Intel NUC 11 Pro (NUC11TNKi5) Review: Tiny Package, Big Potential

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Tiny PCs make a number of sense in houses and places of work the place there is not sufficient house for full-sized desktop towers. Not everybody wants top-end {hardware} with elaborate cooling mechanisms and a number of laborious drives – and far of the amount inside as we speak’s PC cupboards is definitely empty because of elevated integration. If you will get all of your work performed on a laptop computer, you are already utilizing parts that may be packed into a lot smaller areas. So why aren’t tiny PCs, similar to Intel’s NUC lineup, extra fashionable?

It’s a little bit of a chicken-and-egg state of affairs. Not lots of people know that such options exist, and outlets do not make such PCs available to retail consumers. As such, there’s not a number of demand from both finish. Another issue is that these PCs are typically offered barebones with no RAM or storage – the consumer has so as to add their very own, after which set up an OS and set all the things up. Such units are extensively utilized in places of work the place they’re deployed in massive numbers, they usually’re additionally nice for powering kiosks and enormous info shows. This is a distinct segment section, however f you need to discover one for private use, it is not inconceivable.

The NUC 11 Pro might be unobtrusive on any desk, or may be mounted behind a appropriate monitor

 

Intel’s NUC (Next Unit of Computing) model has been round for almost a decade now. The vary has expanded to cater to varied niches spanning all the things from gaming to fanless industrial deployments. Over the years, we have seen tiny HDMI sticks, dockable cards, modular gaming PCs, and even barebones laptop kits. Today, we now have a comparatively easy mannequin for evaluate, however it’s loaded up with a contemporary 11th Gen Intel Core CPU featuring integrated Iris Xe graphics. We’re going to see how such a PC can match into individuals’s lives and whether or not it may very well be best for you.

Intel NUC 11 Pro NUC11TNKi5 design and setup

From the skin, the NUC 11 Pro (codenamed Tiger Canyon) appears like a lot any current NUC mannequin, which is not any shock since these items are supposed to be utilitarian and can often be tucked out of sight anyway. The physique measures 117x112x37mm which is roughly 4.5 inches sq. and about as tall as the common desktop mouse. Larger fashions can be found, with house to accommodate a 2.5-inch SATA laborious drive or SSD, or extra highly effective {hardware}.

You can place the NUC 11 Pro on a desk, and it is going to be fairly unobtrusive. A VESA mounting bracket is included within the field so you may as well screw it to the again of a appropriate monitor or use all kinds of industry-standard mounts. You might additionally simply use robust Velcro or double-sided tape – it is not too heavy, at simply over half a kilo. You must cope with a slightly massive exterior energy brick, although.

Despite its diminutive dimension, there are a number of choices for connectivity. The entrance panel has two USB 3.2 Gen1 (5Gbps) Type-A ports. and on the again you will discover the DC energy inlet; another USB 3.2 Type-A port; one legacy USB 2.zero port; one Thunderbolt 4 Type-C and one Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port (each supporting DisplayPort 1.Four video output and 40Gbps USB4 information); two HDMI 2.0b ports with CEC; and a pair of.5Gigabit Ethernet. Strangely, there is not any 3.5mm audio socket so you will should route audio by HDMI or DisplayPort, or go wi-fi. Sadly, you possibly can’t run this mini PC utilizing USB Type-C energy supply.

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Think of the NUC 11 Pro as the center of a laptop computer with out an connected show, battery, keyboard or trackpad

 

You can technically have as much as 4 shows on the identical time, both utilizing all 4 video outputs (HDMI and Thunderbolt) or by daisy-chaining Thunderbolt-compatible displays. All 4 can run at 4K 3840×2160 and at 60Hz. Alternatively, you possibly can have two of these plus one 5120×3200 60Hz show. The Thunderbolt Three and Thunderbolt Four ports are totally different by way of supported PCIe information charges and a few feature-level performance, however there aren’t any exterior markings telling you which ones one is which.

