INTEL NUC 12 Extreme Review

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In this article, I give you my Intel NUC 12 Extreme review with specs included.

Fun times here yeah. You can say this is mobile look how small this is. This is the intel knock 12 extreme. Noc stands for next unit of computing. So they make everything from little palm top pcs that we have reviewed toward the more recently these kind of gaming and content creator powerhouse machines.

What’s insane is not the fact that it looks almost like the 11th gen extreme that we reviewed but the fact that in this 8-liter case you have enough room for a full 12-inch length double-wide GPU. There’s a 650 watt gold rated power supply inside so you can put a 30 80 in here in fact we have an RTX 3080 in here GeForce addition to that nice.

And intel 12th generation core i7 and core i9 desktop 65 watt CPUs socketed upgradable just like a bigger desktop. If this is starting to sound interesting keep watching because we are going to look at it now. And yes there’s rgb lighting along the sides and the skull up front lights up.

You can control the rgb lighting on it if you want so. It might be small but you’re still getting that kind of bling that you might expect from a gaming rig. Cooling on here is really very well done. We have three very large fans along the top here.

We have one on the side and then of course whatever your GPU is bringing to the table for cooling solution there. And then a rear exhaust area little fan turbine thingy going on to our fan shroud. So when you’re thinking oh i don’t know this much power in something this small it is possible.

And then you’re thinking so why would i want to get something like this right. And it’s not because it’s cheaper because believe me it’s not. It’s because you don’t have a lot of room for a tower one thing. Another thing is actually the quality and the engineering that went into this.

I mean i reviewed hp omens del x i’ve owned dell xps towers and gaming towers and all that sort of thing and with all of them i always feel like there are some concessions that were made to price or engineering and design.

Why’d they put the fan there why didn’t they put a fan over here what cheesy motherboard standoffs and look i’m getting a short because the motherboard’s flexing every time i’m plugging something in. So none of that happens here.

And i have to say having done this for decades now that they really did a very good job at the engineering of this. And of course it’s unique in an interesting way. So we’re going to look at the internals because this is also all about DIY.

You can buy this thing just bare bones which means you get the processor but no ram no SSD no GPU. And i do suggest if you can sourcing the gp yourself because you know how hard they are to get and how expensive they are.

Or you can get this from simply knock is one of the dealers that sells a lot of these things and they’ll put in ram SSD and even sell you a GPU for a painful price. If you want to be more tourney. But this is really about folks who do want to tinker right.

So you open it up you get inside you’re like where’s the ram where’s the ssds go. Well there is one ssd bay cleverly hidden on the bottom of the unit under a door for those who don’t feel like taking it apart right. But when you open it up you’ll see what’s called the compute element.

Now intel’s been doing this for several generations now. So this is actually a mini motherboard with a socket in lga 1700 processor two ram slots and two m.2 SSD slots. One of them is PCIe gen4 and this little compute element that sits in a PCI-E slot. Interesting stuff.

The idea is it would make it easier to swap one for another if you’re doing upgrades. Personally i don’t feel it depends on whether the socket has changed and you actually have to do that sort of thing. Otherwise, socketed processor just drop a new one in if it’s pin compatible right a motherboard compatible.

But anyway first thing to note when you open this thing up it’s not a ship in a bottle as intel likes to say but it takes some work and some patience okay. You have to be more of an advanced tinkerer to do this. So first you take off the back cover there’s four Phillips head screws and you pop it off. Not too hard.

Then you slide off the side covers not too hard nothing holding them once you take the back off. And then you see two little pole words marked on the side and you can pop up the fans. And for the top right. And then you see the compute unit. You do not have to take out the compute unit to actually put in ram and ssds okay.

So don’t don’t put yourself through it there’s no need. Just remove the little fan shroud that sits in a PCI-E slot next to the compute unit and then you’ll see two Phillips head screws on the top of the compute unit. And then boom it’s a hinge door you can open it up.

You can actually swap the CPU if you want because you have access to doing that there’s a socketed processor right there. You have access to the ram and the SSD so. In a way it’s so cleverly thought out that it’s not as bad as it seems. You just have to be okay with working in tight spaces and all that sort of thing.

