LAS VEGAS, NV —  Intel's Skylake-based Skull Canyon NUC has been a popular mini-desktop since its launch in early 2016. We didn't see a corresponding Kaby Lake version last year. However, thanks to the leaks of the NUC roadmap back in September, we unofficially knew what the pipeline contained. Undoubtedly, the most interesting of the new systems were the Hades Canyon models that apparently came with discrete graphics. As details of the Intel with Radeon RX Vega Graphics processors started trickling in last week, we got some hints about the processor inside the Hades Canyon NUCs. The launch today provides us with the official specifications of the new processors aimed at systems that need to have discrete graphics while remaining thin and light.

Unlike Skull Canyon, which has only one SKU (NUC6i7KYK) with the Core i7-6700HQ, Intel is launching Hades Canyon in two versions. The more powerful of the two is the $999 VR-ready NUC8i7HVK sporting the 100W TDP unlocked Core i7-8809G. The other SKU is the $799 NUC8i7HNK with the 65W TDP Core i7-8705G. The rest of the features are identical across the two SKUs.

NUC8i7HVK and NUC8i7HNK - I/O Distribution across Front and Rear Panels

The table below compares the various features of the two Hades Canyon NUCs against the Skull Canyon NUC that currently targets this market segment.

Aspect Hades Canyon Skull Canyon
CPU Intel Core i7-8809G
Kaby Lake, 4C/8T
3.1GHz (up to 4.2GHz), 14nm+, 8MB L2
100W Package TDP
Intel Core i7-8705G
Kaby Lake, 4C/8T
3.1GHz (up to 4.1GHz), 14nm+, 8MB L2
65W Package TDP
Intel Core i7-6770HQ
Skylake, 4C/8T
2.6GHz (up to 3.5 GHz), 14nm, 6MB L2
Graphics Radeon RX Vega M GH
24 CUs, 64 PPC
1063-1190MHz GPU, 800MHz Memory
4GB / 1024-bit HBM2
Radeon RX Vega M GL
20 CUs, 32 PPC
931-1101MHz GPU, 700MHz Memory
4GB / 1024-bit HBM2
Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580
Memory 2x DDR4 2400+ SODIMMs
1.2V, 32GB max.
2x DDR4 2133+ SODIMMs
1.2V, 32GB max.
Storage 2x M.2 22x42/80 (key M) SATA3 or PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe/AHCI SSD
RAID-0 and RAID-1 Supported
I/O Ports 2x Thunderbolt 3 (rear)
4x USB 3.0 Type-A (rear)
1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C (front)
1x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A (front)
1x USB 3.0 Type-A Charging Port (front)
1x SDXC UHS-I Slot (front)
CIR (front)
2x USB 3.0 / 2x USB 2.0 internal headers
1x Thunderbolt 3 (rear)
2x USB 3.0 Type-A (rear)
1x USB 3.0 Type-A (front)
1x USB 3.0 Type-A Charging Port (front)
1x SDXC UHS-I Slot (front)
CIR (front)
2x USB 3.0 / 2x USB 2.0 internal headers
Networking 2x Gigabit RJ-45 (Intel i219-LM and i210-AT)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 M.2 2230 (2x2 802.11ac - 867 Mbps)
Bluetooth 4.2
1x Gigabit RJ-45 (Intel i219-LM)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 M.2 2230 (2x2 802.11ac - 867 Mbps)
Bluetooth 4.2
Display Outputs 1x HDMI 2.0a (front)
1x HDMI 2.0a (rear)
2x mini-DP (DisplayPort 1.3) (rear)
2x USB-C (via Thunderbolt 3 ports, rear)
1x mini-DP (DisplayPort 1.2) (rear)
1x HDMI 2.0a (rear)
1x USB-C (via Thunderbolt 3 port, rear)
Audio 7.1 digital (over HDMI and DisplayPort); L+R+mic (F); L+R+TOSLINK (R)
Audio Codec Realtek ALC700 Realtek ALC233
Enclosure Metal and plastic
Kensington lock with base security
Power Supply 230W (19V @ 12.1A) Adapter 120W (19V @ 6.32A) Adapter
Dimensions 21mm x 142mm x 39mm / 1.2L 216mm x 116mm x 23mm / 0.69L
Miscellaneous Features Replaceable lid with customizable RGB LED illumination
Status LEDs in front panel
Quad beam-forming microphone array
VESA mounting plate
3-year warranty
Replaceable lid
Status LEDs in front panel
VESA mounting plate
3-year warranty

The footprint of the Hades Canyon NUCs (221mm x 142mm x 39mm / 1.2L) is slightly bigger than the Skull Canyon NUC (216mm x 116mm x 23mm / 0.69L). It is not surprising, given the wealth of extra I/O and the additional cooling requirements for the higher TDP processor. The power adapter also receives a hefty uptick in specifications, moving from 120W to 230W. Customizable RGB lighting for the lid is an attractive feature in the gaming market.

It must be noted that all the six display outputs in the Hades Canyon NUCs are driven by the Radeon GPU. The Intel iGPU is still active in the 'headless' mode, and features like QuickSync and the internal protected audio/video path can be used. Intel confirmed that the platform is capable of playing back UltraHD Blu-rays with HDR (Update: After our hands-on review, it was discovered that the Hades Canyon NUCs will not be able to utilize the integrated GPU's PAVP, and playback of UltraHD Blu-rays is not possible using them). It will also be PlayReady 3.0-compatible, enabling the system to access and play back premium 4K content. We have seen a trend in desktops to place a HDMI port in the front panel for easier hook up of virtual reality head-mounted displays, and both of the Hades Canyon NUCs have adopted it. Given the VR-ready marketing tag for the NUC9i7HVK, it is a welcome move.

