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Intel NUC8i7HVK Review: Vega takes a trip to Hades Canyon

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Manufacturer: Intel

System Overview

Announced at Intel's Developer Forum in 2012, and launched later that year, the Next Unit of Computing (NUC) project was initially a bit confusing to the enthusiast PC press. In a market that appeared to be discarding traditional desktops in favor of notebooks, it seemed a bit odd to launch a product that still depended on a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, yet didn't provide any more computing power.

Despite this criticism, the NUC lineup has rapidly expanded over the years, seeing success in areas such as digital signage and enterprise environments. However, the enthusiast PC market has mostly eluded the lure of the NUC.

Intel's Skylake-based Skull Canyon NUC was the company's first attempt to cater to the enthusiast market, with a slight stray from the traditional 4-in x 4-in form factor and the adoption of their best-ever integrated graphics solution in the Iris Pro. Additionally, the ability to connect external GPUs via Thunderbolt 3 meant Skull Canyon offered more of a focus on high-end PC graphics. 

However, Skull Canyon mostly fell on deaf ears among hardcore PC users, and it seemed that Intel lacked the proper solution to make a "gaming-focused" NUC device—until now.

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Announced at CES 2018, the lengthily named 8th Gen Intel® Core™ processors With Radeon™ RX Vega M Graphics (henceforth referred to as the code name, Kaby Lake-G) marks a new direction for Intel. By partnering with one of the leaders in high-end PC graphics, AMD, Intel can now pair their processors with graphics capable of playing modern games at high resolutions and frame rates.

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The first product to launch using the new Kaby Lake-G family of processors is Intel's own NUC, the NUC8i7HVK (Hades Canyon). Will the marriage of Intel and AMD finally provide a NUC capable of at least moderate gaming? Let's dig a bit deeper and find out.

Click here to continue reading our review of the Intel Hades Canyon NUC!

Intel Hades Canyon NUC 
MSRP $799 $999
Model Name NUC8i7HNK NUC8i7HVK
CPU Intel Core i7-8705G Intel Core i7-8809G
GPU Radeon Vega M GL Graphics Radeon Vega M GH Graphics
RAM Dual DDR4 SODIMM Slots (DDR4-2400+)
Storage 2 Available M.2 Slots (SATA or PCIe)
Network Intel 8265 802.11ac MIMO (2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.2
Dual Gigabit Ethernet (Intel i219-LM and i210-AT)
Display Output

2 x Thunderbolt 3
2 x Mini DisplayPort 1.3
2 X HDMI 2.0b (Front and Rear)

Connectivity 2 x Thunderbolt 3
5 x USB 3.0 (Type-A)
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Type-A and Type-C)
1 x SDXC UHS-1 Card Reader
Analog and Digital (TOSLINK) Audio
Consumer IR reciever
Dimensions 0.83-in x 5.59-in x 1.53-in
(21mm x 142mm x 39mm)

The unit that Intel sent out for review is the NUC8i7HVK powered by the Core i7-8809G, the highest-end offering which will retail for $999 (for the barebones kit). While we aren't going to get into the exact differences between the different Kaby Lake-G processors here (see this article for more in-depth detail), note that the i7-8809G is a fully unlocked part (CPU, GPU, and HBM), rated at a TDP of 100W. While HP and Dell have already announced notebooks featuring Kaby Lake-G CPUs, keep in mind that none of these will feature the i7-8809G, and will instead feature the lower power 65W variants such as the i7-8706G.

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In order to go along with the barebones NUC kit, Intel also provided 16GB of Kingston HyperX DDR4-3200 memory, as well as two SSDs— a 118GB Intel Optane 800P boot drive, and a 500GB Intel SSD 545s for mass storage. These are the components which we used in our review, including running the memory at a frequency of 3200MHz.

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Taking a look at the exterior design of the Hades Canyon NUC shows a somewhat subdued gaming aesthetic. While the hexagonal holes and power button on the front of the device reference the design language of "gamer" products, the overall design is stealthy enough to not be too out of place on any desk or in an AV cabinet.

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However, this subtlety disappears when you first turn on the unit and are greeted by the illuminated Skull logo emanating from the top of the enclosure.

