Intel Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK Evaluation

Intel Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK

"The Hades Canyon NUC is an unprecedented demonstration of pint-sized gaming performance."

  • Strong processor benchmarks

  • Outstanding game performance

  • Incredible connectivity

  • Remains cool and quiet under load

  • Not the best value

  • Hard disk, RAM and operating system are available separately

What if your gaming desktop didn't have to be big and loud? What if it was smaller than a tissue box and no louder than a laptop? And what if the same desktop could handle almost anything you throw at it, from surfing the web every day to editing video?

These are the questions that arise from Intel's latest Next Unit of Computing (NUC), better known by the code name "Hades Canyon". The way it responds is a big deal. NUC is not a mainstream brand for Intel, but the hardware in Hades Canyon is important. The processor is the Intel Core i7-8809G, which combines an Intel Core processor with the AMD Radeon RX Vega graphics.

It is an unholy and consistent alliance. Hades Canyon promises a performance that corresponds to a mid-range gaming desktop in a thin box, only 20 cm wide and less than 5 cm thick. Is this the beginning of a new era for energy efficient PC games, or is the NUC choking on its endeavors?

What about the NUC?

The first Next Unit of Computing (NUC) was developed by Intel six years ago to imagine what a simple desktop could look like. The small and box-shaped line is always a pioneer when it comes to top performance in pint-sized machines. If you haven't heard of it, don't be surprised. NUC's goal is not to compete with PC makers like Dell and HP. Instead, it is meant to inspire new, thinner, smaller designs and attract business customers who may want to bring hundreds of small, identical computers to the market.

Oh, and up to six displays can be processed at the same time. That's crazy.

Like its predecessors, the Hades Canyon NUC is not intended for the average Joe. It is not supplied with RAM or an installed hard disk. A Windows license is MIA. You have to buy and install it all yourself.

The lack of key hardware also means no bargain price. There are two versions of the Hades Canyon NUC. Our VR-enabled test unit with an unlocked GPU costs $ 1,000. A less powerful version with Intel Locked Core i7-8705G and a less powerful version of AMD's Radeon RX Vega is available for $ 800. The RAM, memory, and operating system you need to buy will raise the price by $ 300 to $ 500 depending on what you choose.

Small box with many connections

Although small by most standards, Hades Canyon is the largest NUC to date. With a width of almost 9 inches, a depth of about 5 inches and a height of 1.75 inches, it is quite a bit larger than Skull Canyon, Intel's first attempt to develop a gaming NUC. However, compared to a full desktop, Hades Canyon is tiny. The Alienware's Alpha R2 is almost as small at 8 inches on one side and two inches thick, but about 60 percent larger than the volume. This is a difference you will notice when you see them side by side.

The bulk that Hades Canyon adds to Skull Canyon goes to the cooling solution, which is much larger than before and now uses a steam chamber design comparable to that of the Razer Blade Pro laptop and Xbox One X.

Despite its size, the Hades Canyon NUC doesn't just want to be equivalent to a large tower desktop in terms of performance. It also brings an impressive range of connectivity. These include front and rear HDMI 2.0a ports, two mini DisplayPort, two Thunderbolt 3, two Gigabit Ethernet, USB-C 3.1 Gen2 on the front and a total of five USB 3.0 Type-A ports. There is an SDXC slot, stereo jacks, TOSLINK and even a far field microphone. But wait, it gets better! There is also a VESA mounting plate that allows you to attach the device to the back of a VESA compatible monitor or TV.

Oh, and up to six displays can be processed at the same time. That's crazy. Most tower PCs cannot.

The internals are just as impressive. After removing the lid, you can easily access two DDR4-2400 + slots that can hold up to 32 GB of memory. There are also two M.2 hard drive connectors that support NVMe, SATA3 and Optane storage from Intel. 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 are also available.

However, all of this is unimportant compared to Hades Canyon's main feature. A glowing skull on the lid. It lights up when turned on – the skull is outlined in blue while angry eyes glow red. It's a simple, effective touch that makes the NUC more than just another black box. Don't worry – you can turn off the skull if it annoys you.

A laptop CPU makes its best desktop impression

The Intel Core i7-8809G is a new chip, but the processor itself isn't the real story. This is a typical example of high-end mobile hardware from Intel with four cores, eight threads and a maximum boost clock rate of 4.2 GHz. The i7-8809G benefits from thermal design performance that goes far beyond what most laptops allow, which means that it doesn't have to throttle its performance as often as a laptop chip. That pays off in benchmarks.

Hades Canyon achieved a single-core score of 4,588 and a multi-core score of 16,176 in Geekbench 4. Laptops with 8th generation core processors and the Core i3-8100 quad-core on the XPS 8930 desktop from Dell exceed these figures. You will see better performance from a top-notch desktop like Origin & # 39; s Millennium, which scored 25,857 points in the multi-core test, but Hades Canyon doesn't disappoint. The performance is what we expect from desktop computers that sell for around $ 1,000 (but keep in mind that the hard drive and memory you need to purchase add to the cost of the NUC).

Our video coding test, in which a 4K trailer with handbrake is transcoded from h.264 to h.265, was also cheap for the NUC. It took two minutes and 47 minutes to complete the task. Even premium laptops like the Dell XPS 13 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga take four to five minutes.

Intel shipped our test device with a 120 GB Optane drive and a 512 GB solid-state drive. This is much faster storage, but as mentioned earlier, the NUC is not included. You have to buy storage separately. We expect most owners to purchase cheaper storage, such as WD's Blue 500GB M.2 drive.

