Intel Hades Canyon NUC Review
Last Updated on October 1, 2021 by Daniel Osakwe
Mini PCs capable of gaming exist, but the majority of them are significantly compromised in terms of performance. One of the first machines to defy that trend is the Intel NUC8i7HVK (also known as the Intel Hades Canyon NUC or NUC Enthusiast 8).
It’s powered by Intel’s powerful Kaby Lake G hybrid processor and comes with a chassis that’s about the size of a book, so it’s as powerful as an entry-level gaming tower, even when compared to its price. Despite its impressive power and customizable RGB lighting, the Hades Canyon NUC is not cheap when you take into account the RAM, SSD, and operating system you’ll need for this bare-bones PC.
Intel Hades Canyon NUC: Design
Like previous NUCs designed for gaming, the new Hades Canyon model is a small, black brick that can easily be slipped into your bag or entertainment center.
It measures just 8.7 x 5.6 x 1.5 inches, making it bigger than the Kangaroo Plus Mobile Desktop (4.95 x 3.22 x 0.50 inches), but much thinner than the Alienware Alpha (7.9 x 7.9 x 2.2 inches). Unlike game consoles, it takes up a small amount of space on your desk.
You don’t see much of the Hades Canyon until you turn it on. Upon power-up, NUC produces a skull-shaped glow from its top panel. Using the LED Manager app, you can change the color of both the skull and eyes in addition to setting the lights to breathe slowly or pulsate quickly.
You can also customize the front-facing lights of your PC and assign specific colors to certain things, such as whether a plug is plugged in or whether the Ethernet cable is in place. Not interested in LEDs? No problem. Considering the size of the NUC, the RGB options are very robust, and it’s nice that the skull is LED-based rather than etched into the design as was the case on the Skull Canyon model.
Intel Hades Canyon NUC: Ports
Even though the Hades Canyon NUC is small, it is packed with ports. It also comes with a front-facing HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C port, a memory card slot, and a 3mm audio jack.
A small array of ports can be found at the back, including four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two Ethernet ports, and an optical audio jack.
Besides the mini DisplayPort 1.2 ports, there is also an HDMI port, so there is no shortage of options for connecting your monitor.
Intel Hades Canyon NUC: What’s included
As a bare-bones PC, you’ll get only the PC’s Intel Core i7-8009G/AMD Radeon RX Vega M GH hybrid chip out of the box. As for memory, storage, and operating systems, you are responsible for those.
The SSDs were supplied by Intel ($139 each), an Intel Optane SSD 800P ($115), two units of HyperX 8GB DDR4-3200 RAM ($94 each), and Windows 10 ($119). As you can imagine, prices will vary based on what parts you decide to put into your NUC, but a fully configured system for about $1,400 with those parts and a $999 system costs.
Intel Hades Canyon NUC: Gaming performance
In addition to its Radeon RX Vega M processor (also known as Kaby Lake G), the new Intel NUC combines a traditional Intel CPU with discrete AMD graphics in a single chip.
Despite being mobile-sized, this design is designed to provide PC-like performance for gaming, and our time with the NUC proves that it succeeds strongly on this front. Despite its small size, the NUC handled VR just as well as an entry-level gaming tower featuring the GTX 1050 Ti.
Our Hitman benchmark (1080p, max settings) showed Intel’s PC running at 59 frames per second, surpassing Lenovo’s small Legion Y720 Cube desktop (52, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti), but falling short of our 87-frame gaming desktop average.
As a result, both the NUC and Legion could only produce a playable 33 fps on our Grand Theft Auto V test (1080p, max settings), compared to our average 82 fps for the Legion.
You can get a virtual reality experience on Intel’s tiny desktop, but don’t expect it to be optimal. According to SteamVR Performance Test, the NUC earned a “medium” rating. In other words, it can create VR, but doesn’t offer the highest level of fidelity.
Using the synthetic benchmark 3DMark Fire Strike, the NUC scored 8,451. With 6,166 subscribers, the NUC is above the Legion, but the average is 14,070 subscribers.
Intel Hades Canyon NUC: Performance
Whether doing everyday multitasking or gaming, the Intel Core i7-8809G CPU proved equally effective.
Against our 18,238 category average, the NUC scored 17,683, far outpacing the Legion Y720 (8,110; Intel Core i3-7100U) on Geekbench 4.1.
This 512GB SSD in our unit copied roughly 5GB of data in 16 seconds, which equates to a performance rate of 310 MB/s. 71 MBps beats out the 1TB hard drive speed score of the Legion (69 MBps). Unfortunately, it falls just short of the 343 MBps gaming average.
Intel Hades Canyon NUC: Configurations
It can be purchased in two flavors, including a $799 configuration geared toward content creators, and an overclocked $999 configuration. Both models feature a Core i7 Kaby Lake G CPU, but the former features Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics (comparable to an Nvidia GTX 1050), while the latter sports Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics (comparable to an Nvidia GTX 1060 Max Q).
Three years warranty is included with the Intel NUC.
|Customizable RGB lighting||Expensive after adding parts|
|Tons of ports|
|Compact, attractive design|
It offers midrange gaming performance and a decent VR experience within an amazingly small chassis, demonstrating the full potential of Kaby Lake G. Customizable RGB lighting adds a nice touch, and the system’s abundance of ports makes it suitable for both command centers and living rooms.
In exchange for its amazing performance, the NUC is very expensive. If you buy a top-of-the-line, VR-ready nook and add your own memory, storage, and operating system, you will likely spend up to $1,400 in total. This isn’t exactly the best value, since you can get a comparable tower, like the Lenovo Legion Y720 Cube, for as little as $599. Although Intel’s NUC may be unassuming, it’s still equipped with some killer performance for mini PC enthusiasts.