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While you can disable or change the color of any of the LEDs on the NUC in the BIOS, I think this was a nice touch and shows that Intel isn't afraid to go out of their comfort zone.

This Skull logo has long been the symbol used by Intel for enthusiast-focused products, starting with the dual CPU socket Skulltrail platform and being used on various product over the years (including the previous Skull Canyon NUC). Beyond the skull logo, the other major thing to notice on the exterior of the Hades Canyon NUC is the sheer number of ports available. 

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On the front of the device alone, we have a full-size SDXC card reader, a USB 3.0 port capable of fast charging, two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (one Type-C and one Type-A), a full-size HDMI 2.0b port, and a combination analog audio connector.

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Looking around back, we find even more connectivity options including two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two Mini DisplayPort connectors, four USB 3.0 ports, optical audio, and another full-size HDMI 2.0b port. 

In total, the Hades Canyon NUC is capable of driving six 4K displays (including up to five at 60Hz) at the same time, which is impressive for this small of a computer.

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As all NUCs do, the NUC8i7HVK features an external power supply to save internal space. The laptop-style 19V power supply is capable of delivering 230W to the system. 

Review Terms and Disclosure
All Information as of the Date of Publication
How product was obtained: The product is on loan from Intel for the purpose of this review.
What happens to product after review: The product remains the property of Intel but is on extended loan for future testing and product comparisons.
Company involvement: Intel had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.
PC Perspective Compensation: Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by Intel for this review.
Advertising Disclosure: Intel has purchased advertising at PC Perspective during the past twelve months.
Affiliate links: This article contains affiliate links to online retailers. PC Perspective may receive compensation for purchases through those links.
Consulting Disclosure: Intel is a current client of Shrout Research for products or services related to this review. 

March 29, 2018 | 01:15 PM - Posted by dagnamit

30% more than a 1050ti, with comparable performance to a 6 core cpu? Impressive.

Shit, throw a 2/4 i3 w/ a 1050ti equivalent into it, and price at $499 or less and I will buy 2.

March 29, 2018 | 01:23 PM - Posted by Joseph Taylor (not verified)

Why would you choose this over a mini itx build?

March 29, 2018 | 02:50 PM - Posted by Morte (not verified)

Are there any mini ITX builds that even approach this in size? These NUCs are a little smaller than a hardback book and oftentimes lighter as well, no mini ITX case I've personally seen even approaches the NUC in terms of size. The smallest mini ITX I can find is the S4 Mini but I might be wrong about that, with the S4 Mini though the size difference between it and the NUC is bigger than the size difference between mini ITX and Full Towers.

Here's a quick comparison I did for my own purposes but I guess it doesn't hurt to share it:

http://comparesizes.com/comparison/NUC2/1522348845958

I just hope the inclusion of HBM and the GPU doesn't mean this thing is suddenly selling for twice as much like most graphics cards, if it actually sells for it's MSRP and stays there, I'll be buying another NUC it seems. I'd love to see more powerful mini computers, something that's around the same size as a hardcover book or even a paperback will fit in most containers that people travel with, nobody so far has stuffed a full fat PC with all the trimmings ala NVME, Thunderbolt and lower mid range GPU in a thing this size. I'd love to be wrong on this account though and discover a bunch of book sized mini PC's but I'm not holding out much hope for that.

March 29, 2018 | 02:41 PM - Posted by Onyx1640

I'd be down for one at $4-500, but the $1k price point of these seems a bit steep.

March 29, 2018 | 10:53 PM - Posted by Anonymouse (not verified)

At $4-500, this would be cheaper than a full size, full power machine of the same performance, and you're always going to pay at least a bit more for SFF, so that price isn't likely.

March 29, 2018 | 01:22 PM - Posted by Joseph Taylor (not verified)

I just don't understand what the usage case is for this product and you give it a gold award? Why does this product even exist?

March 29, 2018 | 02:58 PM - Posted by Morte (not verified)

These things are some of Intel's best selling products, in fact it's the only part of Intel's business related to microprocessors that has grown exponentially and it's done it very quickly.

These things pack more than enough power to be put into increasingly cramped office environments, internet cafes and for people that do certain types of field work.

