GadgetGuy has covered Intel NUCs since its 6th generation. The formula remains similar, but each iteration packs so much more in. The Intel NUC NUC11PAQ 11th generation is quite simply a spectacular performer in a superb small form factor.
The Intel NUC NUC11PAQ 11th generation is diminutive in size but packs a choice of an i3-1115G4, i5-1135G7 or i7-1165G7, two SO-DIMM DDR4-3200 slots, M.2 2280mm SSD slot, SATA 6 HDD mount (tall chassis), Thunderbolt 3/USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 and a raft of features including a Qi charging pad. All this in 117mm (square) and 35mm height (slim), 48mm (tall) and 54mm (Qi) chassis.
Why buy a NUC?
Readers ask why buy a NUC (Next Unit of Computing) over a small desktop or laptop? To NUC users, the answer is self-evident. A NUC is small, light and can be VESA mounted to the back of monitors, signage, and out-of-the-way places. They can run 24/7 and have a choice of ‘horsepower’ and features. The only thing it lacks is a PCIe bus expansion slot. That is when you need a desktop.
NUCs outperform notebooks with the same processor as they use mains power and have superior thermal management. Shopping malls use them as signage controllers being able to update instantly over Wi-Fi. You will also find them powering point-of-sale registers, inventory systems, and signage in shops. You will find them in many heavy vehicles, mining sites, construction sites etc., (they are reasonably power-efficient and can work on an inverter).
Shared work-space operators favour them too. Education has embraced NUCs in computer labs. They offer a lower cost of deployment, especially as you don’t have to buy 11th Gen Intel – there are even Celeron versions. Or for a desktop replacement where space is an issue. Or media PCs where these small, unobtrusive units will work in a closed cupboard. Some versions support Dolby Vision and Atmos (subject to DRM and DHCP to prevent piracy). There are many variations here, and you can buy them as a kit (add your memory, storage, and OS) to fully configured units.
Note this is a pre-production model for review only.
Let’s start with ports
Standard ports include:
HDMI 2.0b with CEC/ARC
Mini Display Port 1.4
Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) or USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps and Alt DP)
2 x USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 with BC 1.2
Up to 2500MB/s Ethernet
Thunderbolt 3 ports do not support upstream power to the NUC. The have 5V/3A and 9V/1.67A 15W downstream power.
SDXC memory card slot
Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
3.5 combo audio jack
Comms – extremely fast Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi 6 using Intel AX201, 2×2, OFDMA, 1024QAM, Target Wake Time (TWT) and spatial reuse for up to 2.4Gbps with the right router
There are optional case covers that can access internal headers for more USB and video options. But the bottom line is that this is a highly usable set of ports and does not require a dock to add more.
We tested with the Plugable TBT30UDZ 14-in-one dock (it and its other Plugable gen 2 docks use the Intel Titan Ridge chipset, which gives them TB4 and USB-4 support. As the NUC does not use upstream charging, you can buy the lower cost 60W version. It met or exceeded all specifications on the NUC.
It supports auto-negotiation for 5, 7.5 and 15W. This covers Qi earbuds, watches, iPhone, and Samsung (15W). We tested with s Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and it charges at 15W.
These use the 11th Gen Intel Core G series 10nm processors. TDP Maximum is 28W, so these are midway between a full desktop and a low power use notebook processor.
i3-1115G4 – up to 4.1Ghz, 2-core/4-threads Intel UHD Graphics, PassMark 6396
i5-1135G7 – up to 3.2Ghz, 4-core/8-thread, Xe Graphics, PassMark 10004
i7-1165G7 – up to 4.7Ghz, 4-core/8-thread, Xe Graphics, PassMark 10499
The sweet spot is the i5 which in typical use (not maxed out) performs as well as the i7. And because these are TDP limited to 28W, you may only notice a small difference when gaming. The TDP ensures that the CPU throttles if it goes above 40°. We managed 4.1GHz for about 11 minutes, and then it dropped to 3.4Ghz for the remaining four minutes of the test. However, it is rare to have 100% load for that long, so throttling is not an issue.
Noise varies from a whisper to about 35dB, but we heard it go louder on 100% load to around 50dB. Power use is quite good. Under load, it reached 400W, but most of the time, it was about half that. In cost terms, less than 20 cents an hour. The latest Intel i7-11375H (desktop) has a 5GHz Turbo. This only runs in larger form factor desktops and is an average 14% faster. The real difference no TDP constraint and 37% faster at maximum speed.
Graphics – 30% faster than Intel UHD
Intel Iris Xe Graphics on i5/i7
HW decode Direct3D 9 (DXVA2), Direct3D11, Intel Media SDK, MFT filters, Intel VA
HW Acceleration VC/VC1/MPEG2/HEVC/VP9/JPEG/AV1
Full support for Direct 3D 12 and 15, OPELGL 4.5 and OPEN CL 2.1
It will support 2 x 4K TVs or up to 4 x [email protected] monitors. We hooked up two monitors, and the video playback of two separate content sources was superb. I won’t comment on games except to say that the i7 is 30% faster than Intel UHD graphics and plays most modern games close to maximum frame rates. But it is not the same as a, say, high-level Radeon and NVIDIA GPU.
RAM – go dual channel
It supports up to 64GB, e.g., 2 x 32GB DDR4-3200 SO-DIMMs. We suggest that you use a pair for dual-channel speed. And as the Iris X3 graphics use the same system memory, at least 16GB is recommended.
Storage – blow your mind
It supports PCIe 3.0 and 4.0 4 lane SSD and Intel Optane SSD, and one SATA6 SSD (or HDD). This is the first PCIe Gen 4 x 4 Lane device we have tested, and with the Samsung 98- Pro SSD, it truly blows all previous speed records out of the water. Sequential read/write was 6202.72/4814MBps – twice as fast as PCIe 3.0! But the best part is that that speed increase is on random read/write on small to large files. Videographers will love this.
The Samsung SDXC card averaged around 200MBps – excellent that is 1GB in five seconds.
It supports up to 7.1 multi-channel sound. Control is via the Realtek Audio Control.
Three HD audio streams over four digital ports simultaneously. Over HDMI and DP:
•AC-3 Dolby Digital
•Dolby Digital Plus
LPCM, 192 kHz/24 bit, six-channel
DTS-HD Master Audio
Amazon Alexa certified, with a beam-forming, far-field, quad-mic array
It is 19V/6.32A/120W plug type and almost the NUC size at 150 x 75 x 25 mm x 650g.
Intel NUC Software Studio will show you basic information and assist with tuning.
Intel NUC NUC11PAQ 11th generation just keeps getting better. This is the Intel/Windows equivalent of the Mac-mini. I am not a Mac user, but spec for spec, it offers more connectivity and faster disk and comms speeds.
If NUC piques your interest, the Intel NUC 11th generation NUC11PAQ has it all. Sure, I will get more excited when I see the Pro and Enthusiast versions, but this is a perfect device for now. It is about 20% faster than the 10th generation, and the Intel Iris X3 graphics are 300% faster than the UHD 620. We tested with dual-channel ram – that is the only addition I think you should make for top performance. And the SSD speeds are amazing.
It only has to compete against the 10th generation review here 9.8/10), and given the additional speed all around, it gets 10/10.
Intel NUC NUC11PAQ 11th generation
If you need a small form factor there is no better