So there it is besides smallness the engineering is really well done here and high quality. So i don’t look at it and say why why is the fan over here it’s stupid are there problems with it. Not everything is really good and it’s nice. And it’s very vanilla standard intel. You get all your updates bios and stuff through windows update no dealing with wacky drivers and all that sort of thing. Cool right you can put a powerful GPU in here.

You can actually really you got game with this thing. I’ve been testing this with quite a few aaa current titles and i was a little worried about the thermals on this and how much throttling we’d see on the CPU. But let’s face it there isn’t that much room for cooling even if it has the most immense fans and mesh grilles everywhere to help with the cooling.

And it did quite well. Now when i’m doing something like cyberpunk and then i was playing ultra ray tracing at 4k and at 2k resolutions you can see footage for both frame rates quite good on both and frame times. It was fine. A cpu temperature is typically around 80 centigrade.

Gpu of course is managed and usually set at a limit. But the GPU has enough air to breathe here and it was quite good so. Performance was good on that so i said okay that’s nice. We looked at Valhalla again same story you just played that right at 4k not a problem at all.

Getting your 60 frames per second a little bit better which for Valhalla is really all you need we’re not talking a killer first person shooter here right. So same story no problem. So then i looked at far cry 6. Not because that’s a great game because let’s face it that wasn’t the best effort there for far cry.

But because it’s very cpu heavy oddly cpu heavy as games go today in fact. And it usually does well on intel. So i knew that was going to hit the cpu harder. And you can see how it did and it did get the temperatures up into the 90s for that. So toasty but not unacceptable by today’s standards.

Especially if you’re used to laptops where well CPUs do typically run much hotter than desktops. But that’s okay especially because most games don’t really hit the CPU that hard. When doing things like benchmarking i can tell you that for 3d mark benchmarks you can see because both the CPU and the GPU are running gangbusters and generating a lot of heat that the CPU did hit like 99.

I mean there is it doesn’t mind doing that at all right. But benchmarks and artificial stuff like that actually race CPU temperatures a lot more than real world use. The premier pro it tested it with that not a problem either. When playing something like far cry 6 you can see some throttling back.

It’ll go up into the 90s and then it’ll drop temperature-wise and watts you’ll see it’s in the 90s for watts and then it’ll drop down to around 65 watts for a while and then jump back up. But really didn’t affect the frame rates or gameplay so that was fine.

So as a marvel of engineering and really cooling efficiency they’ve done a great job here. But if you’re one of those people who is totally allergic to the idea of ever seeing your CPU hit 90 under any circumstances then it’s probably not the unit for you.

I mean there’s no room for like water cooling in this chassis so there’s only so much that you can do other than re-paste it with some better thermal paste or something. When it comes to noise of course it makes noise it is a gaming PC.

But it’s surprisingly not that loud nor that obnoxious thanks to the very large diameter fans that tend to make more of a whoosh than a wine or anything annoying or loud. It is quieter than my MSI ge 76 raider gaming laptop with a 3080 mobile inside to be sure.

And in terms of heat the heat rises from the top of the unit. Not that much heat i wouldn’t mind a little bit more in the winter time but that’s where the heat comes out of the top. In terms of conductivity both networking and port wise.

So they have improved over the knock 11 chassis of usb a and a usb c port up front a uhs full size sd card slot and well a 3.5 millimeter headphone jack. And we have wi-fi 60 of course with intel’s flavor and Bluetooth 5.2 plus two ethernet jacks on the back.

And we have six usb a three ports on the back. Two thunderbolt 4 ports an hdmi port that connects to the intel uhd 770 graphics. Of course, you’ll have more ports if you put in your own GPU. You know graphics ports there. So i you know you’re not like suffering here for the smaller chassis that’s excellent connectivity on board.

Okay so that’s sounding like awesome right isn’t it. So the price is the not so awesome part. You’re looking at around eighteen hundred to two thousand dollars depending on whether you wanna go with the core i7 or a core i9 processor.

And that’s pretty much just bare bones. If you go to a place like simply knock where they’ll put in some ram and ssds and stuff like that. Uh you know around with the core i7 around 2200 dollars and you get your 16 gigs of ram a one terabyte gen 4 m.2 ssd. Still no gpu you’ll have to throw your own in there. So these are expensive. They’re not doing this to be budget-minded.

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Intel NUC 12 Extreme
  • 98%
    Performance - 98%
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    Price - 96%
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    Value - 97%