The System76 Meerkat is a compact desktop computer with support for up to 64GB of RAM, up to two storage devices (for as much as 16TB of total storage), and up to an Intel Core i7 mobile processor.
It’s basically a rebranded Intel NUC. But since System76 is a Linux PC vendor, the Meerkat comes with a choice of Pop!_OS or Ubuntu Linux pre-installed. Previously available with a choice of 10th or 11th-gen Intel Core processor options, the Meerkat now also supports 12th-gen Intel chips.
That means there are a total of 9 different processor options available:
|10th-gen “Comet Lake”||11th-gen “Tiger Lake”||12th-gen “Alder Lake”|
|Core i3-10110U (2-cores, 4-threads, up to 4.1 GHz)||Core i3-1135G4 (2-cores, 4-threads, up to 4.1 GHz)||Core i3-1220P (10-cores, 12-threads, up to 4.4 GHz)|
|Core i5-10210U (4-cores, 8-threads, up to 4.2 GHz)||Core i5-1135G7 (4-cores, 8-threads, up to 4.2 GHz)||Core i5-1240P (12-cores, 16-threads, up to 4.4 GHz)|
|Core i7-10710U (6-cores, 12-threads, up to 4.7 GHz)||Core i7-1165G7 (4-cores, 8-threads, up to 4.7 GHz)||Core i7-1260P (12-cores, 16-threads, up to 4.7 GHz)|
Prices start at $499 for an entry-level model with a Core i3-10110U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The prices rises by $50 if you want to go with a Core i3-1135G4 model, while prices start at $599 for a Meerkat mini PC with a 12th-gen Intel Core processor.
While the design is similar for all models, models with newer processors tend to have slightly better specs. For example you get a Gigabit Ethernet port on Comet Lake systems, compared with 2.5 GbE Ethernet on Tiger Lake and Alder Lake models. The Alder Lake version also features support for WiFi 6E while versions with older chips top out at WiFi 6.
But the biggest difference is that Intel’s 12th-gen processors introduce a hybrid architecture that pairs Performance and Efficiency cores, leading to much higher core counts for better multi-core performance. In my experience Intel’s 12th-gen mobile chips are more power-hungry than their 11th-gen counterparts, which leads to lower battery life in laptops. But that shouldn’t be an issue in mini-desktop computers like the Meerkat.
All models are available “short” or “tall” configurations. The short model measures 117 x 112 x 37mm (4.6″ x 4.4″ x 1.5″) and has room under the hood for a single M.2 2280 SSD, while the tall version is 54mm (2.1″) high and has room for both an M.2 SSD and a 2.5 inch hard drive or SSD.