The Intel NUC11THKi5 is one of the Intel NUC range using the 11th generation ‘Tiger Canyon’ i5-1135G7 ‘Evo’ style processors packed into a 117 x 112 x 37mm enclosure. By comparison, the 120W power brick is larger.
The Intel NUC11THKi5 minuscule size (a.k.a. NUC 11 Pro Mini) belies its capabilities. Inside are 2 x SODIMM slots, 1 x M2.2243 SATA 6, and one full-size M2.2280 PCI NVMe Gen 4 slot. And there are copious ports as well – 2 HDMI 2.0b, 1 x Thunderbolt 4 and 1 Thunderbolt 3 (also acts as USB-4 Alt DP 1.4a) and four USB-A ports. In this case, size does not matter.
Who is the Intel NUC11THKi5 for?
NUC (Next Unit of Computing) is a Windows or Linux PC in a box about the size of a thick, sliced-bread sandwich. They come in different heights to accommodate 2.5” SSD drives, and there are gaming formats replete with Skull glowing LEDs. You have flexibility in choosing CPUs, RAM, storage, and building your own kits where you supply everything but the motherboard and chassis.
Intel licenses NUC to a range of PC makers and industrial designers, incorporating the motherboard into their chassis or design.
So, it is more a concept, and GadgetGuy loves them. We use them for media centres (audio and video), controlling/monitoring managed rack switches, laptop replacements, smart terminals, and more. You will find NUCs in many trucks, farm, mining vehicles, and controlling transport like train gates and stop lights. They make excellent controllers in digital signage where message updates over Wi-Fi are instant—or controlling shop cash registers, security and more.
Now you know that NUC exists, it should be your first stop unless you need a laptop with a screen.
Due to flexible configurations, NUC 11 kits start around i3/i5/i7 from $450/600/850.
Country of manufacture
Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, in Silicon Valley.
You can read more GadgetGuy Intel NUC news and reviews here
First impression – small
Perhaps the best place to start is equating it with the Intel Project EVO processors in ultra-slim notebooks. The lower 28W Thermal Design Power (TDP) means passive cooling via vents on three sides. So it is not a desktop processor. That means that unlike the same processor in an EVO notebook, this does not have to throttle on battery – you have 100% power.
We tested the 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 4-core/8-thread, 2.2/4.2GHz. Geekbench 5 single/multi was 1441/5210. Interestingly the i7-1165G7 (not tested) is not that much faster. PassMark is 10004 versus 10499 for the i7.
Throttling is not an issue on mains power. We ran a 100% load test for 15 minutes. It was 4.1Ghz for 11 minutes and then 3.4Ghz. It would be rare to subject this device to those extreme loads. Temperatures stay around 50°, rising to 70° at the end. Fan noise went from 25dB to 36dB.
It has the new Intel Iris X3 graphics with 80 execution units – OpenCL/Vulcan 14207/15070.
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 play most modern games at medium frame rates. It is more for productivity.
It can take up to 2 x 32GB SODIMM, maxing out at 64GB. Storage is a TS512GMTS4305 – an M2.2242 SATA 6 SSD with very average performance – commensurate with the SATA 6 interface. The slot is B-keyed (two keys), so you can’t swap in a PCIe NVMe, even if you could find one. Use it as a boot drive. Fortunately, it has an M2.2280 PCIe 4.0 NVME 1.3 four-lane slot that you can use too. It also supports the latest PCIe 4.0, so speeds top out at around 7000/4000MBps sequential read/write with the right SSD.
We did not experiment with disk clone to a second SSD, but there is no reason you could not create an M2.2280 boot SSD and remove the 512GB.
50% load 25W
100% load 49W (above TDP)
This is well below a typical desktop and should cost about 1 cent per hour to run.
Interestingly this supports 1 x Thunderbolt 4 (40Gbps), and by inference, it is also USB 4.0 (20/40Gbps) and 1 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C 3.2 Gen 2), both with ALT DP 1.4a. Unfortunately, it draws 120W, so upstream charging from a dock is disabled. That means you can buy a lower cost, lower-powered dock.
What this means is that you can get higher res support over HDMI 2.0b. This supports a maximum of 18Gbps, [email protected], HDR/HLG and Ultra-wide 21:9 monitors. All it is missing is bandwidth (48Gbps for HDMI 21.) and means it cannot support dynamic metadata like Dolby Vision.
Front: 2x USB 3.2
Rear: 1 x Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C 4.0), 1 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C 3.2 Gen 2), both with 5V/3A and 9V/1.67A/15W downstream power
1 x USB-A 3.2, 1 x USB-A 2.0
2x HDMI 2.0b with HDCP 2.2 and CEC
Intel 2.5Gbps Ethernet Controller i225-LM
Power port 19V/6.32A/120W
Missing – combo 3.5 audio and micro/SD slot
There is no speed difference between Thunderbolt 3 and 4 – both are 40Gbps. But TB4 supports 8K displays and a 32Gbps data rate over PCIe. What this means is TB4 docks will have more ports but still have the physical limit of 40Gbps.
While Thunderbolt 4 docks are appearing (Razer, Kensington, OWC), TB3 docks using the Intel Titan Chipset like the Plugable series are largely TB4 ready with dual HDMI 2.0 or DP 1.2 outputs. We tested the Plugable TBT3-UDZ Thunderbolt 3/USB-C 100W docking station (review here), and it supports 2 x [email protected] monitors and 12 other ports for huge expansion. Data transfer rates over the port maxed out the speeds of the USB-C 3l2 Gen 2 devices.
Wi-Fi and BT
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
Dolby Vision/Atmos content is likely to come from torrent sites meaning it is heavily compressed in the first place. If you have a Dolby Vision/Atmos TV and soundbar, it will pass the signal through for external processing. But to be clear, it will not decode Dolby Vision/Atmos. At best, it will deliver up to 7.1 multi-channel sound. Control is via the Realtek Audio Control. Over HDMI and DP:
PCM 1.0, 2.0
LPCM, 192 kHz/24 bit, six-channel
AC-3 Dolby Digital
Dolby Digital Plus (5.1)
DTS-HD Master Audio
While the Intel NUC11THKi5 is promising, it is a tad expensive when you fully equip it. I would be inclined to look at the Intel NUC11 PAQ (review here), which is similar in cost, uses the same processor, has more ports and space for a 2.5” SSD as well. The NUC11 scored 10/10, but this is a slightly lesser version, so it will lose a few points.
Its the smallest NUC yet but it is packed full of Intel 11th Generation Core goodies
Value for money
Ease of use
NUC heritage and 3-year warranty
Small and well built
Supports 2 x HDMI and 2 x DP monitors
Slow SATA 6 SSD boot drive
Big power brick
No USB-C upstream power delivery