Setup Notes and Platform Analysis

The review sample of the NUC11BTMi9 came package in a fancy plywood casing, signifying its premium nature. Since the review configuration was ready for benchmarking, the package contents only included the main unit, power cord, Windows 10 Pro installation DVD, and a USB key containing the drivers for the system. The retail packaging is bound to be quite different, as these pre-production samples are packaged to make unboxing videos attractive.

The NUC11BTMi9 sports the Intel VisualBIOS with a modern interface. It has plenty of enthusiast options to fine tune the performance. The video below presents the entire gamut of available options.

The specifications of our Intel NUC11BTMi9 review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Intel NUC11BTMi9 (Beast Canyon) Specifications
Processor Intel Core i9-11900KB
Tiger Lake-H, 8C/16T, 3.3 (4.9) (5.3) GHz
24MB L2+L3, 10nm, 65W TDP
Memory Kingston HyperX KHX3200C20S4/8G DDR4 SODIMM
20-22-22-42 @ 3200 MHz
2x8 GB
Graphics ASUS Dual GeForce RTX 3060 12GB GDDR6
Intel UHD Graphics for 11th Gen.
Disk Drive(s) Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0
(500GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe; Kioxia 96L 3D TLC; Phison E16 Controller)
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210
(2x2 802.11ax - 2400 Mbps)
1x Intel I225-LM 2.5G Ethernet Adapter
Audio 3.5mm Audio Jack (Front)
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 1x UHS-II SDXC Slot (Front)
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-A (Front)
6x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-A (Rear)
2x Thunderbolt 4 (40 Gbps) Type-C (Rear)
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 10 Enterprise x64
Pricing (As configured) $2006
Full Specifications Intel NUC11BTMi9 Specifications

Our review sample came with Windows 10 Pro x64 pre-installed, but, we wiped the drive and installed Windows 10 Enterprise x64 21H1 prior to benchmarking. Our initial benchmarking and reports collection was done without opening up the system. The AIDA64 system report for the hardware configuration supplied by Intel provided the following information:

  • [ North Bridge: Intel Tiger Lake-H IMC ]:
    • PCIe 4.0 x16 port #2 In Use @ x8 (nVIDIA GA106 - GeForce RTX 3060 12GB Video Adapter, High Definition Audio Controller)
  • [ South Bridge: Intel Tiger Point WM590 ]:
    • PCIe 3.0 x1 port #19 In Use @ x1 (Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210 160MHz Wireless Network Adapter)
    • PCIe 3.0 x1 port #20 In Use @ x1 (Intel I225-LM 2.5G Ethernet Network Connection)

The two Type-C ports in the Compute Element are enabled directly from the CPU. They can operate in Thunderbolt 4 (40Gbps), native USB 4 (10Gbps), and native DP1.4 modes. Each port can supply up to 15W. The rest of the I/Os are off the Tiger Point PCH. One of the key aspects here is that the DMI bottleneck has largely been alleviated with Tiger Lake. There are plenty of I/Os directly off the CPU package - including the Thunderbolt 4 ports and the CPU-attached Gen 4 NVMe storage slot. With Thunderbolt 4, it is in fact possible to completely bypass the PCH while transferring data between internal and external storage devices.

The NUC11BTMi9 is one of the few SFF systems that we have evaluated which happen to come with a discrete user-replaceable GPU. Systems with MXM GPUs are pretty much set in terms of graphics capabilities for the lifetime of the unit. In addition to the Ghost Canyon NUC from last year, we have the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EK71080 to compare against the Beast Canyon NUC. Zotac introduced the ZBOX MAGNUS ONE earlier this year with a Comet Lake CPU and an Ampere GPU that we still have in our review queue. So, the main focus in this piece will be on three systems - Beast Canyon, Ghost Canyon, and the ZBOX MAGNUS EK71080.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Intel NUC9i9QNX against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the Intel NUC11BTMi9 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Intel NUC11BTMi9 (Beast Canyon)
CPU Intel Core i9-11900KB Intel Core i9-11900KB
GPU ASUS Dual GeForce RTX 3060 12GB GDDR6
Intel UHD Graphics for 11th Gen
ASUS Dual GeForce RTX 3060 12GB GDDR6
Intel UHD Graphics for 11th Gen
RAM Kingston HyperX KHX3200C20S4/8G DDR4-3200 SODIMM
20-22-22-42 @ 3200 MHz
2x8 GB
Kingston HyperX KHX3200C20S4/8G DDR4-3200 SODIMM
20-22-22-42 @ 3200 MHz
2x8 GB
Storage Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0
(500 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe; Kioxia 96L 3D TLC)
(Phison E16 Controller)
Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0
(500 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe; Kioxia 96L 3D TLC)
(Phison E16 Controller)
Wi-Fi Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210 Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210
Price (in USD, when built) $1350 (barebones)
$2006 (as configured / No OS)
$1350 (barebones)
$2006 (as configured / No OS)
Introduction and Product Impressions BAPCo SYSmark 25
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  • dullard - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    Have you actually done the math on how infrequently ECC actually helps the typical user?

