Intel NUC 12 Extreme Dragon Canyon Mini PC Review: A Fire-Breathing Little Beast

Intel NUC 12 Extreme Dragon Canyon: System BIOS Details And Initial Benchmarks

The Dragon Canyon NUC 12 Extreme feature Intel’s latest Visual BIOS, which is similar to all of the previous-gen NUCs from the last few years. The layout and graphics have been refreshed and updated somewhat in comparison to older Intel NUCs, but the overall aesthetic and functionality are similar. With the machine connected to our 4K display, however, there were some trivial visual anomalies, which you can see in the text across the bottom of the menu. Some of the test is overlapping or cut-off, etc. but it ultimately didn't prevent us from navigating through the menus or making any changes.

Intel’s Visual BIOS can be navigated using either a mouse or keyboard (or touch with a compatible display). It is home to array of information about the processor and memory configuration, as well as other system specifics, hardware-health data, and power and performance related toggles.

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Intel NUC 12 Extreme Dragon Canyon BIOS Menus

All of the integrated peripherals can be enabled / disabled from within the Visual BIOS, fan curves can be tweaked should you want to dial-in a specific thermal or acoustic profile, and there are a handful of power related options available, should you want to fine-tune the system’s power characteristics, which in turn will affect the system's performance.

For our testing, after updating, we left the NUC 13's BIOS at its optimal defaults, which has max performance mode enabled. The Dragon Canyon NUC 12 Extreme’s BIOS is easy to use, but has many enthusiast-level features, and it mimics what Intel used to offer in its full-sized HEDT motherboards, minus a few advanced overclocking-related options.

Due to the NUC 12 Extreme's small-form-factor, and its cooling and power limitations versus full-blown desktop systems, figuring out exactly where it fits in terms of performance presents some challenges. As such, to paint as clear a picture as possible, we decided to compare its performance to an array of powerful notebooks, desktop systems, and previous-gen NUCs where we had data available...

SiSoft SANDRA 2021 Benchmarks

We began our testing with the latest version of SiSoftware's SANDRA 2021, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran two of the built-in sub-system tests that partially comprise the suite with the NUC 11, CPU Arithmetic and Multimedia.

san cpu nuc 12 extreme san mm nuc 12 extreme
Intel Core i9-12900
Processor Arithmetic
Intel Core i9-11200

SANDRA's CPU Arithmetic benchmark shows the Core i9-12900 in our NUC 12 Extreme hanging with the desktop Core i9-12900K. It trailed slightly, but was right in the same ballpark overall. In the Arithmetic test, the system put up over 347GOPs of aggregate native performance and in the Multimedia test, the system exceeded 1.22Gpix/s.

Speedometer 2.0 Browser Benchmark

We recently moved on to's Speedometer test, which takes a holistic look at web application performance. This test automatically loads and runs several sample webapps from using the most popular web development frameworks around, including React, Angular, and Ember.js. This test is a better example of how systems cope with real web applications, as opposed to a pure JavaScript compute test like JetStream. All tests were performed using the latest version of the Chromium-based Edge browser. 

speedometer nuc 12 extreme

As we saw in our Alder Lake launch article featuring the initial wave of desktop 12th Gen Core processors, Intel's latest architecture offers a big boost to performance in the short bursty workloads in a test like Speedometer. Here, the NUC 12 Extreme with is Core i9-12900 lands just behind the full-power, enthusiast Core i9-12900K, at the top of the chart.

Cinbench 3D Rendering Benchmarks

Cinebench provides a glimpse into the system's parallel compute throughput. The tests are based on Maxon’s Cinema 4D modeling software that’s used in movie production studios...

cine r20 nuc 12 extreme

Versus an array of mobile systems and previous-gen NUCs, the latest  NUC 12 Extreme puts up the strongest Cinebench R20 score of the bunch, besting all of the other systems in both the single and multi-threaded tests. The multi-threaded test specifically shows a significant generational leap over the top-end NUC 11 Extreme.

cine r23 nuc 12 extreme

We're mixing up the systems here for the newer Cinebench R23 scores. Versus this group of desktop systems, the Intel NUC 12 Extreme once again lands at the top of the chart. The increased core count in the hybrid Alder Lake architecture affords the Core i9-12900 a significant increase in both single and multi-threaded performance, which allowed it to overtake full-power desktop 11th Gen processors and the Ryzen 7 5800X.

Geekbench 5 Benchmark Results

Geekbench 5 is a cross-platform benchmark that simulates real world processing workloads in image processing and particle physics scenarios. We tested the systems here with Geekbench 5’s single and multi-core test workloads.
geekbench nuc 12 extreme

These Geekbench scores, once again, features a mix of previous-gen NUCs and mobile systems. As we've seen in a couple of previous tests already, the Core i9-12900 powered NUC 12 Extreme puts up the best single and multi-threaded scores of the group.

UL PCMark 10 System-Level Benchmarks

UL benchmarks have been popular go-to system level tests since the late ‘90s, when they were made by MadOnion and later Futuremark. We ran the NUC 11 Extreme through PCMark 10, which is designed to gauge the system's performance in common, everyday computing tasks with GPU-acceleration enabled, and with 3DMark tests on the next page to assess its graphics and gaming chops.

pcmark 10 nuc 12 extreme

In PCMark 10, the Intel NUC 12 Extreme outruns the previous-gen NUC 11 Extreme to land just behind the full-power 11th-gen Core desktop processors. For mainstream computing tasks like those featured in PCMark, the NUC 12 Extreme is a potent and capable beast that would serve any user well.

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