnels.”
Train tunnels, of course, are older than the New York subway. China’s commercial maglev train can zip passengers along at 300 miles an hour, and the U.S. Department of Energy is pouring millions of dollars of economic-stimulus funds into superconductor research. It all comes back to Ausubel’s core concepts: The best way to save nature is to stop extending into it. The best way to limit human encroachment on nature is through hyper-efficient land use. And the best route to maximum efficiency is through technology. “A lot of other people who come from strictly biological or ecological backgrounds just don’t like machines,” he says. “I do.”More Environmental Visionaries:
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A few years ago, my students became bothered by the number of plastic bags showing up in the Guyandotte River, which winds behind our school and through our rural southern West Virginia towns. They believed that recycling and other waste management options would decrease littering, but we didn’t know where to start—our rural county had no recycling program.
As an AmeriCorps alumna, I was familiar with launching community programs without a budget. By merging apprenticeships and project-based learning (PBL) in my environmental science class, we were able to create our county’s first recycling program.
Our students initially started an after-school recycling program, which rapidly evolved into our county’s only recycling center within one year. We grew so quickly that we needed outside help, fast. PepsiCo Recycling Rally provides curriculum and equipment to jump-start recycling collection at your school, so we started to use those resources.
Merging PBL with the apprenticeship model provided a framework for designing units with learning outcomes that build critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. Operating a recycling center does not work if our student body and community do not know our recycling procedures, what can be recycled, or how recycling can save our streams. Students share their knowledge by organizing schoolwide recycling pep rallies featuring recycling games they develop. They organize school assemblies and create videos, theatrical performances, and rap songs about recycling procedures.
To determine the effectiveness of our outreach programs within our school, we conduct waste audits, analyzing data to see the percentage of recyclables and trash in correct bins. My students design educational activities for local fairs and festivals, teaching students why it’s important to understand where our waste goes and how to best manage it. They work with our communities to assess microplastic levels along our riverbank and launched a Spotify podcast, Waste in Our Waters. They also create and deliver presentations to our town councils and county commission because our ultimate goal is to create a countywide recycling network.
Our program is unique because there are both curricular and extracurricular components. Plastic pollution and waste management are only two units in the environmental science curriculum, so it’s challenging to dedicate the time to complete all the tasks for running a recycling program and addressing plastic pollution within a classroom. If we don’t complete our weekly requirements of collecting and sorting recyclables during class, which happens frequently due to teaching other content standards, then the after-school program picks up the slack. It takes seven to 10 students to stay on top of the recycling demands.
Transforming students into environmental leaders does not happen overnight. It requires time and intentional planning, but the outcomes are what we hope for as teachers: confident, engaged, and civically minded students.
Growing Student Environmental Leaders
Here are eight steps for creating environmental change makers. Although some of these features are standard in PBL, there is much more of an emphasis on building community relationships when using the apprenticeship model.
Make observations: Instruct students to record observations about the environment while walking around campus. Are there invasive species, sources of pollution, or suitable habitats for specific species?
Find patterns: Discuss patterns that emerge from your students’ observations. Record these ideas, and let students prioritize topics.
Identify community experts: Specialists may be found at museums, parks, and/or natural resource and environmental agencies. National Geographic’s Explorer Classroom and Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants YouTube channels connect classrooms to experts across the globe. The expert’s role is to extend the students’ background knowledge about the selected environmental issue. Ask students how they felt and what interested them after a session with an expert. Are there additional questions or ideas for solving their environmental issue?
Determine the environmental project: Tell students that local problems are often global problems, and instruct them to research ways that other organizations, states, and countries solve related environmental problems. Ask students to share what they learned. Are there feasible projects for the students to modify or replicate? Is there a stand-out project that clearly fits your students’ interests?
Identify stakeholders: Instruct students to brainstorm individuals and organizations in your community that have a vested interest in helping fix this environmental problem. Reach out to these stakeholders for help.
Create a step-by-step plan: Guide students through enumerating all actions required to complete their project. What materials do they need? What is the time frame for completing the project? Who can complete each task? Allow students to express their interests and self-select tasks.
