Hades Canyon NUC Review (NUC8i7HVK)

Overview

While the NUC range of mini PCs has been a very successful one for Intel there’s an area that has been closed off for these miniature computers – and that’s gaming. Intel tried to build a gaming NUC already two years ago with the Skull Canyon NUC but even if it was the most powerful NUC at the time the gaming performance just was not there. You had to reduce detail level or resolution to make most of the modern games playable. The new Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK is here to change all that. Intel really dropped the bomb back in 2017 when the news of an Intel SoC with a built-in AMD Radeon Vega GPU came out. Many have dubbed this as “the Unholy Alliance.”

The Hades Canyon NUC comes in two varieties: the lesser NUC8i7HNK with a 65-watt CPU and the more powerful NUC8i7HVK with a 100-watt CPU that we’re reviewing here.

8th Gen Intel Core processor with Radeon RX Vega M Graphics.

Make no mistake of it, the NUC8i7HVK is a premium item that contains a powerful quad-core hyperthreading CPU, but what’s really different about is that same chip also contains an AMD Radeon GPU and a dedicated, directly attached to some 4 GB of 2nd Gen High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2). The Radeon Vega GPU contains 24 compute units and runs at 1190 MHz while providing 3.65 teraflops of computing power. These are just numbers but let me just say that this NUC is fast like no NUC ever before.

Specifications

  • Intel Core i7-8809G CPU (Kaby Lake-G), quad-core with hyperthreading, up to 4.20 GHz, 100W TDP
  • Radeon RX Vega M GH GPU, 24 CUs, 4 GB HBM2 memory, up to 1190 MHz
  • RAM: 2x DDR4-2400 SO-DIMM, 1.2 volt, 32 GB max., up to 3200 MHz supported
  • SSD: 2x 22×80 (22×42 also supported) M.2 SSD slots for SATA or NVMe SSD
  • Front and rear HDMI 2.0a ports
  • 2 rear Mini DisplayPort 1.2 ports
  • 2 rear Thunderbolt 3 ports (40 Gpbs)
  • USB 3.1 Gen2 (10 Gbps) Type-C port (front)
  • 1 USB 3.1 port in front
  • 5 USB 3.0 ports (1 front, 4 rear)
  • 2 Intel gigabit Ethernet ports (i219-LM and i210-AT)
  • Intel Wireless-AC 8265 WiFi adapter with Bluetooth 4.2
  • 3.5 mm front audio jack, 3.5 mm rear audio connector with TOSLINK optical audio out
  • Consumer infrared receiver
  • Quad microphone array
  • SDXC card reader
  • Dimensions: 221 mm x 142 mm x 39 mm (8.7″ x 5.6″ x 1.5″)
  • 230W power adapter

Full technical product specifications are available as PDF.

Unboxing and Assembly

As is the norm for the NUCs the Hades Canyon NUC is being sold as a barebones unit. This means there’s no operating system, memory or an SSD drive installed. You’ll need to buy them separately and install yourself or buy from a vendor that does it for you. It’s not that difficult to install the components yourself though. Check out our short video below to see what’s involved in the operation. You will need to bring DDR4 SODIMM memory modules or actually ideally two of them for multichannel operation. Unlike many of the previous NUCs the GPU here has its own 4 GB HBM2 memory so the GPU performance is not improved by usage of faster RAM. You’ve also got two M.2 slots for NVME or SATA SSD drives.

That power brick is almost as big as the unit itself.

In addition to the NUC itself, inside the box you’ll find a rather large power brick, a power cable, a VESA mounting plate, some screws for the VESA mount, an Allen key for opening the screws, quick start brochures and advertisement material as well as an Intel/Radeon sticker. It’s quite funny how carefully Intel has been avoiding any mention of AMD here. It’s just Radeon GPU in this NUC.

The connectivity on this NUC is nothing short of exhaustive. The front panel has a full-size SD card reader, one USB 3.1 port, one charging-capable USB 3.0 port, HDMI 2.0a connector, USB Type-C port and a line-out/headphone connector. In addition to these ports there’s also a quad microphone array and an infrared receiver.

