Intel CPUs with built-in Xe iGPUs enable compact all-rounder laptops and PCs of some appeal to enthusiasts. Spearheading the latter category Intel regularly releases updated NUC designs, as new processors launch, to champion small but powerful computing solutions. In recent years Intel has bolstered its NUC line with Extreme and Performance SKUs and a roadmap has leaked showing the intended progress of these to the end of 2021.
Back at CES 2020 Intel showed off its Ghost Canyon NUC, which makes use of the NUC Compute Element modular component. This NUC 9 Extreme kit launches with up to an unlocked 9th gen Core i9 45W H-series processor, on a swappable Compute Element board, and could be accompanied in the 5 litre chassis with a discrete desktop GPU card (AIC size up to twin-slot and 230mm long).
Moving down the new roadmap you can see that the Phantom Canyon AKA NUC 11 Extreme is due shortly. The source, FanlessTech, reckons it will be available from Q2 this year. This is much smaller than the Ghost Canyon model discussed above. Phantom Canyon has no Compute Element modularity, however there will be room for third party graphics within the 1.35 litre chassis. It is a successor to the Skull Canyon and Hades Canyon design which features a glowing skull motif for some reason.
Inside the Phantom Canyon NUC will be a 28W Tiger Lake U-series (TGL-U) processor (i5 and i7 options) and a 3rd party discrete graphics (with 6GB or 8GB graphics RAM) of the buyers choice - we don't know the scope of the available choice at this time. Further expansion is possible thanks to the dual channel DDR4-3200 SODIMMs (64GB max) memory, M.2 22x80/110 and M.2 22x80 key M slots, PCIe x4 Gen3 NVMe, Intel Optane Memory M10 and H10 ready, plus front and rear Thunderbolt 3 ports. Connectivity is available via an Intel 10/100/1000/2500Mbps Ethernet port, Intel Wireless-AX 201, IEEE 802.11ax, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.
Panther Canyon is a more traditional NUC box, and the smallest of the cutting edge trio at just 0.7 litres in capacity. Of course it doesn't offer modularity, or a 3rd party discrete GPU option. This model, AKA the NUC 11 Performance model, shares many of the internal features of the Phantom Canyon but without room in the chassis for discrete GPU options. Its connectivity is a little more pared back too.
In brief Panther Canyon offers a 28W Tiger Lake U processor (i3, i5, and i7 options) with integrated Intel Xe graphics, dual channel DDR4-3200 SODIMMs (64GB max), M.2 22x80 key M slot, PCIe x4 Gen4 NVMe, Intel Optane Memory M10 ready. Connectivity is afforded thanks to HDMI 2.1 port, Mini DisplayPort 1.4 port, quad display, 8K support (front and rear Thunderbolt 3 ports), Intel 10/100/1000/2500 Mbps Ethernet port, Intel Wireless-AX 201, IEEE 802.11ax, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.
Integrated Intel Xe graphics should be a boon to the smallest NUCs available, in particular. With the proof being in the pudding, we look forward to getting Xe graphics packing Intel CPUs and these new Tiger-Lake packing NUCs in the lab.