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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  • vegemeister - Friday, February 25, 2022 - link

    36 W idle power lol. As much as an ultraportable laptop running flat out. Switching to a socketed desktop part was clearly a mistake.
  • CyrIng - Friday, February 25, 2022 - link

    Should we rather say 8 Pcore + 8 Ecore, short 8P + 8E , for a hybrid processor.
  • James5mith - Friday, February 25, 2022 - link

    Why is the best slot performance wise (CPU connected one on the back) the worst from a cooling perspective? That makes no sense.

    You can put in a PCIe5.0 NVMe drive in this slot! But you can't run it near capacity or it will melt.
  • thestryker - Friday, February 25, 2022 - link

    All of the M.2 slots are Gen4.
  • FXi - Friday, February 25, 2022 - link

    Sorry a small/modest liquid or even more silent cooling solution can be done in this size. And the soldered wifi is a turnoff because those standards change every 2-3 years far less than the lifespan of the rest of the system. For what this costs, and with how easy it is to build your own, they really have to tick all the user friendly and quiet boxes just right or their market is going to be pretty small.
  • bwj - Saturday, February 26, 2022 - link

    I really hate the case but I really like the compute element. With integral 10ge and dual TB ports it's quite nice. Would love to see another OEM putting the compute element into a simpler chassis, hopefully at a lower price. I built an i7 rig, complete with storage and memory, for $1300 but then I had to add TB and 10ge expansion cards. Would prefer an integrated package.
  • drbartsimpson - Wednesday, March 9, 2022 - link

    Would like to see a comparison with the just announced Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra
  • Dug - Friday, March 11, 2022 - link

    "In terms of internals, the Dragon Canyon's updates are also tempered by over-reliance on the PCH for almost all of the I/Os of the PC. In comparison, the Beast Canyon NUC had a better spread with the Thunderbolt 4 ports directly off the CPU. Given that the Alder Lake platform supports USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, a couple of the 20Gbps ports would have also been welcome on the Compute Element."

    You guys never test any of the ports, wifi, sound, or storage, so I guess we'll never know if it actually makes any difference in the real world.
    Also from the diagram, isn't the tb4 coming off of the cpu?

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