Work alongside community mentors: While meeting with an expert provides environmental content knowledge, the mentor guides the students through tasks to complete the project. Sending a survey home to see if guardians have related skill sets and are willing to help out is a way to build connections with your students’ families.
Achieve goals: What are low-hanging fruits for the students to accomplish first to feel successful? Some projects take time, and their efforts may be the first steps toward a larger project. After a step from your plan is achieved, identify the next step, and create an associated goal within a realistic time frame. Celebrate your success as each goal is completed.
A Closer Look at Apprenticeships
The apprenticeship model helps intentionally build long-lasting mentorships with community partners and experts in the field in order to improve our program and student learning outcomes. In the beginning, our students secured community volunteers to help haul recyclables and worked alongside them to learn unloading procedures. My students began meeting with our neighboring county’s Solid Waste Authority’s director of education, taking tours of their large-scale recycling operations in order to learn the recycling ropes to create a sustainable operation in our county.
One of our students’ grandmothers became a board member of our county’s Solid Waste Authority, and she continues to work with our students biweekly to solve logistical problems and determine new outreach possibilities with our students. Other businesses, like Alpha Metallurgical Resources, reached out to us, and several students work directly with their environmental compliance manager to plan biannual Adopt-A-Highway litter clean-up events. Working alongside community members and experts in the field to solve a critical community issue nurtured my students’ leadership capabilities and confidence.
Creating a Lasting Legacy
Middle and high school students can develop ingenious solutions to problems such as air and water pollution, threatened species, and the lack of green space. At the same time, taking students outdoors jump-starts learning by awakening the senses and increasing connectedness and happiness. Through goal setting, hard work, and problem-solving, our recycling program grew and now serves as the only plastic recycling location in our entire county.
If a recycling program isn’t a good fit for your school, there are myriad other projects that students can pursue, such as doing a survey of microplastics or coming up with technological solutions to environmental challenges. Both the EPA’s Microplastic Beach Protocol for freshwater or marine waters and The Big Microplastic Survey provide citizen science opportunities for students to collect and report data, and Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow gives students a chance to win classroom technology.
Somewhere in Siberia, a Soviet-era dam is generating energy for a remote mining operation. But nothing physical is coming out of the earth. Instead, the hydroelectric power plant fuels massive machines that churn out solutions to complicated mathematical problems. In other words, this renewable energy is being used to mine the cryptocurrency bitcoin. A Bitcoin analyst and self-professed “hippie miner,” Jason Deane uses computers that run exclusively on hydro power—though this eco-friendly setup is likely the exception, not the rule.
Deane’s model of work might sound like the perfect antidote to Bitcoin’s environmental woes, but renewable energy isn’t a cure-all. Bitcoin’s annual energy use is currently estimated at 127.22 terawatt hours. For comparison, that’s just over 3 percent of the total terawatt hours consumed in the US in 2023. As this number continually grows, we will need to find solutions to reckon with this kind of consumption.What is Bitcoin?
The allure of Bitcoin is that it’s a decentralized digital cryptocurrency system. Anyone can sell, buy, or exchange without middlemen or intermediaries like big banks. It also exists outside of any government’s control. Bitcoin was the first and is still the most prominent cryptocurrency, despite the rise of other coins like Ethereum, Cardano, and the joke currency Dogecoin.
Bitcoin uses blockchain technology to secure, validate, and document transactions. Blockchains, named rather intuitively, operate by storing transactions in “blocks” that are validated by the “nodes,” or computers, that make up the network. Once validated, that block is connected to the other blocks, and cannot be rolled back or reversed. This creates a chain of data blocks—hence the term “blockchain.”
You can also think of a blockchain as a digital ledger, documenting all the transactions that occur on it. The nodes that validate those outstanding transactions and lock them into a block are referred to as “miners,” who solve complex mathematical problems as part of Bitcoin’s code. For doing so they are rewarded with bitcoin.
