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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  • meacupla - Friday, July 30, 2021 - link

    Of all the parts that are likely to fail prematurely in a PC, the least likely is the CPU, followed by the mobo.

    For mobo failures, it's either DOA, or after 5yrs+. By the time you hit 5yrs+, there is a high likelyhood you can't find a replacement ITX mobo anyways, thus forcing you to buy both CPU+mobo, and potentially RAM.

    I mean, if you are that worried about premature failure outside of warranty, just buy a 3yr or 5yr extended warranty with the seller.
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Monday, August 2, 2021 - link

    In terms of part replaceability, I'd worry that the form factor would be a big impediment to part selection. That'd be the main rationale for preferring a standard desktop.

    The main reason I'd buy this machine is that it's the only way to get a Tiger Lake-H, outside of laptop.
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    I see that cooling and all I can think of is *noise* Reply
  • meacupla - Friday, July 30, 2021 - link

    From what I've seen in other reviews, it's very quiet, even at full load. Reply
  • Spunjji - Friday, July 30, 2021 - link

    I really don't trust most reviewers' assessments of what is and it not quiet, sadly. It does look like it might be engineered well enough not to be a constant irritant, but that type of fan has a high noise floor and a relatively high pitch by default. Reply
  • meacupla - Friday, July 30, 2021 - link

    Okay, well, you can go down your "I don't trust most reviewers" rabbit hole then. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, August 11, 2021 - link

    I trust that this review’s comment about production BIOS fan noise is an example of tasteful understatement. Reply
  • willis936 - Friday, July 30, 2021 - link

    You see 3x 120x25 mm fans and think "that's going to be loud"? Reply
  • alpha754293 - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    a) This is the formerly Sun Microsystems Penguin on steroids.
    (Add-in card based computers is nothing new. Google it.)

    b) It would be interesting to see a time history trace/plot of the CPU frequency during the CPU stress test because I've found that the 100 mm x 100 mm generation of Intel NUCs - the CPUs were SEVERELY limited and would thermal throttle very quickly under full CPU load such that you weren't ever able to use said Intel NUCs to its fullest potential.

    c) It's really a shame that AMD doesn't have something like this.
    Reply
  • AdrianBc - Thursday, July 29, 2021 - link

    The thermal behavior of the 100 mm x 100 mm NUCs has varied a lot from generation to generation, because they have used different coolers, some more efficient others less efficient, some noisier other less noisy.

    I have more than a dozen of different NUCs and I believe that the best coolers were in their 8th generation, i.e. 2018/2019, with Coffee Lake or Cannon Lake CPUs (Cannon Lake was of course a pathetic CPU, but they used the same good coolers like Coffee Lake).

    Those 8th generation NUC coolers were practically silent in normal operation and they allowed in the i7 Cofee Lake model a power dissipation of 50 W for the first half minute then of 30 W forever, which was much better than any laptop that used the same CPU (e.g. Apple).

    So with adequate coolers it is possible to have good performance even in the 100 mm x 100 mm (4 inch) size.
    Reply

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