Gaming PC

Alder Lake and Arc Amalgamate in NUC12 Enthusiast

Intel officially announced the final member of its Alder Lake-based NUC12 family earlier this week. The NUC12 Enthusiast (like the three previous Enthusiast NUCs) caters to the gaming/creator market looking for a small form factor machine with a discrete GPU. As a refresher, Intel introduced his 2016 Skull Canyon NUC (NUC6i7KYK) to create his NUC Enthusiast category. With a 4-inch x 5-inch motherboard, it has a slightly larger footprint than his traditional NUC. However, the larger size allowed him to incorporate a 45W TDP processor with greater graphics flexibility. The second generation Hades Canyon has moved to a slightly larger board (5.5″ x 8″) while maintaining the industrial design of the Skull Canyon NUC. We used Kaby Lake-G processors packaged with Kaby Lake processors and AMD GPUs (with a total TDP budget of 65W to 100W). The NUC11 Enthusiast (Phantom Canyon) opted for a more traditional gaming notebook type architecture with a Tiger Lake-U Core i7-1165G7 and NVIDIA RTX 2060 laptop GPU. The NUC12 Enthusiast also retains a similar architecture. The main difference lies in the fact that this is his first NUC to utilize Intel’s Arc discrete GPU. The GPU specs are much more powerful than his NVIDIA RTX2060. This resulted in a redesigned cooling solution and chassis dimensions compared to his NUC11 Enthusiast.

Like the Phantom Canyon family, there are two types of Serpent Canyon. A barebones version and a version with 1TB SSD / 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM / Windows 11 Home pre-installed. The SKU utilizes an Intel Core i7-12700H notebook processor and an Intel Arc A770M discrete GPU with 16 GB of VRAM.

The NUC12 Enthusiast has a rich I/O set. There are two Thunderbolt 4 ports (one front and one rear) that also carry the display output from the Core i7-12700H’s Intel Iris Xe Graphics. Two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports and an SDXC UHS-II slot, audio jacks and a quad microphone array surround the front panel. On the back, there are audio output jacks (supporting TOSLINK), a single 2.5 Gbps LAN port, four USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports (with hub chips on the back), and display outputs (1x HDMI 2.1 4Kp60 and 2x Display Port 2.0 (1.4 certified) on Intel Arc A770M.

The table below compares the specs of the last three generations of enthusiast NUC flagships.




















Intel Enthusiast NUC
model Serpent Canyon
(NUC12SNKi72)
phantom canyon
(NUC11PHKi7C)
hades canyon
(NUC8i7HVK)
CPU Intel Core i7-12700H

alder lake6P+8E/20T
4.7GHz (P) / 3.5GHz (E)
45W TDP (115W Max)
Intel Core i7-1165G7

Tiger Lake-U4C/8T
2.8-4.7GHz
28W TDP
Intel Core i7-8809G

Cubby Lake4C/8T
3.1-4.2GHz
100W package TDP
GPUs Intel® Intel Arc A770M 16GB GDDR6 @ 1.65 GHz (discrete) NVIDIA GeForce RTX2060 6GB GDDR6 (N18E-G1-B Notebook Class 115W) @ 1.285 GHz (Discrete)
Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics (96EU) @ 1.3 GHz (integrated/on-die)
Radeon RX Vega MGH 4GB HBM2 @ 1.19 GHz (discrete / on-package)
Intel® HD Graphics 630 @ 1.1 GHz (integrated / on-die)
memory 2x DDR4-3200 SODIMMs
1.2V, 64GB maximum
2x DDR4-2400+ SODIMMs
1.2V, up to 32GB
motherboard 7″ x 8″ (custom) 5.5″ x 8″ (custom)
depository 2 times M.2 22×80 (Key M) PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe SSD (CPU attached)
1x M.2 22×80 (Key M) SATA3 or PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD (via PCH)
1x M.2 22×80/110 (Key M) PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe/AHCI SSD
1x M.2 2280 (key M) SATA3 or PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe/AHCI SSD
2x M.2 22×42/80 (Key M) SATA3 or PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe/AHCI SSD
I/O port 2x Thunderbolt 4 Fast charging (front + rear)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (Front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A fast charging (front)
4x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (rear)
1x SDXC UHS-II card slot (front)
CIR (front)
1x SATA III power + data internal header
2x USB 2.0 internal headers
2x Thunderbolt 3 (rear)
4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (rear)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (Front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (Front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A fast charging (front)
1x SDXC UHS-I card slot (front)
CIR (front)
1x SATA III power + data internal header
2x USB 2.0 internal headers
networking Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6E AX1690i
(2×2 802.11ax Wi-Fi inc. 6 GHz + Bluetooth 5.2 module)

