Hades Canyon NUC Review (NUC8i7HVK)

Fan noise, Power consumption, Conclusions

In the final part of the Hades Canyon NUC review we look at Linux and HTPC credentials of the thing and take a few measurements before concluding the review.

Linux

Installing Linux didn’t prove to be easy. It seems none of the Linux distributions actually have the drivers for the AMD Vega GPU included out of the box. As Michael Larabel here and here on Phoronix explains, the support for Vega M is coming only in kernel 4.18, which is expected to land some time in September. If you’re able and willing to tinker a bit, all bits and pieces do actually exist and getting it running is possible.

EDIT: If you’re interested in running Linux on this, keep following this Reddit thread.

EDIT2: Apparently Ubuntu 18.10 works fine on the NUC without any additional sorcery.




HTPC

Well, if you wanted a pretty expensive but small HTPC I guess you could use the Hades Canyon NUC for one. The GPU does hardware decode all the usual formats.

It’s interesting that if you install the drivers for the inbuilt Intel HD Graphics 630 GPU you can actually see what it could do. However, there’s no way to actually use that GPU since no outputs are actually physically connected to the GPU. It’s basically sitting there without much purpose.

The unit remains quite quiet during video playback as the CPU isn’t getting seeing stress. Your media PC would need to be Windows 10 based though as the Linux support just isn’t quite there yet. I got a very experimental LibreELEC build from a keen developer and it actually was able to do most of the things that you’d want. However, I reckon the stability wasn’t there yet. In a way this was interesting though, because it proves that Linux in general works on this NUC. If you’re interested, here’s my dmesg printout.

Does it do HDR?

The HDR support has been a bit flakey (read: missing) in many NUCs lately. This one does support HDR just fine though. You can set HDR on in the Windows display properties and the TV does detect HDR as expected. For example, the Far Cry 5 game I tested did have HDR mode as well, which looked pretty sweet. Also, HDR videos from YouTube did work just fine.




Noise Levels

Keeping a hot Core i7 CPU cool in a tiny enclosure is a difficult task and Intel has not always seen stellar success in that. In order for this NUC to be classified as success Intel had to succeed keeping the Hades Canyon NUC cool without spinning up the fan too much. The cooling solution has been much reworked when compared to any previous NUC and I’d go as far as saying that Intel succeeded pretty well.

The unit increases the fan speed gradually as the temperatures grow and the unit does become clearly audible and even somewhat noisy. This mainly happens when both the GPU and the CPU is stressed simultaneously. However, the noise profile is more pleasant than that of the smaller NUCs. In desktop use the unit is next to silent. When gaming it’s not silent by any means, but keep in mind that this is a 100W TDP CPU and that enclosure is tiny. There’s really nothing as powerful as this in this small enclosure (1.2 liters). I’m not saying it’s horribly noisy but just don’t expect it to be silent under heavier loads.

Taking some measurements with my el cheapo UNI-T UT353 sound meter provided some tangible results. All my testing is done at my home with ventilation turned off. I’m pretty sure that my completely unscientific approach is quite laughable for the people who actually do this kind of thing for living. I’m also pretty sure that the numbers produced are not comparable with numbers produced by someone else in their tests. I’ve measured from the front of the NUC with the microphone of the meter 50 cm away from the front panel.

Task Power
Power off (noise floor) 32.8 dB
Windows 10, idle on desktop 33.5 dB
Prime95 running stress test on all cores 38.3 dB
Prime95 + 3DMark Fire Strike looping 43.3 dB

During the last test the CPU reached temperature of 99 degrees Celsius and the GPU 71 degrees Celsius.

However, at certain times there was an annoying resonating, even a bit rattling noise from the fans which appeared and disappeared with changes in the fan speed. I don’t know if this is a defect in my unit, but discussions on the Intel’s own NUC community discussion forums indicate that the problem is more widespread.

Power Consumption

Some power consumption figures for you still! The following figures were measured using a Brennenstuhl EM240 watt meter.

Task Power
Power supply disconnected from NUC 4.3 W
NUC powered off 4.7 W
Windows 10, idle on desktop 20.3 W
Playing a YouTube video in a browser 33.4W
Prime95 running stress test on all cores 99.8 W
Prime95 + 3DMark Fire Strike looping 189.3 W

The standby current is a bit disappointing, reaching almost 5 watts. Under heavy load the thing seems to draw almost as much power as the power brick can supply (230 watts).

Conclusion

This is the serious gaming NUC that some have been expecting. The amount of sheer power that this VHS cassette size unit packs is quite a feat. The fan control has been implemented well and the unit doesn’t get too noisy most of the times. The connectivity is ridiculously good even if you don’t consider the size of the thing. You’ve got USB 3.1, type-C, Mini DisplayPorts, HDMI 2.0a, etc. It should be rather future proof when it comes to connectivity.

Based on the benchmark results it beats anything with a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, but loses out to the better equipped gaming rigs. It’s not a solution for the ultimate gamer hunting for the highest possible FPS, but it does have respectable gaming performance. And unlike the desktop PC with your liquid cooling system and GTX 1070 Ti GPU you could actually slip this into the pocket of your cargo shorts.

It’s certainly an expensive piece of hardware and you’ll still need to bring your own RAM and SSD. This ends up bumping the price well past $1300 in most cases. It’s a well finished unit though and compared to the Skull Canyon NUC a couple of years ago this feels like much more serious, thought out product.

Running Linux is still very challenging but this will change during this year.

Whether you want the most powerful mini computer there is for gaming or as a generic desktop replacement for serious content creation I think this NUC will make many users happy. It’ll be interesting to see if the future will bring us more Intel/AMD SoCs.

Recommended Setup

I’d recommend you pair this NUC with 16 gigabytes of DDR4-3200 RAM even if lower speed RAM will do almost equally well. Price difference isn’t that big anyway. If you need more disk space than the 500 GB SSD recommended below you could always buy another, maybe lower performance M.2 SATA SSD for the second M.2 slot and use that as a storage drive.

If you’d like to have your NUC equipped with something else go visit the NUC Guru to build your own Hades Canyon NUC.

Product US UK DE FR
Intel Hades Canyon i7 NUC NUC8i7HVK $1,049.00 £999.99 EUR 931,90 EUR 978,00
Kingston HyperX 2x8GB DDR4-3200 RAM (16GB) $54.39 x2 £58.26 x2 EUR 51,99 x2 EUR 72,78 x2
Samsung 970 EVO M.2 500GB NVME SSD drive $79.99 - EUR 94,90 EUR 109,79
Check out the total price of the whole setup on Amazon.com!

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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