There are only a finite number of bitcoins in the system—21 million total, to be exact. So far over 18.5 million have been mined. To make sure they don’t exhaust the supply too quickly, the difficulty of the math problems miners have to complete continually increases in complexity. So much so, that the last bitcoin isn’t estimated to be mined till 2140.
[Related: This is what determines the price of Bitcoin]
There are lots of miners trying to solve these math problems—all at the same time. But only the first miner to solve the math problem gets the bitcoin reward. This competition, along with the growing scale of the Bitcoin blockchain, means miners are upgrading and grouping computers to make them more powerful.
But this also means it requires increasingly more computing power—and electricity—to carry out the mining. Long gone are the days of personal computers and niche hobbies. Mining is an industrial operation.To quantify Bitcoin’s energy use, follow the miners—if you can
All this computing requires energy. A lot of it. And people are starting to take issue with that.
On the day tech billionaire Elon Musk announced that Tesla would no longer accept bitcoin as payment for its cars, the value of bitcoin dramatically plummeted, wiping away hundreds of billions of dollars in value. Musk justified his decision by citing concerns over Bitcoin’s increasing use of fossil fuels to power mining and transactions.
This is the crux of the current uproar: Is Bitcoin as green as mining enthusiasts claim? Or is the crypto ecosystem wreaking climate havoc on the physical world?
It’s not a simple question to answer. Bitcoin’s energy consumption has been compared to the total consumption of many countries, from Sweden to Argentina to Pakistan. These energy consumption estimates—from sources like the widely quoted Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index and Alex de Vries’ Digiconomist—vary and are hard to conceptualize, as there is no centralized source of data for bitcoin mining, with most analysis based on models.
[Related: NFTs are blowing up the digital art and collectibles worlds. Here’s how they work.]
Despite the difficulty of pinpointing Bitcoin’s exact energy use, these numbers are arguably easier to calculate for cryptocurrencies than for other high energy-consumption industries like banking or gold mining—although some estimates do put their consumption far higher than Bitcoin.
“Bitcoin uses a tiny amount of power compared to the banking sector or other systems along those lines,” says Deane. “It’s a tiny, tiny percentage, but people really go on about it because there’s this whole perception of ‘Well, but do we actually need Bitcoin?’”
Because Bitcoin consumes energy in a network of anonymity, analysts calculate the consumption through “hash rates,” or the amount of computing and processing power used in mining and transaction operations. Mining equipment uses electricity, and that electricity has to come from the grid.
Nearly two-thirds of all bitcoin mining happens in China (although authorities there have recently started to crack down on the practice). While tracking down exactly where Bitcoin’s energy is being supplied from is tricky, researchers can make approximations based on who is doing the mining and where their energy comes from. Approximations of the grid mix and energy use allow them to arrive at estimates.
“We don’t know where an individual miner is located,” says Benjamin Jones, an assistant professor of economics at the University of New Mexico. “This whole idea of decentralized currency is that these miners are anonymous, but in some cases, they will self-identify.”
When miners self-identify, it’s easier to locate “mining pools,” places where miners combine their resources together to scale up their operations. In the US for example, these pools are concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, according to Jones. Still, the exact location of most bitcoin miners is unknown.
Without that information, researchers have to make certain assumptions to approximate how much energy bitcoin mining consumes—and whether that energy comes from renewable or non-renewable sources.
One way to do this is by looking at the general electricity mix across a country to create an average electricity profile. For example, electricity yielded from coal accounts for around 20 percent of all electricity produced in the US. So if a miner is located here, then 20 percent of all output through mining would be produced using coal. But averages are just averages, and could be more or less accurate depending on the location of the miner, the time of year, and even the business model.What Bitcoin really does to the environment—and public health
Energy use, whether it’s renewable or fossil-fueled, always comes at a cost. Several studies have looked into quantifying Bitcoin’s carbon costs or pinning down its carbon footprint. But Jones wanted to calculate more of the downstream effects.
In a study published in 2023, Jones and other researchers sought to quantify how much air pollution mining camps generated in the surrounding communities, and what the impact on climate would be. They applied standard economic cost metrics to health and climate impacts.
