Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks

Desktop PCs are often used for media playback and double up as HTPCs in certain cases. While the fan noise / bulk prevent the NUC Extreme line from being used as dedicated HTPCs, the video decoding capabilities are very important - particularly if the end user finds it acceptable to add a discrete GPU for post-processing.

The Intel UHD Graphics 770 exposes hardware decoding capabilities for almost all commonly used codecs - MPEG2, VC1, WMV9, H264, HEVC, VP9, and AV1. For HEVC, the GPU also supports decode of 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 10-bit and 12-bit streams.

Moving on to the power consumption aspect, we ran the AIDA64 System Stability Test with various stress components, as well as the artificial power virus test involving Prime95 and Furmark for determining load power. The maximum sustained power consumption at the wall was recorded.

At-Wall Power Consumption
(Lower is Better)
  Intel NUC12DCMi9
(Dragon Canyon)
Intel NUC11BTMi9
(Beast Canyon)
Load (Max. / Sustained) 336W / 127W 167W / 120W
Idle 36W 28W

The sustained power consumption is largely in the same ballpark for both NUCs. However, the instantaneous spikes are quite high for the Dragon Canyon, particularly when fresh workload segments start.

Looking Forward...

The Dragon Canyon NUC brings socketed desktop processors to the NUC lineup for the first time. It also brings native 10Gb Ethernet to the lineup. Alder Lake brings hybrid processors with performance and efficiency cores, and that delivers significant benefits. While these improvements are impressive from the viewpoint of a SFF machine, the power consumption puts a slight dampener.

In terms of internals, the Dragon Canyon's updates are also tempered by over-reliance on the PCH for almost all of the I/Os of the PC. In comparison, the Beast Canyon NUC had a better spread with the Thunderbolt 4 ports directly off the CPU. Given that the Alder Lake platform supports USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, a couple of the 20Gbps ports would have also been welcome on the Compute Element.

On the baseboard side, we would like to see support for PCIe lane bifurcation making a comeback. The chassis itself has not essentially changed - just the alteration of a Type-A port in the front to Type-C. This means that many of the drawbacks that existed in Beast Canyon (such as the user-unfriendly nature of the recessed ports) continue to exist in the Dragon Canyon.

Intel has put in significant effort to pack the capabilities of the Dragon Canyon NUC in a 8L platform. However, a bit of relaxation on the volume front would have been welcome - particularly from the viewpoint of making the installation of the Compute Element into the chassis easier. Hopefully, these issues will get fixed in a future iteration of the NUC Extreme.

This article provided a preview of the capabilities of the Dragon Canyon NUC. In an upcoming piece, we will look into the gaming chops of the machine with a discrete GPU installed.

GPU Performance
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  • thestryker - Thursday, February 24, 2022 - link

    Thanks for the preview, and looking forward to the rest of the review. While looking to verify which chipset was used I noticed the link to specs in the article's specs table goes to the 11th, not 12th gen ark page.

    It's interesting to see some of the drawbacks of using the desktop platform over the laptop one. Of course end users could likely replace these CPUs with Raptor Lake which comes out later this year rather than having to replace the whole element card as would otherwise be the case. I'm also a big fan of them putting 10g on this one with overall minimal price increase.

    Z690 is capable of bifurcation so I wonder what the reasoning for omitting it is.
  • Interu wa shinde iru - Friday, March 4, 2022 - link

    so this is intel's new marketing strategy, take it to the forums!
  • Dug - Friday, March 11, 2022 - link

    There's no room would be my guess for no bifurcation.
  • Operandi - Thursday, February 24, 2022 - link

    This thing a cool idea in concept but is awful in execution.

    They are making their own 100% proprietary form factor and they can't beat legacy existing iTX solutions in a performance per volume comparison ahd have to use off the shelf notebook cooling solutions and just a bunch of random fans pushing hot air out of the chassis? If they have complete control over where components are going to placed and the size, shape of the form factor they can come up with something smarter than this.

    I would like to see large passive heatsinks for the CPU, chipset and whatever else needs cooling on the 'compute board' and utilizing a front to back or top bottom (depending on how the case is designed / shaped) in a push - pull cooling configuration with large 92, 120, 140mm fans depending on use case. This is such a lazy, garbage design and a wasted potential for better form factor which the industry really needs.
  • lazarpandar - Thursday, February 24, 2022 - link

    This is 100% my reaction. The whole removal of the motherboard is cool but the way they've implemented it offers zero benefit. What are we supposed to take away from this lol
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, February 24, 2022 - link

    Cool. People will still buy it.

    My only annoyance is not knowing if you can use a 12th gen compute unit in the 9th gen chassis.
  • Operandi - Thursday, February 24, 2022 - link

    Which people? The ones big into buying overpriced garbage? 'Cool' and good for them I guess.
  • Samus - Friday, February 25, 2022 - link

    Yeah...I see these things just FLYING off the shelves.
  • lazarpandar - Friday, February 25, 2022 - link

    What specifically did you think was cool about his post
  • arashi - Saturday, February 26, 2022 - link

    Probably the part where his employer's name appeared.

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