The backside panel comes off if you happen to loosen the captive screws in every of the 4 rubber legs. You’ll be capable to entry the 2 SO-DIMM RAM slots with no hassle. There’s a regular M.2 2280 slot (which is keyed just for NVMe SSDs) and a second, shorter M.2 2242 slot which can be utilized for a SATA SSD or PCIe x1 module. There are additionally two inside USB 2.zero headers and even a serial port header for hobbyists to take advantage of. The prime panel may be popped off with a fingernail however nothing beneath it’s accessible – solely the inside fan shroud and Wi-Fi antennas may be seen.

Intel NUC 11 Pro NUC11TNKi5 specs and options

At the guts of this specific NUC 11 Pro is a Core i5-1135G7 processor, from Intel’s 11th Gen ‘Tiger Lake’ family. This CPU is especially supposed to be used in slim laptops and has a nominal 15W TDP, however may be scaled between 12W and 28W and Intel has chosen the latter possibility right here. This takes benefit of the higher cooling that is potential in a chassis like this, in comparison with a slim laptop computer, and can permit it to run at peak speeds for longer. The Core i5-1135G7 has 4 cores with Hyper-Threading, and on this implementation, the CPU will run at a 2.4GHz base velocity with a single-core increase velocity of as much as 4.2GHz.

The built-in Iris Xe GPU is a giant draw right here – that is one of Intel’s big pushes for its cellular 11th Gen CPUs and is constructed off a brand new structure that has been taking form for years. It guarantees a major efficiency bounce over Intel’s earlier built-in GPUs, which have had a repute for almost with the ability to cowl the fundamentals. The G7 suffix on the CPU’s mannequin quantity signifies that the GPU is comparatively highly effective, with 80 execution models.

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You get a stunning quantity and number of helpful ports on the again

 

In addition to the ports listed above, you additionally get Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5. Up to 64GB of DDR4-3200 RAM is supported throughout the 2 SO-DIMM slots. 7.1 channel audio is supported, however solely over HDMI or DisplayPort.

Intel lists a couple of different unusual options – the NUC 11 Pro is alleged to be appropriate for 24×7 operation, and may run “headless”, ie with solely an emulated show. It also can deal with DC enter voltage fluctuations to some extent. You’ll discover slightly nub on the again to anchor the DC energy wire to so it does not get yanked out (or stolen), and a Kensington safety slot on the left. The guarantee is three years, and Intel additionally lists a assured three-year availability window. These issues all cater to the business audience, greater than the common house consumer.

Intel NUC 11 Pro NUC11TNKi5 efficiency and utilization

Intel’s NUC bins are typically offered barebones, with no RAM or storage. It’s as much as system integrators to configure and resell them, or for consumers so as to add their very own {hardware} and working system. For the aim of this evaluate, Intel loaded up the NUC 11 Pro evaluate unit with a single 16GB DDR4-3200 Kingston ValueRAM module and a 512GB Transcend SATA SSD within the M.2 2242 slot, with Windows 10 already put in. This was a shock, contemplating that an NVMe SSD in the usual M.2 slot would have perfored much better, however that was left clean. If you select to make use of this slot (which you’ll in all probability should, given the rarity of retail M.2 2242 SSDs), your SSD will sit proper on prime of the Wi-Fi module, which could have an effect on thermals.

After permitting Windows 10 to obtain all the newest updates, I started with benchmark checks. The Core i5 CPU put up a good present in PCMark’s commonplace and Extreme runs, with scores of 4,543 and three,853 respectively. It additionally scored 523 and a pair of,166 respectively in Cinebench R20’s single-threaded and multi-threaded checks. POVRay ran its render benchmark in 2 minutes, 29 seconds, whereas VRay’s CPU and GPU scores had been 6,229 and 33 respectively. The NUC 11 Pro additionally managed 1,385 and 4,555 factors in Geekbench 5’s single-core and multi-core runs. These numbers are predictably slightly beneath what we noticed from the MSI Prestige 14 Evo laptop computer, powered by an 11th Gen Core i7-1185G7 based mostly on the identical structure and with the identical Iris Xe built-in GPU, earlier this yr.

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The base pops off simply to disclose the 2 SODIMM slots, M.2 2242 and 2280 slots, and modular Wi-Fi adapter

 

If you need to examine scores in opposition to the current-gen Mac mini, we will take a look at some browser-based cross-platform scores. The NUC 11 Pro bought 249 in WebXprt and 165.321 in Jetstream 2, in comparison with 286 and 177.110 respectively for Apple’s in-house M1 processor.

