Intel’s new NUC 11 Extreme kit, code-named “Beast Canyon,” is the company’s fourth attempt at building a more compact yet powerful gaming PC. Featuring (ironically) Intel’s biggest chassis yet, Beast Canyon relies on Compute Element cartridges containing a miniaturized motherboard, CPU, memory, storage and ports. Like last year’s Ghost Canyon, the form factor enables gamers to upgrade the entire system as if they were upgrading a graphics card. The 8-liter Beast has room for 12 inches of GPU power and includes a 650-watt 80+ Gold power supply.
The Verge reports that this was enough to “fit and sufficiently power one of the most powerful GPUs on the market, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Founder’s Edition.” The size catapults its “gaming cred” beyond the smaller 5-liter box like the Ghost, which offered fewer upgrade options.
“The most powerful card that will fit the Ghost is EVGA’s RTX 3060 Ti,” notes The Verge reviewer, “but the Beast can hold practically every dual-slot graphics card up to a 350W TDP … [which] might make this 8-liter box one of the smallest competent 4K gaming PCs you can buy.”
For those gamers who prefer to build their own gaming PCs with “boutique cases like the 8.2-liter Louqe Ghost S1 and 7.2-liter Dan A4,” he adds that “most prebuilt mini gaming rigs are far larger … [and] I doubt any of them are as effortless to work inside.” The internal layout of the Beast Canyon “just makes sense,” with the ability to “flip up the entire top of the Beast, triple-fan-array and all, to easily swing a full-size graphics card in and out of the machine.”
“It’s not the prettiest build, inside or out, but there’s loads of utility,” he said.
In addition to “perfect-length power cables for its fully modular SFX power supply, special wire channels for its Wi-Fi antennas and fan cables to go just they need to be,” the Beast allows the user to “turn off the LED lighting with a dedicated hardware button on the bottom” and offers ports including “eight full-size USB 3.1 plus additional headers inside the case, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, 2.5Gbps Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, an UHS-II SD card slot, a 3.5mm audio jack, Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.”
There is also “room for up [to] 64GB of DDR4 memory and four full-length M.2 slots for your stick SSD storage … [and] the entire NUC chassis is five PCIe slots wide instead of four, giving you room for an additional single-slot card.”
Intel does not sell fully built computers, he warns, noting that, the NUC 11 Extreme is sold in kits that include the case, power supply, module with preinstalled CPU and ports, cooling,” and so on, with the choice of an “11th Gen 8-core, 16-thread Core i7-11700B, or an 11th Gen 8-core, 16-thread Core i9-11900KB with 4MB of additional cache, 100MHz higher turbo clockspeed.”
To complete Beast Canyon, the user (or a reseller) must add “memory, storage, operating system, and graphics card separately.” The Core i7 kit should cost around $1,150 and the Core i9 kit around $1,350, and “Intel partner SimplyNUC is also offering turnkey versions starting at $1,399 and $1,599 respectively.” Intel will also sell “the Compute Element modules separately, in the range of $780-$980.”
“Next Unit of Computing (NUC) is Intel’s classic family of compact desktop systems that employ the company’s mobile CPUs,” explains PCMag. “The aim behind NUC is inspiring and furthering the cutting edge of mini PC design.”
In its recent review, PCMag lists the Beast’s cons as: “No preconfigured models, only bare-bones form, larger than other tested NUCs [and the] skull logo may not be everyone’s vibe.” Describing the Beast as “a shoebox-size powerhouse,” the review suggests the following pros:
- Heaps of power potential in a small package
- Supports full-length graphics cards
- Generous port selection, including twin Thunderbolt 4
- Modular Compute Element makes potential future CPU upgrades a single-card swap
- Nifty RGB logo and ground-effects lighting
Intel NUC 11 Extreme Review: A Tiny Gaming Desktop You May Actually Want, Engadget, 7/29/21
Intel NUC 11 Extreme Kit Powers a Wee Beastie of a Gaming PC, CNET, 7/29/21