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Intel NUC 13 Extreme (Raptor Canyon) review: A very impressive mini-PC

By Aaron Yip - 7 Feb 2023

Intel NUC 13 Extreme (Raptor Canyon) review: A very impressive mini-PC

Following Beast Canyon and Dragon Canyon, Intel's latest NUC 13 Extreme Raptor Canyon Kit significantly deviates from the design of its predecessors. However, Intel still aims for a very compact PC that leaves barely anything to be desired. Furthermore, a full-size graphics card can be installed. For the CPU, models from Intel's current Raptor Lake lineup are available. Users can of course also choose their own CPU, since the processor is not soldered.

It should be noted that the Intel NUC 13 Extreme is not your typical mini-PC or gaming box that the NUC name is associated with. It is a larger small-form-factor desktop, measuring 337mm x 318mm x 129mm (or about 14 litres), much bigger than its predecessor, the NUC 12 Extreme Dragon Canyon Kit, which was 357mm x 189mm x 120mm and had a volume of just under 8L.

The design of the NUC 13 Extreme is straightforward, with a mesh construction for the sides, top, and bottom for optimal ventilation and a plain black front panel. If you're looking for the glowing skull design from previous NUC Extremes, you won't find it here, which can be disappointing for some (I know I was). RGB lighting is available, but you'll need to provide it yourself.

The compact size of many SFF gaming PCs often means making compromises in terms of components and thermal management options, but the NUC 13 Extreme, despite its roots in smaller systems, is not limited in that regard. Its larger size accommodates multiple storage drives, up to 64GB of memory, and dedicated graphics solutions with a maximum length of 31cm.

The 750W power supply that comes with the NUC enables the use of even high-end GPUs. It is theoretically possible to accommodate an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 FE. However, there is a constraint in the form of the 12VHPWR cable, which can only provide a maximum of 300 watts. Additionally, the power supply only has three 6+2 cables for the GPU, which limits the power budget to 450W.

The configuration of the Intel NUC 13 Extreme that I have here is equipped with the fastest gaming CPU available on the market today, the Intel Core i9-13900K. The CPU boasts a total of 24 cores and 32 threads, making it a powerful option for demanding gaming and computing tasks. The Raptor Lake generation CPUs, including the Core i9-13900K, are known for their hybrid design featuring both E and P cores. For graphics, Intel has slapped on an ASUS TUF RTX 3080 Ti card. Together, both CPU and GPU combination should allow gamers to run most modern games available today. Other components include 32GB of DDR5 of laptop memory (that's right, this NUC uses laptop RAMs) and a Kingston 1TB SSD storage.


Performance benchmarks

It's important to note that our performance tests on the Intel NUC 13 Extreme may not be reflective of results achieved with different hardware configurations, as the unit we tested came pre-assembled with top-notch components. However, the tests still effectively demonstrate the power of the Core i9-13900K desktop CPU and the system's performance potential when paired with a strong graphics card, ample memory, and adequate storage.

I have compared the NUC 13 Extreme with our 2022 PC test system, which is also powered by Intel Core i9-13900K and GeForce RTX 3080 Ti processors. It also comes with 32GB of DDR5 memory as well as a Samsung 980 Pro SSD.

For both systems, I've focused on real-world benchmarks that include games as well as SYSmark 25, a software that that measures and compares system performance using real-world applications and workloads.


Gaming benchmarks



Productivity and Content Creation

The Intel i9-13900K processor is clearly powerful, as demonstrated here, but there is one caveat: heat. During testing, the NUC's fans were set to maximum speed, but I still noticed thermal throttling (as you can see from the CineBench R23 benchmark, when all cores are pushed to their limits). Suffic to say, these same components would perform even better in a larger chassis with better cooling. But that's not taking away the overall performance of the NUC 13 Extreme, which is still pretty amazing considering it is almost neck and neck with our Test PC.

However, this raises another point to consider when making a purchasing decision. While the Intel NUC 13 Extreme is extremely powerful, it is also extremely loud. Even when it's not working hard, the fans are clearly audible from across my room. The Test PC, on the other hand, makes only a whisper even under the most intense workloads.



The NUC 13 Extreme Raptor Canyon delivers exceptional processing and gaming power in a compact design thanks to its Intel Core i9-13900K processor and support for high-performance GPUs such as the RTX 3080 Ti. The NUC Extreme lineup has gradually evolved over the last three generations, but the Raptor Canyon takes it to a new level. While some may object to the Raptor Canyon NUC's size and energy consumption, these trade-offs are required to achieve the level of processing power it provides. 

The NUC 13 Extreme could benefit from the addition of a docking mechanism for additional functionality such as card readers or extra USB ports too. The lack of an SD card slot is a notable shortcoming that could be remedied by a docking feature or a USB card reader. Furthermore, a power backplane instead of multiple wires from the PSU could improve the power delivery mechanism. Although the NUC13 Extreme makes cable management easier than previous NUC Extreme kits, there is still room for improvement in the user experience.

Intel has been working hard to create a strong ecosystem around the Compute Elements, with a focus on the gaming market to help drive their vision forward. The NUC 13 Extreme is the result of this effort, and Intel has done a fantastic job showing us a possible future where high-end gaming PCs need not necessarily have to come in huge and for some, cumbersome, casings. 

The NUC 13 Extreme Raptor Canyon is available for purchase on Shopee, with notable retailers here and here. There isn't a one-stop shop, however, that provides a complete build of the NUC off the shelves. So a fair bit of research and shopping is still necessary to build a complete NUC 13 Extreme PC yourself.

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  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9.5
The Good
Fantastic performance in a small-form factor
Provides more scaleability than past NUCs
Tool-less design
Open mesh design allows for good airflow
The Bad
It's not a small NUC
Not for DIY beginners
PSU not able to support RTX 40 series cards
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