Intel’s Hades Canyon is more than a simple successor to its Skull Canyon predecessor, an extreme version of Intel’s Next Unit of Computing (NUC). When Skull Canyon launched in 2016, it bucked the mini-PC trend of modest specs designed for general computing, instead boasting the absolute latest in hardware for its size: a 45W quad-core processor, integrated graphics capable of 1080p gaming, and a port that supported external graphics. At the time, that ultra-compact mini-PC was unrivaled.

The Hades Canyon NUC brings its own first: a single, Intel-produced chip (code-named Kaby Lake-G) that marries an Intel mobile CPU with an AMD Radeon RX Vega M mobile GPU. It’s silicon that can handle heavy-duty tasks without breaking much of a sweat.

Hades Canyon NUC - Comparison with other mini-PCs Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

Clockwise from top left: Gigabyte Brix GB-BXA8-5557, Intel NUC5i7RYH, Intel NUC6i7KYK (Skull Canyon), Intel NUC8i7HVK (Hades Canyon)

Price, specs, and ports

Hades Canyon comes in two configurations—one marketed as an overclockable gaming machine (the NUC8i7HVK), and the other as a content-creation system (the NUC8i7HNK). We received the gaming version for review, which is the higher-end option and costs $1,000 for just the bare-bones kit.

Adding storage, memory, and an operating system will raise the price by at least a few hundred dollars, given today’s inflated prices for SSDs and RAM. Our review unit, which came pre-equipped with a 118GB Intel Optane 800P-series SSD, 512GB Intel 545s-series SSD, 16GB of Kingston HyperX DDR4/3200 RAM, and a Windows 10 Pro license, would set us back by almost $1,550 in total.

Each configuration comes equipped with a different combination of Intel processor and AMD GPU. (To get a thorough rundown on Kaby Lake-G, you can read our primer that followed the CES announcement of the chips.) Inside the NUC8i7HVK is the 100W Core i7-8809G, which houses a quad-core, eight-thread mobile CPU and Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics.

Interior shot of Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK Alaina Yee / IDG

Getting inside this NUC requires removing the top lid and a metal plate. Intel includes a hex wrench and spare screws for the top lid, but you’ll still need a Phillips screwdriver for the metal plate.

The processor is equivalent to Intel’s 45W H-series mobile CPUs (complete with active integrated graphics that can handle video playback and other basic tasks), though its power requirements differ slightly. The actual power consumed varies depending on CPU and GPU loads, as Intel designed the package with a shared power budget and uses what it calls dynamic tuning to allow each component a greater ability to reach its max boost. As mentioned previously, it’s overclockable, with stock settings of a 3.1GHz base clock and 4.2GHz Turbo. Intel says that it’s gotten up to 4.7GHz when overclocking.

Linked to the processor by eight PCIe lanes is the Vega M GH, which runs at a 1,063MHz base clock and 1,190MHz boost clock. The GH variant of Vega M comes with 24 compute units and 4GB of HBM2 memory, along with a slightly faster memory bandwidth of 204.8GB per second. It also supports output to six 4K displays simultaneously, with up to five at 60Hz and the sixth at 30Hz. Like the CPU, you can overclock the Vega M GH and the HBM2 memory.

Backing this star CPU-GPU pairing is a whole array of equally powerhouse technology. Two M.2 slots can take SATA 6Gbps or x4 PCIe Gen 3 (AHCI or NVMe) drives in either a 42mm or 80mm length, with the option to run two drives in RAID 0 or RAID 1. An Intel Wireless-AC 8265 card handles both 802.11ac 2×2 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. Two SO-DIMM sockets accept up to 32GB of DDR4/2,400MHz RAM at 1.2V, and support overclocked DDR4 RAM. There’s even a beam-forming, far-field, quad-mic array included this time around.





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