Intel Beast Canyon NUC Review: Desktop Tiger Lake Debuts in SFF Gaming Powerhouse

Intel kick-started a form-factor revolution in the early 2010s with the introduction of the ultra-compact NUCs. The systems were meant to be an alternative to the tower desktops used in many applications where the size, shape, and the system capabilities were mostly unwarranted. The success of the NUCs enabled Intel to start re-imagining the build of systems used in a wider range of settings. The 2016 Skull Canyon NUC was Intel’s first effort to make a gaming-focused SFF PC. The introduction of the desktop-focused Compute Elements (essentially, a motherboard in a PCIe card form-factor) meant that full-blown gaming desktops could credibly come under the NUC banner. Last year, the first NUC Extreme – the Ghost Canyon NUC9 – with support for a user-replaceable discrete GPU made a splash in the market. The Ghost Canyon was extremely impressive, but restrictions on the dGPU sizes and high-end pricing were dampeners. The introduction of Tiger Lake has enabled Intel to make multiple updates in its Compute Element lineup. Along with the tweaks resulting from the Ghost Canyon experience, Intel has now put forward its flagship NUC for 2021 – the Beast Canyon. With a desktop-class CPU and ability to accommodate most discrete GPUs in the market, the Beast Canyon NUC promises a lot. Read on to find out whether the system manages to exorcise the ghosts of its predecessor.