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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  • skavi - Sunday, January 7, 2018 - link

    Damn, that's a lot of IO. Also, I'm dumb. What does one do with two LAN ports?
  • DanNeely - Sunday, January 7, 2018 - link

    Either teaming the connections with a higher end router for 2gb total bandwidth instead of just 1 (only makes sense if you've got a second device with teamed networking or the router has at least 1 2.5/5/10g port active; or as a DIY firewall/router (with a downstream switch)/etc. The latter doesn't need a big GPU though.
  • theopensauce - Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - link

    It also could be used for fault tolerance or a NAS system. We really need 10Gb LAN fast. 1Gb is just too slow for modern hard drives, and with NVMe drives we should just ship 10Gb and move straight to 100Gb. Also remember LAN ports are in bits not bytes. So 1Gb/s LAN is only 125MB/s. 10Gb/s is 1.25GB/s. The current fastest NVMe drive is the Samsung 960 Pro which is 2.1GB/s per second on a single drive, and this supports 2 NVMe drives in RAID 0. Which after accounting for overhead is theoretically 3.78GB/s writes and 3.5GB/s read speeds in single drive and 5.6GB/s in RAID 0. There are other limiting factors too complex to get into with actual speeds. But this is just current technology. And with only a single drive and the 2.1GB/s writes, a gigabit connection only supports 1/17th of this single hard drives write capacity and 1/28th of its read capacity. We need to start getting future proofed. Fiber optic cables are likely the next step.
  • redavni0 - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    The simplest reason is access to two networks. I used to buy extra IP addresses from my ISP, and just network my home pc's with switches. No router needed.

    A more realistic reason would be a dedicated VOIP network delivered over Ethernet where packet loss needs to be zero, and latency needs to be minimal.
  • euler007 - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Better to have an edge router taking care of the virtual ip adresses, and your VOIP use case makes no sense. Small businesses can have hosted VOIP and large businesses would have dedicated Cisco/Avaya/etc hardware interacting with the IP phones and soft clients, this machine would fit nowhere in the infrastructure. Best justification to have a 2nd port is redundancy for future failures.
  • cheese23 - Thursday, January 11, 2018 - link

    You're right that a business isn't likely to use a NUC in their networking infrastructure, but I like a 2nd Ethernet port because it gives me the option to run the machine as a home router when I'm done using it as a desktop. Also, I like to play around with networking. The second Eth port enables me to do all kinds of fun stuff. I think there is a lot of value in that. Though it's probably not for everyone, I mostly made this comment because I want companies to continue to provide a 2nd Ethernet port.
  • forgerone - Thursday, February 8, 2018 - link

    I wonder how it would work as a mining rig? Buy a stack and build a mining cluster.
  • theopensauce - Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - link

    LOL! This would be an awful mining rig. You really should do some research before you blow a ton of money like that on something that will cost you money instead of making you money. If you do not do your research you will loose your house, truck, shirt, pants and dog before you know it. If you already have one of these for another use yeah go ahead and make $10-20 a month on it. But at $999 before hard drive and memory, it is a very bad investment for mining. With large operations and the huge climb in GPU costs, unless you have 1m plus to invest, mining is not going to get you a decent return any more. You are better off investing your money with a reputable stock trader. Hell you are better off hunting for scrap metal.
  • cheese23 - Thursday, January 11, 2018 - link

    A second LAN port, lets you use this as a media server. The GPU can encode video and stream it to many clients in a home without having to worry about overwhelming one LAN port (like if many people were streaming 4k video or something).

    This media server use case is just one of many others that a second LAN port enables. I buy computers with a second LAN port, so I have the option to use the machine as a router (when it's no longer fast enough to be a desktop). Also if you run out of ports on a switch, you can plug in another device to the second LAN port and share its connection (if you know how to config your OS)

    Having more than one LAN port is fantastic! Thought it's something that power users tend to appreciate. And even power users only come around to enjoying it after they've had a computer with two LAN ports.
  • hubick - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    Use it to build a little Linux/BSD based router! :-)

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