The NUC 11 Extreme ‘Beast Canyon’ from Intel has just been announced and, frankly, there’s quite a lot to talk about. For years this perennial tech giant has been making small form factor PCs — for both enthusiasts and enterprises alike. Still, they were never appropriately spec’d out for gaming, and soon enough, Intel realized what an omission they had made.
Then, as a result, we got the Hades Canyon, a surprisingly small and yet potent little machine with built-in AMD Vega graphics. It was by no means a gaming behemoth, but its GPU (the more powerful SKU of the two that were available at the time) could trade blows with a GTX 1060, so it was definitely sufficient for a bit of gaming on the side.
Soon enough, Intel had decided to release both the Ghost Canyon (a modular SFFPC) and the Phantom Canyon, a successor to Hades in both footprint and design. The former had support for ITX-sized graphics cards, whereas the latter came with a mobile RTX 2060 — something for everyone, as they say.
Now, however, we’re getting a “no compromises” option that should, by all means, satisfy everyone’s needs, regardless of their workflow. We’re talking about a fairly small 8L chassis here, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t say that Intel is conscientiously trying to target different segments of the market — they’re experimenting and, frankly, we don’t mind one bit!
In fact, we applaud their willingness to create bespoke products for such niche markets, and their varied and diverse portfolio of NUCs definitely warrants a bit of our attention. This time around, however, we’re focusing solely on the NUC 11 Beast Canyon — Intel’s latest and (arguably) greatest attempt at creating a small form factor PC!
Intel NUC 11 Extreme Breast Canyon — Lots of Potential
This fascinating little machine is interesting for two distinct reasons: first of all, it will support full-length graphics cards (357x189x120mm) which means gamers will have no limitations whatsoever when it comes to the hardware they’ll be able to use.
Secondly, the processors inside the Beast Canyon will provide quite a noticeable CPU boost when compared to Intel’s Ghost Canyon. You’ll be able to pick one of three options: i9-11900KB, i7-11700B (two desktop class processors with a TDP of 65W) or, in case you don’t need that much processing oomph, you’ll be able to go with the i5-11400H, a mobile option with a TDP of 45W. The i9 will be overclockable and has an imposing boost clock of 4.9Ghz, along with 8 physical cores and 16 threads. Pretty darn powerful, to say the least!
As for RAM, you’ll be able to slot in a maximum of 64GB DDR4-3200 SO-DIMM memory; additionally, there are four M.2 slots, two SATA 6Gbps slots, six USB 3.1 ports, two Thunderbolt 4 ports along with HDMI 2.0b for video out (in case you don’t want to use a GPU for some reason). There’s also an additional PCIe 4.0 x4 slot for any sort of expansion should the need arise, along with 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet support, Wi-Fi 6E, and even Bluetooth 5.2.
All in all, we’re talking about an exceptionally capable machine that’s about as small as the most alluring and beloved SFFPC cases on the market, like the Ghost S1, Dancase A4, and many others.
Such power has to come at a price, unfortunately.
Let’s Talk Pricing
The base model will set you back $1,299, the mid-tier one will go for $1,399, with the i9 variant selling for an eye-popping $1,599. This, in all fairness, isn’t what one would call a “good deal.”
Moreover, you mustn’t forget that these are barebones systems, so you’ll need to provide the memory, storage, and graphics card yourself. Once you factor in these additional expenses, you’ll go well over $2,000 at which point one simply has to wonder whether buying such a build makes sense.
That was arguably the biggest issue with Intel NUCs in the past as well. Sure, they’re extremely small and are built surprisingly well, but they’re still an ill-advised purchase from a price to performance standpoint. Plus, you can always build a similarly sized machine yourself and save a couple of hundred dollars. It might be a hassle, but it’s well worth the effort.
In any case, we’re happy to see more options come to the SFFPC market! Whether Intel’s Beast Canyon has what it takes to compete is up for debate, but a more competitive market will always benefit us — consumers — the most!