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 Gen 11th Gen “Tiger Lake”
Product Line Enthusiast Pro Performance
Family Phantom Canyon Tiger Canyon Panther Canyon
Model Prefix NUC11PH NUC11TN NUC11PA
Processors i7 only i3, i5, i5 vPro, i7, i7 vPro i3, i5, i7
Best CPU 4x 2.8 GHz
(4.7 GHz Turbo)
4x 3.0 GHz
(4.8 GHz Turbo)
4x 2.8 GHz
(4.7 GHz Turbo)
GPU GeForce RTX 2060 Iris X (Up to 80 EUs) Iris X (Up to 1.3 GHz)
Max Memory 64 GB DDR4-3200 64 GB DDR4-3200 64 GB DDR4-3200
Chassis 221 x 142 x 42 117 x 112 x (54 / 37) 117 x 112 x (56 / 51 / 38)
Network 2.5Gb (i225-LM) 2.5Gb (i225-LM) 2.5Gb (i225-V)
Expansion Bay N/A 2nd 2.5Gb NIC (i225-LM) N/A
Storage M.2 22×110 PCIe x4 Gen3
M.2 22×80 PCIe x4 Gen3
M.2 22×80 PCIe x4 Gen4
M.2 22×42 (Expansion)
M.2 22×80 PCIe x4 Gen4
SATA3 2.5″
Thunderbolt 2x Thunderbolt 4 1x Thunderbolt 3
1x Thunderbolt 4
2x Thunderbolt 3
USB 6x USB 3.1 Gen2 1x USB 4.0
3x USB 3.2 Gen2
3x USB 3.1 Gen2
Operating Temperature 0°C – 35°C 0°C – 40°C 0°C – 35°C
24/7 Operation NO YES NO
“Q” Chassis NO NO YES
Product Brief Product Brief Product 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.


  • 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 (22×80/110 and 22×80)
  • 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.


  • 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 (22×80)
  • M.2 x1 22×42 Slot (Used to connect an expansion module or SSD)
  • 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.


  • 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 (22×80)
  • 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.

Posted by Editor