Intel Hades Canyon NUC 8 ReviewSeptember 28, 2020
With the Intel Hades Canyon NUC 8 (Next Level of Computing) you get a flexible and highly mobile mini-PC that you can plug anywhere! Plug it in at the office for work-related activities, or go over to your buddy’s house and plug your system in there for a gaming extravaganza. It’s also a great rig for a LAN party.
This system, is powered by a 4-core Intel processor plus, it features discrete AMD graphics. It may be smaller than a bread box at 1.2 liters, but make no mistake, this is the bread NOT the box. OK, let’s NUC it up!
Although it’s small in size, this system delivers the goods with an 8th generation Core i7 processor. Intel has a bunch of NUCs to choose from. At this point the later generation Quartz Canyon NUC 9 or NUC 9 Extreme version Ghost Canyon, offers various levels of performance with either a Core i3, all the way to the Core i9 processor.
Let’s not talk about the Frost Canyon NUC 10, which was just released on the heels of the NUC 9, we’ll get to that in another video. But, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, we’re still on Hades Canyon NUC 8.
NUC 8 Enthusiast v.s Business Version
The Hades Canyon NUC 8 is an upgrade to the Skull Canyon NUC, which did not support overclocking like this one. There are two performance levels for Hades Canyon: the Enthusiast version is targeted at gamers with a slightly more powerful processor and graphics, and the Business version, the one we have, features a scaled back i7 processor and detuned Radeon RX Vega M GL GPU. They both look the same.
What kind of performance are we talking about here? Intel says it’s the smallest (or at least was…) NUC capable of triple-A gaming and 360 Degree video editing. AAA gaming meaning the good games and 360-degree video editing for well-rounded editing credentials.
NUC 8 Exterior Features
Marketing lingo aside, this unit is small measuring only 8.7” x 5.59” x 1.3” or about the size of a hardcover book. That said, the power brick is a little less than the size of the actual NUC 8. But even with that small form factor they squeezed in a lot of ports for peripheral devices.
It even has an SD card reader, and you can even change the RGB setting on the skull graphics panel or turn the graphic off when you’re trying to look professional. The system can be VESA mounted to the back of a monitor or the wall or under your desk!
Front and Rear Ports
There are a lot of ports for connecting external devices. In fact, more than on some full-size tower platforms. Starting on the front there’s, a Power ON button, SDXC card reader, USB 3.1 Gen2 at 10 Gb/s, USB 3.1 Gen1 Charging Port, HDMI 2 port, USB-C 3.1 Gen2, and a HD Audio Port for Headphone/Mic. The infrared sensor next to the ON button allows you to configure the system for use as a home theatre with a remote control or wireless keyboard.
The back of the system features an HD audio port, power cable connection, 2x Thunderbolt ports, 2x Mini-Display Ports, 4x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, HDMI 2.0a port, and for network connections, two 1GbE ports.
The general consensus? This system does a very good job bordering on great when rendering games, but it’s not really designed for the hard-core gamer. For CAD and light 3D design, it will get the job done! If you want to see a serious gaming machine, check out this video with an AMD 3990x Threadripper processor, which is at the other end of the performance spectrum.
Ideal rendering and frame rates on the NUC are achieved with an HD 1080p monitor and can average around 50 to 60 frames per second on most of the high-end games, but performance may be impacted at the ultra-settings. That said, the flexibility to use it as a dual purpose, business and leisure platform is a definite plus.
The specs for both systems are very similar with an unlocked Intel Core i7 KABY-Lake processor with discrete AMD Graphics, but like I said a slightly less powerful CPU and GPU for the Business model.
It’s not like you can switch out the AMD RX Vega card. So, where it may be “Discrete” that card is not coming out. Maybe it’s discrete in that the Intel produced the CPU and AMD the GPU and they actually communicate with each other, which in itself is like trying to mix oil and water. Well done Intel! The AMD Vega GPU has 4GB of dedicated high-bandwidth memory for rendering complex graphics.
Of course, even the Intel chip has integrated HD graphics to run some of those display ports. Intel says the system will support up to 5x 4k Displays or one 5K display and that’s with our business-class system. We’ve seen wildly different values for monitor support on both systems with six and four respectively.
The GPU specifications indicate the best performance for gaming is at the HD values. The RX VEGA M GH on the Gaming version is fully unlocked with 1536 shaders, while the RX VeGA M GL has some of its features locked away and only supports 1280 shading units. The AMD Vega graphics card has been compared to the power of a Nvidia GTX 1060 Max Q (Laptops) on the enthusiast version and a GTX 1050 Ti for the business platform.
Given the Lilliputian size of this system it comes as no surprise there are two Small Outline, SO DIMM memory modules of the type usually found in a laptop. It can support up to 32GB using 16GB modules operating at up to 2400MHz.
NVMe v.s SATA3
There’s nothing you can add to this NUC 8 except the two memory modules and a maximum of two NVME M.2 sticks, which offer crazy fast data transfers. Of course, you can get by with just one of each, but the small form factor on the storage is what seals the deal for size. Without those M.2s they would be trying to cram a laptop SSD in there. If you do go with an entry-level system, make sure you get an M.2 NVME drive not the SATA3 if you want to take advantage of the full speed this board offers. The SATA M.2s are fast, but the NVMe ones blow their doors off.
This unit has excellent cooling with vents on the top, bottom and sides, and with all solid state components, although it may start whispering to you under heavy load from game related activities. The system also features Bluetooth, WiFi, and two Gigabit Ethernet ports presumably so you can upload your session to YouTube as you’re steaming your multiplayer game.
This little unit is pretty amazing and very flexible. You can definitely go places with this little unit for some remote computing during this COVID era. But, you still need a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Maybe some sound too.
From a business standpoint, working half the week at home and the other half at the office it would make sense. Also, if you have very limited space and need a small, but powerful mobile platform, this can definitely satisfy your more analytical side for business, and your gaming alter ego.
My manager decided he loved this system and it has been a challenge to get it back so I could do this review. He’s currently using it for some light Fortnite gaming and as a media server for the rest of the house with WiFi handled by a Ubiquity switch and Plex to distribute his media library throughout the house. I will add again that he really loves this little system.
If there’s something we missed, tell us in the comments section below! And in case you forgot, IT Creations carries all sorts of hardware for complex business solutions, PLUS platforms and components for midlevel to serious gaming. Check us out when you’re making your next purchase!