“We linked energy use to emissions at fossil fuel power plants, and then linked those emissions to things such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide,” says Jones. “And then linked those to human mortality.”
The researchers first calculated emissions profiles for the US and China. Then they used an air pollution mapping model developed by the Center for Air, Climate, and Energy Solutions, a research center at Carnegie Mellon that was created in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency.
“[The study is] saying for every dollar value created—and this is created to the miner, it’s like my personal value from mining this to society—[mining is] generating 49 cents in damages, and those damages are premature mortality and climate change effects associated with carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants,” says Jones.
“So it’s basically a trade-off of a private value: $1 in private value, compared to a 49 cents in social costs that society faces through health and the environment.”There are no excess renewables
The crypto miner Jason Deane argues that miners usually congregate at places with excess power—like surplus hydropower generated during a rainy season that would otherwise go to waste.
This excess power is what lures miners to places with cheap electricity and large profit margins. For proponents of green mining like Deane, this means using renewable energy. But right now, renewable energy only accounts for roughly 20 percent of the US electricity supply.
“Maybe 30, 40 years from now, we will have a bunch of excess renewables. But right now, as we’re making the transition away from fossil fuels, the renewables are all being utilized for some purpose, and so if bitcoin miners or cryptocurrency miners are going to take that renewable, that means it’s not there for somebody else to use,” says Jones. For example, to power an electric car, your home, a business, or factory.
[Related: Your brain is wired to regret missing the GameStop stock boom]
Like many other industries, there are slow albeit palpable shifts toward using renewable resources. But until more capacity to produce electricity through renewables exists, there will always be an opportunity cost.
“I do believe it is the absolute responsibility of all miners to run on renewable energy. There’s no question in my mind that it is collectively our responsibility to do so. But we make no apologies for the power that it consumes,” says Deane. “And that’s the difference, I think, because the network has to use that power. We’ve got to be responsible, how to source it and how it’s created.”Pioneering greener consensus mechanisms
High electricity consumption is built into the very design of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum partly because they operate with “proof-of-work” consensus mechanisms. This “consensus” prevents digital currency from being spent twice when there’s no central entity in charge.
As miners race to solve increasingly complex mathematical problems and validate transactions, proof-of-work demands more and more energy over time. This consensus mechanism helps secure the network against economic attacks, since there is only one validated ledger of transactions that has been agreed upon by every single participant in the network. It prevents data from being overwritten or altered, but this comes at an intensive energy cost.
But what if there was another way?
Recently, Ethereum caused waves in the cryptosphere when co-founder Vitalik Buterin announced that its next iteration, Ethereum 2.0, would transition the virtual coin to a proof-of-stake model of operation.
Proof-of-stake (PoS) is an alternative consensus mechanism where instead of every blockchain being sent to every computer in the system, it’s randomly sent to one miner who validates the transaction. To ensure security, miners are asked to stake coins as collateral. The energy consumption drops rather dramatically as miners aren’t racing to secure transitions in return for minted coins.
The cost of transitioning to proof-of-stake is not cheap; Ethereum is currently investing millions of dollars into this pivot.
As Zaki Manian, a co-founder of various crypto projects like iqlusion and Sommelier, points out, nearly all of the new cryptocurrencies appearing on the market have already adopted the PoS model. They can be built greener by design because they have no legacy ecosystem like Bitcoin or Ethereum to uphold.
“They can just create a de novo design for their cryptocurrency that you leverage as proof-of-stake and can leverage all of this existing software and technology that already exists,” says Manian. “Let’s say we wanted to move Dogecoin proof-of-stake? I don’t think I could do it for less than $10 million.”
“These modern consensus algorithms that we use for proof of stake took years, dozens of researchers, dozens of engineers, enormous expertise to work,” says Manian. “But now that these things are working and securing tens of billions of dollars of value, we have increasing confidence that they work.”
