Home Tech Intel Monster Canyon NUC11BTMi9 evaluation: A larger footprint diminishes this video gaming...
Intel Monster Canyon NUC11BTMi9 evaluation: A larger footprint diminishes this video gaming PC’s appeal

Intel Monster Canyon NUC11BTMi9 evaluation: A larger footprint diminishes this video gaming PC’s appeal


The user-customizable RGB panel at the front is quite cool.

We take a comprehensive appearance inside Intel’s brand-new Monster Canyon NUC, plus offer our evaluation impressions.

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  • Intel Monster Canyon NUC11 BTMi9.


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The video gaming versions of Intel’s Next System of Computing (NUC) mini-PCs have actually constantly been pricey. For the rate, you got special, compact, and eventually turn-key choices for a portable desktop PC. You may pay the nose, however you could not duplicate the experience as a Do It Yourself contractor. That’s what validated the expense.

With the launch of Monster Canyon– formally called the NUC11 BTMi9 or NUC11 BTMi7, depending upon which variation you get– the high expense is more difficult to validate.

Undoubtedly, the audience for these video gaming PCs wasn’t big to start with. Monster Canyon is a remarkably more difficult sell than I anticipated.


When upon a time, Intel’s video gaming NUCs were small. That’s not so with Monster Canyon, which is an eight-liter small-form-factor (SFF) PC– or approximately the size of an eGPU enclosure.

Like its predecessor Ghost Canyon, its strength depends on its simple CPU and GPU upgrades. Instead of a different processor, motherboard, and cooler, you’ll rather discover Intel’s most recent Calculate Component inside Monster Canyon. It includes your option of a Core i7-11700 B or a Core i9-11900 KB, the cooling for the CPU, slots for RAM SODIMMs and M. 2 SSDs, system ports, and a cordless module. You pull it as an entire system from the system and just ever open it as much as set up storage and/or memory, as the CPU is soldered on.

When you grow out of the processor, you merely purchase the most recent variation of the Compute Aspect, switch RAM and storage drives as appropriate, and after that switch the old Compute Aspect for the brand-new one. The concept is that you can update your system like a Do It Yourself system, however in a simple handful of minutes. No requirement to handle parts lists, chipset compatibility, or BIOS updates.

Zoomed out view of Beast Canyon NUC interior layout Alaina Yee/ IDG

A top-down view of Monster Canyon’s interior design. The fans on top turn as much as admit to the Compute Component and graphics card. Sandwiched in between the 2 is a different fan shroud for the Compute Component’s fan, which directs the hot air out the back of the system.

Likewise, your GPU is whatever two-slot, off-the-shelf graphics card you get your hands on. And with Monster Canyon, you can fit a full-length video card as much as 12 inches long Ghost Canyon, which was a daintier 5 liters in size, might just hold small-form-factor cards 8 inches or much shorter.

Intel cuts off the self-service there. The other parts like the power supply, power cable televisions, and baseboard are exclusive. The power supply in specific is a slightly bitter tablet to swallow, as it looks like a simple swap for a retail SFX design. It has a customized power cable television hardwired into it that paths to the back of the case, which makes it tough to change. When asked, Intel stated that it does not supply assistance for utilizing off-the-shelf PSUs, as they might breach regulative accreditations. If you wish to patch together your own greater wattage PSU swap, you’re on your own.

In theory, working within Monster Canyon must be simple. You have simply 2 parts to handle when attempting to navigate parts in and out of this NUC. I discovered getting into the case more discouraging than anticipated. Ghost Canyon took apart quickly, with couple of challenging areas to browse and strong product. On the other hand, Monster Canyon has more plastic (and delicate plastic clips holding panels in location), plus an extremely particular order for disassembly. Go off script and you may break several of those clips by mishap.

Intel has actually identified some areas to offer disassembly hints, however you’ll wish to see the main teardown video to safeguard such a costly purchase.

Close up of RGB on Beast Canyon NUC (red) Alaina Yee/ IDG

Monster Canyon completely offsets Ghost Canyon’s absence of rainbow LEDs with a personalized RGB front panel, plus RGB accent lighting over the front I/O ports and along the underside of the chassis.

Maybe as payment for its more complicated design, Monster Canyon does boast RGB lights, with a default rainbow pattern. The front panel showcases a picture of a radiant skull, while the USB ports and the underside of the case have accent lighting. You can alter the light patterns, colors, and even the image itself if you so pick.

