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Intel Hades Canyon NUC (NUC8i7HVK) review

Intel's Hades Canyon is more than just a simple successor to its predecessor Skull Canyon, an extreme version of Intel's Next Unit of Computing (NUC). When Skull Canyon hit the market in 2016, it bucked the mini-PC trend of modest specifications for general-purpose computer applications and instead offered the very latest hardware for its size: a 45W quad-core processor, integrated graphics for 1080p Gaming and a connection the supported external graphics. At the time, this ultra compact mini PC was unrivaled.

The Hades Canyon NUC brings its own first: a single Intel-produced chip (code-named Kaby Lake-G), an Intel Mobile CPU with an AMD Radeon RX Vega M mobile GPU. It's silicon that can do heavy jobs without much 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 Gorge]

Price, Specs. And Harbors

Hades Gorge comes in two configurations – one marketed as an overclockable gaming device (the NUC8i7HVK), and the other as a content creation system (the NUC8i7HNK). We've got the game version for review, which is the higher-end option and costs $ 1,000 for the bare-pack kit.

Adding memory, memory and operating system increases the price by at least a few hundred dollars. in the face of today's inflated prices for SSDs and RAM. Our review unit, equipped with a 118 GB Intel Optane 800P SSD, 512 GB Intel 545s SSD, 16 GB Kingston HyperX DDR4 / 3200 RAM and a Windows 10 Pro license, would bring us back nearly $ 1,550

each Configuration is equipped with a different combination of Intel processor and AMD GPU. (For a thorough review of Kaby Lake-G, you can read our primer following the CES announcement of the chips.) Inside the NUC8i7HVK is the 100W Core i7-8809G, which has a quad-core, 8- Thread Mobile CPU houses and Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics.

  Interior shot of Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK Alaina Yee / IDG

To access this NUC, the top lid and a metal plate must be removed. Intel includes a hex wrench and top lid replacement screws, but you still need a Phillips screwdriver for the metal plate.

The processor complies with Intel's 45W H-Series mobile CPUs (complete with active integrated graphics that can handle video playback and other basic tasks), although its performance requirements vary slightly. The actual power consumed depends on the CPU and GPU load, as Intel has designed the package with a common power budget and uses dynamic tuning to allow each component to reach its maximum boost. As already mentioned, it is overclockable, with a basic setting of 3.1GHz base clock and 4.2GHz Turbo. Intel says it got up to 4.7 GHz when overclocking.

Over eight PCIe lanes, the Vega M GH is connected to the processor, which runs at 1063 MHz base clock and 1,190 MHz boost clock. The GH version of Vega M comes with 24 processing units and 4 GB HBM2 memory and a slightly faster memory bandwidth of 204.8 GB per second. It also supports the simultaneous output of six 4K displays with up to five at 60 Hz and the sixth at 30 Hz. Like the CPU, you can also overclock the Vega M GH and HBM2 memory.

Support for this CPU-GPU pairing is a whole host of powerhouse technologies. Two M.2 slots can accept SATA 6Gbps or x4 PCIe Gen 3 (AHCI or NVMe) 42mm or 80mm drives with the option to run two drives in RAID 0 or RAID 1. An Intel Wireless AC 8265 card has both 802.11ac 2×2 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. Two SO-DIMM sockets accept up to 32 GB DDR4 / 2.400MHz RAM at 1.2 V and support overclocked DDR4 RAM. There's even a beam-forming, far-field, quad mic array included this time around.

  Hades Canyon NUC - Front View Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

For ports of call, Intel crams more of them into Hades Gorge. Since this NUC is larger than the Skull Canyon – at a size of 8.7 x 5.59 x 1.54 inches (1.2 l) it is about the size of a VHS cassette – you get a multiple of almost everything. On the front panel you will find an SDXC slot, a USB 3.0 charging port, USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type A, HDMI 2.0a, USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type C and a 3.5 -mm stereo headset jack [19659002] On the back there is a 3.5 mm speaker / TOSLINK jack, the connection for the 230 W power supply, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two Mini DisplayPort 1.2, two Gigabit Ethernet, four USB 3.0 Type A and HDMI 2.0a. The two Thunderbolt 3 ports each support 4 PCIe lanes, but are connected to the same controller. Therefore, the bandwidth can be shared if both ports are running simultaneously with an x4 configuration. Like the Skull Canyon NUC, you can run external graphics over the Thunderbolt 3 ports.

