Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Intel took the wraps off NUC 12 at CES 2022 alongside its mobile Alder Lake architecture that is now making its way into gaming laptops like the GE76 Raider we reviewed a few months back and the Blade 15 that just landed in the lab.
For the NUC 12 Extreme, Intel has decided to use its new chassis design deployed with NUC 11 Extreme last year, revamping the Compute Element to accept LGA1700 CPUs.
Like the NUC 11 Extreme last year, this year's NUC 12 Extreme is offered in two SKUs: NUC12DCMi9 and NUC12DCMi7. As you can see from the table above, both SKUs share most of the hardware design. The i9 model does gain a second LAN port with the i225 2.5Gbe. The rest of the hardware pans out with support for 64GB of DDR4 SO-DIMM at 3200MHz, three Gen4 NVMe, one being CPU attached for top performance.
The single PCIe slot is wired up for Gen5 GPUs and supports dual-slot cards up to 12" in length. We also have external connectivity featuring Thunderbolt 4, USB 3.2 Gen 2, and HDMI.
The Intel NUC12 Extreme is expected to cost around $1699 for the Core i7 SKU, while the Core i9 should rest somewhere around $1899.
Packaging, Accessories, and Overview
Packaging and Accessories
NUC 12 Extreme uses the new 8-liter chassis design introduced last year. This includes a full mesh design for the sides and top, allowing for a great amount of air movement around the chassis.
The front of the NUC 12 has been revamped but still includes the skull logo on the front panel and the power button below. There is an I/O panel below that now includes USB-C.
The top, as said previously, is full mesh with three fans pulling air out of the chassis.
I removed the compute element to better understand the chassis volume. It is tight to work inside the chassis, but the open-top design and removable side panels do aid.
The PSU is an FSP 650 SFX type power supply.
The compute element design is very similar to last year and includes its own fan and power supply input to the right.
The rear I/O includes dual LAN ports; one is AQC113 10Gbe and the other i225 2.5Gbe. We then have six USB 3.2 ports, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and HDMI.
Internally, the 12th Gen compute element has two m.2 ports to the left, socket LGA1700 and two SO-DIMM slots to the far right.
UEFI and System
The setup offers the traditional NUC menu system built on Aptio. This menu provides an overview of system components along with current firmware revisions. The advanced menu allows users to configure storage, USB, GPU, Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
The power menu will allow you to override the default board setting, potentially increasing performance along with Speedstep. The boot menu controls the startup device and allows additional USB boot or network options if needed.
Above, we get a peek at the build with CPUz.
Software for the NUC 11 Extreme is NUC Software Studio. As seen above, this offers system monitoring and tuning via power modes and fan profiles.
Included with NUC Studio is LED control for the NUC. This includes four addressable zones.
Cinebench, CrossMark, and AIDA64
Cinebench is a long-standing render benchmark that has been heavily relied upon by both Intel and AMD to showcase their newest platforms during unveils. The benchmark has two tests, a single-core workload that will utilize one thread or 1T. There is also a multi-threaded test that uses all threads or nT of a tested CPU
We put the NUC 12 Extreme against all the platforms tested for the 12900KS review, and all systems were tested with the 6800XT.
R23 showed a score of 1920 for single thread operations. Multi-thread landed at 27276, between the 12900K and 12700K builds.
In CrossMark, performance was only 20 points under the K SKU platform.
AES performance topped 207K.
SHA3 came in at 6009.
Memory throughput for the NUC 12 Extreme gave us 63K read,58K write, and 58K copy.
UL Benchmarks and Gaming
We ran the NUC 12 Extreme through several scenarios in 3DMark. The first is CPU Profile. Comparing the 12900 in the NUC 12 to our desktop builds, we see performance between the 12700k and 12900k and peaks at 10320 for 16 threads.
Timespy scored 18813, just under our desktop 12600K platform.
Procyon workloads push the NUC 12 between the 12600K and 12700K, scoring 10856 for Photo and 9013 for Office.
For Tomb Raider, FPS peaked at 260 at low settings and 221 for Ultra.
Horizon matched the 12900k system at 176 FPS for Ultra settings, while low settings showed 229 FPS.
Cyberpunk offered 239 FPS at low settings and 164 FPS at high.
Power, Thermals, and Final Thoughts
Power Draw and Thermals
Power draw for the NUC 12 Extreme with our 6800XT installed peaked at 486 watts while idle power was 124 watts.
Thermal was quite good for the NUC 12. We did see a good amount of heat being pushed out the top of the chassis, and our thermal camera showed 38c at peak.
Last year, NUC 11 Extreme was the beginning of Intel taking its NUC platforms to a new level. Paired with Rocket Lake architecture, we were able to get fantastic gaming performance and PCIe Gen4 storage performance out of a turnkey 8-liter SFF platform. NUC 12 Extreme has taken this even higher with the IPC increase from Alder Lakes Hybrid architecture and Z690 chipset that has improved I/O connectivity as well.
Our one complaint from NUC 11 Extreme was front panel I/O connectivity, and that too has been revamped to include USB-C, while the rear I/O has held onto Thunderbolt 4 and USB 3.2. 10Gbe has been added for both the i7 and i9 SKUs this year, with 2.5Gbe as a secondary option for the i9 model. Both platforms enjoy WiFI6e with Intel's new AX411 chipset.
Testing the NUC 12 Extreme with the 12900 and our 6800XT, which barely fit the chassis, we found performance to run just under our 12900K desktop platform in most CPU workload scenarios. Gaming workloads at low settings often showed the NUC 12 next to the 12700K, while high settings would open it up slightly, getting it closer to the 12900K in most cases.
Pricing for the NUC 12 Extreme has gone up quite a bit over NUC 11 Extreme. Last year, the i9 model was hovering around $1400 when we reviewed it in July. This year the NUC 12 is expected to cost $1900 for the i9. Consumers can save a little by going with the i7, which will get the price down to roughly $1600. Of course, these prices include 8GB of DDR4 and 256GB NVMe from SimplyNUC.
The Bottom Line
NUC 12 Extreme offers the very best desktop class hardware in a fantastic SFF platform, though pricing could end up holding it back.