DDR4-2400 is now the base supported memory speed, which is a step up from the DDR4-2133 in the Skull Canyon NUC. We were able to get the G.Skill Ripjaws DDR4-3000 SODIMM kit running stable in the Skull Canyon sample. With overclocking natively supported in the VR-ready NUC8i7HVK, we expect faster kits to be compatible too.

In terms of I/O, we have an additional Thunderbolt 3 port in the Hades Canyon NUCs compared to Skull Canyon. (Update: We confirmed that the controller is not the new Titan Ridge silicon, but, the JHL6540 Alpine Ridge dual port version) We also have an extra LAN port (enabled by the Intel i210AT gigabit controller). One of the front USB 3.0 Type-A ports has also been replaced by two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (1x Type-A, and 1x Type-C). Intel is using an ASMedia ASM2142 USB 3.1 Gen 2 controller for this. It is uplinked directly to the CPU's PCIe lanes with a PCIe 3.0 x2 link.

The Wi-Fi also receives a slight upgrade, moving from the AC8260 to AC8265. The main difference is the availability of MU-MIMO in the latter. The audio codec also receives an update. While the ALC233 in the Skull Canyon was a stereo codec, the new ALC700 is an upgrade with features that lie between the ALC892 and ALC662. It supports 7.1 digital output over optical/toslink and also supports analog output from the front and rear jacks.

Moving on to the core platform, it appears that the Thunderbolt ports as well as the M.2 slots are hooked up to the PCIe lanes off the PCH. Moving some of the bandwidth-hungry peripherals (in particular, the Thunderbolt controller) to the CPU's PCIe lanes could ensure that the DMI link between the PCH and the processor package is not a bottleneck. That said, it is at least good to see the Bayhub SDXC controller and the ASM3142 controller connected directly to the CPU using 1x and 2x lanes respectively. Due to lane bifurcation rules, the 8x PCIe 3.0 lanes can't be sub-divided any further to accommodate the Alpine Ridge controller.

Intel plans to price the NUC8i7HVK and NUC8i7HNK around $999 and $799 respectively. Fully configured systems will likely be $300 to $400 more, depending on the configuration. The products will be available for purchase in Q2 2018 (tallying with the leaked roadmap from September 2017). The NUC8i7HNK will be available first with the VR-ready NUC8i7HVK following a few weeks later.

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  • theopensauce - Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - link

    LOL! Not at $799 before hard drive and memory. There are a LOT of better and cheaper options that also use much less power too.
  • theopensauce - Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - link

    Well yes. These are gigabit connection and 8 bits = 1 byte. So effectively a 1,000 gigabit connection is only a 125 megabyte connection. Which is only as fast as an old spinning mechanical hard drive. And if you were to have a NAS or SSD drive on the network for backup which is capable of approximately 500 MB/s write speeds even a dual gigabit connection is still a limiting transfer speed. And with data overhead you do not get your maximum theoretical speeds either. You would get approximately 110 MB/s or about 218-223 MB/s maximum real world speeds which still falls far short of what a single SSD drive attached to the network could perform at. Also you could use these for fault tolerance if the system is remote, or on a manufacturing plant floor. There are a lot of reasons both business and consumers would both want dual gigabit connections. Most average consumers will never use the full bandwidth of a gigabit connection, though some will. And if you are paying $999 before you even add memory and hard drives, you bet you want that second LAN port. Also the only dumb question is the one never asked. Otherwise you never learn.
  • jjj - Sunday, January 7, 2018 - link

    LOL those prices are nuts for a low perf desktop.

    1k$ + 300-400$ for DRAM and SSD for just a quad core paired with a 120$ class GPU- assuming 2018 GPUs not old ones and normal GPU prices without the mining boost.
    You can argue about portability but in that case a laptop is way better.
  • limitedaccess - Sunday, January 7, 2018 - link

    Price given hardware specs is high compared to laptops as well.

    These are only interesting if you specifically need this form factor and ports, and are willing to pay for it.
  • HStewart - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Well basically any these are more powerful version of quad core U processor package with Vega - for me ,birthday hope Intel comes up with NVidia package to give users option in supporting and another kind of Gpu

    I believe eventually this will be replace with dGPU designed by Raju
  • ganeshts - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    It is not a powerful quad-core U. Rather, they are taking the -H series processor die and using at as-is. That is the same class as the CPU used in Skull Canyon (Core i7-6700HQ), only difference is that it is the Kaby Lake generation. Those are 45W TDP (compared to the 15 - 28W U-series), and a class by themselves.
  • Aspect Of Cancer - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Highly doubt that. Raja may be at the helm of Graphics for Intel but Intel neither does have patents for GPU making from both RTG and NVIDIA. cant make chips w/o striking a patent infringement
  • lmcd - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Nvidia's mainstream designs currently do not use HBM2 in any real capacity. This means that Intel would need to include on-die GDDR5 or create a new socket interface, both of which are massively more expensive than any of the work done solely on this product.
  • lmcd - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Not sure where you're coming from, as the CPU has 2x the graphics cores as found in Ryzen APUs coming out this year AND includes HBM2 memory onboard.

    I can argue about portability AND performance -- find me a cheaper laptop with higher performance and doesn't thermally throttle after an hour. I had the previous one while going away to school and it was incredibly nice to be able to bring my "desktop" home over the break. Going from "this can barely play rocket league" to "this can probably play PUBG" will be a nice upgrade.
  • FMinus - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    it's basically Vega Mobile (announced by AMD today) but on the same substrate as the Intel CPU, not the same thing as the Vega cores in AMD APUs.

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