  Hades Canyon NUC - Rear View Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

You can expand the number of USB ports if you have the I / O header, the signals for two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, CEC and the front panel transfers.

The chassis again has a replaceable top cover, though this time equipped with customizable RGB LED lights illuminate the shape of a skull. The default setting is a red-blue color scheme, but it can easily be changed to different shades and different patterns using the supplied software. You also have the option to change the color of the status LEDs on the front, which are also RGB.

  Hades Canyon NUC - LED view completely plugged in Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

Our review sample did not work There is no replacement cover, but if you do not like the skull, you can just turn off the light. The box came with a hex wrench, some spare screws and a VESA mounting plate.


By and large, the Intel AMD combination of the NUC8i7HVK provides a solid experience. First, let's look at the game performance.

3DMark Fire Strike

We begin with the 3DMark Fire Strike test, a synthetic benchmark that simulates games at 1080p on media settings. Since we first saw the Radeon RX Vega M in the wild, I decided to isolate only the graphics score to see where it ranks among other mobile GPUs. In this way, the potential influence of the CPU on the ranking is minimized.

  hades canyon 3dmark fire strike graphics benchmark result PCWorld

As you can see, the performance is roughly between that of an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti and an Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q. That's where I've estimated, especially considering the pretty notable jump in performance between a 1050 Ti and a full 1060. The Vega M GH seems closer to the 1060 Max-Q (which is a stepped version of the 1060) than closer to come to the 1050 Ti however.

Note: As you may have already discovered, all of the comparator systems in these charts are laptops – where most of our tests are on handsets. It is not a perfect apple-apple comparison, bearing in mind that laptops have a different cooling requirement than mini-PCs, but still provide adequate representation of standing.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

  hades canyon Rise in the Tomb Raider Benchmark Results PCWorld

In current games, the NUC8i7HVK largely maintains this position among systems equipped with the GTX 1060 Max-Q. In Rise of the Tomb Raider a semi-new blockbuster game that can push budget-class GPUs, we've averaged 51 fps in the Very High preset.

That should be smooth enough for many people, but if not, the problem can be easily solved in one of two ways. The more exciting option: connect the NUC8i7HVK to a FreeSync monitor. Like other AMD GPUs, the Vega M GH supports these displays with variable resolution. (It also supports features like Radeon Chill.) You can also reduce the graphics setting to high, which increases the frame rate to about 63 fps.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War and PUBG

But what about today's games? To answer this question, I lit FRAPS in two timely games: Last Fall Middle-earth: Shadow of War and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds .

  hades canyon current game perf PCWorld

I was unable to benchmark the same games in the time available on other systems we had in the office. However, these stand-alone results show that this version of Hades Canyon can compete in modern games. Note that the [PUBG experience may not be quite as good in hairy, insane moments: As a complete freshman, I ended up mostly on hiking maps at the empty outer edges of these solo matches.

Remember that FreeSync is an option. As the NUC8i7HVK gets older, FreeSync will be the cheaper option to keep games smooth. (You can also set up an external graphics card, but that would require a lot more money than the 100 to 150 euros you would spend today on a 24-inch FreeSync entry-level monitor.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Tomb Raider

  Hades Gorge Shadow of Mordor Benchmark Results PCWorld

As you might expect at the time, the NUC8i7HVK willingly handles older AAA games. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor kept it at 64 fps on the Ultra preset (and with the 4K texture package in use) It was about as good in 2013 Tomb Raider If you have a backlog of games, you should not threaten this tiny pc.

  hades canyon grab raider benchmark scores PCWorld

(By the way, if you to ask yourself, wa rum the Tomb Raider Result closer to the GTX 1050 Ti performance instead of the GTX 1060 Max-Q: My guess is that it's the bigger role of CPU performance on Tomb Raider Shared power management between the CPU and GPU components of the Core i7-8809G, CPU performance is so severely throttled that it affects this game.)