The back panel is basically filled with connectors. There’s a line-out/SPDIF connector, 19.5V DC jack, two ThunderBolt 3 Type-C ports, two Mini DisplayPorts, two Gigabit Ethernet connectors, four USB 3.0 ports and a HDMI 2.0a connector.

Opening the NUC is a bit more work than usually. You’ll need to unscrew the 6 hexagonal screws with the supplied Allen key, carefully detach the LED unit cable, unscrew the normal Phillips screw and lift off the panel with the LED unit while carefully feeding the cable through its hole.

The two M.2 slots are on the left and the two DDR4 RAM slots are on the right. That’s basically all the user needs to know. There are no slots for 2.5 inch drives in this NUC.

And here it is with the SSD drive and the memory modules installed. Finally a video of the full assembly of the Hades Canyon NUC.

 



BIOS

The BIOS options on this NUC are comprehensive for a NUC. Which doesn’t mean that they’d be anything more than spartan for overclocking, but at least some possibility is provided. The thermal headroom offered in this tiny box is very limited though so don’t expect significant gains through overclocking.

Here’s a short video showing you the various pages inside the Visual BIOS.

 
However, one of the most common questions related to this NUC is regarding the big skull LED on the unit! And yes, it’s possible to turn off the skull “zone” and the eye “zone” in the BIOS. With the LEDs turned off the cover of the unit is just plain black – no skull visible.

26 Responses

  1. Peter says:

    Hello!

    Did you test it with a 4K/HDR/10bit video with an usually used local video player like DS Player or MPCHC+MadVR or PowerDVD?

    I’ve read elsewhere, that it has troubles with HDR video passthrough (matter of the IGP maybe).

  2. Any update on the release of the new NUC8 with i3?

  3. Jacob says:

    Can you please measure noise and power consumption during gaming?

    • Olli says:

      It’s a bit difficult to take any generic gaming measurements as different games stress the GPU and the CPU in so different ways and even different scenes in games cause different load. Thus the fan speeds up and down during the gameplay. Expect something between the “Prime95 only” and “Prime95 + 3DMark” during gaming.

  4. Mark Ernst says:

    It seems like your benchmarks are a bit off comparing to mine. I’ve not done the wattage readings for Prime but I’ve measured x264 and x265 playback on FHD in VLC, Netflix and Kodi, and my readings are off (to the lower side) by at least 3 watts, even on idle without powering on to S3 or S4 state I’m reading about 1 to 2 watts instead of 5. Did you upgrade your bios before benching?

    • Olli says:

      It’s very much possible that my meter is off. It’s by no means industrial grade – it’s a consumer grade power meter sold with a price tag of approx. €20. I was using BIOS version 0037.

  5. Waldek says:

    Thanks for the review !
    Has anybody seen a good comparison between the NUC8i7HVK and NUC8i7HNK, i.e. 100W vs 65W models, esp. regarding noise ? My use-case is homelab servers (Vmware/Hyper-V) for education purposes, so not so much interested in the added CUs of the more powerful model, but thermals and noise very important…

  6. Huang says:

    I only care about bean Canyon

  7. Cristian says:

    The nuc’s capabilities with 4K/HDR/10bit video through MPCHC+MadVR, like Peter suggested, is interesting and greatly appreciated to know the results from.

  8. hello what type of memory card have you used on your nuc

  9. Keith Walker says:

    A big +1 for Skull Canyon is that my Linux install was seemless (due in part to lack of GPU), disappointing but not surprised that Hades Canyon video drivers are not ready. This is the achilles heel of Linux- awful video driver support

  10. Andrew S says:

    Beautiful NUC but appears almost impossible to run ESXi on it.