Increase the integrated graphics bar

While the NUC's processor performance is excellent, the real story is what it is paired with. AMD Radeon RX Vega graphics. The specific configuration included in the Core i7-8809G is called the Radeon RX Vega M GH. It has 24 computing units, a base clock rate of 1,063 MHz and a maximum "dynamic" frequency of 1,190 MHz, all pairs with four gigabytes of HBM2 memory. The GPU alone can keep up with the performance of a PlayStation 4 Pro.

The Vega GPU fully supports DirectX 12, Vulkan and OpenGL 4.5 as well as 4K output at 60 Hz. In fact, you can power up to six displays at Hades Canyon – incredibly impressive for such a small rig.

All of this is controlled by a reskin of the AMD Radeon driver software. The color scheme changed from red to blue, and Intel was replaced with AMD logos. However, it looks just like most features, including Wattman for overclocking, chill for quieter use in less demanding scenarios, and FreeSync.

Using AMD drivers is reassuring because driver support has been a major problem for Intel graphics in the past. However, we are skeptical about future updates because Intel has not committed to a schedule. It is disappointing if the drivers are updated every few months or less.

We cannot say what the future holds, but we can tell you how the Hades Canyon is developing – and it is impressive.

Hades Canyon strongly entered the 3DMark test and scored 8,469 points in the Fire Strike test. This is almost exactly what we saw from the Inspiron 15 7577 gaming from Dell that we tested with the GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics from Nvidia. It is only slightly behind the HP Omen 15, which in turn had the GTX 1060 Max-Q.

The Dell XPS 8930, a tower desktop with a standard GTX 1060 card, performed significantly better at 9,767, but Hades Canyon is still in the same stadium. And the NUC easily beats the Acer Nitro 5 Spin, which scored 5,209 points with a GTX 1050 Ti.

We have seen similar results in games. Rocket League and Civilization VI were handled with ease; Even the latter achieved an average of 47 frames per second at 1440p and ultra detail settings. Battlefield 1 was on average better than 60 FPS at 1080p resolution and ultra detail. The game achieved an average of 49 FPS at 1440p resolution and ultra detail.

If you choose a resolution of 1080p, you can play breathtaking tracks with maximum detail

Deus Ex: As always, divided humanity was the real challenge. Nevertheless, the game achieved an average of 33 frames per second with a resolution of 1080p and ultra details. It also averaged 31.7 FPS at 1440p and high detail. The game is fun – if you give up the dream of 60 FPS gameplay or something nearby.

Aside from the benchmarks, we wanted to see what it was like in the real world – so we used it for a long weekend of games. Hades Canyon proved to be a capable game companion. This is not only because it is powerful, although the benchmarks show that it is a fast machine. The NUC also benefits from today's forgiving mainstream games.

Do you want to play The Witcher 3 or Final Fantasy XV when everything is turned up? This is not the machine for you. However, that's not what we usually do – we play Overwatch, Fortnite or Rocket League more often. Games like this run smoothly on Hades Canyon.

However, you can play breathtaking titles with high or even maximum details if you are satisfied with a resolution of 1080p and 30 to 45 frames per second. For this reason – and because you won't be able to update the GPU in the future – we think Hades Canyon is the best combination with a 1080p monitor with a high update.

Virtual reality

Gaming is ambition enough for a PC as small as Hades Canyon, but Intel hasn't stopped there. The company also says it can handle virtual reality. In fact, this seems to be half the reason for the incredible connectivity buffet. VR headsets require numerous USB and video connections.

Enjoying VR on such a small system may seem crazy, but there is logic behind it. Connecting a headset to a large desktop is quite difficult and annoying. This is double if the headset is ever moved between computers – as is common as it can be annoying when a VR headset is connected around the clock. Even better, a small PC opens up the possibility of pairing it with a battery and enjoying wireless VR.

However, the performance of the NUC lowers the minimum requirements for VR-Close. VRMark's simplest test, Orange, got a score of 2,583. The benchmark notes that the score is not enough to promise a smooth VR experience, as frame rates often drop below 60 frames per second, regardless of the 90 FPS, which is preferable.

Our limited experience has shown that success depends on what you try. Star Trek: Bridge Crew wasn't a problem on the Vive, but you can't use the Vive Pro smoothly. Ultimately, the VR verdict is similar to the system's gaming performance – it's more than enough for many titles, but it won't handle the latest VR experiences when all settings are exposed.

Our opinion

The Intel Hades Canyon NUC is early and definitive evidence that the company's partnership with AMD will be fruitful. We are amazed that such a small system processes all titles in our test suite with 1080p and maximum detail. The pricing and niche audience of the NUC are the only obstacles. $ 1,000 is a lot for a PC without a hard drive, RAM, or operating system, no matter how impressive the other hardware is.

Is there a better alternative?

The Alienware Alpha R2 was the gold standard in this segment, but a lack of updated hardware means that it still only offers a sixth-generation Intel Core processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics.

Other options are the MSI Trident 3 and the Magnus line from Zotac – but these systems are also one or two generations behind the Hades Canyon NUC. Competitors are cheaper, but none offer as much performance per cubic inch.

How long it will take?

Intel supplies Hades Canyon with a three-year warranty. This is unusual for a desktop. We believe that it will be difficult to stay relevant for longer than the game guarantee, as more demanding games will surely cross the system boundaries.

Should you buy it

Yes, if you are a hardware freak.

The Hades Canyon fills a wonderful niche. If you're ready to use a hard drive and RAM yourself, this NUC will prove to be an outstanding compact gaming PC. If you are not, don't worry. We are sure that the Core i7-8809G will appear in big brand rigs later this year.

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