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
NUC8i7HVK NUC8i7HNK NUC7i7KYK
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
45W TDP
Graphics Radeon RX Vega M GH
24 CUs, 64 PPC
1063-1190MHz GPU, 800MHz Memory
4GB / 1024-bit HBM2
On-Package
Radeon RX Vega M GL
20 CUs, 32 PPC
931-1101MHz GPU, 700MHz Memory
4GB / 1024-bit HBM2
On-Package
Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580
On-Die
128MB eDRAM
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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  • edzieba - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Direct competition is the ASRock Deskmini series (using MXM modules). The Deskmini has a smaller footprint with a slightly larger overall volume, but with a custom case (e.g. initial design CustomMod Nano) it's actually smaller than the NUC. Similar pricing too for the Deskmini 1060 (a bit cheaper than the upper-end NUC) and can go up to a 1080 for a big chunk of change more. Reply
  • bill44 - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    MIA - Titan Ridge TB3 controller, USB 3.2.
    Shame about the PCIe lane allocation. M.2 and TB3 should be directly connected to the CPU PCI lanes.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Too early for USB 3.2 ; M.2 is off the PCH probably due to the need to support RAID configurations. There is no excuse for TB3 not being off the CPU's PCIe lanes. I have kept telling Intel that since they launched Skull Canyon.

    In fact, there is not a single motherboard / system out there with the TB3 controller hanging off the CPU's PCIe lanes. I am not sure why...
    Reply
  • cacnoff - Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - link

    You might have something there. If literally nobody has the TB3 pcie lanes coming from the CPU maybe it doesn't work right off the CPU, or maybe the guidance from the design guides is recommended from PCH? Reply
  • SagePath - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Hi guys I'm new to the tech world and there's something that has been bothering me for a while, usually when a motherboard has two nics it's Intel i219-LM and i210-AT, why are they offered in that combo? Is there a difference between the two nics and which is the better one for internet or file transfer, thanks. Reply
  • cacnoff - Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - link

    The i217, i218, and now i219 series of NICs come from a phy off the PCH. While the i210-AT comes from a discrete controller. The reason for this is that there is usually only one Ethernet PHY per chipset so you have to choose a different NIC for #2. Reply
  • Gc - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    "64 PPC" vs "32 PPC" sounds like a big difference... What is "PPC" ? Reply
  • Gc - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Found it in the launch article:
    pGPU Pixels per Clock
    Reply
  • jeeperz - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    Can I pay extra to not have the skull decal? Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, January 8, 2018 - link

    The lid is replaceable, and you get both with the purchase of the NUC. So, it is just a matter of taking the Skull lid out and putting the other one on. Reply

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