Size doesn’t matter!
Well, at least as far as Intel’s new Hades Canyon NUC is concerned.
When Intel first released the Skull Canyon NUC – a diminutive gaming barebones – back in 2016, it started a mini arms race, what with the likes of MSI and Zotac going all out to create the smallest PCs possible and packing them with as much horsepower they could possibly manage.
Intel has finally introduced the latest generation of the NUC and this time around the company has made it a point to include a dedicated graphics card, which was missing in the debut model.
The new Hades Canyon NUC, also known as the NUC8i7HVK, boasts an AMD Radeon Vega GPU and an 8th-generation Intel Core i7 Quad Core CPU, all inside a very compact form factor – a little bigger than the previous generation model, though; but that’s understandable, considering the kind of hardware it packs.
The 2016 Skull Canyon was based on a pretty creative design formula – a tough CPU, more than enough IO options, including Thunderbolt 3 and what’s more is that it was easy to upgrade.
In fact, the only fault you could find with the older version was the lack of a dedicated graphics card, which actually limited it to less demanding games like Minecraft, or Overwatch, to name a couple; and, with a $650 price point, it was not a sensible buy, more so because it was a barebones system with no memory or storage.
Now, what has happened in the last two years has taken everyone by surprise; bitter and decades-old rivals Intel and AMD joined heads to create this latest-gen Hades Canyon NUC.
The new Hades is quite an awesome little packet of dynamite, and though it may seem a bit pricey at $999 for the higher-end barebones kit, the fact remains that it includes a hyper-threaded quad core, Core i7-8809G, and Vega M GH graphics, which says a lot about it.
The $799 step-down version sacrifices overclocking support, 0.1 GHz of CPU support and plunges from 24 to 20 compute units on the GPU to give you a price benefit of $200.
The first thing that you notice about the Hades Canyon, as you hold it in your hands, is how heavy it is, in spite of its tiny form factor; however, it’s not nearly as small as the Skull Canyon.
All panels on the unit, except the top, are overwhelmed with perforations, and that’s with the purpose of directing as much air, and from as many sides, as possible into the dual fans at the base.
The IO is quite impressive, to say the least, what with an HDMI port, two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, an SD card slot, and a 3.5mm jack on the front of the machine, as well as one HDMI port, 4 USB-A ports, one USB-C 3.1 port, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two mini Display Ports and two Ethernet jacks on the back.
With so many IO options available, you can connect up to 6 displays at a time, and what’s more is that it makes external USB hubs and readers almost completely redundant.
Inside the Hades Canyon NUC, you’ll find your memory and storage options, including 2 Dimm slots for up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM and dual full length 80mm M.2 slots for, both, NVMe and AHCI drives, in addition to RAID 0 and RAID 1.
While you’re still inside, take a look at the back side of the CPU and the Vega M GH graphics and you’ll notice that they are not only connected directly to each other via a PCI express 8X link but are also set on the same substrate – a pretty slick engineering trick to make the machine more powerful, more compact and more power efficient than any other small form factor system.
The eyes of the skull on the top panel and the power button on the front can be set to a color of your choice – possible because they are separate RGB zones; however, you can keep them turned off if that’s the way you like it.
Anyways, we have more important stuff to talk about, here.
Performance-wise, when you compare the new Hades Canyon with the previous-gen Skull Canyon, not taking into account costs for storage, RAM and OS, the Intel integrated graphics on the older version does not even come close to the Hades’ RADEON Vega chip.
And, now, to answer the million-dollar question: Is the new NUC worth spending good money on?
Well, let’s put it this way; it’s not the worst deal for all the hardware that’s been crammed into this high-performance easily-portable unit that can hold its own through any game you play on it, and much more.