Back at CES 2020, Intel showcased a stripped-down Next Unit of Computing (NUC) mini-PC that was much larger than anything ever shown before – a 5-liter modular gaming PC that had room for a discrete graphics card. Now at Computex 2021, Team Blue gave a brief preview on Sunday of Ghost Canyon’s successor: the 8L Intel NUC 11 Extreme Kit, also known as Beast Canyon.
This newcomer doubled down on Ghost Canyon’s formula, which used its extra space to promote the idea of super-easy DIY PC building. No need to study the ins and outs of PC building: on one side of the case, you drop into Intel’s Compute Element, a stand-alone PC in the form of a PCIe card. Powered by a powerful H-class mobile processor, it also contains RAM and storage. On the other side, you install an add-on graphics card that can handle the most painful games. That’s it. But this time, full length the cards will fit.
That’s right: Beast Canyon accepts graphics cards up to 12 inches in length and, judging by the first look we got at a press briefing, up to at least 2 slots thick. With Ghost Canyon, you had to be content with small format cards, the selection and often performance of which are more limited.
Of course, that real estate has to come from somewhere, so Beast Canyon’s footprint is larger than that of its predecessor. This NUC lands firmly in the territory of small formats with a volume of 8L.
Considering that Intel launched a games-focused Tiger Lake NUC earlier this year, seeing Beast Canyon join the lineup may come as a surprise. Phantom Canyon’s January announcement continued Intel’s original game-oriented NUC lineup – wide, flat, but still compact devices with names like Skull Canyon and Hades Canyon that slip easily into the front pocket of a backpack – after a three-year hiatus. One could easily assume that a Ghost Canyon successor would follow in 2022 or 2023.
But Phantom Canyon sports a Tiger Lake U-class processor, and Intel says it sees Beast Canyon as an extension of its H-series mobile chips that were announced earlier this month. The new NUC 11 Extreme compute elements will be available in Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9 variants, with processors rated up to a TDP of 65 W.
Presumably, the advent of Tiger Lake H is the reason for the unexpected appearance of Beast Canyon, rather than a major overhaul of the Computing Element itself. Comparing the rear view of the NUC 11 Extreme Compute Element with the current version of the NUC 9, the two share a similar assortment of I / O ports. The changes appear minor: this preview only shows a single Ethernet port instead. two, plus two additional USB Type-A ports. The cooling of the new compute element can also be updated, as its vents differ from those of its predecessor.
More dramatic is Beast Canyon’s apparent aesthetic change. Intel ditched the minimalist, matte look of Ghost Canyon in favor of what appears to be glossy black plastic and mesh, with an early 2000s boxy vibe. (The large plastic vents on the top panel, as well as the The thick, rounded edges of the front panel, particularly stood out for us.) The RGB lighting effects were also amplified – you’ll see this in Intel’s skull logo, which is surprisingly large. on the front panel, as well as in accent lighting on the front I / O ports. More is more with Beast Canyon.
This philosophy could hurt Beast Canyon at launch, which Intel says will hurt later this year. With its growth in size, this NUC will be in direct competition with small form factor PCs, and such a fight may turn out to be more than it can handle. At 8L, building a comparable small form-factor PC isn’t as thorny or potentially frustrating as it is with a 5L system. Intel could justifiably boast about Ghost Canyon’s better cooling and ease of construction, making it worth it for the flexibility and customization. It might also better justify the steep starting price: Ghost Canyon’s Core i5 version cost $ 1,250 and went all the way up to $ 1,700 for the Core i9 model.
This rationale fades around the edges when you look at the DIY alternatives. The allure of a true DIY build with a desktop processor and a sleek vibe might end up having more influence on gamers who want to build small. Take a look at / r / sffpc on Reddit – you’ll see great little PCs under 9 liters. Some probably cost less than a similar, fully-featured Beast Canyon NUC, and with a socket processor inside, these builders will never worry about upgrades or how easy it is to sell this chip down the road.
If that doesn’t deter you, Intel promises more details will come soon, which should reveal how much money Beast Canyon will devour and what kind of third-party support to expect from casemakers and system builders this time around. .