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.

NUC11PAHi review: overall

The top lid of the NUC has now a stylish matte black finish.

Specifications

  • 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.

Three Panther Canyon NUC models: NUC11PAHi7, NUC11PAKi7 and NUC11PAQi7.

Full technical product specification is available here as PDF.

Panther Canyon NUC review, rear of the NUC

Rear panel provides decent connectivity.

Panther Canyon NUC review, rear of the NUC

The SD card reader is full size and supports UHS-II.



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
CPUs i3 i3-1115G4 i3-1115G4
TDP 40W 28W
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
Microphone Quad-array
Audio HDMI, 3.5mm headset jack HDMI only
Consumer IR Yes
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 $66.42 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 $55.31 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.

NUC11PAHi7 review: box

The styling of the box has changed a bit and it’s no longer wrapped in plastic.

Panther Canyon NUC Review: box contents

The box contents are familiar: quick start guides, 120W power supply, power cable, VESA mounting plate and some screws.

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.

Tear Down

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.

NUC11PAHi7 Mainboard

NUC11PAHi7 WiFi

The 802.11ax WiFi 6 adapter in the Panther Canyon NUC is soldered down.

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.

Panther Canyon Fan

Panther Canyon fan unit was made by Cooler Master.

Panther Canyon Fan Rear

The screw holes have been sealed with some tape.

Panther Canyon Heatsink

Air is also pushed out to the side through a smaller additional heat sink.

In general it seems that more attention has been paid to the cooling than before.

Panther Canyon NUC Review: Heatsink

After removing the fan the heat sinks are visible.

NUC11PAHi7 review: GPU and CPU

The SOC is finally exposed after removing the heat sinks.



Contents

27 Responses

  1. jonas says:

    HELLZ TO THE YELLZ! Olli is the best. Panther Canyon also best!

  2. Antti says:

    Thanks for the review! I needed an upgrade when NUC 10 was expected and was disappointed when released. Been following Your blog since and pressing the trigger on this one finally to use for photo editing and coding mostly and maybe trying to get Samsung 980 Pro for PCIe 4.0 experience…

    Tiger Canyon would be OK for me as I have no need for 3.5mm headphone jack (using USB DAC-Amp) as discussed on previous post. I don’t see relevant difference otherwise – maybe price?

  3. Vlado says:

    Thanks for the review.
    I have a questions about power consumption
    “YouTube full screen video: 16,5 watts”
    What resolution was the video? 8k?
    What frame rate? 60p?
    What codec? AV1?
    What resolution and refresh rate was the display [email protected]?
    What was the fan speed?

    • Olli says:

      That was 1080p60, added a figure for [email protected] as well (display resolution set to 1920×1080 and 3840×2160 respectively). Both VP9. When the total power stays that low (below 25 watts), the fan does not speed up much – seems to be running 2100 RPM which is audible but quiet.

      • Vlado says:

        Thanks again.
        I forgot to ask is power draw different if the video is HDR. I hope your monitor/TV does support HDR.

  4. Schmurtz says:

    OK, reassured that this new generation is a little better than the nic8… But if we imagine a NUC8 with a similar TDP, it is very probable that the performance would have been superior…
    The TDP should be in negative points… it consumes a lot more !

    • Olli says:

      You can limit the TDP of the Panther Canyon to any level you want. In reality, NUC8i7BEH was pulling between 70 and 80 watts from the grid at max load, which is not that different compared to this NUC.

  5. Vespin says:

    Does anyone know weather only 1.2 V Memory modules can be used according to this list ?
    https://www.intel.com.au/content/www/au/en/support/articles/000005561/intel-nuc.html

    • Olli says:

      You should only use 1.2V DDR4 SODIMM modules. Intel has verified only a small amount of memory modules, but that doesn’t mean that others would not work. For example the Kingston ValueRAM modules that I used are not on Intel’s list but work flawlessly.

  6. Ikram Ahmed says:

    I have confirmed that HDR works on this very device in Libreelec:
    https://forum.libreelec.tv/thread/13738-intel-true-10bits-hevc-hdr-support/?postID=150873#post150873

    However i am having the same issue HD Audio issue so i can rest assured that it isn’t just me.

    What i have tried is turning off Audio DSP in BIOS which initially worked but has since stooped working.

    I hope this gets fixed soon because i have an amazing Libreelec build ready to go.

  7. Robert says:

    For years I have been quite a NUC fan and still using D54250WYH here. However I fear that at this moment the ASRock Deskmini series might be the better (more powerful and cheaper) overall package. Whats your opinion? Apart from the slightly bigger case I dont see any disadvantages, do you? Since the ASRock X300 Deskmini (ex A300) appeals to address nearly the exactly same audience, I would really appreciate to see a head-to-head comparison in terms of CPU (Ryzen 3400G / 4650G / 4750G), energy consumption and of course especially for the iGPU (how big or thin is the distance between them in reality and money-wise). And if I understand it right, we can expect next gen Ryzen 5xxxG (ZEN3 with iGPU) next month, which will surely provide an additional extra boost. Anyhow, so far nobody knows whether this APU fits into the tiny Deskmini.

  8. Henke says:

    I’m a little confused about the HDMI CEC. For Panther Canyon it’s listed under “Additional Headers” and for Tiger Canyon it’s under “Graphics Output”.
    Does it mean that CEC will work out of the box for Tiger Canyon and requires an additiona module for Panther Canyon? Or is it just the same but listed inconsistently on the two models?

  9. Dennis says:

    Still no HDMI 2.1? Really?

  10. Chris Ply says:

    Hello, no Celeron or Pentium anymore in NUC series? What about people wanting a CPU with low tdp for fanless solution and low consumption?

  11. vincent says:

    Hi :) Can you provide a picture of what’s under the small black radiator plate under the SSD slot of panther canyon? Nuc11 pro doesn’t have this heatsink and I am curious whether this stabilizes power supply for running at 40W PL1. Thx !

    • Doug says:

      I bought tiger canyon nuc11tnki7 with i7-1165g7 and the power limits can be configured in bios without any limits, I set PL1 to 40W and it is keeping 4.1ghz all core turbo in cinebench indefinitely, temperature hovering around 90c, but the fan is really audible at that temperature

  12. Dennis says:

    I searching now for a while now, it’s not available anywhere…

  13. Sam says:

    Thanks for this great article Olli. My requirement of NUC is more of setting up kubernetes cluster and not that much of graphical usage. Typically more CPU is better for me, but still I’m confused if I should choose Frost Canyon i7 (with hexa core) vs Panther Canyon i7 (with quad core). Any thoughts on this?

  14. Pat says:

    Hey man been following you page forever, you haven’t posted a blog on the new Beast Canyon NUC- https://www.pcmag.com/news/youre-an-animal-intel-teases-the-beast-canyon-nuc-11-extreme-a-killer-compact

    If you get purchase-links for the Beast Canyons like last time from any preseller on your page here (was Amazon), I’ll purchase one asap (you made me get one 11th Gen NUC so thx for that)

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