In this article, I give you my Intel NUC 11 Extreme review with specs included. When you hear NUC you probably think about little cube PCs. Well, NUC comes in many shapes and sizes. It’s really more what you would call a small form factor PC.
The Intel NUC 11 Extreme has an 8-liter case so it’s bigger than their last Extreme edition and that’s a good thing because it leaves room for a full-size GPU.
I’ve reviewed a lot of NUCs and small form factor PCs because they’re sort of mobile, aren’t they? They’re not meant to be used as a laptop, they plug into the wall, into electricity at all times. They are baby desktop computers.
So, the idea here is in part it’s just a technological marvel even if you’re never going to buy one is that it can get this much expandability and power and ports into such a small form factor but also for those who just don’t have a lot of space.
A lot of people use these for media centers, for example, or as sort of like a gaming console and finally, we’re getting there with the horsepower that this one’s capable of instead of throwing a giant PlayStation 5 that you can’t buy anyway.
That said, Intel 11th gen cpu inside watt core i7 and core i9. They were going to make a core i5 but most of the interest was at the higher end. So this is a new class of cpu it’s tiger lake 11 65 watt. So it’s the kind of cpu they develop for all-in-one computers typically here.
And so it’s more performant than say the mobile workstation laptop cpus that we see which are pretty darn performant. But not as strong as a full desktop 125 watt cpu. But they’re close enough that in terms of gaming which is obviously with the rgb leds and the light up skull and stuff going on here the target audience is.
It’s enough horsepower that your games aren’t going to suffer and where the gpu really matters more. So this is a baby desktop. And you can get it bare bones from intel which means no ram no ssds and no operating system.
And it’s priced from 1150 to 1350. Depending on whether you want the core i7 or the core i9 model. And you can get it from places like simplynuck.com who sells all of intel’s knucks and they’ll put ram and ssds in there on an os if you wish to do so.
But this is sort of like legos for adults in a way. And i know a lot of you like to buy these open them up and put your own stuff inside. So it’s up to you as to which way you go. If you don’t do go is simply enough say you want to get a core i7 with 16 gigs of ram a 512 gig nvme ssd and windows 10 home it’s going to cost you a lot.
It’s going to be over hundred dollars. So this is not something you buy to be cost effective just so you know. When it comes to graphics if you don’t opt for the gpu which is so hard to get these days especially if you’re looking for rtx 30 60 30 70 or 30 80 or 30 90.
Then you can still use the intel uhd graphics as on board here and. But if you do already have a gpu to put inside what’s neat here compared to the previous generation that required a smaller basically custom sized gpu this one can fit anything up to a 12 inch card double slot wide.
And the power supply is 650 watts. I mean that is one compact but strong power supply and it’s 80 plus gold rated. So you can go all the way up to an rtx 3080 ti here within the power limits of the machine. Huh nice. And then you’re looking at some really good frame rates and games and maybe even some 4k gaming.
Now intel supplied the review unit to us with an rtx 3060. So not the strongest in the pack we’re not going to demo 4k gaming on this. Really the gpu you put in is going to influence the performance the most here. That said it holds its own for 1080p gaming no problem.
In sometimes even 2k gaming depending on the test. If you’re playing tomb raider for the usual tomb raider benchmark for example you can get 80 frames per second on the highest settings 1080p again. So not too much of a slouch if you can’t get a more expensive GPU.
So this marks the return of the intel compute unit. If you’ve followed these knucks some of them have had what they call a compute unit which is a pretty clever thing. It’s kind of the heart of the computer in a little box inside of a bigger box. And it fits into one of the pcie slots.
So it has the cpu in this case with the vapor chamber cooler and a fan to the two ram slots. You have two ddr4 3200 megahertz ram slots. You can go anywhere up to 64 gigs of ram if you want. And it has two nvme ssd slots full 2280 m.2 slots that connect directly to the CPU.
All in this itsy little box which you can open up and you can see the internals and me doing that in fact. So the modularity of the compute unit means potential upgradeability down the road. In fact for those who have the old knock 9 extreme you could actually get the compute unit with the intel 11th gen inside.
It’s expensive though 780 to 980 dollars depending which cpu option you go with. And not everything might work. What do i mean by that. Well the front audio port is not going to work on your knuck 9 model anymore.
And the pcie 4.0 support it’s a little dicey in part because these knocks have a baseboard. So the compute unit and the gpu plug into a baseboard which has the pcie slots and also two more m.2 ssd slots that connect to the pca.
So you could have four total. In terms of displays you could connect three 4k displays to this thing so we’re talking pretty performant here. In terms of the benchmarks that we’re showing first you can see the specs on screen for how our particular unit was configured.
We had a core i9 the rtx 3060 and so on so it gives you an idea. In terms of thermals on this and noise. Man this thing has some big fans on a lot of them just the top section has three large fans. So they’ve done a good job with cooling with a very open case design.
You can see through the mesh on both sides that sort of thing. Um you’ll hear it this is a mini desktop but it’s not terribly loud honestly. Considering that not louder than any other desktop out there on the block right. So that’s handled well. And the bios has quite a few settings for temperature thresholds and things if you want to manage that for yourself. So it’s pretty well done.
In terms of the cpu temperatures here and the gpu temperatures the gpu temperatures are fine. There’s certainly enough ventilation on here and the gpu is right next to the open side with all the mesh and all that sort of thing. Cpu temperatures were typically pretty good too.
Nothing thermal throttling for sure. And often in the mid 80s when pushing it fairly hard. Especially with other uses of this for those who are doing video editing or a 3d blender kind of work which is actually less punishing typically than games it would be fine for that sort of thing.
And i applaud them for the very good thermal design given the size of this thing. In terms of connectivity like all nux even the most teeny one like the handheld palm top one that i showed you there’s a lot of ports here. You have six usb a on the back two more on the front a uhs 2 sd card full size slot on the front you’ve got a headphone jack your hdmi 2.0 b 2 thunderbolt 4 USB-C and a 2.5-gigabit ethernet. And we have wi-fi 6e on board as well.
So connectivity again it’s pretty astounding given the small size. So it all sounds great and honestly it really is if you’re looking for something really small and compact. That would be easier to pick up carried to your tv play some games or media on there then take it down to the den or whatever it is. The big drawback here is obviously this is expensive folks. This is not like going to save you money versus buying an msi or Alienware desktop is it.
Intel NUC 11 Extreme