The preinstalled SATA SSD does not exhibit the complete potential of the Tiger Lake CPU, which helps PCIe GenFour speeds. CrystalDiskMark reported sequential reads and writes of solely 560.1MBps and 507.9MBps however this PC is able to a lot better. It additionally took 2 minutes, 59 seconds to compress a 3.24GB folder of varied recordsdata utilizing 7zip, and 1 minute, Four seconds to transcode a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265.

As for graphics, you should not anticipate to run heavy 3D video games. 3DMark’s Time Spy and Night Raid checks confirmed scores of 1,196 and 10,177 respectively. The Unigine Superposition take a look at managed 1,480 factors operating at 1080p at Medium high quality. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which isn’t very current anymore, solely ran at a mean of 17fps at 1280×720 utilizing its Medium preset, which made it unplayable. Far Cry 5 averaged 24fps at its Normal preset on the identical decision. You’ll should restrict your self to a lot less complicated video games or experiment with cloud streaming choices in the event that they grow to be viable in India sooner or later.

In on a regular basis use, the NUC 11 Pro was snappy and responsive. It ran productiveness apps and Web browsers with dozens of tabs open, and the expertise was completely clean. As benchmarks present, this {hardware} is not the quickest at heavy content material creation duties or gaming, however it’s fantastic for frequent utilization conditions. Streaming HD and 4K video was no downside. With regular use, you will not hear the cooling fan spin up in any respect. Even when the NUC 11 Pro was below heavy load, I used to be solely nearly capable of hear a slight hum as scorching air was pushed out the massive vent on the again. The plastic physique will get solely about as heat as you’d anticipate any laptop computer to.

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Looks may not be a precedence, however efficiency is sweet sufficient for on a regular basis use instances

 

Verdict

A tiny PC may be way more versatile and cost-effective than a laptop computer or all-in-one – you do not have to throw out a superbly purposeful monitor, keyboard, trackpad, and so forth while you want a efficiency improve. You also can select your personal RAM and storage, and reap the benefits of a number of massive desktop displays. It’s a fantastic center floor – no cumbersome desktop tower, however it could possibly’t be used on the go – and that needs to be simply fantastic for loads of individuals of their houses and places of work.

The NUC 11 Pro specifically provides all these conveniences, plus numerous ports and connectivity, and cheap improve potential. It’s clearly designed extra for business deployment than house or shopper use, however that does not imply it could not serve for all of your on a regular basis productiveness, leisure and communication wants – with possibly even slightly gentle gaming thrown in.

The huge challenges are availability and value. While corporations similar to Gigabyte with its NUC-based Brix line and Zotac with its Zbox and Mek mini PCs do promote on to retail consumers, Apple’s significantly bigger Mac mini is maybe the perfect recognized such gadget. Asus, Lenovo and others goal places of work and faculties with their business fashions however a few of these do discover their option to retail channels. There’s a market to be tapped, for barebones in addition to absolutely constructed mini PCs, and Intel ought to actually take into consideration selling the NUC lineup both instantly or by system integrators.

It’s potential to seek out the NUC 11 Pro on-line and order it, however do try the number of different fashions obtainable – some with 2.5-inch SATA bays, some with further connectivity, and a few which can be simply the naked motherboard to be used in your personal initiatives.

As for the value, the NUC 11 Pro sells for nearly Rs. 40,000 (barely much less if you happen to’re shopping for in bulk) and you will have to consider the price of your RAM, storage, OS, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. For what it’s going to all come to, you possibly can purchase a good laptop computer, so any shopping for choice must come right down to your particular person wants.

Intel NUC 11 Pro (NUC11TNKi5) 
Price:
 Rs. 38,972 (barebones)

Pros

  • Good total efficiency
  • Lots of ports and connectivity
  • Compact, quiet, and versatile
  • Easy entry to RAM and storage

Cons

  • Relatively costly and laborious to seek out
  • Bulky exterior energy adapter

Ratings (out of 5)
Design: 3
Performance: 4
Value for Money: 4
Overall: 4



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