In 2013, a team of Polish biologists, led by Wojciech Czechowski, stumbled across a huge population of wood ants trapped inside an abandoned munitions bunker in western Poland, originally built in the ’60s to store nuclear weapons. Hundreds of thousands of unlucky insects had apparently wandered too far from their nearby nest and managed to fall into an open ventilation pipe. This accidental trapdoor dropped the ants into a sealed chamber with no light, heat, or food sources.
Intrigued, the scientists kept watch over the secluded swarm. They realized that since the pipe opened up in the middle of the ceiling, the ants were unable to crawl back to the surface (unless they spontaneously gained spider powers). But did the ants give up hope? No. They rolled up their tiny sleeves and did their best to organize into a functional society. In total darkness, they built a flat quasi-nest out of dirt and debris, which they maintained throughout the seasons.
When the researchers revisited the bunker two years later, they found that the nest was still thriving, with close to a million estimated occupants. A continuous supply of ants raining down from the ventilation pipe kept the population numbers up, even though there were no signs of successful reproduction. Still the scientists wanted to know: How did the bunker colony continue to survive without access to foraging grounds? According to their new study published in The Journal of Hymenoptera last week, the short answer is cannibalism.
“I wasn’t surprised,” says study co-author Maák István, an ant-behavioral ecologist from the University of Szeged in Hungary. “It was a logical option for them to survive in this way.”
By 2023, the bunker was carpeted with almost two million dead ants. Per their tradition, many of these carcasses had been organized into giant waste piles, called cemeteries, consisting of hundreds of corpses. From these piles, the team collected around 150 bodies and analyzed them for signs of cannibalism. They found gnawed holes and bite marks on 93 percent of the samples.
István explains that wood ants typically eat sap, fruit, and honeydew (a sticky-sweet secretion from aphids). Their method for cannibalizing the dead is slightly more brutal: “It’s like opening a can,” István says, describing how they crack a hole in a corpse’s thorax or abdomen to get to the muscles, organs, and fat inside.
Thankfully, these ants no longer have to continue the cannibalistic ritual that sustained them for all these years. The scientists finally installed an escape route—a three-meter-long wooden ladder that allowed the colony to reach the ventilation pipe, travel out of the bunker, and return to the mother nest. When the scientists returned to the site in 2023, the site was deserted.
The escape route that led to the ants’ sweet freedom. Courtesy of Wojciech Czechowski
Disposal of the dead is a hugely important aspect of social insect societies. Ants, wasps, bees, and termites all have designated “undertakers,” whose job it is to recognize and remove lifeless bodies from the nest. For termites, cannibalism is one of their primary means of disposal. Ants and bees, though, tend to avoid it for hygienic reasons, István says: They don’t want to spread parasites or diseases by feeding on the wasted flesh.
And yet cannibalism can be necessary in extreme circumstances (like “trapped in a nuclear bunker” extreme). Corpses can provide essential nutrients when all other food sources are scarce. Wood ants in particular will do whatever it takes to survive, István says. They’re notorious for their massive “ant wars,” where they fight with nearby colonies over territory. In sparse times their fallen enemies are sometimes carried back to the nests and eaten.
Overall, cannibalism is fairly understudied in most species of insects. This bunker provided a “unique opportunity to study a novel behavior in ants,” says Alice Walker, an entomologist at the University of Liverpool, who wasn’t involved in the Poland study. Ultimately, she says, this just “illustrates how good ants are at adapting to harsh environments, which is one of the reasons they’ve been so successful since they evolved 150 million years ago.”
My opinion is that the Beelink SER4 4800U is a powerful and very compact mini PC. This computer is sufficient for professional use in many applications and allows you to run several demanding games, without breaking the bank.
Value for money
If you’re in the market for a quite powerful little beast – with some punch in everyday usage, then the newly released SER4, which comes with a not so power-hungry Ryzen 7-4800U SoC, could easily become your next best buy!
