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Intel NUC 11 Extreme overview: A tiny gaming desktop you may very well need

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Who is a strong miniature desktop for? That was the query working by way of my thoughts once I reviewed Intel’s NUC 9 Extreme final yr. It was the corporate’s strongest compact PC equipment (NUC stands for “next unit of computing”) on the time. But it was so wildly costly — particularly since you could add your individual RAM, storage, GPU and OS — it did not make sense for anybody however mini-PC obsessives. The new NUC 11 Extreme, AKA “Beast Canyon,” is just about the identical story. But it is no less than a bit cheaper and extra versatile, due to its sooner Eleventh-gen Intel CPU and help for full-sized GPUs.

Gallery: Intel NUC 11 Extreme | 17 Photos

I’ll get this out of the best way up entrance: Yes, this NUC is dramatically bigger than any earlier items we have seen. The 5-liter NUC 9 Extreme already appeared to be pushing the boundaries of a compact PC, however at 8 liters, the NUC 11 Extreme is what you’d name a Big Boy. Sure, it beats making area for a mid-tower PC in your desk, however it’s nonetheless fairly substantial. You cannot blame Intel an excessive amount of: Gamers wished full-sized GPUs in a NUC, that is simply essentially the most environment friendly technique to make that occur. The massive situation now’s that Intel is straight competing with more and more widespread Mini-ITX PC circumstances, that are cheaper however usually extra complicated builds.

Pros

  • Useful modular design
  • Excellent case cooling
  • Thoughtful design to squeeze in full GPUs

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Kits require {hardware} set up

The NUC 11 Extreme screams “gamer” earlier than you even flip it on. Its black steel case sports activities mesh air vents alongside the perimeters, supplying you with a peek on the GPU inside and three massive case followers up prime. For a small field, it is clearly meant to push plenty of air. Hit the ability button and it springs to life with an LED cranium alongside the entrance panel, in addition to underside LED lighting. I’m not one for an excessive amount of gamer bling, however Intel’s lighting comes is comparatively refined in comparison with many different PC makers.

Intel NUC 11 Extreme mini gaming desktop

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Our overview unit featured Intel’s Eleventh-gen i9 Compute Element, a modular card with an eight-core 11900KB CPU. It can be bought individually as an improve for NUC 9 Extreme clients. That was all the time the dream for Intel’s NUC Extreme platform, which additionally consists of Razer’s Tomahawk mini-PC. Wouldn’t or not it’s good in the event you may simply yank a card out in just a few years to get a brand new CPU? There are some compromises, although. According to Intel, there is not any entrance panel audio help when utilizing the brand new Compute Card on the NUC 9 Extreme, and there is not any assured PCIe 4.0 both. The firm additionally says compatibility with different containers depends upon how the their NUC base board was designed. (We’ve reached out to Razer to see if the Tomahawk could be upgraded.)

To assist velocity up our overview course of, Intel despatched alongside a unit pre-configured with Windows 10 Pro, 16GB of RAM, a speedy 512GB NVMe SSD, and an ASUS RTX 3060 GPU. Remember, you will want to assemble all of that gear too in the event you you a NUC equipment for your self (or simply purchase one pre-built from resellers like SimplyNUC).

While I’ve appreciated all of Intel’s earlier performance-oriented NUCs, together with 2018’s “Hades Canyon” mannequin and 2016’s “Skull Canyon,” they’ve all the time been held again by their pocket book processors. The NUC 11 Extreme, although, runs extra highly effective CPUs with a 65-watt TDP. That means it might faucet into extra energy like a conventional desktop gaming chip. And based mostly on our benchmarks, you possibly can positively see the advantages of that increase.

None

PCMark 10

3DMark (TimeSpy Extreme)

Geekbench 5

Intel NUC 11 Extreme (Intel Core i9-11900KB, NVIDIA RTX 3060)

7,167

4,143

1,684/9,345

Intel NUC 9 Extreme (Core i9-9980HK. NVIDIA RTX 2070)

6,469

4,057

1,312/7,464

ASUS ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition (AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, AMD Radeon RX 6800M)

6,992

5,189

1,457/7,691

ASUS Zephyrus G15 (AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS, NVIDIA RTX 3080 Max-Q)

6,881

4,530

1,426/7,267

In PCMark 10, the NUC simply outpaced each Windows PC we have seen this yr. It was barely sooner than ASUS’s ROG Strix G15, which was working AMD’s highly effective Ryzen 9 5900HX. Admittedly, we have not checked out any gaming notebooks with Eleventh-gen Intel chips, however based mostly on that AMD comparability I’d nonetheless anticipate the NUC 11 to come back out forward of these. We additionally have not examined comparable Eleventh-gen desktop CPUs but, however I’d wager they’re going to carry out higher since they will draw extra energy.

Apple’s M1 iMac was the one laptop we have reviewed that beat the NUC when it got here to single-core efficiency in Geekbench 5, however Intel’s machine nonetheless got here out forward in multithreading. The NUC 11 Extreme additionally impressed me when it got here to transcoding a 4K video clip into 1080p. It managed to try this in 41 seconds, beating the speedy ROG Strix G15 by 6 seconds.

Intel NUC 11 Extreme mini gaming desktop

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

I’m primarily specializing in CPU-bound benchmarks, as a result of the NUC 11’s graphics scores will in the end depend upon the GPU you plug into it. But I could not overview a gaming PC with out truly taking part in some video games, may I? I’m pleased to report that it reached 150 fps to 160 fps in Overwatch with epic graphics settings at my ultrawide monitor’s native decision (3,440 by 1,440 pixels). I used to be even capable of get Control working in 1440p between 60 and 70 fps with medium ray tracing settings and graphics set to excessive. (Thanks to a wholesome DLSS help, in fact.)

Basically, the NUC 11 Extreme does every part I anticipate it an RTX 3060-equipped gaming desktop to do. And regardless of the tight quarters, temperatures did not endure a lot both. The GPU by no means went above 75 celsius whereas gaming, and the CPU stayed beneath 80 celsius as effectively. The followers have been noticeable beneath load, however they have been by no means as whiny as those you’d discover on some gaming laptops. (Larger followers can push extra air with out making as a lot noise, naturally.)