Panther Canyon i7 NUC Review (NUC11PAHi7)
Performance and Benchmarks
Installing Windows 10 was a breeze and I quickly found myself in front of an empty desktop. BIOS version 0035 and Intel Xe Graphics drivers 220.127.116.1168 were used for the benchmarks below.
Let’s start the performance assessment by running a few synthetic benchmarks.
The Panther Canyon i7 NUC beats Frost Canyon hands down and is more 50% faster than Bean Canyon i7 NUC. As expected, it does not come close to Hades Canyon that is equipped with a discrete GPU. Unfortunately I didn’t run the Night Raid test on the older 8th Gen NUCs so I don’t have data for the comparison.
Cinebench R15 starts to be a bit long in the tooth but I’ll show the results anyhow as there’s comparative data. The OpenGL result is on par with Bean Canyon and a bit behind the Hades Canyon but I wouldn’t put too much value on that – it’s sort of an obsolete test and I’ll drop it in future. In the CPU test both the single core and multi core tests give better results than any NUC I’ve tested before.
The newer Cinebench R20 benchmark stresses only the CPU and the results are excellent again.
Compared to Frost Canyon most of the areas have improved a bit except the content creation that has improved quite a lot.
Oddly enough the Passmark CPU test produces about 10% worse result than the i7 Frost Canyon NUC.
Since the Iris Xe GPU is a fairly decent one I wanted to find out how well is the NUC able to run some modern games.
I know what you’re thinking now: That’s not a modern game! And you’d be absolutely correct. I’m showing the result here only because I have historical data from a lot of other NUCs available. The NUC11 runs circles around last year’s NUC10 and is significantly faster than Bean Canyon i7 NUC as well.
As expected, the game was running super smooth.
So I decided to download Dirt 5 – a decent 2020 racing game with a nice benchmarking mode built in. To my great disappointment I could not get the game working. It gave a correct picture for approximately one second before the screen turned predominantly red. I even tried the beta 18.104.22.16813 drivers but unfortunately that changed nothing.
I’ve read about people having issues with their Xe graphics GPUs so I am just presuming that the drivers are not exactly mature yet and that the situation will improve as the drivers are being developed further. It’s certainly something to be aware of right now though.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Setting the screen resolution to 1920×1080 with TAA antialiasing and high details resulted in average FPS of 15. Not really playable at that detail level but by lowering details and resolution you could actually play the game on this NUC.
Far Cry – New Dawn
Far Cry: New Dawn was a step closer to being smooth. Min/Avg/Max FPS was 14/18/22 when the resolution was 1920×1080 and details were set to high with TAA antialiasing and motion blur. In order to make this playable you’d need to reduce resolution.
Thoughts on Performance
The NUC11PAHi7 seems to perform well. The Iris Xe Graphics GPU is a true upgrade from the integrated Iris GPUs in the Bean Canyon NUCs. I can’t think of many reasons why you’d buy a Frost Canyon NUC over the Panther Canyon. Well, except for the fact that the Frost Canyon is actually available and this one is just barely available. This NUC is not capable of running the latest games on 1080p resolution and high details but if you’re willing to cut down a bit on resolution and details even the latest games can be playable. Gamers looking for a NUC should of course turn their heads towards the upcoming Phantom Canyon NUC with its RTX 2060 GPU…