Intel officially unveiled the final member of their Alder Lake-based NUC12 family earlier this week. The NUC12 Enthusiast (like the three previous Enthusiast NUCs) caters to the gaming / creators market looking for a small form-factor machine with a discrete GPU.

As a refresher, Intel created the NUC Enthusiast category back in 2016 with the introduction of the Skull Canyon NUC (NUC6i7KYK). With a 4" x 5" motherboard, it had a slightly larger footprint compared to the traditional NUCs. However, the increased size allowed the incorporation of a 45W TDP processor with increased graphics flex. The second generation Hades Canyon moved to a slightly larger board (5.5" x 8"), while retaining the industrial design of the Skull Canyon NUC. It used the Kaby Lake-G processors with a Kaby Lake processor and an AMD GPU packaged together (with a total TDP budget between 65W and 100W). The NUC11 Enthusiast (Phantom Canyon) went for a more traditional gaming notebook-type architecture with a Tiger Lake-U Core i7-1165G7 and a NVIDIA RTX 2060 laptop GPU.

The NUC12 Enthusiast retains a similar architecture. The key difference lies in the fact that this is first NUC to utilize Intel's Arc discrete GPU. The specifications of the GPU are much more powerful than the NVIDIA RTX2060, and this has resulted in a redesign of the cooling solution as well as the chassis dimensions compared to the NUC11 Enthusiast.

Similar to the Phantom Canyon family, Serpent Canyon will also come in two varieties - a barebones version, and another with a 1TB SSD / 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM / Windows 11 Home pre-installed. The SKUs utilize the Intel Core i7-12700H notebook processor and the Intel Arc A770M discrete GPU with 16GB of VRAM.

The NUC12 Enthusiast sports a rich set of I/Os. There are two Thunderbolt 4 ports (one in the front and one in the rear) that also carry the display output from the Intel Iris Xe Graphics in the Core i7-12700H. Two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports and a SDXC UHS-II slot, along with an audio jack and a quad-microphone array round out the front panel. On the rear, we have an audio output jack (supporting TOSLINK), a single 2.5 Gbps LAN port, four USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports (with a hub chip behind), and the display outputs (1x HDMI 2.1 4Kp60 and 2x Display Port 2.0 (1.4 certified)) from the Intel Arc A770M.

The table below compares the specifications of the flagships in the last three generations of Enthusiast NUCs.

Intel Enthusiast NUCs
Model Serpent Canyon
Phantom Canyon
Hades Canyon
CPU Intel Core i7-12700H
Alder Lake, 6P + 8E / 20T
4.7 GHz (P) / 3.5 GHz (E)
45W TDP (Up to 115W)
Intel Core i7-1165G7
Tiger Lake-U, 4C/8T
2.8 - 4.7 GHz
Intel Core i7-8809G
Kaby Lake, 4C/8T
3.1 - 4.2 GHz
100W Package TDP
GPU Intel® Intel Arc A770M 16GB GDDR6 @ 1.65 GHz (Discrete) NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6 (N18E-G1-B Notebook Class 115W) @ 1.285 GHz (Discrete)
Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics (96EU) @ 1.3 GHz (Integrated / On-Die)
Radeon RX Vega M GH 4GB HBM2 @ 1.19 GHz (Discrete / On-Package)
Intel® HD Graphics 630 @ 1.1 GHz (Integrated / On-Die)
Memory 2x DDR4-3200 SODIMMs
1.2V, 64GB max.
2x DDR4-2400+ SODIMMs
1.2V, 32GB max.
Motherboard 7" x 8"(Custom) 5.5" x 8" (Custom)
Storage 2x M.2 22x80 (key M) PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe SSD (CPU-attached)
1x M.2 22x80 (key M) SATA3 or PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD (via PCH)
1x M.2 22x80/110 (key M) PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe/AHCI SSD
1x M.2 2280 (key M) SATA3 or PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe/AHCI SSD
2x M.2 22x42/80 (key M) SATA3 or PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe/AHCI SSD
I/O Ports 2x Thunderbolt 4 Fast-Charging (front + rear)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A Fast-Charging (front)
4x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (rear)
1x SDXC UHS-II Card Slot (front)
CIR (front)
1x SATA III Power + Data Internal Header
2x USB 2.0 Internal Header
2x Thunderbolt 3 (rear)
4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (rear)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A Fast-Charging (front)
1x SDXC UHS-I Card Slot (front)
CIR (front)
1x SATA III Power + Data Internal Header
2x USB 2.0 Internal Header
Networking Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6E AX1690i
(2x2 802.11ax Wi-Fi inc. 6 GHz + Bluetooth 5.2 module)
1 × 2.5 GbE ports (Intel I225-LM)
Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201
(2x2 802.11ax Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 5.1 module)
1 × 2.5 GbE port (Intel I225-LM)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
(2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.2 module)
2 × GbE ports (Intel I219-LM + Intel I210-AT)
Display Outputs 2x DP 2.0 (1.4 certified) (via Thunderbolt 4 Type-C, iGPU)
1x HDMI 2.1 (up to 4Kp60) (rear, dGPU)
2x DP 2.0 (1.4 certified, dGPU)
2x DP 1.4a (via Thunderbolt 4 Type-C ports, iGPU Display Pipe)
1x mini-DP 1.4a (rear, dGPU, up to 8Kp60, MST)
1x HDMI 2.0b (rear, dGPU, up to 4Kp60)
1x HDMI 2.0a (front, dGPU)
1x HDMI 2.0a (rear, dGPU)
2x mini-DP 1.3 (rear, dGPU)
2x DP 1.3 (via Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports, dGPU)
Audio 7.1 digital (over HDMI and DisplayPort)
L+R+mic (front)
L+R+TOSLINK (rear)
Audio Codec Realtek ALC274 Realtek ALC700
Enclosure Metal and plastic
Kensington lock with base security
Power Supply 330W (19V @ 16.9A) Adapter 230W (19V @ 12.1A) Adapter
Dimensions 230mm x 180mm x 60mm / 2.5L 221mm x 142mm x 42mm / 1.3L 221mm x 142mm x 39mm / 1.2L
Miscellaneous Features Vertical stand included Vertical stand and VESA mount included VESA mount included
Lid with customizable RGB LED illumination behind user-replaceable mask
CEC support for HDMI ports
Front-panel CIR support for IR remotes
Status LEDs in front panel
Beam-forming microphone array
3-year warranty