Rate, specifications, and ports

Just like Intel’s other NUCs, Monster Canyon is mainly offered as a bare-bones package. You get the case, a pre-installed 650 W power supply with pre-routed cabling, and the Compute Component that houses your CPU, its cooling, system ports, and cordless connection module. To make it a completely practical video gaming PC, you need to still purchase and install your own SSDs, RAM, and discrete graphics card. You can purchase Monster Canyon as a pre-configured PC through shops like Merely NUC, however you’ll pay additional going that path.

Our evaluation system is the higher-end choice, the $1,350 NUC11 BTMi9, which sports the BNUC11 DBBi9 variation of the Compute Aspect. Inside is an 8-core, 16- thread Core i9-11900 KB with a base frequency of 3.3 GHz, a Max Turbo frequency of 4.9 GHz, and an “Intel Thermal Speed Increase” frequency of 5.3 GHz. (The Thermal Speed Increase clock speed just uses if CPU’s temperature level is listed below 50 degrees Celsius.) This 65 W Tiger Lake H chip is really comparable to the Core i9-11980 HK, which has near-identical TDP and clock speeds. Keep in mind that if you select to overclock this chip, which is just possible through Intel’s Extreme Tuning Energy, you lose the security of Intel’s guarantee need to something go sideways.

If that’s too abundant for your blood, you can go with the $1,150 NUC11 BTMi7 and its BNUC11 DBBi7 Compute Aspect, which includes a Core i7-11700 B with a base frequency of 3.2 GHZ, a Max Turbo frequency of 4.8 GHz, and an Intel Thermal Speed Increase frequency of 5.3 GHz. That’s as low-cost as it gets– Intel isn’t using a Core i5 variation of Monster Canyon.

Beast Canyon NUC close up of proprietary PSU Willis Lai & Adam Patrick Murray/ IDG

The 650 W power supply consisted of in Monster Canyon might appear like a basic SFX power supply, however it’s an exclusive style that can’t be quickly changed. Intel does state that has actually evaluated it with up to an RTX 3080 Ti with no problem.

Aside from which Compute Aspect they feature, both of these NUCs are otherwise the exact same. You can install approximately 3 M. 2 SSDs (2 slots support either NVMe or SATA drives, and work with RAID 0 or RAID 1, while the 3rd is NVMe just), and all slots work with PCIe 4.0 drives. The Compute Aspects likewise support Optane SSDs and memory (M10, H10, and H20), along with approximately 64 GB of dual-channel DDR4-3200 RAM.

For ports, you’ll discover 6 USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-A ports, 2 Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 2.5 Gb ethernet port, and one HDMI 2.0 b on the Compute Component. 2 extra USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-A ports, a 3.5 mm stereo headset jack, and an SDXC slot with UHS-II assistance are offered on the front of the chassis. Inside are 2 USB 3.1 headers and 2 USB 2.0 headers. For cordless connection, Monster Canyon supports Wi-Fi 6E AX210 and Bluetooth 5.2.

Intel equipped our Monster Canyon sample as you ‘d anticipate from a mid-range video gaming PC (presuming you might get your hands on a graphics card at an affordable rate)– no Optane drives with eye-watering costs this time around. Our setup has an Asus Double RTX 3060 12 GB graphics card, 16 GB 3200 MHz RAM, an Sabrent Rocket 4.0 500 GB M. 2 NVMe SSD, and a Windows 10 Pro license.

Size comparison between Ghost Canyon NUC, Beast Canyon NUC, and Meshlicious case Alaina Yee/ IDG

From top to bottom: Ghost Canyon (5 liters), Monster Canyon (8 liters), and a SSUPD Meshlicious case (14 liters). Monster Canyon is approximately the very same size as an eGPU enclosure.

All informed, this system comes out to a little under $2,000, presuming a sale price for the GPU. That’s less expensive than Ghost Canyon was at launch, however still on the high side for what you get. Can this device provide on efficiency enough to validate the premium you’ll pay?


Monster Canyon’s competitors is practically most other video gaming devices. And yet, they’re not direct competitors, either.

On one side, you have video gaming laptop computers. Out eviction you currently understand that you’re taking a look at lowered video gaming efficiency (due to thermal restraints) in exchange for a consisted of screen and mobility. On the other side, you have SFF video gaming PCs. Not just can you develop an effective PC in 8 liters, you can likewise measure to 13 or 14 liters for a lot more power, higher expense savings, and simpler assembly if you’re not set on an ultra-minimal footprint.

