Intel launches ‘Beast Canyon’ Modular Mini Gaming PC Kits starting at $ 1,150


Gone are the days when you could accurately discern the power of a PC just by looking at the physical size of the system. You can pack an impressive amount of computing power into a small form factor PC, and Intel’s modular NUC kits are a shining example of that. Following on from the NUC 9 Extreme (Ghost Canyon) kit released last year, Intel has now unveiled its more powerful NUC 11 Extreme kit, named Beast Canyon.

The heart of the system is still a swappable compute housing many basic components, including a small motherboard, but it’s now stuck in a larger chassis. “No need to play anymore,” says Intel.

Note that I said bigger, not fat. It is still a compact system, built around an 8-liter chassis measuring approximately 14 x 7.4 x 4.7 inches (357 x 189 x 120 mm). Inside is this Compute Element cartridge containing the motherboard, processor, RAM, and storage. This allows for both a wholesale system swap or part-by-part upgrades when and if the desire arises.

“Packing the latest hardware components into a small 8-liter package, the Intel NUC 11 Extreme Kit is packed with features typically found in much larger gaming rigs and offers customizable design options,” says Intel. .

There are two basic models: the NUC11BTMi7 with a Core i7 11700B processor and the NUC11BTMi9 with an unlocked Core i9 11900KB processor. Both are 8-core / 16-thread processors based on the 11th Gen Intel Rocket Lake architecture, which is the most recent (until Alder Lake arrives later this year).

Pricing starts at $ 1,150 for the Core i7 model and $ 1,350 for Core i9 configurations, each equipped with a 650W 80 Plus Gold power supply. Either way, you need to add your own RAM, storage, operating system, and possibly a discrete GPU (which you would definitely want to do if you plan to play games with this).

So this is by no means a cheap setup. It’s pretty flexible though, with the potential to be a high-end gaming PC. To this end, the Beast Canyon NUC supports up to 64 GB of DDR4-3200 RAM (SO-DIMM) and houses four M.2 slots, split evenly between supporting PCIe 4.0 and 3.0 SSDs.

Then there is GPU support. Intel says you can fit a full-size 350W dual-slot graphics card measuring up to 12 inches long inside the NUC 11 Extreme. It may be a tight fit, as our friends at Tom’s Hardware found out, but the potential is there to fit a meaty graphics card inside of this thing. Obviously, the major caveat here is … if you can find one.

Wireless connectivity consists of Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2. When it comes to port selection, the Beast Canyon NUC offers one 2.5G Ethernet port, single HDMI 2.0b output, two Thunderbolt 4 ports. Eight USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports (six on the back, two on the back front), a front-mounted 3.5mm headphone jack, an SDXC card slot (along with your graphics card ports), and a Kesington lock slot. You will also find two pairs of headers inside (USB 3.1 and 2.0).

I’ve really grown to appreciate SFF systems over the past few years as they’ve gotten more powerful and performant (I’m from a time when large desktops were a lot more common than they are now) . Color me intrigued by the Beast Canyon NUC (minus the price premium), which Intel says will be available for purchase in Q3.

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