These days, the gap between console and PC gaming is getting smaller and smaller. More and more games are releasing with cross-platform capabilities, and PC gaming services like Steam and Windows now have dedicated controller support.
Where PC gamers conventionally were confined to a desk laden with a monitor, keyboard, mouse and a massive computer tower on the side, the ability to set your PC up more like a traditional console is now easier than ever.
That’s where Intel’s NUC11 i7-11700B Beast Canyon comes in. NUC are Intel’s “Next Unit of Computing” devices. Which is a weird way of saying a barebones mini PC. It’s essentially a computer case, however it’s significantly smaller than a more traditional PC box and doesn’t take up nearly as much room on a desk. It also wouldn’t look out of place tucked under a TV in a living room… apart from the RGB skull on the front of the box maybe (more on that below).
By no means is this the first mini PC, however what sets it apart is its length. The Beast Canyon is long enough to house some of the latest graphics cards. Compatible with 12-inch, dual slot, 350w cards, like the Nvidia 3070 and 3080, you can play games at maximum graphics.
Mini PCs are still relatively new, and gaming ones, even more so. Intel for now, are the market leaders in NZ and it charges a premium price for its cases. The NUC11 i7-11700B Beast Canyon is expensive, costing $1,650. And that’s without a graphics card, memory, storage and an operating system.
This is significantly more expensive than a traditional PC case. But if you’re looking for a gaming mini PC that takes up less space around the office, or can sit in the lounge without dominating the area (much like a console), this is one of the best gaming mini PCs on the market.
- Compatible with 12-inch dual slot graphics cards
- Subtle design
- Good capacity for customisation
- Capable cooling system
- Nice compact size
- RGB skull on the front
Intel’s NUC11 i7-11700B Beast Canyon costs $1,650. For that price you’re getting the case, obviously, which includes a 650w 80+ power supply and three 92mm fans. A motherboard and an Intel i7-11700B processor. This is a good processor but it is a generation behind the latest 12th Gen Intel range.
Taking into consideration you can get the processor on its own for around $500, find a 650w 80+ power supply for less than $200 and get a standard gaming PC case for under $300, the Beast Canyon is expensive.
And when you consider that this NUC doesn’t come with a graphics card, memory, storage or an operating system, you’re looking at a very expensive PC gaming rig.
The NUC11 i7-11700B Beast Canyon is a nice looking mini PC. At 35cm long, 18cm wide and 12cm high, it’s a shoebox-sized case more akin to an Xbox Series X than a traditional gaming PC tower. It doesn’t look out of place on a counter underneath a TV and takes up significantly less space on a desk or table.
The majority of the design is subtle and inconspicuous. The Beast Canyon boasts a simple black colour scheme, and has grates on the top and sides for cooling. It’s not until you turn it on and the large RGB skull reveals itself on the front of the box, and the bright coloured lights appear underneath, you remember this is a case designed for gaming.
The skull will prove to be divisive. There’s a category of PC gamers that love RGB lights everywhere which is fine and I didn’t have any issues with the ones underneath. However for me the main advantage of a mini PC is its subtleness. Being able to sit the PC in a common room like a lounge, without it dominating the space is a major positive. The skull takes away from that. You are able to turn it off, however you’ll either have to go into the BIOS and navigate some fiddly menus, or download Intel LED manager software.
One of the main benefits of the NUC11 i7-11700B Beast Canyon is its large enough to house 12-inch dual-slot graphics cards. If you’re looking to use a GTX 3090 with it, you won’t be able to as that’s a tri-slot graphics card however you can still use the incredibly powerful 3080 or 3070 cards.
It comes with two DDR4 RAM slots and four M2 slots for storage. I was impressed at how easy it was to upgrade and change the components in the Beast Canyon. Some mini PCs allow minimal customisation and alteration, but with this one it’s easy to move parts around, take old parts out and put new ones in.
The case comes with a large number of ports. There’s eight USB 3.1 Gen2 ports, two on the front, six on the back, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, an Ethernet port, and three display ports. It’s easily enough for any use you can think of. The box also comes with a headphone jack on the front, an SD card reader and Wi-Fi 6E capabilities as well.
Our review device was kitted out with an Nvidia GTX 3070ti graphics card, 32GB RAM and obviously an Intel i7-11700B processor. It’s a powerful rig.
I didn’t have any problems playing graphically intensive games like Metro Exodus and Farcry 6 on maximum settings at 1440p resolution, achieving 80fps on average.
I initially had concerns about temperatures with such a small, compact rig; however the average temperature was around 70° when playing those games. The three 92mm fan cooling system is capable and efficient.
Intel’s NUC11 i7-11700B Beast Canyon is a mini PC that’s compatible with top-of-the-range graphics cards. If you’re in the market for a gaming rig but the idea of a massive PC tower dominating your office or living room puts you off, this case will serve your needs well.
It has efficient cooling built-in, other than the RGB skull on the front it has a subtle design and most importantly, it’s small, half the size of a traditional gaming PC.
Be warned though, for what is essentially just a case with an Intel i7-11700B processor in it, the Beast Canyon is expensive at $1,650. You can get all the components and put them in a more traditional gaming tower for significantly less. Problem is, the market here in New Zealand is dominated by Intel, so if you’re looking for a gaming mini PC there aren’t many cheaper alternatives.