As you’ll see, Monster Canyon falls practically where you ‘d anticipate for a video gaming PC that has a mobile CPU however a discrete GPU– making it susceptible to stated competitors.

General efficiency

Let’s start with a take a look at how Monster Canyon’s Core i9-11900 KB manages itself in tests that focus exclusively on processor efficiency.

First Off is Cinebench R20, a popular 3D-rendering standard. This criteria takes simply a handful of minutes to complete, and normally the more cores you have, the quicker it goes. We utilize it as a method to ballpark how the chip will manage quick durations of complete usage.

bc nuc cinebench r20 mt v3 PCWorld

As a mobile chip, Monster Canyon’s i9-11900 KB has the exact same restrictions as its laptop computer equivalents, consisting of the i9-11980 HK. The size of the laptop computer (or in this case, the Compute Aspect) affects the design and quantity of cooling, and hence efficiency. Still, Tiger Lake H is looking respectable, particularly if you currently own a Compute Component and are craving an upgrade to minimize the time of multithreaded, CPU-intensive jobs.

bc nuc cinebench r20 1t v2 PCWorld

When it comes to single-core efficiency, you’ll be hard-pressed to discover fault with Monster Canyon’s mobile chip. Lots of video games do not make complete usage of all readily available cores and threads on higher-core count CPUs, so if you’re thinking about Monster Canyon for video gaming, it holds up quite well– as you’ll see more concretely in the video gaming criteria.

bc nuc handbrake 1.3.3 PCWorld

Material developers intent on having a little, portable PC might be less persuaded that Monster Canyon is the best option for them. In our Handbrake test, which includes transcoding a 4K video formatted as an MP4 file to a 1080 p MKV file, Monster Canyon’s i9-11900 KB chews through it quite fast … however is still 15 percent slower than the 5900 HX. Get a heftier laptop computer with an, ahem, beastly Ryzen 9 5900 HX and you can tear through encodes much faster– with the advantage of having a genuinely work-from-anywhere maker, to boot.

Video gaming efficiency

We currently understand from Ghost Canyon that Intel lets its top-tier mobile chips extend their legs effectively within the Compute Component, enabling them to publish strong numbers in video games. Monster Canyon’s CPU standards do not oppose that, however just how much efficiency do you compromise compared to a Do It Yourself video gaming PC?

bc nuc 3dm fs graphics PCWorld

We’ll begin with among 3DMark’s popular artificial standards. In order to consist of some laptop computers from our older evaluations, I have actually taken a look at the outcomes for the Fire Strike test, which imitates DX111080 p video gaming on Medium settings. I have actually likewise consisted of arise from a number of older video games, Increase of the Burial Place Raider and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, both to offer a basic sense of how our Monster Canyon evaluation system manages itself and to reveal what’s altered in between it and Ghost Canyon given that my evaluation of the latter.

bc nuc rise of the tomb raider vh 1080p PCWorld

In these very first couple of charts, the only devices with desktop graphics cards are Monster Canyon and Ghost Canyon. And they fall right where I ‘d anticipate– mobile discrete GPUs normally carry out at about one level down compared to their desktop equivalents. The primary advantage to Monster Canyon here is that you can quickly switch out that RTX 3060 for a beefier, more effective GPU in minutes. (In a world where GPUs can be extensively discovered at sale price, that is.)

bc nuc middle earth som ultra 1080p PCWorld

These charts likewise reveal that updating Ghost Canyon with Monster Canyon’s Tiger Lake H-based Compute Aspect isn’t actually worth the money, if you just utilize that NUC for video gaming. As our evaluation of the RTX 3060 revealed, its efficiency has to do with on par with the RTX 2070, which substantiates here. In video games that lean more on the CPU, the space in efficiency starts to broaden, however not by a lot.

bc nuc metro exodus PCWorld

You can see that in a few of the more penalizing standards that I ran, where our Monster Canyon system took on Ghost Canyon with the very same RTX 3060 card. Shadow of the Burial Place Raider had the biggest margin, with Monster Canyon pulling ahead by about 15 percent compared to Ghost Canyon when utilizing the exact same graphics card in both systems.

bc nuc shadow of the tomb raider PCWorld

Because video games differ in which elements they struck hardest, it’s not a surprise to see the PCWorld benchmarking desktop PC (which sports AMD’s powerhouse 5900 X and a full-length RTX 3060) get a clear lead in one title– and really little in another.

bc nuc borderlands 3 PCWorld

For the many part, that’s truly how you can condense Monster Canyon’s efficiency. Depending upon the video game, it’ll surpass laptop computers that have comparable and even much better specifications on paper when those systems are constrained by readily available area for cooling, while in some cases having the ability to hang with larger desktop PCs with more effective CPUs.


