Hades Canyon NUC Review (NUC8i7HVK)
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.