NUC 11 Extreme in the test: Intel’s gaming PC with space for a full-fledged graphics card

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Intel has introduced the second desktop PC in the Next Unit of Computing (NUC) series, which accommodates a high-performance graphics card for gaming. Like its predecessor, the NUC 11 Extreme aka Beast Canyon relies on a so-called compute element – a plug-in card with a soldered-on eight-core processor and slots for up to 64 GB of DDR4-3200 RAM (in the form of SO-DIMMs) and several PCI Express SSDs .

Intel builds the PC around this plug-in card. The base board with PEG slot – the device does not need a mainboard in the classic sense – accommodates an independent graphics card. Since the case with a volume of 8.1 liters (357 mm × 189 × 120 mm) is significantly larger than its predecessor with 5.2 liters, graphics cards up to 305 mm long now fit into it.

The combination of a new compute element and space for even longer graphics cards should enable the most powerful NUC PC to date. Either the Core i9-11900KB or the Core i7-11700B are used as the processor. Unlike the Core i-11000 (Rocket Lake) desktop series, the B models of the Tiger Lake family for mobile processors are based on 10 nanometer structures and the latest Willow Cove architecture instead of 14 nm technology and Cypress Cove. The disadvantage: The CPUs are soldered on and therefore cannot be replaced individually. If you want to upgrade this in the future, you need a new compute element that costs at least 600 euros.

The compute element forms almost a complete PC. It houses the CPU, two SO-DIMMs, M.2 SSDs and provides some connections: two Thunderbolt 4, six USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 GBit / s) type A, NBase-T Ethernet with 2.5 GBit / s and HDMI 2.0 for operating a monitor with the integrated GPU.

(Image: Intel)

Graphics cards can occupy two slots (dual slot), so that a maximum of one GeForce RTX 3080 Ti or Radeon RX 6800 can be installed, provided that the card manufacturer does not add an oversized cooler. The power required for this is provided by a power supply in SFX format behind the front with an output of 650 watts. Intel uses the modular FSP model FSP650-57SAB with a certification according to 80 Plus Gold and releases graphics cards with a power consumption of up to 350 watts. However, if you exhaust the information, you have to expect a loud background noise.

Intel provided us with a NUC 11 Extreme with Core i9-11900KB (8 cores, 3.3 GHz, Turbo: 5.3 GHz), 16 GByte DDR4-3200-RAM in dual-channel and Asus’ GeForce RTX 3060 Dual . The processor data largely corresponds to the top notebook model Core i9-11980HK, but it can permanently consume 65 instead of 45 watts in the NUC. In the Cinebench R23 render benchmark, this was enough for 1671 points in the single-threading test and almost 12,000 points in the multi-threading test.

For comparison: A single computing core of the desktop CPU Core i9-11900K completes the benchmark only marginally faster, but the desktop eight cores work significantly faster at full load due to the higher thermal design power (TDP) of 125 watts. More than 15,500 points are possible in Cinebench R23. The results in the 3DMark tests are similar. In the Fire Strike scene, for example, the Core i9-11900KB achieves a maximum of 25,900 points, while a Core i9-11900K achieves 28,000 and more.

Benchmarks Intel NUC 11 Extreme (Core i9-11900KB, 16 GByte DDR4-3200, GeForce RTX 3060)



Cinebench R23 (Single)

1671 points

Cinebench R23 (Multi)

11,929 points

3DMark Fire Strike CPU-Score

25,914 points

3DMark Timespy CPU-Score

10,980 points

Blender Classroom

626 seconds

Of course, the 3D performance depends largely on the graphics card used. If you don’t want to play, it is better to use a smaller NUC or PC with integrated graphics.

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