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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  • cheese23 - Thursday, January 11, 2018 - link

    I don't think this is for people looking for the most bang for the buck. This product appeals to me because it's small enough to fit on my desk next to my monitor (giving me access to all that luscious I/O) w/o taking up half my desk. Yeah, you could get a mobo, GPU, PSU, and CPU for less than $1k. You could put it all in a case you make out of an old cardboard box. You can probably outdo this NUC in every benchmark with such a system. But that's not the point. If you're like me, living in a large city where every square foot matters, reaching down to the floor to access all your, I/O got old a long time ago. I might be willing to pay more for the luxury of this form factor.
  • gigahertz20 - Sunday, January 7, 2018 - link

    I haven't had any problems with the Intel NUC's I've configured. Setup a NUC5i7RYH for my mother 2 years ago as her main desktop computer and she still uses it and it flies along. Then I configured a NUC7i5BNH last year for my brother as his college computer and it worked out great for him. My only complaint is the i7 I configured for my mother can get loud out of no where which can be annoying, you can be browsing a website and the leaf blower will come on. That model was prone to that from what I read online so I kind of regret getting it but oh well. For your average person that wants a super fast computer and doesn't play any demanding games, you can't beat a NUC. Most of the people I've configured them for have never used a computer with a SSD, night and day difference. I haven't looked at the peformance of the discreat GPU that comes with this new NUC, wonder what it can handle?
  • Oxford Guy - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    Yes. Reviewers are likely to ignore the fan noise issue, even though it can break a product like this for real users.
  • phononny - Sunday, January 7, 2018 - link

    2018 Mac Minis?

    We can only hope....
  • iwod - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Way too expensive for mac Mini. But you can already imagine how small it will be if Apple use this.
  • 255BB - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    the i7 in Skull canyon is 6770HQ not 6700HQ.
  • ganeshts - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Thanks! I fixed the typo.
  • Corbeaux - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Does it support QuickSync?
  • Corbeaux - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    NVM, ijust read the article. It does.
  • Rainbird01 - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    It's not totally clear to me from the article, but does the NUC support Freesync on any of its display outputs?

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