Setup Notes and Platform Analysis

The review sample of the NUC11BTMi9 came package in a fancy plywood casing, signifying its premium nature. Since the review configuration was ready for benchmarking, the package contents only included the main unit, power cord, Windows 10 Pro installation DVD, and a USB key containing the drivers for the system. The retail packaging is bound to be quite different, as these pre-production samples are packaged to make unboxing videos attractive.

The NUC11BTMi9 sports the Intel VisualBIOS with a modern interface. It has plenty of enthusiast options to fine tune the performance. The video below presents the entire gamut of available options.

The specifications of our Intel NUC11BTMi9 review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Intel NUC11BTMi9 (Beast Canyon) Specifications
Processor Intel Core i9-11900KB
Tiger Lake-H, 8C/16T, 3.3 (4.9) (5.3) GHz
24MB L2+L3, 10nm, 65W TDP
Memory Kingston HyperX KHX3200C20S4/8G DDR4 SODIMM
20-22-22-42 @ 3200 MHz
2x8 GB
Graphics ASUS Dual GeForce RTX 3060 12GB GDDR6
Intel UHD Graphics for 11th Gen.
Disk Drive(s) Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0
(500GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe; Kioxia 96L 3D TLC; Phison E16 Controller)
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210
(2x2 802.11ax - 2400 Mbps)
1x Intel I225-LM 2.5G Ethernet Adapter
Audio 3.5mm Audio Jack (Front)
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 1x UHS-II SDXC Slot (Front)
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-A (Front)
6x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-A (Rear)
2x Thunderbolt 4 (40 Gbps) Type-C (Rear)
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 10 Enterprise x64
Pricing (As configured) $2006
Full Specifications Intel NUC11BTMi9 Specifications

Our review sample came with Windows 10 Pro x64 pre-installed, but, we wiped the drive and installed Windows 10 Enterprise x64 21H1 prior to benchmarking. Our initial benchmarking and reports collection was done without opening up the system. The AIDA64 system report for the hardware configuration supplied by Intel provided the following information:

  • [ North Bridge: Intel Tiger Lake-H IMC ]:
    • PCIe 4.0 x16 port #2 In Use @ x8 (nVIDIA GA106 - GeForce RTX 3060 12GB Video Adapter, High Definition Audio Controller)
  • [ South Bridge: Intel Tiger Point WM590 ]:
    • PCIe 3.0 x1 port #19 In Use @ x1 (Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210 160MHz Wireless Network Adapter)
    • PCIe 3.0 x1 port #20 In Use @ x1 (Intel I225-LM 2.5G Ethernet Network Connection)

The two Type-C ports in the Compute Element are enabled directly from the CPU. They can operate in Thunderbolt 4 (40Gbps), native USB 4 (10Gbps), and native DP1.4 modes. Each port can supply up to 15W. The rest of the I/Os are off the Tiger Point PCH. One of the key aspects here is that the DMI bottleneck has largely been alleviated with Tiger Lake. There are plenty of I/Os directly off the CPU package - including the Thunderbolt 4 ports and the CPU-attached Gen 4 NVMe storage slot. With Thunderbolt 4, it is in fact possible to completely bypass the PCH while transferring data between internal and external storage devices.

