Intel focused much of its time at this year’s virtual CES on its new desktop and mobile processors, as well as spotlighting the laptops that will feature its new hardware debuting in the next few months. But what didn’t get much attention was Intel’s line of mini PCs, or NUCs, and NUC kits. Intel’s giving those a Tiger Lake-refresh at a more reasonable price this time around, depending on the configuration and where you buy a unit.
First up is Intel’s enthusiast model, or the NUC 11 Enthusiast, which comes as either a full mini PC or as a kit. The full PC includes an 11th-gen Core i7-1165G7 processor with Iris Xe integrated graphics, RTX 2060 graphics card, 16 GB DDR4-3200 memory, Intel Optane Memory H10 (32GB + 512GB) storage, and even a geo-specific power cord option for the U.S., Europe, and China. Windows 10 Home comes pre-loaded, too.
There’s a variety of ports, as well: HDMI 2.0, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, Intel 2.5 GB Ethernet port, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 support, plus six USB 3.1 Gen2 ports.
The kit includes the same CPU and GPU, plus the same type and amount of ports, but the memory, storage, and operating system are all a BYOB-situation—though it will support up to 64 GB of memory. Also note that if you’re interested in going this route, the board supports PCIe 3.0 NVMe M.2 SSDs, not PCIe 4.0. There’s also additional power cord options for the UK, Australia, and India.
The NUC 11 Performance model comes with the choice of either a Core i7-1165G7, Core i5-1135G7, or Core i3-1115G4, with the i7 and i5 options including Iris Xe graphics and the i3 with regular ol’ UHD. None of the pre-built mini PCs comes with a discrete GPU. They also all come with 8GB DDR4-3200 memory, 500GB NVMe SSD PCIe 4.0 storage (odd since the enthusiast model does not have Gen4, but maybe the Intel Optane Memory has something to do with that), Windows 10 Home pre-loaded, and the same amount of ports, minus three USB ports.
The final model, the NUC 11 Pro Mini, comes with either a Core i7-1165G7 or Core i5-1145G7 with Iris Xe graphics, a 500GB Gen 4 NVMe SSD (again, odd), 8GB DDR4-3200 memory, and Windows 10 Home pre-loaded. Like the Enthusiast kit, both the Performance and Pro kits are BYO memory, storage, and operation system. And if you look at the support pages for both the Pro Mini PCs, Intel already has an expected discontinuance date sometime in the first half of 2024. The other NUC PCs do not.
Unfortunately, all of these models come with a soldered-down BGA socket, which means the processor can’t be easily taken out and upgraded in the future. What CPU you get is the CPU you get.
But there is sort of a saving grace: the price. A fully configured enthusiast model from SimplyNUC starts at $1,350—but with 8GB of memory and only a 128GB NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD. If you start speccing the NUC 11 Enthusiast out with the same components that Intel advertises, the price jumps up fast, though it’s still better than the NUC 9 Extreme Kit we reviewed last year.