1 × 2.5GbE port (Intel I225-LM)
Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201
(2×2 802.11ax Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 5.1 module)

1 × 2.5 GbE port (Intel I225-LM)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
(2×2 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.2 module)

2 × GbE ports (Intel I219-LM + Intel I210-AT)
display output 2 times DP2.0 (1.4 certified) (Thunderbolt 4 Type-C via iGPU)
1x HDMI2.1 (up to 4Kp60) (rear, dGPU)
2 times DP2.0 (1.4 certified, dGPU)
2 times DP 1.4a (Thunderbolt 4 Type-C port, via iGPU display pipe)
1x Mini DP 1.4a (rear, dGPU, up to 8Kp60, MST)
1x HDMI 2.0b (rear, dGPU, up to 4Kp60)
1x HDMI2.0a (front, dGPU)
1x HDMI2.0a (rear, dGPU)
2 times Mini DP 1.3 (rear, dGPU)
2 times DP 1.3 (Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port, via dGPU)
audio 7.1 Digital (via HDMI and DisplayPort)
L+R+mic (front)
L+R+TOSLINK (rear)
audio codec Realtek ALC274 Realtek ALC700
enclosure metal and plastic
Kensington lock with base security
power supply 330W (19V @ 16.9A) adapter 230W (19V @ 12.1A) adapter
size 230mm×180mm×60mm/ 2.5L 221mm×142mm×42mm/ 1.3L 221mm×142mm×39mm/ 1.2L
Other features Vertical stand included Includes vertical stand and VESA mount VESA mount included
Lid with customizable RGB LED lighting behind user-replaceable mask
CEC support for HDMI port
Front panel CIR support for IR remote control
Front panel status LED
Beamforming microphone array
3 year warranty

The block diagram below provides an insight into the design of the system as it relates to the I/O functions.

Despite the Arc A770M supporting a PCIe 4.0 x16 link to the host processor, the Serpent Canyon configuration still maintains connectivity at x8. Both PCIe 4.0 M.2 2280 slots are connected to the CPU. The SD card slot is connected via a PCIe lane instead of USB. This should give you the best possible performance with a wide variety of SD cards. The official specs say the slot is UHS-II, but the technical product specs also show support for SD Express. This depends on the exact SD controller used on your board. I contacted Intel for clarification. Three of the four Type-A ports on the back are enabled by 1:4 Gen 2 hubs, which is not ideal in terms of bandwidth sharing. However, the availability of additional ports is always welcome. On the front of the display, the front Thunderbolt 4 ports can support around 17 Gbps of display bandwidth, while the rear ports can support up to 35 Gbps. Multi-stream support on the Type-C port allows the system to drive a total of 6 different displays, 5 at 4Kp144 (DP/Alt-DP) and 1 at 4Kp60 (HDMI). A multi-cable/port solution can also be used to drive two 8Kp60 displays.

Intel also provided full teardown photos along with the press release. A combined CPU and dGPU cooling solution using thermal shrouds and heat pipes is clearly demonstrated. This solution Intel Deep Link Dynamic Power Share The feature is yet to be seen in a live evaluation.

Overall, the Serpent Canyon NUC is a big step forward for Intel. Moving both the CPU and dGPU in a small form factor portable machine to a completely in-house solution will allow the company to capture a larger share of the total addressable market of gaming/creator systems/eSports. Based on paper specs, the NUC12 Enthusiast’s level of integration and gaming power should far exceed what was previously possible in this form factor. In terms of pricing, the Mini-PC version with the OS pre-installed will set you back $1350, while the barebones version will be available later this month for $1180. These numbers loosely track the introductory prices of previous generation Enthusiast NUCs.

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