The NUC11BTMi9 is one of the few SFF systems that we have evaluated which happen to come with a discrete user-replaceable GPU. Systems with MXM GPUs are pretty much set in terms of graphics capabilities for the lifetime of the unit. In addition to the Ghost Canyon NUC from last year, we have the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EK71080 to compare against the Beast Canyon NUC. Zotac introduced the ZBOX MAGNUS ONE earlier this year with a Comet Lake CPU and an Ampere GPU that we still have in our review queue. So, the main focus in this piece will be on three systems - Beast Canyon, Ghost Canyon, and the ZBOX MAGNUS EK71080.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Intel NUC9i9QNX against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the Intel NUC11BTMi9 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Intel NUC11BTMi9 (Beast Canyon)
CPU Intel Core i9-11900KB Intel Core i9-11900KB
GPU ASUS Dual GeForce RTX 3060 12GB GDDR6
Intel UHD Graphics for 11th Gen
ASUS Dual GeForce RTX 3060 12GB GDDR6
Intel UHD Graphics for 11th Gen
RAM Kingston HyperX KHX3200C20S4/8G DDR4-3200 SODIMM
20-22-22-42 @ 3200 MHz
2x8 GB
Kingston HyperX KHX3200C20S4/8G DDR4-3200 SODIMM
20-22-22-42 @ 3200 MHz
2x8 GB
Storage Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0
(500 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe; Kioxia 96L 3D TLC)
(Phison E16 Controller)
Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0
(500 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe; Kioxia 96L 3D TLC)
(Phison E16 Controller)
Wi-Fi Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210 Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210
Price (in USD, when built) $1350 (barebones)
$2006 (as configured / No OS)
$1350 (barebones)
$2006 (as configured / No OS)
Introduction and Product Impressions BAPCo SYSmark 25
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  • vol.2 - Tuesday, August 3, 2021 - link

    SFF = SMALL form factor

    Intel's marketing literature was pretty specific about it. Sure, they can change what NUC means by turning into a generic smallish PC device similar to Micro ATX, but that genericizes the NUC to the point where it just becomes Intel's brand for a form factor that already exists.
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, August 4, 2021 - link

    > but that genericizes the NUC to the point where it just becomes Intel's brand

    Yes, Intel is a pro at taking a naming scheme that has some logic to it, and then twisting it into something meaningless. Like, the i3/i5/i7 naming scheme, for instance. On some of their laptop chips, like the U-series Skylakes, they had exactly the same core-count and thread-count, differing only in a few hundred MHz of clock speed.

    Hey, if marketing simply came up with a logical naming scheme and sticking to it, how would they "add value"? Marketing is always looking for a way to gin up sales, in the next quarter or FY.
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, August 4, 2021 - link

    Remember, we're talking about the same Intel that changed their Xeon processors from using the E3/E5/E7 naming scheme to E/W/Silver/Gold/Platinum, back in 2017! Reply
  • mode_13h - Sunday, August 1, 2021 - link

    > Intel are clearly moving the goalposts here on what a NUC form factor should be

    So far, the lineup is:

    * NUC Essential
    * NUC
    * NUC Pro
    * NUC Extreme

    I expect further up-range models will be:

    * NUC Insane - HEDT CPU + dual GPU + water cooling
    * NUC Ridiculous - dual CPU + quad-GPU + external radiator
    Reply
  • willis936 - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    Now make it with ECC :) Reply
  • Jorgp2 - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    Buy one with ECC Reply
  • willis936 - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    I would if the chipsets of CPUs from anytime in the past two years were available. Reply
  • AdrianBc - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    The previous Ghost Canyon had a variant with a mobile Xeon and ECC memory.
    It was very nice, except for 2 problems.
    It was introduced one year too late, when Coffee Lake Refresh was already too obsolete and it was overpriced by about $500 compared with a standard desktop with similar features.

    For this one, no version with a Xeon has been announced and there were no rumors about such a version.
    Reply
  • dullard - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    I'm curious what niche use case needs a moderately small computer, but not too small, with video card, and ECC. Reply
  • AdrianBc - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    There are people like myself, who do not accept to use a computer without ECC in any circumstance. So, except for my mobile phone, I do not use any computer without ECC, neither as a laptop, nor as a desktop nor as a SFF computer and of course not as a server.

    Any computer without ECC is just a toy, guaranteed to have errors from time to time, which should be used only in game consoles or similar applications.

    The fact that the computers without ECC are not a small niche is sad and this just shows how many people are so gullible that they will believe whatever a vendor says that is good for them.
    Reply

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