Beelink SER4 – Main Specifications
OS: Windows 11 Pro
Processor: AMD Ryzen 7-4800U, 7nm process, 15W TDP
GPU: Radeon RX Vega 8 @1750MHz
RAM: 16/32GB DDR4 3200MHz (dual-channel)
Storage: 500GB/1TB m.2 NVMe SSD
Wireless: WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Ports: USB Type-A 3.0*3, USB Type-A 2.0*1, USB-C*1, HDMI*2, 3.5mm Audio Jack*1, 1000M Ethernet*1, DC-in*1
Buy the Beelink SER4 mini PC – from UK
Buy the Beelink SER4 mini PC – from France
Buy the Beelink SER4 mini PC – from Germany
Beelink SER4 Mini PC * 1
57W Power Adapter * 1
User Guide * 1
VESA Mount Bracket * 1
HDMI Cable * 2 (1m and 0.2m)
As I previously mentioned, the SER4 comes in black with 2 red grilles on its side that help heat dissipate easily, and fully metallic chassis. It packs an excellent build quality, with no squeaky sounds at all. It measures 126*113*42 mm, so it can easily fit behind my Xiaomi curved monitor with no issues at all. If you literally have no room on your desk, the VESA mount included in the retail box can help you attach the mini PC onto the back of the monitor. Thus making it completely disappear from the surroundings. It weighs only 455g, so moving it around the house or taking it on a business trip will be easy. If you have monitors in both your office and your apartment, this thing should be much easier than carrying a laptop.Connectivity Options
This small devil also comes with impressive connectivity options. The front panel has an illuminated power button, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a Type-C USB 3.1 port with Alternate Mode, dual USB 3.1 ports, and a reset pin-hole ‘CLR CMOS’. The rear panel includes a gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.1 and a USB 2.0 port, dual HDMI 2.0 ports, and the power jack.
Internally there is an M.2 2230 WiFi 6E (or 802.11ax) Mediatek MT7921K card which supports the new 6 GHz band. There’s also a M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe Gen 3.0 SSD drive (the review model included a 500 GB Intel 660p drive with Windows 11 Pro installed). There’s also the ability to add a 2.5” SATA drive to the lid which is connected to the motherboard via a short ZIF cable.
If you’re good at math, then you might have noticed that the SER4 comes with 3 HDMI ports. This means that it has the potential to drive three 4K displays at once. Running multiple screens in a retail, commercial or corporate environment is one of the SER4’s strongest features. Sorry to say that it doesn’t have any Thunderbolt port, so if you’re into eGPU’s then it’s a bummer.Performance: oldie but goody
The power consumption for the stock configuration was measured as follows:Gizchina News of the week
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Initially plugged in – 1.0 Watts
Powered off (shutdown) – 0.4 Watts (Windows) and 0.4 Watts (Ubuntu)
BIOS* – 18.7 Watts
GRUB boot menu – 17.2 Watts
Idle – 5.6 Watts (Windows) and 4.1 Watts (Ubuntu)
CPU stressed – 36.1 Watts (Windows ‘cinebench’) and 30.8 Watts (Ubuntu ‘stress’)
Video playback** – 25.4 Watts (Windows Edge 4K60fps) and 30.6 Watts (Ubuntu Chrome 4K60fps)Benchmarks – General performance
In everyday use, the difference in single-core performance will go largely unnoticed. If you want to edit some 4K videos, then the multi-core ability of the AMD chip will pull through. The m.2 NVMe SSD may not be the fastest in the market, but at nearly 2,000MB/s for reading speed, it’s ideal for booting Windows and all your favorite productivity apps.
As I mentioned earlier, the SER4 is truly a solid HTPC, with no problem decoding any video formats you may need, including a few 8K@60fps and 4K@120fps videos. Streaming 4K YouTube Videos in Chrome, this machine does not skip a bit, either. I didn’t have the chance to try some 8K streaming – but who needs it anyway?
One more interesting feature of this Lilliputian device is its heat dissipation and the power it consumes. It’s only 5W at idle performance, with a maximum of 39W when doing heavy duty graphics editing or some addictive gaming. On the other hand, it’s not the most quiet mini PC out there. Every time it starts working the fans go off like an airplane for 5 seconds prior to boot. This, in order to cool the small CPU chamber, so this could be a bit annoying if you’re used to work with an Apple Mac Mini M1 that’s silent 24 hours/day.
