Panther Canyon i7 NUC Review (NUC11PAHi7)
The Panther Canyon NUC is the latest version of Intel’s ultra mini desktop PCs that many have been waiting for. After last year’s disappointing Frost Canyon NUC things were finally moving to the correct direction. The 10nm Tiger Lake SOC promised significant performance increases and the new Iris Xe Graphics GPU is set to bring integrated GPUs out from the laughable zone. Panther Canyon was announced, pricing was available and then boom! Intel announced that it will be released in Asia Pacific region only due to supply chain issues (see AnandTech article). Thanks again COVID-19.
For some reason, they did pop up on European Amazon sites though and I have here an EU model of NUC11PAHi7 or the i7 Panther Canyon NUC. It’s unclear whether they’ll be available in the EU for longer than just initially. We shall see. Update: NUC11PAHi7 seems to be available both in Europe and US as well.
- CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7 Processor (4 cores/8 threads, 12M Cache, up to 4.70 GHz)
- GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics GPU with 96 EUs
- Memory: Two 1.2V DDR4 SO-DIMM slots, up to 3200 MHz
- M.2 slot: Single M.2 2280 (key M) slot supporting PCIe 4.0 NVMe drives
- 2.5″ SATA: single slot for a 2.5″ SATA drive, max height: 7 mm
- Ethernet: 2.5 gigabit port, Intel I225-V
- WiFi: 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 adapter with Bluetooth 5.1, Intel AX201
- Thunderbolt: 2 TB3 Type-C ports (1 front, 1 rear)
- DisplayPort: MiniDP 1.4, DP1.4 via Type-C
- USB: Three Type-A USB 3.2 Gen2 ports (1 front, 2 rear) + two Type-C ports
- Headset: 3.5mm headset jack (front panel)
- Consumer Infrared Receiver
- SD card reader: SDXC with UHS-II support
- Dimensions: 117 x 112 x 51mm
There are also two other variations available of this same NUC. NUC11PAKi7 is slightly slimmer and does not have a 2.5″ SATA slot. NUC11PAQi7 is slightly taller and has a wireless Qi charger on the lid. Everything else, including the mainboard, is identical on these three models.
Full technical product specification is available here as PDF.
Panther Canyon vs. Tiger Canyon
The good news is that the NUC11 comes in two flavours this year: NUC 11 Performance (Panther Canyon, the model reviewed right here) and NUC 11 Pro (Tiger Canyon). And while the Panther Canyon was cancelled outside the APAC region the Tiger Canyon should be available worldwide. It’s a bit confusing as these two are rather close to each other but multiple differences still exist. I’m trying to summarize the differences here:
|Panther Canyon||Tiger Canyon|
|CPUs i7||i7-1165G7||i7-1165G7, i7-1185G7 vPro|
|CPUs i5||i5-1135G7||i5-1135G7, i5-1145G7 vPro|
|HDMI ports||1x HDMI 2.0b||2x HDMI 2.0b|
|Thunderbolt||2x TB3||1x TB4, 1x TB3|
|Ethernet||2.5GB Ethernet (I225-V)||2.5GB Ethernet (I225-LM), Dual 2.5G LAN model available|
|WiFi||WiFi 6 with BT5, AX201 (soldered)||WiFi 6 with BT5, AX201 (in M.2 22×30 slot)|
|M.2 slots||22×80 PCIe x4 Gen 4||22×80 PCIe x4 Gen 4, 22×42 PCIe 1x Gen 3 (not on dual LAN)|
|USB (type-A)||1x front 3.1, 2x rear 3.1||2x front 3.2, 1x rear 3.2, 1x rear 2.0|
|USB (type-C)||1x front 3.1, 1x rear 3.1||2x rear (incl. DP 1.4a and USB 4)|
|Headers||HDMI CEC header||RS232 header|
|Audio||HDMI, 3.5mm headset jack||HDMI only|
|SD Card Reader||Yes||–|
|TPM||–||2.0 (vPro models only)|
Unboxing and Assembly
The Intel NUCs are delivered as barebones units, so you’ll need to bring your memory modules and storage. This time I opted to install two Kingston ValueRAM KVR32S22S6/8 RAM modules (currently $43.82 on Amazon) for a total of 16 gigabytes of RAM. The Kingston KC2500 M.2 SSD drive (3500MB/s read, 1200MB/s write for the 250GB model, currently $41.24 on Amazon) will fulfill my storage needs as I left the 2.5″ SATA slot empty. It would have been nice to try out a PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD drive, but unfortunately I did not have any on hand.
For assembly you’ll just need a screw driver. Start by unfastening the four screws inside the rubber feet.
When you open the NUC you can immediately access the memory slots and the M.2 slot for storage. The 2.5″ SATA slot is in the cover and takes a max. 7mm thick drive.
The memory modules just click into their slots but the M.2 drive needs to be attached with a small screw. With these NUCs it’s really important to install two memory chips of the same type. This enables dual-channel memory mode which has a big positive impact on the GPU performance.
Replace the bottom cover and you’re done.
The general build quality of the NUC is good and I think the matte top lid makes it look a bit more higher end when compared to the older glossy top lids.
I didn’t stop there though. I wanted to see what went into my NUC. So I set out to remove the mainboard from the chassis.
After carefully detaching the fragile WiFi antennas and loosening a couple of screws I was able to raise the mainboard out from the chassis. On the other side of the mainboard you can see the updated cooling solution.
In general it seems that more attention has been paid to the cooling than before.