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