    • ZophiasDad says:

      This seems to be addressed in the latest BIOS update HN0051.bio I have this NUC and have considered downgrading my BIOS to v HN0034 because I think in v 37 they removed Legacy Boot from the BIOS. I was having some issues with my USB 3 ports and support had me flash the BIOS to I think it was v50 and none of my pen drives with Linux installers (brand of pen drive did not matter and they all worked in my Dell Precision M6800 laptop) were even recognized as being plugged in but they were before updating my BIOS.
      info from HN0051 BIOS https://downloadmirror.intel.com/28287/eng/HN_0051_ReleaseNotes2.pdf

      New Fixes/Features:
      •Fixed the issue where an error would occur when installing VMware* ESXi versions 6.5 and 6.7.
      •Fixed the issue that the Intel NUC NUC8i7HNK wouldn’t allow some Linux distributions to install with Secure
      Boot turned off.
      •Fixed the issue where Windows* Task Manager wouldn’t show memory speed correctly

  11. Ben Sanford says:

    I’m trying to see how this model compares with the somewhat similar NUC8i7BEH

    • Mark Ernst says:

      Back with some more crappy news. The LEDs are working fine but they have frozen in mode. No breathing, no config is being load, nothin’. Already picked it up with Intel Support but as of yet I’ve yet to find a solid solution. Performance is solid, nothing wrong there.

      So, for anyone willing to buy this product partially because of the LEDs, don’t bother.

    • nucblognet says:

      NUC8i7BEH is much cheaper, different form factor, about equally performing CPU and much worse GPU. Read my review of NUC8i7BEH from yesterday for benchmarks comparing the two ..

  12. Tigerman82 says:

    Out of curiosity and because I’ve ordered this PC (HVK), why do you recommend the HyperX DDR4-3200 RAM if the results seem to indicate that the difference between it and DDR4-2400 is almost non-existent? I’m only asking because (looking at best EU Amazon deals) the best price on regular Crucial 2x8GB DDR4-2400 (seems to be a popular and cheap choice for this PC in EU) is around €50 cheaper than the best price of HyperX DDR4-3200. So there is a significant price difference. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to get everything out of this PC (productivity+light 1440p gaming), but all the online tests and advice seem to indicate that the performance difference between value RAM running at motherboard’s stock speed and performance RAM running at highest supported speed is minimal.

    • nucblognet says:

      Hi there! In my testing the DDR4-3200 was -0.7% to 2.7% faster than DDR4-2400. I’d say it doesn’t make a difference – if you’ve got a good offer for one or the other, go for that.

      • Tigerman82 says:

        Thanks for the reply. Decided HyperX isn’t worth it (price difference to value RAM too big). However, G.Skill RAM is more competitively priced so might go for G.Skill DDR4-3000 instead of Crucial value RAM.

  13. JohnOrion says:

    Recently got this PC and have come to love it. I’m impressed with how quiet it can be as it is virtually silent after I disabled Turbo Boost and set Fan Control Mode to ‘Quiet’. However, while I mostly do productivity stuff that doesn’t push the Hades Canyon that much, I do occasionally game a little bit. Is it safe to use ‘Quiet’ mode (set at 75 degrees, I believe) instead of the default ‘Balanced’ mode (55 degrees)? I’m thinking long-term here and do not want to cause damage to the hardware.

    I’ve checked HWMonitor a few times right after a gaming session and the highest temp I’ve seen the Hades Canyon hit on ‘Quiet’ is 86 degrees. When gaming, I can faintly hear the blowers but it’s still a lot quieter than, say, a PS4. I’d certainly like to continue using ‘Quiet’ but am unsure if it’s safe in the long run. Thoughts?

  14. Ted says:

    I really wish I could find power consumption stats on the NUC8i7HNK version somewhere, but unfortunately every single reviewer went for the high-end unit. 🙁

    • Ted says:

      I’m in a power-constrained situation, off-grid on solar, so a sane NUC power consumption is critical. Despite the NUC8i7HVK’s watt requirements being so ridiculous for a supposedly 100W TDP CPU/GPU package, I decided to give the 65W TDP NUC8i7HNK a chance.

      Fortunately I can report that its power consumption, with a 15.6″ 4K monitor, is right in line with the 4K XPS 15 and x360 15 2-in-1 laptops with the same chipset. e.g. — 80W-90W under gaming load (Skyrim 1080p, High). I can live with that. 🙂

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