The block diagram below gives some insights into the design of the system in relation to the I/O capabilities.

Despite the Arc A770M supporting a PCIe 4.0 x16 link to the host processor, the Serpent Canyon configuration keeps the connection at x8. Both PCIe 4.0 M.2 2280 slots are CPU-attached ones. The SD card slot is connected via a PCIe lane instead of USB - this should allow maximum possible performance for different SD cards. While the official specifications indicate that the slot is UHS-II, the technical product specifications document also indicates SD Express support. This depends on the exact SD controller being used in the board, and we have reached out to Intel for clarification. Three of the four Type-A ports in the rear are enabled by a 1:4 Gen 2 hub, which is not ideal in terms of bandwidth sharing. However, the availability of additional ports is always welcome. On the display front, the front Thunderbolt 4 port can support a display bandwidth of around 17 Gbps, while the rear port can support up to 35 Gbps.  With multi-stream support on the Type-C port, the system can drive a total of six diifferent displays - five at 4Kp144 (DP/Alt-DP) and one at 4Kp60 (HDMI). Two 8Kp60 displays can also be driven using a multi-cable / -port solution.

Intel also provided a complete teardown picture along with the press release. The combined cooling solution for the CPU and dGPU with the thermal shroud and heat pipes is clearly seen. Whether this solution aids in / enables performance tuning via the Intel Deep Link Dynamic Power Share feature remains to be seen in hands-on evaluation.

Overall, the Serpent Canyon NUC is a huge step-up for Intel. Moving to a fully in-house solution for both the CPU and dGPU in a small form-factor portable machine will enable the company to gain a larger share of the gaming / creator systems / eSports total addressable market. Based on paper specifications, the level of integration and gaming prowess in the NUC12 Enthusiast should be well beyond what has traditionally been possible in this form factor. On the pricing front, the Mini-PC version with pre-installed OS will come in at $1350, while the barebones version can be purchased for $1180 later this month. These numbers roughly track the introductory pricing for previous-generation Enthusiast NUCs.

Source: Intel

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  • thestryker - Saturday, September 24, 2022 - link

    Will be interesting to see how the retail pricing turns out for each SKU. SimplyNUC is selling the top end with 8GB RAM/256GB storage for $1699 which would be well out of my justifiable price. I like the idea of these units, but so much of the time the price is just not in line with the performance.

    Addressing other comments:
    -If this is anything like the other recent NUCs there should be blank inserts so no logo has to be seen.
    -Intel Killer NICs use Intel drivers, but have the Killer software stack available which is generally of limited use.
    -Thunderbolt 4 is fully compatible with USB, but I believe 2x2 support is optional so there's no guarantee it would or wouldn't be supported. It'd be really nice if manufacturers were clear about this.
  • coburn_c - Tuesday, October 18, 2022 - link

    330w with laptop blower fans, sure why not

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