In previous NUC evaluations, I ‘d discuss both how loud the system would get and just how much power it would draw. The PCWorld personnel is still working mainly from house, so as with Ghost Canyon, I didn’t have the meter I require to check power draw.

When it comes to sound levels, Monster Canyon remains relatively peaceful throughout routine jobs. It’s more quiet than Ghost Canyon was– an advantage of bigger case fans. Ghost Canyon had 80 mm fans at the top, while Monster Canyon has 3 92 mm fans.

In video games, you’ll hear the fans audibly kick up, so the graphics card you pick will affect the total noise profile. The two-fan Asus RTX 3060 consisted of with our evaluation system was on the louder side, however quickly blotted out by using earphones.

Last ideas

Intel’s video gaming NUCs have actually constantly brought this air of the supreme high-end item. Sure, they were costly, however you could not duplicate them as a Do It Yourself home builder without severe compromises. Even when Ghost Canyon appeared as a much larger system (relative to those predecessors that might suit the front pouch of a knapsack), it continued the tradition of being a dead-simple, ultra-compact video gaming PC worth its premium rate.

However at 8 liters, Monster Canyon does not stand as highly versus its competitors. Its bigger footprint, exclusive power supply, and greater teardown intricacy would make me weigh a number of options prior to dedicating to a purchase. Depending upon the scenario, a laptop computer plus an eGPU or a Do It Yourself SFF video gaming PC might exercise much better. (Were I much better geared up in my house screening setup, I would have hung around pitting Monster Canyon versus those 2 choices, instead of simply video gaming laptop computers and bigger video gaming PCs.)

eGPU Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Combining a laptop computer with an eGPU isn’t always low-cost, however if you’re thinking about Monster Canyon, rate most likely isn’t the most essential aspect for you. (And if it is, there’s the Do It Yourself SFF path.)

However even in the abstract, it’s clear to see the strengths of those 2 options. You can take a trip easily with a laptop computer, without stress over a mobile GPU aging badly. Yes, you’ll need to handle some nerfed efficiency since of eGPU bandwidth restrictions, however that compromise is tasty. You can a minimum of update the graphics card down the roadway.

When It Comes To a Do It Yourself construct– while you will need to play a little Tetris getting the parts into the case and routing the cabling, you get a lot more control over what enters into the device. You’ll likewise conserve cash, to boot. When I set up a Do It Yourself system similar-ish to our Monster Canyon evaluation system, it can be found in between $1,500 to $1,700, depending upon the processor generation I picked. (The more affordable alternative sported a Ryzen 7 3700 X; the more comparable variation had a Core i7-11700 K.) Which’s consisting of a $250 Dan A4 7.25 L case.

Monster Canyon still represents a choice for a thin piece of PC players and content developers who desire an extremely little, extremely effective, and really basic DIY-ish PC. It does improve the small-form-factor structure experience, and you can bypass even that work by purchasing a totally constructed out system.

However unlike with Ghost Canyon (or perhaps older video gaming NUCs), I would question somebody a lot more carefully if they revealed an interest in Monster Canyon. This NUC best fits somebody who focuses on a little footprint and ease of upgradability over whatever

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  • Intel Monster Canyon NUC11 BTMi9.

    Intel’s NUCs were as soon as indisputable as the most bleeding-edge, matchless video gaming mini-PCs. In spite of its outstanding hardware and cool modular riff on Do It Yourself structure, Monster Canyon’s development in size, more vulnerable case, and exclusive power supply presents weak points that provide the competitors a benefit.


    • Modular style enables simpler upgrades
    • Effective Tiger Lake H processor
    • Supports full-length discrete graphics cards
    • Personalized RGB style on front panel


    • More intricate case design than predecessor
    • Case is more fragile than predecessor
    • Exclusive SFX-sized power supply


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