Panther Canyon i7 NUC Review (NUC11PAHi7)

Fan, Electricity, Linux & Conclusions

Fan Noise

Let’s start by talking fan noise. I think that Intel paid some serious attention to the fan unit this time. Under normal desktop use the fan is very quiet. It does ramp up under load and gets pretty loud under full CPU+GPU stress. It also seems to me that the noise profile of the fan has changed towards a more pleasant direction. The BIOS gives quite a few fan speed control options and by selecting Balanced instead of Cool the fan noise becomes almost bearable under maximum load.

Electricity Consumption

Ok, time to hook this thing into a simple electricity consumption meter. The Panther Canyon NUC is delivered with a fairly large-size 120W power brick so that’ll give you some idea on the maximum power consumption figure.

  • Idle Windows 10: 8,1 watts
  • YouTube full screen 1080p @60 fps video (VP9): 16,5 watts
  • YouTube full screen [email protected] fps video (VP9): 22,5 watts
  • Gaming Shadow of the Tomb Raider: 42 watts
  • Furmark GPU Benchmark (QHD): 43 watts
  • 3DMark Time Spy Demo: 35 watts
  • Prime95 CPU Stress Test: 82 watts initially, falls a bit later to 70 watts

Linux on Panther Canyon

I often get asked whether a certain Linux distribution works on a particular NUC. While I cannot test everything, I’d say the chances are fairly good if you use a recent version of your distro and it contains a fresh kernel. There used to be times when you had to tinker for a week to get a Linux Desktop up and running at least somewhat decently. Running Ubuntu Desktop 20.10 on the Panther Canyon NUC was a good reminder that those days are long gone. Pretty much everything worked out of the box: display, audio, WiFi, 2.5GB Ethernet. The desktop looks beautiful and everything works smooth. If you’re interested in the boot log (dmesg), have a look here.

Ubuntu Linux on Panther Canyon NUC NUC11PAHi7

Ok, well, I have to admit, not everything was perfect. For some reason the system did not detect when I inserted a card into the reader. Only when I ran “lspci” on the console did the operating system realize that I have an SD card in the reader.

LibreELEC

LibreELEC is a popular Linux-based HTPC platform that I’ve been using for years to turn my NUCs into HTPCs. The Panther Canyon with its beefy Core i7 CPU is certainly an overkill but it is nevertheless interesting to see how does it work. In my living room I’ve got a system based on the Gemini Lake NUC (NUC7PJYH) and that’s more than enough to run the things I want.

Anyway, I started by downloading the latest stable version, LiberELEC 9.2.6. Unfortunately that did not start at all and I was greeted with the usual “Failed to start xorg; is your gpu supported?” message. I say usual because often that’s the case when Intel releases a new NUC. The Linux drivers for the brand new GPUs typically are not yet included in the stable releases. Switched over to a nightly build from February 19 and things got a lot better. System seemed to work fine and the network adapters were detected properly. X.264 and HEVC video formats were working fine even with [email protected] FPS resolutions. Unfortunately there were issues with audio passthrough and I did not get DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD audio tracks working. After an attempt to play such a video I completely lost audio and had to restart the NUC to get it working again.

I’m confident these things will be ironed out but today it’s difficult for me to recommend a Panther Canyon based HTPC. On Windows there are driver bugs and on Linux the GPU support is not too good either.

Conclusion

The Panther Canyon is a model I did wait for quite some time. The initial rumors had it coming much sooner but then again, those are called rumors for a reason.. It’s a bit sad the availability is questionable since the NUC actually performs really well. After the lackluster Frost Canyon NUC the NUC11PAHi7 manages to put the NUC back where it belongs. If you can’t get hold of a Panther Canyon NUC the Tiger Canyon NUC is very close to this one as the same CPU and GPU are available in the Tiger Canyon NUC as well.

What do you think about this NUC? Let everyone know below in the comments section. Or if you know where to source one let others know too!

I liked

  • Performance
  • Build quality
  • Improved cooling solution
  • 3-year warranty

Could be improved

  • Availability
  • GPU drivers
  • No ThunderBolt 4

Recommended System

Unfortunately the availability of the Panther Canyon is a bit weak. The following system is available on Amazon Germany (they deliver to some of the EU for free):

  • NUC11PAHi7 (EU power cord)
  • Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB NVMe SSD (replace with WD SN850 if you want the absolute fastest)
  • HyperX DDR4-3200 2x8GB RAM kit (total 16 GB)

Check out the current total price of the whole setup on Amazon.de!

Also their French and Spanish sites list it:



Contents

26 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?

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