Thanks to the efficient cooling, the SER4 is also extremely stable, it passed the 3DMark Time Spy Stress test with a very high mark.WiFi 6E support
I don’t think anyone could be disappointed with the connectivity features of the SER4. The device supports the latest WiFi 6E technology, also known as WiFi 6 Extended. Such thing allows the PC to use the 6GHz band, which in return brings more bandwidth, faster speeds, and lower latency, opening up resources for future innovations like AR/VR, 8K streaming, and more. It also packs a typical Ethernet jack for typical wired internet access.Software: comes with a licensed, clean copy of Windows 11 Pro
Beelink SER4 miniPC – More info here
If you’re not into Windows however, you can easily install a fresh copy of Ubuntu and see the little beast fly! I partitioned the SSD, and installed Ubuntu using an Ubuntu 20.04.4 ISO as dual boot. After installation and updates a brief check showed working audio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and video output from the USB Type-C port. Everything worked like a charm.Beelink SER4 Competition
WIth a price of around 600$, the Beelink SER4 is among the VFM deals in the mini PC market. The choice of a Ryzen 7 CPU (from the 4000 series) is good when going against Intel powered mini PCs. Especially those with an Intel Core i5. It’s not as powerful as its “Ryzen 9-5900HX” brother, but it’s more affordable and power-efficient.
The closest competitor to the SER4 is the i5-1135G7 powered Intel NUC 11 Pro. As you can get the latter with 8GB memory and 500GB SSD on the same budget. The NUC comes with more versatile Thunderbolt 3 ports, which is a must for some users. However, in terms of horsepower, very few Intel powered models can really match the SER4.My opinion regarding Beelink SER4
After testing the Beelink SER4 4800U mini PC we can say that it’s one powerful mini PC. This little wonder provides an AMD Ryzen 7 4800U processor with a Vega 8 GPU that defends itself quite well. It has three 4K video outputs and Gigabit Ethernet port to transfer large files. It can be hung on its VESA bracket or placed anywhere on your desk without taking up space as well.
The Beelink SER4 4800U offers a high computing power that makes it suitable even for any heavy task. It’s packed with a 512GB Intel M.2 2280 NVMe SSD, option to mount a SATA 3 2.5″ disk and 2 SODIMM slots that allow easy expansion of RAM.
As I previously mentioned, it also stands out for integrating Wifi 6E with good performance. It boasts a cooling system with a fan that we will only hear running heavy games or launching demanding calculations.
My opinion is that the Beelink SER4 4800U is a powerful and very compact mini PC. This computer is sufficient for professional use in many applications and allows you to run several demanding games.
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It first sounded crazy that a fingerprint scanner could be hidden under the display screen, but the truth now is in-display or under-display fingerprint sensors have had an impact on the smartphone industry since arriving, even if not by much. Today, more than 60 devices have a fingerprint scanner hidden under the display panel and more will be getting this feature in the future.
Smartphones like OnePlus 7 Pro, Huawei P30 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S10 have received rave reviews partly thanks to the in-display fingerprint sensor that manages to register a thumbprint and unlock your phone in a fraction of a second, just like the typical fingerprint scanner we are used to.
But wait, how did we even arrive here?
To give you a perspective of how we got here, meet “The rise of in-display fingerprint sensor” on Android phones, a closer look at the events since the first in-display fingerprint sensor sprung to life all thanks to Vivo, a Chinese company you might know very little about.
When was the tech announced?
It was at the CES 2023 that the first prototype of a working in-display fingerprint scanner popped up. This was demoed by Vivo, a Chinese company that finished 2023 in the top 6 of the list of leading global smartphone vendors with a market share of 7%.
The Synaptics-made prototype first leaked in mid-2023 and was confirmed to only work on AMOLED panels, which is still the case today. As expected, though, Synaptics is no longer the only vendor in this business, with others like Qualcomm having already joined the fun.
What was the first smartphone with an in-display fingerprint sensor?