NUC stands for "Next Unit of Compute". In a few years I'd be surprised to see anything bigger than these things for the average person that might still buy a desktop, this product exists because it makes a buttload of money and that buttload of money is increasing whilst the money from everything else is declining.

March 30, 2018 | 05:54 AM - Posted by Adrian (not verified)

Even if this computer is useless for you, it is perfect for other people. I use the previous Skull Canyon as my office computer at work and nothing else on the market can replace it.

For my work I need a fast CPU with at least 4 cores and as many as possible USB ports and Ethernet ports. On my desk, besides 2 monitors, there are a lot of electronic prototypes, power supplies etc., there is no place for a larger computer or for a laptop. Nevertheless the computer must stay on the desk, because I very frequently connect or disconnect USB or Ethernet cables to it. I also need Thunderbolt or at least USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gb/s) for an external SSD. I do not use internal SSD's, because I must move every day the SSD between my office computer and my home computer, and from time to time to the laptop used for business trips.

So Skull Canyon and Hades Canyon are exactly what I need. Every other computer on the market is either too large, or it has a too slow processor, or it has too few USB ports, or it has no Thunderbolt or USB 3.1 Gen 2 or no DisplayPort.

So even if you are not aware of this, many people need computers very different from what you use.

March 29, 2018 | 01:36 PM - Posted by John Blanton (not verified)

LAN parties for days ...... LAN parties for days :x

March 29, 2018 | 05:28 PM - Posted by newowner (not verified)

How was the fan noise when gaming? Did it get hot?

March 29, 2018 | 05:28 PM - Posted by WTFisTheRadeonVegaGPUsFullSpecificationsForThisSKU (not verified)

Ok I want to Know the Shader/TMU/ROP counts on the AMD semi-custom discrete die that's on the EMIB/MCM. And I'd really like to Know the the Shaders to ROPs ratios and the Sheaders to TMUs ratios also.

We Now have access to Vega graphics that only has access to 4GB of HBM2 over a single HBM2 Stack's alotment HBM2 and at 1024 traces(That's Divided into 8 indipendent 128 bit channels according to the JEDEC HBM2 standard). So can there be some testing of Vega's HBCC IP where Vega's HBCC makes use of the HBM2 as HBC(High Bandwidth cache).

I'd like to see some Games tested using Texture mods that total larger than 4GB in texture size to test out Vega's HBCC IP.

Some websites need to purchase these NUC SKUs outright for testing outside of any review manual NUC(loaner sample)restrictions for testing the Vega graphics, including the HBCC/HBC(HBM2) IP, on Vega.

Why is there only PPC(Pixel per clock information on some websites) and no ROP counts to be found for this Intel/Vega SKU. I'm seeing shader counts and TMU counts from some January 2018 articles but really WTF is up with the usual GPU specifications on these MCM based Radeon Vega semi-custom SKUs!

What does GPUz say about Shaders/TMUs/ROPs and let's look at Shader to TMU ratios and Shader to ROP ratios on these Intel/Vega SKUs with Vega/MCM graphics and how that compares with Vega 56's and Vega 64's Shader to TMU and Shader to ROP ratios.

The JEDEC HBM2 standars also has a 64 bit psudeo channel mode where each of the 8, 128 bit HBM2 channels is split into 2 64 bit psudeo channels are any GPU makers taking advantage of that part of the JEDEC HBM2 standard currently in their GPU's drivers or the GPU's memory controller.

March 29, 2018 | 06:41 PM - Posted by willmore

Do the physics and graphics test run at the same time? I ask because I'm curious to see what they've done to address the package having to deal with the combined CPU+GPU thermals.

When you have time could you do something to evaluate that possible issue? Maybe test with some games known for use a lot of CPU? Thank you!

April 1, 2018 | 02:56 AM - Posted by Annie Moose (not verified)

Neat.
I winced at the price at first, but seeing the ample connectivity and performance, I guess the price is reasonable.
Why do you make no mention of temperatures and sound levels though? Dissipating 140W at that size has to be challenging.

April 1, 2018 | 11:28 AM - Posted by Annie Moose (not verified)

Haha, having read Notebookcheck's review, I have to say, you should have really clarified just how large the power brick is.
When form factor is half the selling point, a power brick that's as large as the device it powers is noteworthy.

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