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Key Points

  • The NUC 12 takes advantage of the Alder Lake i7 processor and Arc A770m GPU, with 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM and 32 Xe cores.
  • Bluetooth is also not an issue, as the NUC 12 comes with two stereo headphone jacks, as well as an SDXC slot.
  • The NUC 12 uses SODIMMs for system memory instead of DDR or DDR2.

Intel has recently announced the newest addition to their NUC line of mini PCs, the NUC 12 Enthusiast. While not the most powerful in the NUC line, this PC is the smallest NUC designed specifically for gaming.

The NUC 12 contains all-Intel hardware, including the i7 12700H Alder Lake 14-core processor and the Arc A770M discrete GPU. This is different from its predecessors –– the NUC 11 Enthusiast “Phantom Canyon” utilized a Tiger Lake U-Core i7 processor and NVIDIA RTX 2060 GPU, while the “Hades Canyon” NUC used Kaby Lake-G processors and an AMD GPU.

The NUC 12 is a mobile unit that functions similarly to a desktop PC and is a great addition to Intel’s mobile gaming repertoire. But, how exactly does the Enthusiast measure up?

Let’s take a closer look.

NUC 12 Enthusiast: Specifications

As previously mentioned, the NUC 12 takes advantage of the Alder Lake i7 processor and Arc A770m GPU, with 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM and 32 Xe cores.

This GPU supports HDMI, Thunderbolt 4, and DisplayPort for video. The Alder Lake processor has an architecture composed of 6 Performance cores (P-cores) and 8 Efficient-cores (E-cores), basically meaning it works with a total of 20 threads.

Considering also that the processor has a safe boost clock of 4.7GHz, the performance is pretty impressive given it’s a mobile PC.

Intel PC gaming setup
For a mobile PC, the new NUC 12 Enthusiast is pretty powerful.

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Designed for Mobile Use

To keep within the mobile theme, the NUC 12 uses SODIMMs for system memory instead of DDR or DDR2. While this may not allow for as great heat dissipation and power efficiency, SODIMMs have a smaller size and thickness (since they’re usually used for notebook computers), so this helps keep the overall size of the NUC 12 down.

largest mobile gaming companies
A gamer wearing headphones, play video game online with smartphone.

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The NUC 12 also uses DDR4 for storage instead of DDR5, which leads to a lower base speed, but also lower latency and higher stability, which is perfect for portable use — something the NUC 12 is basically designed for.

With two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two DisplayPort 2.0 ports, and an HDMI 2.1 port, the NUC 12 offers as much connectivity as you could possibly want. Consumers also have options when it comes to internet connectivity, as the NUC 12 can be connected via WiFi 6E or a 2.5 GB Ethernet port.

Bluetooth is also not an issue, as the NUC 12 comes with two stereo headphone jacks (one in the front and one in the rear), as well as an SDXC slot. The Serpent Canyon architecture supports an 8x PCIe link, with the SD card slot also connected via PCIe instead of USB, which should allow for better relative performance.

Although the NUC 12 is contained within a 2.5L chassis and may seem unassuming at first, it can be equipped with light-up inserts and customizable RBG lighting. This is essentially a must-have when it comes to many modern gamers’ preferences.

NUC 12 Enthusiast: Performance

While we may expect lower performance than its non-mobile competitors, the NUC 12’s performance doesn’t seem to be too shabby, especially when utilizing XeSS.

Known as XeSS Super Sampling, this is Intel’s version of AI-enhanced upscaling, designed to compete with NVIDIA’s DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) and AMD’s FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution).

This technology seems to work quite as well, as testing over at MMORPG revealed performance improvements of 18%, 36.9%, and 67.5% at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K, respectively, when testing XeSS with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. These results are definitely promising in terms of what the future holds for the Arc range of GPUs.

The GPU did struggle with Metro Exodus, however. While it achieved 60 FPS at 1080p, this is something that both NVIDIA and AMD’s previous generations of GPUs accomplished, so in this respect, the A770M doesn’t appear to be doing anything outstanding.

During their testing, the A770M’s total power draw stayed below 220W, supporting the principle that the NUC 12 has mid-range power requirements as well as performance.

NUC 12 Enthusiast: Who is it For?

Overall, it looks like the NUC 12 is a pretty powerful PC, targeting the high-end gaming market and set to compete with Nvidia’s and AMD’s offerings.

While not offering quite as much raw power as the alternatives, the biggest advantage of the NUC 12 is its size; it’s essentially designed for the gamer who needs a sturdy and reliable setup that’s also small enough to be portable. It will never outperform a full-sized desktop rig, but that’s not its purpose.

As far as small gaming desktops go, there aren’t too many other options out there. If you’re after a mid-range PC that you can chuck into a backpack and go, the NUC 12 is definitely a smart choice. 

Next Up…

Check out some of this awesome content:

The Latest in Intel’s NUC Series is Here: the “Serpent Canyon” NUC 12 Enthusiast FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is a discrete GPU?

While integrated GPUs are located on a computer’s CPU and share memory, a discrete GPU is found on its own graphics card and uses its own memory. This frees the PC up from using RAM to render graphics, therefore, in terms of gaming, discrete GPUs are generally superior to integrated.

When was the NUC 12 Enthusiast released?

The NUC 12 Enthusiast was released in late September this year, so it is currently on sale.

How much does the NUC 12 Enthusiast cost?

Pricing for the NUC 12 Enthusiast starts at around $1,699. The cost depends on the specific configuration; a barebones version is cheaper than those with a pre-installed OS, and customizing the PC for more memory will increase the price.

What operating system does the NUC 12 Enthusiast come equipped with?

The NUC 12 can come with Windows 11 Home pre-installed, but also supports Windows 11 64-bit and is certified with a range of Linux operating systems, such as Ubuntu, OpenSuse, and Clear Linux.

What CPU and GPU does the NUC 12 Enthusiast use?

The NUC 12 uses the 12th-gen i7 12700H Alder Lake 14-core processor and the Arc A770M discrete GPU, both from Intel. It’s the first in the NUC series to run completely on Intel hardware.

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