As noted, Vivo was the first to reveal a smartphone prototype with a working in-display fingerprint sensor, which translated to the company becoming the first with a mainstream smartphone rocking this feature – the Vivo X20 Plus UD.
This handset was announced in January 2023 and a month or so later, the same company took the wraps off yet another device with an in-display fingerprint sensor – the Vivo X21 UD. In June of the same year, the Vivo NEX S joined the party and today, more than 10 Vivo smartphones have an in-display fingerprint scanner, the most from any single company.
When did in-display fingerprint sensors become mainstream?
Despite Vivo leading the rest with its exploits in Q1 2023, the fact that most of the devices initially released with in-display fingerprint scanners were limited to the Chinese market meant that this tech struggled to take off in the mainstream market, at least until the big boys started joining the party.
Huawei became the first major Android vendor to adopt this tech via the Huawei Mate RS Porsche Design released in April 2023, shrugging off competition from Samsung, which joined the party as recent as February 2023, to the finish line.
Huawei did know it was dealing with first generation tech at the time and chose to include a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner on the Mate RS as well. But now that the tech has evolved into something reliable, the company has since dropped this approach and instead only offers an in-display fingerprint sensor on its flagships, beginning with the Mate 20 Pro that came out in late 2023.
Xiaomi, the fifth biggest smartphone vendor in the world, brought its first device aboard this ship in July 2023, the China-limited Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer Edition, and today, the company has at least eight devices with a fingerprint scanner hidden under the display screen.
Will budget phones get in-display fingerprint scanning tech?
As always, new and shiny tech in the smartphone industry usually arrives on high-end phones before eventually trickling down to the midrange and low-end phones. We saw it with the original fingerprint scanner and things like having multiple camera lenses, so we are optimistic in-display fingerprint scanning tech will eventually arrive on budget phones.
As noted, its only in February 2023 that Samsung joined the party courtesy of the premium Galaxy S10 and S10+, but the company has since doubled its portfolio with the addition of Samsung Galaxy A50, Galaxy A70, and Galaxy A80, all of which are midrange devices. With more devices expected in the future, we won’t be surprised if this tech starts showing up on sub-$300 smartphones.
Wait, its already happening with Xiaomi’s Redmi K20 and Redmi K20 Pro handsets, both of which have an in-display fingerprint scanner yet they are a target for budget spenders. Motorola Moto Z4 and Xiaomi Mi 9 SE are the other reasonably priced smartphones that come with an in-display fingerprint scanner.
How good is an in-display fingerprint sensor?
At this point in time, in-display fingerprint sensors are still not good enough. But we all know it’s never easy to get it right with new tech, which is the case for in-display fingerprint scanning tech on smartphones. In fact, many will agree that Apple hasn’t adopted this tech on any of its flagship iPhones because it hasn’t matured enough.
Samsung took its sweet time working on the tech now used in the Galaxy S10 and S10+, but it’s still not perfect, with some users still unhappy with the performance while others are concerned with security and privacy. This, basically, tells us that perfecting the tech will take time, probably another year or so.
On the brighter side, there are some real differences between the first and second-generation in-display fingerprint sensors, with devices like OnePlus 7 Pro and Huawei P30 Pro receiving rave reviews about the quality of in-display fingerprint sensors they have, something that gives us hope for a better future.
Should you buy a phone with an in-display fingerprint sensor?
By the time 2023 ends, we’ll probably be swimming in a pool of smartphones with in-display fingerprint sensors as the popular authentication method. This will be the perfect time to buy a smartphone with an in-display fingerprint scanner, but until then, it shouldn’t be your primary reason for choosing a certain phone over the other.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one. If you enjoy having the latest tech around you, this might be it. At the moment, though, you might be limited by choice, with only a handful of phones with this feature available in the U.S. The fact that the tech isn’t perfect and still buggy should also worry you.
Right now, you can only pick from three Galaxy S10 variants (excluding the Galaxy S10e that has a side-mounted scanner), OnePlus 7 Pro, OnePlus 6T, and the Motorola Moto Z4.
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