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Intel NUC 11 Extreme "Beast Canyon" Review

Intel pulls out all the stops for what its best small form factor NUC ever, the NUC11BTMi9 NUC 11 Extreme "Beast Canyon".

@TylerBernath
Published Thu, Jul 29 2021 8:00 AM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: Intel (NUC11BTMi9)

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 41 IMAGES

Intel just recently took the wraps off their "Beast Canyon" NUC 11 platform at Computex 2021, and for those in the know, replacing Ghost Canyon was no simple task. To do it, Intel has deployed some ingenuity using their compute element that was first introduced with 8th Generation processors several years back. They have also opened up the chassis to 7 liters using a more familiar form factor similar to chassis like the NR200 from Cooler Master; this allows for a customizable platform that supports full-size GPUs and SFX power supplies.

Alongside the 11th Gen compute element, the NUC 11 Extreme has enough room for consumers to deploy a full-size graphics card up to 12" in length and dual-slot. This means cards from the RTX 30 series and Radeon 6000 series with standard cooling will fit without issue, while cards with custom cooling will need more attention.

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There are several SKUs coming to market for NUC 11 Extreme; our sample is based on the NUC11BTMi9 in the charts above. Additional SKUs include the NUC11BTMi7 that includes the 11700B i7 Processor compute element.

Additionally, the 11th Gen Compute Element will be available separately in the SKU in the second image above.

Specifications and Marketing

Specification for our sample gives us the 11th Gen Core i9 compute element with the 11900KB CPU; this is a 65W 8-core 16 thread processor with a base clock of 3.3GHz and TVB of 5.3GHz built on Intel's 10nm SuperFin node.

Our SKU is outfitted with 16GB of DDR4-3200 from HyperX but support ramps all the way up to 64GB of memory for those wanting to max it out. Storage is deployed over 4x m.2 slots; one supporting Gen4, our sample had a Rocket NVMe 4 installed from the factory.

I/O includes Thunderbolt 4 with two ports on the rear of the unit alongside eight USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, Wi-Fi 6e, and 2.5Gbe via the Intel i225 chipset.

Pricing

The Intel NUC11 Extreme is expected to cost around $1150 for the Core i7 SKU, while the Core i9 should rest somewhere around $1350. The individual compute elements should have MSRPs at $780 and $980, respectively.

Packaging, Accessories, and Overview

Packaging and Accessories

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Our NUC 11 Extreme sample was delivered in "media packaging" seen above.

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Unboxing, we have our first look at the NUC 11 Extreme, the front panel housing the familiar skull logo for Intel's gaming division. Down below, you will find the power button and two USB 3.2 ports alongside a headphone jack and card reader.

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The entire chassis for the NUC 11 Extreme allows for a tremendous amount of airflow to move around. The side panel is a complete metal mesh.

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On the opposite side, we have another full mesh panel that allows the PSU to pull in cool air.

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The top of the NUC 11 Extreme is outfitted with three 92mm fans, controlled by the motherboard. These exhaust air out of the top of the chassis while pulling in from the right side.

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Rear I/O is a bit busy. Compute element on the left side includes six USB 3.2 ports, two Thunderbolt 4 along with 2.5Gbe and HDMI for those not running discrete graphics.

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The bottom of the NUC offers a quick storage option with a removable cover that allows access to the fourth m.2 slots.

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Opening the chassis, you can see the internal layout. Our unit was sent with the ASUS RTX 3060 with plenty of room for larger cards.

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Above, we have a close-up of our included PSU, a 650W unit from FSP.

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We pulled open the 11900KB compute element to get a look at the build. As you can see, memory slots are far-right on the board, followed by the Sabrent Rocket 4 NVMe that was sent with our sample. We then have the CPU plate that's attached to the fin array above. This leads to two more m.2 slots and the AX210 Wi-Fi 6e card.

UEFI and System

UEFI

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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, Wi-Fi, 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.

System

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Above, we get a peek at the build with CPUz.

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Software for the NUC 11 Extreme is NUC Software Studio. Seen above, this offers system monitoring along with tuning via power modes and fan profiles.

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Included with NUC Studio is LED control for the NUC. This includes four addressable zones.

Cinebench, Realbench and AIDA64

Cinebench

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

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We put the NUC 11 Extreme alongside our previously tested 11th Gen NUC platforms. The core count being doubled clearly gives a win to the Extreme, but single-thread performance shows a substantial increase with 11900KB over other Tiger Lake parts. Multi-thread shows a peak of 12265.

