11th Gen Intel NUC - Which is the best candidate to run ESXi?

Intel has finally announced their 11th Generation NUCs. For the first time, all three product lines are announced at the same time. The NUC series is very popular to be used in homelabs or for running VMware ESXi. They are small, silent, transportable, and have very low power consumption.

In this article, I'm going to take a look at the 3 different product lines and how they compare to each other and previous NUCs.

CPU Gen11th Gen "Tiger Lake"
Product LineEnthusiastProPerformance
FamilyPhantom CanyonTiger CanyonPanther Canyon
Model PrefixNUC11PHNUC11TNNUC11PA
Processorsi7 onlyi3, i5, i5 vPro, i7, i7 vProi3, i5, i7
Best CPU4x 2.8 GHz
(4.7 GHz Turbo)
4x 3.0 GHz
(4.8 GHz Turbo)
4x 2.8 GHz
(4.7 GHz Turbo)
GPUGeForce RTX 2060Iris X (Up to 80 EUs)Iris X (Up to 1.3 GHz)
Max Memory64 GB DDR4-320064 GB DDR4-320064 GB DDR4-3200
Chassis221 x 142 x 42117 x 112 x (54 / 37)117 x 112 x (56 / 51 / 38)
Network2.5Gb (i225-LM)2.5Gb (i225-LM)2.5Gb (i225-V)
Expansion BayN/A2nd 2.5Gb NIC (i225-LM)N/A
StorageM.2 22x110 PCIe x4 Gen3
M.2 22x80 PCIe x4 Gen3
M.2 22x80 PCIe x4 Gen4
M.2 22x42 (Expansion)
SATA3 2.5"
M.2 22x80 PCIe x4 Gen4
SATA3 2.5"
Thunderbolt2x Thunderbolt 41x Thunderbolt 3
1x Thunderbolt 4
2x Thunderbolt 3
USB6x USB 3.1 Gen21x USB 4.0
3x USB 3.2 Gen2
3x USB 3.1 Gen2
Operating Temperature0°C - 35°C0°C - 40°C0°C - 35°C
24/7 OperationNOYESNO
"Q" ChassisNONOYES
vProNOYESNO
Product BriefProduct BriefProduct Brief

 

NUC 11 Enthusiast / Phantom Canyon / NUC11PHKi7C

The Phantom Canyon is Intel's direct successor to the Hades Canyon. The Enthusiast line, which can be recognized by a Skull on its chassis, is known for outstanding graphics performance. Compared to the normal "square" NUCs, it has an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card.

If you want to run graphics-intensive operations, this might be your model of choice to be used in homelabs or as VMware ESXi host. If you are only interested in CPU performance or need multi-nic support, the "Pro" line is definitely the better choice.

Features

  • One Model available (NUC11PHKi7C)
  • Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU (4 Core / 2.8 GHz - 4.7 GHz)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Discrete Graphics with 6 GB GDDR6
  • Single 2.5Gbit Network Adapter (The predecessor "Hades Canyon" had two 1Gbit adapters)
  • Two M.2 x4 Gen3 Slots (22x80/110 and 22x80)
  • Up to 64 GB Memory (DDR4-3200 SODIMM)
  • Two Thunderbolt 4 Ports
  • Six USB 3.1 Gen2 ports
  • Intel Optane H10 or H20 ready

 

NUC 11 Pro / Tiger Canyon / NUC11TN[HK]v[75] / NUC11TN[HK]i[753]

The Tiger Canyon is Intel's 11th Generation "Pro" line that targets professional users or companies. They are available with standard and vPro CPUs and all models are fully supported to be operated 24/7. With the help of an expansion bay, you can add a second 2.5Gbit ethernet module. Compared to previous generations, or the Panther Canyon, this system does not have the option to add 2.5" HDDs.

If you are looking for a NUC to be used in a homelab or for running VMware ESXi, this is your system.

