The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
NUC has been a robust platform for Intel and wildly popular among SFF enthusiasts that take things to another level with custom design chassis to expand the platform's capabilities. NUC 11 is the long-awaited new platform that introduces an entirely new architecture, with Tiger Lake, to the family with new connectivity options, including Thunderbolt 4.
NUC 11 Enthusiast, formerly known as Phantom Canyon, is the top of the line. This solution pairs Tiger Lake with discrete RTX graphics allowing this SFF machine to handle triple-A titles like CyberPunk, Flight Simulator, and Call Of Duty with ease. NUC 11 Enthusiast is offered in two SKUs seen in the below image; one is a complete turn-key solution with 16GB of DDR4 3200 installed and Optane H10 in its 512GB capacity.
Specifications and Marketing
Both SKUs enjoy the 11th Generation Core i7-1165G7, a 4C8T solution with a base clock of 2.8GHz and boost of 4.7GHz with Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics. The Enthusiast is the only current-gen NUC 11 platform to offer discrete RTX graphics with the 2060 6GB alongside the integrated solution.
DDR4-3200MHz is supported across two slots @ 1.2v with warning labels for users wanting to install XMP-enabled 1.35v modules; they are not supported. Storage support includes two M.2 slots that are Gen3 x4, one supporting NVMe only and the other with added SATA support.
Connectivity options include Thunderbolt 4 front and back, Intel 2.5Gbe, and AX201 WiFi6, along with six USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports and a UHS-II SDXC slot.
The Intel NUC 11 Enthusiast in its kit form carries an MSRP of $1100, while the turn-key Mini PC comes in at $1339. Both have a three-year warranty.
Packaging, Accessories, and Overview
Packaging and Accessories
Our Enthusiast sample was a brown box engineering sample from Intel; retail models will include a black box with gold logos.
Included with the kit, we have a vertical stand, power adapter, and VESA mounting plate.
The front of the NUC 11 includes tons of connectivity, including SDXC far left, followed by Thunderbolt 4, USB 3.2 Gen 2, and 3.5mm audio.
The top of the NUC 11 has a honeycomb texture to the plastic chassis; the flat area is where the skull logo will show through.
The unit's back pushes a dual-use optical audio port on the left, 2.5Gbe following four more Gen2 USB 3.2 ports. Further, we have another Thunderbolt 4 along with HDMI and miniDP.
Opening the unit, we are greeting by the skull logo, which is a plastic insert. Intel includes blank panels with the NUC 11, so you can customize the logo that shows through the chassis.
Removing the top plate, we have the motherboard in all its glory, memory slots off to the right side, and NVMe up above.
Hiding in the corner is the AX201 WiFi6 chipset.
Pulling the motherboard out of the chassis, we get a nice look at the cooling solution for both 1165G7 and RTX 2060. This includes several heatpipes and a full fin stack that runs the length of the chassis.
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, and GPU settings along with Thunderbolt 4, WiFi, and Bluetooth.
The power menu will allow you to override the default board setting, which could potentially increase 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 1165G7 in CPU-Z.
We have the ASRock DeskMini X300 and the Ryzen 7 4750G with Vega integrated for comparison in this review. Not exactly apples to apples as Ryzen 4750G is a desktop APU, and Tiger Lake-U is mobile.
WPrime, Cinebench and AIDA64
WPrime is a leading multi-threaded benchmark. In our setup, we will manually set the number of cores for the CPU under test.
NUC 11 pulls off 5.12 seconds in 32M while 1024M takes a bit longer at 165 seconds.
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
R23 shows a 1T score of 1542, while nT comes in at 6003.
Realbench uses both video and photo workloads to benchmark your CPU. In our testing, we see image editing at 39 seconds for the NUC 11, followed by 54 seconds for Encoding and 63 seconds for Heavy Multitasking. This workload runs both of the previous two simultaneously.
OpenCL testing gives the NUC 11 a score of 2509.
AIDA64 has stayed as our means of testing memory bandwidth. The NUC 11 grabs 47497 MB/s reads, 46762 MB/s write, and 440996 MB/s copy.
Memory latency for NUC 11 comes in at 77.4ns.
Unigine and UL Benchmarks
PCMark is a benchmark from UL and tests various workload types to represent typical workloads for a PC. Everything from video conferencing, image import, and editing, along with 3D rendering, are tested.
Essentials bring in 9540 while Productivity and Digital Content reach 9175 and 7673, respectively.
Night RAID is our DX12 performance test, made for mobile products with integrated graphics. NUC 11 Enthusiast brings in a score of 38237.
Testing on Gears Tactics at 1080p High showed a solid 96.1 FPS for the NUC 11.
System I/O Benchmarks and Power Consumption
System I/O Benchmarks
Storage with CrystalDiskMark
Storage tests are all handled by our Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0 SSD for internal testing and our WD_BLACK P50 for external testing.
Internal storage performance reached 3494 MB/s read and 3427 MB/s write in sequential.
Random performance at Q1 hits 56 MB/s read and 158 MB/s write.
Testing the USB 3.2 port, we reach a peak of 1032 MB/s read, and 978 MB/s write.
Wired and Wireless throughput reach the potential of each interface. With 2.5GBE, we saw 2361 from the NUC, and WiFi6 showed 1291 in Netperf.
Thermals and Final Thoughts
Thermals were decent, thanks to the large heatsink array. In testing, we had a low of 29c at idle and a peak of 81c during Cinebench.
Before writing this review, I spent nearly two weeks with this as my dedicated daily machine. I've written my last ten reviews on it, including all the photo editing and chart-making that goes along with it. Additionally, I have countless hours in Battle Royale, both PUBG and Warzone, with this machine; it's fantastic, and SFF lovers will truly enjoy the freedom and space savings this machine offers.
Connectivity is fantastic, too; we are finally in a place where 2.5Gbe is becoming mainstream and WiFi is reaching well over a gigabit. Thunderbolt 4 enables USB 4, and USB 3.2 is stacked on this machine for all the peripherals one would ever need.
One of the biggest gripes in the community for the NUC 11 is the lack of Gen4 storage on the highest of high-end platforms, I mean, this is the pinnacle of NUC technology right now, but Intel had to sacrifice because Tiger Lake only has four PCIe 4.0 lanes, those went to the RTX 2060 and rightly so.
That said, the difference between Gen3 and 4 in everyday usage isn't an issue; drives like the Intel 670p or Samsung 980 can often produce an even better OS feel than popular Gen4 solutions.
What We Like
Form Factor: NUC 11 offers a powerhouse machine in a very compact chassis!
Connectivity: 2.5Gbe, Thunderbolt 4, WiFi6 and USB 3.2 Gen 2.
What Could Be Better
Limited PCIe 4.0: Would definitely enjoy more Gen4 lanes!
Price: MSRP seems high for a SFF platform using mobile CPUs.
For the NUC community, the Enthusiast offers tons of connectivity and a discrete GPU in the RTX 2060, making this an extremely powerful media machine.