  Cinebench </h4>
<figure class=  hades canyon cinebench Benchmark Results PCWorld

Turning our review on pure CPU performance shows no surprises. To see how the processor copes with short bursts, we ran Maxon's Cinebench rendering benchmark.

Most 3D scenes are created by most systems in just minutes. The eighth-generation processor in the Core i7-8809G has worked exactly as we expected: with its healthy clock frequency compared to the Kaby Lake Core H-Series 7th generation, it comes to the socket CPUs of older, more compact desktop PCs closer. Everyday tasks should not be sweating at this NUC.


  Hades Canyon Handbrake Benchmark Results PCWorld

Because Intel calls the lower variant of Hades Canyon a content-creation machine, we also rely on HandBrake, a popular encoding program, to heart this NUC and to check kidneys. In our real test, a 30 GB MKV file with the Android tablet preset is converted to a smaller MP4 format and pounded on a CPU. Systems that have poor or limited cooling take a long time to complete the benchmark, while PCs with stronger CPUs and better cooling slip through them.

As in the Cinebench, the Core i7-8809G is on the track 91W parts. Specifically, this means that this portable PC can handle approximately the same time as a two-year full-size system with compute-intensive tasks.

To see how the i7-8809G handles thermal at full CPU load, I ran Handbrake separately with Intel's Extreme Tuning Utility in the background. According to XTU's monitoring tools, the CPU reached a maximum of 84 degrees Celsius and raced all the time with absolutely stable 3.9 GHz (only 0.3 GHz below the maximum turbo speed).

Power Consumption and Acoustics

During the test, I recorded the various maximum current consumption values ​​with a Watts Up Pro. At idle, the average value of the NUC8i7HVK was about 13.8 watts. That's just a hair under Skull Canyon averaging about 14.6W at idle.

Power consumption was highest at certain games (174.7W in Rise of the Tomb Raider ), followed by 165.9W for a pure GPU load simulated by running Furmark for one hour and 115.0W for a pure CPU load, simulated by one-hour Prime95 launch

As far as acoustics are concerned, the NUC8i7HVK was impressively quiet in our temperature-controlled office. This was especially the case with pure CPU loads – I hardly heard the fans during our handbrake benchmark. Fan noise only became audible when the GPU was active, and even then it was a rather gentle hum.

Final Thoughts

The NUC8i7HVK can do much more than I originally tested. Intel also calls this machine overclocking gaming and virtual reality machine. One idea that got around was rolling your own VR backpack system: pair it with a battery and your favorite VR headset, and off you go. I would have loved to see what we drew in the silicone lottery, and how easily I could plunge into virtual 3D worlds.

  Hades Canyon NUC - Top Comparison with Skull Canyon Adam Patrick Murray / IDG ” width=”700″ height=”467″ data-imageid=”100753521″ data-license=”IDG”/> 19659005] Hades Canyon (left), side by side with Skull Canyon (right).

That said, I still find the NUC8i7HVK a very solid PC – not just a mini PC – and I think that's more important than VR and overclocking in the evaluation. VR still has relatively little traction, and Intel warns that overclocking the Core i7-8809G due to its power design requires careful consideration and patience. Hades Canyon is already an extremely worthy successor to the Skull Canyon due to its performance and gives other mini-PCs a chance on their money.

What keeps the NUC8i7HVK from being a Grand Slam like its predecessor is the competition. While many who are interested in this NUC will do so because of their size, enough people will care more about the performance than the form factor and would be better served by another mini PC. In particular, Zotac blurs the line between mini-PCs and mini-ITX systems with its Magnus PCs equipped with the GTX 1060, GTX 1070 and GTX 1080. For those who are interested in the smallest available performance in the smallest possible form factor, they are more attractive options.

Hades Canyon is a powerful mini PC that offers other options. Keep in mind that it weighs less than three pounds less than some Ultrabooks – most people will not even notice it in a backpack. If you do not need the screen, mouse, and keyboard of a laptop, it's almost impossible to beat Hades Canyon as an on-the-go PC equipped with its Intel CPU and discrete AMD GPU.

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