RealBench

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Realbench uses both video and photo workloads to benchmark your CPU. In these scenarios, the Extreme was much quicker than the previous, pulling in 21.5 seconds for Image Editing, 29.5 for Encoding, and 37.6 seconds for Multi-Tasking.

AIDA64 Memory

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AIDA64 has stayed as our means of testing memory bandwidth. The NUC 11 Extreme enjoying DDR4-3200 memory sits right with the two previous desktop NUC platforms.

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Memory latency for NUC 11 comes in at 76.9ns.

UL and BapCo Benchmarks

PCMark 10

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.

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Essentials come in at 11225, followed by digital content at 10824 and productivity at 9775.

3DMark

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We fired up two tests in 3DMark, the first being Timespy which gave us a score of 8845 with the RTX 3060.

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The second test is the new CPU Profile test. Seen above, the 11900KB scores 7580 with the max thread test, very close to the desktop 11700K.

CrossMark

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Throwing CrossMark into the mix, the NUC 11 Extreme scored 1784.

System I/O Benchmarks and Gaming

System I/O Benchmarks

Storage with CrystalDiskMark

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Internal storage performance reached 5007 MB/s read, and 2510 MB/s write.

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Random performance at Q1 hits 63.7 MB/s read and 304.4 MB/s write.

Networking

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Wired and Wireless throughput reach the potential of each interface. With 2.5GBE, we saw 2490Mbps from the NUC, and WiFi6 showed 1316Mbps in Netperf.

Gaming

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I installed a few games on the Extreme while I had in under a testing. Far Cry New Dawn managed to give us an average frame rate of 121 FPS, high settings 1080p, while Horizon Zero Dawn with the ultimate quality preset pushed 102 FPS at 1080p. Moving to 1440p, our configuration handled it with 74 and 88 FPS, respectively, while 4K proved a bit much for the RTX 3060.

Thermals and Final Thoughts

Thermals

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Above, we have two thermal images from the unit. The first is in its idle state, where temps approach 38c at the top of the chassis. The second is during a gaming session, the fan has ramped up slightly in this scenario, and we see the heat being pushed out the top at 41c.

Final Thoughts

Just when I thought NUC 11 would get no better than the Enthusiast platform reviewed back in March, NUC 11 Extreme is now on our desk and having gone through testing; quite possibly the best NUC Intel has ever designed. It surpasses Ghost Canyon by default with the IPC of 11th Gen Intel Tiger Lake and form factor redesign to allow discrete GPUs up to 12"; this means cards all the way up to the RTX 3080Ti will fit, though it's wise to watch power requirements going to this level.

System performance for the 11900KB is quite amazing. Its single-thread performance is on par with Rocket Lake desktop variants like our 11700K, while its support for PCIe Gen4 means Intel can deploy drives like the Sabrent Rocket 4 to unleash its full potential. Paired with a discrete GPU, our sample having the RTX 3060 from ASUS, this machine becomes a gaming beast, easily handling 1080p gaming with well over 100 FPS in titles we tested like Horizon Zero Dawn and Far Cry New Dawn while 1440p is certainly an option as well.

We don't typically discuss upgradability when it comes to NUC platforms, but Intel has left the door wide open on the Extreme; the compute module itself can handle three m.2 solutions and 64GB of memory at 3200MHz while also supporting XMP while external connectivity has been taken to extremes as well with two Thunderbolt 4 and eight USB 3.2 ports. The only grip I may have with this platform might be its lack of USB-C on the front panel.

What We Like

Form Factor: NUC 11 Extreme offers a familiar form factor with 7L chassis!

Connectivity: Solid connectivity that includes Thunderbolt 4 and USB 3.2.

Price: Fair pricing considering performance.

What Could Be Better

Front Panel: Would like to see better options on front panel.

Performance

95%

Quality

95%

Features

95%

Value

95%

Overall

95%

The Bottom Line

Intel's NUC 11 Extreme is easily the best ever designed, and its barebones price isn't too bad on the wallet either!

TweakTown award
95%

Intel NUC NUC8i5BEH Mini PC

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* Prices last scanned on 9/26/2021 at 3:28 pm CDT - prices may not be accurate, click links above for the latest price. We may earn an affiliate commission.

Tyler joined the TweakTown team in 2013 and has since reviewed 100s of new techy items. Growing up in a small farm town, tech wasn't around, unless it was in a tractor. At an early age, Tyler's parents brought home their first PC. Tyler was hooked and learned what it meant to format a HDD, spending many nights reinstalling Windows 95. Tyler's love and enthusiast nature always kept his PC nearby. Eager to get deeper into tech, he started reviewing.

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