Setup Notes and Platform Analysis

The review sample of the NUC12DCMi9 came package in a fancy casing, signifying its premium nature. Since the review configuration was a DIY configuration, the package contents only included the main unit, power cord, 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 NUC12DCMi9 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 NUC12DCMi9 review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Intel NUC12DCMi9 (Dragon Canyon) Specifications
Processor Intel Core i9-12900
Alder Lake-S , 8C + 8c / 24T, (c) 1.8 / 3.8 GHz, (C) 2.4 / 5.0 GHz, (5.1) GHz
14MB+30MB L2+L3, Intel 7, 65W TDP
Memory Mushkin Redline 4S320NNNF32G DDR4 SODIMM
22-22-22-52 @ 3200 MHz
2x32 GB
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 770
Disk Drive(s) Western Digital WD_BLACK SN770
(1TB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe; SanDisk BiCS 5 112L 3D TLC; SanDisk In-House Controller)
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211
(2x2 802.11ax - 2400 Mbps)
1x Intel I225-LM 2.5G Ethernet Adapter
1x Marvell FastLinQ Edge 10 Gbit Ethernet Adapter
Audio 3.5mm Audio Jack (Front)
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI / USB-C)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 1x UHS-II SDXC Slot (Front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-A (Front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-C (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 11 Enterprise x64 (22000.527)
Pricing (As configured) $1755
Full Specifications Intel NUC12DCMi9 Specifications

The block diagram of the NUC12DCMi9 in relation to the bandwidth sharing between the various ports in the system is provided below. The components in white with a black background are those present on the baseboard / daughterboard, while the rest are present in the Compute Element.

Unlike the Beast Canyon NUC in which the two Thunderbolt 4 Type-C ports in the Compute Element are enabled directly from the CPU, the Dragon Canyon NUC puts both behind a single PCIe 4 link from the PCH. The saving grace is the x8 DMI link, but the two Thunderbolt 4 can't get full bandwidth simultaneously. The DisplayPort signals muxed into them come from the display controller in the CPU. All of the I/Os are off the Alder Point PCH. Despite the alleviation of the DMI bandwidth issue, the focus on the PCH for most of the I/Os is reflective of a typical desktop PC. Hopefully future desktop platforms can adopt some of the I/O features of Tiger Lake and bring in native Thunderbolt support on the CPU die itself.

In today's review, we compare the NUC12DCMi9 (Dragon Canyon) and the NUC11BTMi9 (Beast Canyon) - both configured without a discrete GPU. In the table below, we have an overview of the two system configurations.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Intel NUC12DCMi9 (Dragon Canyon) Intel NUC11BTMi9 (Beast Canyon)
CPU Intel Core i9-12900 Intel Core i9-11900KB
GPU Intel UHD Graphics 770 Intel UHD Graphics for 11th Gen
RAM Mushkin Redline 4S320NNNF32G DDR4 SODIMM
22-22-22-52 @ 3200 MHz
2x32 GB
Kingston HyperX KHX3200C20S4/8G DDR4-3200 SODIMM
20-22-22-42 @ 3200 MHz
2x8 GB
Storage Western Digital WD_BLACK SN770
(1TB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe; SanDisk BiCS 5 112L 3D TLC; SanDisk In-House 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 AX211 Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210
Price (in USD, when built) $1400 (barebones)
$1755 (as configured / No OS / No dGPU)
$1350 (barebones)
$1606 (as configured / No OS / No dGPU)

The next few sections will deal with comparative benchmark numbers from our new test suite for mini-PCs based on Windows 11.

Introduction and Product Impressions System Performance
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  • Foeketijn - Friday, February 25, 2022 - link

    I would have upvoted if I could.
  • Spunjji - Friday, February 25, 2022 - link

    Fully agreed.
  • Dug - Friday, March 11, 2022 - link

    Not really lazy, and it's not garbage. You wouldn't be able to design something this small yourself.
    What you want is something much larger, which is fine, but doesn't make this anything less.

    Not to mention, there is no off the shelf parts that allow 3 nvme drives at full speed and 3 thunderbolt ports.
  • jdq - Thursday, February 24, 2022 - link

    The idiotic juvenile skull on the machine is sufficient reason to wait for the designers to grow up and make something less ugly.
  • thestryker - Thursday, February 24, 2022 - link

    I'm assuming you're referring to the RGB (which can be turned off) logo on the front which is replaceable and is thus user defined...
  • evilspoons - Thursday, February 24, 2022 - link

    There's a pretty big gold on black skull sticker next to the blower fan (the one Intel has used since at least the Skull Canyon NUC in 2016).

    Which, of course, is barely relevant on this model because it's inside a case. You can just barely see it through the mesh when you look at the photo that's focused on the inside. It's not like it's an acrylic panel.
  • Dug - Friday, March 11, 2022 - link

    It is idiotic. Gamerz!!!
    The people that have the money for this, don't want a skull on the front of their computer to ruin aesthetics. Doesn't matter if it is replaceable, it's wasted time and money.
  • hubick - Thursday, February 24, 2022 - link

    I've owned a variety of the smaller NUC's, 2x Phantom Canyon (work/home), 2x Hades Canyon, and now NUC11 Ghost Canyon (Pro/Xeon). This has crossed a size line for me. I could easily bring Phantom/Hades on my bike commute, and even the Ghost is fine in a backpack, carry-on bag, or shoulder brief. But this? This is a PC. It's too large now. Not portable. No.
  • usiname - Thursday, February 24, 2022 - link

    Going from 8 cores to next gen 8P + 8E and the efficiency is much worse XD
    "The Dragon Canyon NUC delivers significantly better performance at the cost of increased energy consumption - a 13% increase in scores for a 24% increase in energy consumption."
  • Spunjji - Friday, February 25, 2022 - link

    E cores are only especially area-efficient - their performance-per-watt is mediocre.

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