A couple of months ago, I took a look at the Intel NUC Enthusiast 12 unit which was impressive and handled almost everything I threw at it. Following that review, the NUC 13 Extreme Raptor Lake was offered: A reasonably significant spec upgrade, that should see it chomp up even the latest of games and other intensive activities.
A look at the hardware
This is another in the range of NUC devices, but this one (like the Enthusiast) isn’t quite so mini; it’s more along the lines of the business desktop machines that are available. The specs on this one, though, are approaching as sharp as they can be.
Intel are certainly one of the leaders in the market for managing to jam as much performance into a relatively small package as possible. I say relatively because it’s not as small as the image that comes to mind when people talk about a NUC; this is a small PC, not a micro-unit but still significantly smaller than an ATX sized PC.
As we explored in the NUC Enthusiast review, you do pay for that, though. Straight out of the box, I love the understated presentation of the NUC 13 Extreme Raptor. It’s got a bit of polish about it, but doesn’t have the lights, flare and distractions of what would be considered a traditional gaming machine.
The front of the device is very minimal, with a mesh cover and only the power button on the top at the front of the unit. Adjacent to the power button, there are a few USB ports (1 x Thunderbolt, 2 x USB-A) and a headphone jack. While it’s aimed at that higher market, I’m seriously happy with the fact that this isn’t adorned with a light-up display that wastes power and causes distraction.
On the back of the box, there’s heaps of connectivity, including 6 x USB 3.0 ports, two Ethernet, a couple of Thunderbolt connectors, two HDMI, a display port, audio connectors and plugs for the onboard Wi-Fi 6e connectors.
There’s plenty of ventilation to keep the internals cool, so you can orient the system vertically or horizontally to suit your available space. If you’re putting the box in limited access space, although it’s got plenty of connectivity, limited physical access will make plugging in and removing peripherals difficult.
One particularly welcome advantage over the Enthusiast box I recently reviewed is the internal power supply resulting in no external power pack becoming a trip hazard or toe breaker. Another is that the box itself stands upright without the
You’ll have to think about how specked up you want the machines since the kit doesn’t come with included storage or memory. The decision here should be pretty easy, just do a bit of research on the software you’ll be using and the performance you need from both.
It’s a beast and ate up everything I threw at it
Following the review of the NUC enthusiast recently, I really wasn’t surprised that the higher-spec device was a serious performer. With the i9 processor, 32GB of RAM and a speedy M.2 SSD installed, the review unit was lightning quick and even with one of the latest (Diablo IV) games, it simply didn’t skip a beat.
Just to be a bit on the ridiculous side; I tried stitching and rendering some 4K video footage together while gaming and even this was handled well. It was also the only time during testing the unit that I managed to get the fans to spin up and the CPU close to topping out. Despite this, it still managed to complete both the render and gaming tasks with only a few moments of frame drop in the game.
While there’s no telling what could happen in terms of software in the next few years, I’d hazard a guess that even the most demanding of users would get a couple of years out of this before needing to upgrade. Most average users, would likely see 4 years or more, which makes it a more long term viable option financially.
Unlike the Enthusiast, I was thrilled to see that the box would stand on end without needing a separate stabiliser. This gave a bit more flexibility to position the device on my desk.
What could be improved?
It’s all well and good making suggestions, but with Intel pulling out of this market, this is the last generation of NUC. I’d suggest one of the biggest barriers to sales and success in the market is the price. As I’ve said in other NUC reviews, there are good reasons it’s expensive, but that doesn’t stop the price being a deterrent to buyers.
Other than the price, if you’re looking at a high-end NUC like this one, you’re going to be looking for performance packed into a physically small package. In some respects, it’s still a pretty niche market as most users have a dedicated space for a computer or workspace for their laptop.
Would I buy one?
Sure would, in fact, I’m keeping an eye on the price to see if they come down now that Intel isn’t producing the range anymore. If the price comes down to a level I can afford (there’s that barrier to entry again) I’ll happily grab one.
Regardless of your price, you get a lot for your money with performance and some — albeit basic — upgrade options available. I’d suggest that users buying in this market sector aren’t going to want, or need, a top of the line video card and as a result the video performance will suffice for a few years at least.
For users considering a setup like this, it’s worth considering just forking out the extra money to adorn it with more RAM than you need and heaps of storage (if you don’t have a NAS) to avoid that need for future upgrades. It just makes sense when you’re already spending a couple of grand to get what you need plus a bit more.
My PC is certainly at its limit these days; it’s an ageing i5, and the last couple of Intel NUC reviews have made me realise how much it’s actually struggling, particularly the Raptor Canyon. It’s been a real delight to review and when it had to go back I was genuinely saddened for it to go. It just fits my needs and workflow, even having the capacity to cover off high-end gaming.
Since Intel has recently announced Asus will take over the NUC device range, it’s quite likely there will be some outstanding specials available soon; so keep your eyes peeled if you’re keen on a bargain NUC.