Alder Lake and Arc Amalgamate in NUC12 Enthusiast


Intel officially unveiled the final member of its Alder Lake-based NUC12 family earlier this week. The NUC12 Enthusiast (like the previous three Enthusiast NUCs) is aimed at the game/creator market looking for a small form factor machine with a discrete GPU.

As a refresher, Intel created the NUC enthusiast category back in 2016 with the introduction of the Skull Canyon NUC (NUC6i7KYK). With a 4″ x 5″ motherboard, it had a slightly larger footprint compared to the traditional NUCs. However, the increased size allowed the installation of a 45W TDP processor with increased graphics flex. The second generation Hades Canyon has been upgraded to a slightly larger board (5.5″ x 8″) while maintaining the industrial design of the Skull Canyon NUC. It used the Kaby Lake-G processors with a Kaby Lake processor and an AMD GPU in the package (with a total TDP budget between 65W and 100W). The NUC11 Enthusiast (Phantom Canyon) opted for a more traditional gaming notebook architecture with a Tiger Lake-U Core i7-1165G7 and an NVIDIA RTX 2060 laptop GPU.

The NUC12 Enthusiast maintains a similar architecture. The main difference lies in the fact that this is the first NUC to use Intel’s discrete Arc GPU. The specifications of the GPU are much more powerful than those of the NVIDIA RTX2060, which has led to a redesign of the cooling solution as well as the case dimensions compared to the NUC11 Enthusiast.

Similar to the Phantom Canyon family, Serpent Canyon will also come in two variants – a barebones version and another with a 1TB SSD / 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM / Windows 11 Home preinstalled. The SKUs use the Intel Core i7-12700H notebook processor and the Intel Arc A770M discrete GPU with 16 GB VRAM.

The NUC12 Enthusiast has a variety of I/Os. There are two Thunderbolt 4 ports (one in the front and one in the back) that also carry display output from the Intel Iris Xe Graphics in the Core i7-12700H. Two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports and an SDXC UHS-II slot along with an audio jack and a quad-microphone array round out the front panel. On the back we have an audio-out jack (with support for TOSLINK), a single 2.5Gbps LAN port, four USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports (with a hub chip behind) and the display outputs (1x HDMI 2.1 4Kp60 and 2x DisplayPort 2.0 (1.4 certified)) from the Intel Arc A770M.

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The table below compares the flagship specs of the last three generations of Enthusiast NUCs.




















NUCs for Intel enthusiasts
model snake canyon
(NUC12SNKi72)
Phantom Canyon
(NUC11PHKi7C)
Hades Gorge
(NUC8i7HVK)
CPU Intel Core i7-12700H

Erlensee6P + 8E / 20T
4.7GHz (P) / 3.5GHz (E)
45W TDP (up to 115W)
Intel Core i7-1165G7

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

Kaby Lake4C/8T
3.1 – 4.2GHz
100W packet TDP
graphic card Intel® Intel Arc A770M 16 GB GDDR6 @ 1.65 GHz (discrete) NVIDIA GeForce RTX2060 6 GB GDDR6 (N18E-G1-B Notebook class 115 W) at 1.285 GHz (discrete)
Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics (96EU) @ 1.3 GHz (Integrated/On-Die)
Radeon RX Vega M GH 4 GB HBM2 @ 1.19 GHz (separately / in the package)
Intel® HD Graphics 630 @ 1.1 GHz (Integrated/On-Die)
memory 2x DDR43200 SODIMMs
1.2V, 64GB Max.
2x DDR4-2400+ SODIMMs
1.2V, 32GB max.
motherboard 7″ x 8″ (Custom) 5.5″ x 8″ (Custom)
storage 2x M.2 22×80 (M key) PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe SSD (connected to CPU)
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 ports 2x Thunderbolt 4 Fast charge (front + rear)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A fast charge (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 charge (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 WLAN incl. 6 GHz + Bluetooth 5.2 module)

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

1 × 2.5GbE 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)
Show outputs 2x DP2.0 (1.4 certified) (via Thunderbolt 4 Type-C, iGPU)
1x HDMI 2.1 (up to 4Kp60) (rear, dGPU)
2x DP2.0 (1.4 certified, dGPU)
2x DP 1.4a (via Thunderbolt 4 Type-C ports, iGPU Display Pipe)
1x Mini DP 1.4a (rear, dGPU, up to 8Kp60, MST)
1x HDMI 2.0b (rear, dGPU, up to 4Kp60)
1x HDMI 2.0a (front, dGPU)
1x HDMI 2.0a (rear, dGPU)
2x Mini DP 1.3 (rear, dGPU)
2x DP 1.3 (via Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports, dGPU)
Audio 7.1 digital (via HDMI and DisplayPort)
L+R+Microphone (front)
L+R+TOSLINK (rear)
audio codec Realtek ALC274 Realtek ALC700
enclosure metal and plastic
Kensington lock with basic security
power supply 330W (19V @ 16.9A) adapter 230W (19V @ 12.1A) adapter
Dimensions 230mm x 180mm x 60mm / 2.5L 221mm x 142mm x 42mm / 1.3L 221mm x 142mm x 39mm / 1.2L
Various functions Includes vertical stand Vertical stand and VESA mount included VESA mount included
Lid with customizable RGB LED lighting behind user-replaceable mask
CEC support for HDMI ports
Front panel CIR support for IR remote controls
Status LEDs in the front panel
Beamforming Microphone Array
3 year guarantee

The following block diagram gives some insight into the design of the system in terms of I/O capabilities.

Although the Arc A770M supports a PCIe 4.0 x16 connection to the host processor, the Serpent Canyon configuration keeps the connection at x8. Both PCIe 4.0 M.2 2280 slots are CPU attached. The SD card slot is connected via a PCIe lane instead of via USB – this should enable maximum possible performance for different SD cards. While the official specs state the slot is UHS-II, the product technical specifications document also notes SD Express support. This depends on the exact SD controller used in the board and we reached out to Intel for clarification. Three of the four Type-A ports on the back are enabled by a 1:4 Gen 2 hub, which isn’t 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 port can support around 17Gbps display bandwidth, while the rear port can support up to 35Gbps. With multi-stream support on the Type-C port, the system can drive a total of six different displays – five with 4Kp144 (DP/Alt-DP) and one with 4Kp60 (HDMI). Two 8Kp60 displays can also be controlled via a multi-cable/port solution.

Intel also provided a full teardown picture along with the press release. The combined cooling solution for CPU and dGPU with heat conducting plate and heat pipes is clearly visible. Whether this solution supports/enables performance optimization via the Intel Deep Link Dynamic Power Share feature remains to be seen in the practical evaluation.

Overall, the Serpent Canyon NUC is a huge step forward for Intel. Moving to a fully internal solution for both the CPU and dGPU in a small form factor wearable device will allow the company to capture a larger share of the overall gaming/creation system/eSports market. Based on paper specs, the NUC12 Enthusiast’s level of integration and gaming capabilities should far exceed what has traditionally been possible in this form factor. On the pricing front, the mini PC version with the OS pre-installed costs $1350, while the barebones version is available later this month for $1180. These numbers approximate introductory prices for previous generation Enthusiast NUCs.



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