Panther Canyon i7 NUC Review (NUC11PAHi7)
Fan, Electricity, Linux & Conclusions
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.
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 4K@60 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.
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 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 4K@60 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.
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!
Could be improved
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