Features

  • Various Models available (i3/i5/i7 or i5/i7 with vPro)
  • Up to Intel Core i7-1185G7 CPU (4 Core / 3.0 GHz - 4.8 GHz)
  • 2.5Gbit Network Adapter
  • Second 2.5Gbit Network Adapter using an expansion bay (L-Model)
  • M.2 x4 Gen4 Slot (22x80)
  • M.2 x1 22x42 Slot (Used to connect an expansion module or SSD)
  • 2.5" SATA3 drive bay (Tall model)
  • Up to 64 GB Memory (DDR4-3200 SODIMM)
  • Two Thunderbolt Ports (TB3 with USB4 and TB4 with USB4)
  • Three USB 3.2 Gen2 ports
  • Qualified for 24/7 Operation
  • Display emulation (Headless Mode)

 

NUC 11 Performance / Panther Canyon / NUC11PA[QHI]i[753]

The Panther Canyon is Intel's low-end line in the 11th Generation. This is the system you want to buy as your standard pc, home theaters, or home office. The new Q-chassis has a 15W wireless fast charging lid that allows you to charge your smartphone. It is available with i3, i5, or i7 CPU. Like in previous NUC generations, the performance line can be equipped with a 2.5" SATA3 drive.

If you do not need the second 2.5Gbit Adapter or vPro features, this can be an inexpensive alternative to be used in a homelab or for running VMware ESXi.

Features

  • 9 Models available (i3/i5/i7 in Slim, Tall-H, or Tall-Q Chassis)
  • Up to Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU (4 Core / 2.8 GHz - 4.7 GHz)
  • 2.5Gbit Network Adapter
  • M.2 x4 Gen4 Slot (22x80)
  • 2.5" SATA3 drive bay (H and Q only)
  • Up to 64 GB Memory (DDR4-3200 SODIMM)
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 Ports
  • Three USB 3.1 Gen2 ports

CPU Performance

The following chart is based on the CPUs PassMark Score. Currently, there are not many entries in the PassMark score database, so the numbers might change.

16 thoughts on “11th Gen Intel NUC - Which is the best candidate to run ESXi?”

  1. So, question - which model would recommend for running ESXi on for a homelab?

    Enthusiast (Phantom Canyon) - Successor to the 8th Gen Hades Canyon
    Pro (Tiger Canyon) - Successor to the 8th Gen Provo Canyon
    Performance (Panther Canyon) - Successor to the 10th Gen Frost Canyon

    Assuming you want maximum performance and features - it would look the Pro for then 2nd NIC which allows for teaming and keeping traffic physically seperated?

    1. NUC11TNHv70L (Pro with second NIC) is my top choice. Second NIC for testing NSX/Failover/Teaming/Separation etc.

      Panther Canyon is the budget option if you do not need a second NIC or vPRO features.

      I wouldn't recommend the enthusiast unless you have a use-case for the graphics card.

  2. Ahhh I see where I was getting confused - the NUC11PHKi7C comes in the narrow thin format - to make space for the GPU where as the Pro (Tiger Canyon) - Successor to the 8th Gen Provo Canyon
    Performance (Panther Canyon) - Successor to the 10th Gen Frost Canyon are in the sort cube format?

    1. Phantom Canyon > Successor to the Hades Canyon/Skull Canyon.
      Tiger Canyon > Successor to 8th Gen vPro Provo Canyon (Typical NUC Cube)
      Panther Canyon > Successor to 10th Gen Frost Canyon (Typical NUC Cube)

  3. I really love that 2 ethernet port nuc! :)
    I have space for one NUC so maybe it's time to put order going for: NUC11TNHV50L
    In Finland about 480€. Shipping is something about end of the February.
    Only downside of these nuc:s are that cannot get temperatures on ESXi.

  4. I recently picked up one of the Phantom Canyon units and after getting the Community Fling network drivers integrated I have ESXI 7.0 U2d running on it. But I haven't had luck in getting the RTX 2060 to passthrough. Always get an error 43 on the driver. it "tickles" the monitor for a moment (toggles from standby to active only for a few seconds) on bootup but nothing on display or anything after that. Have set the typical hypervisor.cpuid.v0 and have tried to disable svga which has helped in the past. I still have my old Hades Canyon running on passthrough on ESXI 6.7. Not sure if this is a problem/issue with 7.0 or what?

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