    So what if roughly once a year, I get a one bit change in my audio for a split second, or a single pixel changed on my video, or my photo needs to load twice from Facebook, etc. Most people just don't have anything that is valuable on their personal computers any more. Almost nothing most people do now on computers will care if a memory error occurs. Combine that with the very infrequent memory errors and it just isn't a problem.

    Absolute worst case scenario: I have to restore one corrupted file from backup.

    With servers, ECC certainly is needed. With certain financial and security applications, ECC is definitely needed. For people to repost spam on Facebook? Nope, ECC need not found.
    Reply
  • willis936 - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    Once you start climbing up the bathtub curve it isn't one bit flip every year. It's dirty bits constantly written to disk. It's a real nightmare. Reply
  • Spunjji - Friday, July 30, 2021 - link

    "constantly"
    Not really
    Reply
  • willis936 - Friday, July 30, 2021 - link

    Yes, it is. I just ditched a system that could no longer install an OS without error. Memory tests hung. It wasn't the modules. Dust had shorted some memory channel pins and either damaged the motherboard or CPU.

    There were bad blocks all over the disk. I ran fsck to get back the user's files but there is no telling if the data's any good.

    Do you even know what a bathtub curve is?
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Monday, August 2, 2021 - link

    > Have you actually done the math on how infrequently ECC actually helps the typical user?

    If you have bad RAM, it can be a major source of system instability. I think this is the primary benefit of ECC.

    I've wasted time debugging software problems, in the past, only to find out that the problem was specific to a given machine and that machine turned out to have bad RAM. Once the DIMM indicated by memtest was replaced, the bug stopped occurring.

    So, for the sake of my time and sanity, I use ECC whenever possible. Even though bad RAM isn't that common, the premium for ECC is a small price to pay for the extra margin of safety.

    When ECC isn't an option, I always do an initial overnight memtest run and try to use memory rated for a higher speed than what I plan to run it at.
    Reply
  • dullard - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    And the more obvious retort, this is a "SFF Gaming Powerhouse", I asked why one would want ECC for it and you reply with "should be used only in game consoles or similar applications". Seems like you missed the point of the product.

    If there is another use case for this product that actually needs ECC, then I'm curious to know what that use case is.
    Reply
  • willis936 - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    A powerful personal computer. NUCs are made to be personal computers. If they put a big CPU and GPU in it then it's going to handle workloads thrown at it. How does ECC not fit this use case? Reply
  • dullard - Friday, July 30, 2021 - link

    SFF works best as portable gaming and home theater uses. Neither of which have any need for ECC.

    I'm not saying that some computers don't need ECC. It is just that desktop computers that need ECC usually aren't physical size limited, don't need to be portable, and/or don't need full size video cards. I'm just stumped as to any real use case that actually needs that particular combo. Every use case that I can think of where ECC helps (which is not really common for personal users) either doesn't need SFF or doesn't need a large video card. It sounds much more like a wish list than a real need.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Friday, July 30, 2021 - link

    "It sounds much more like a wish list than a real need."

    Bingo, but some people's wish lists are backed up by some heavy post-hoc rationalization.
    Reply
  • willis936 - Friday, July 30, 2021 - link

    This thinking is painfully flawed.

    You don't *need* a computer of any kind. Why bother with a smartphone or a SFF desktop?
    Reply

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