What do you get when Intel and AMD join forces? A mini-PC that can punch above its weight.
The companies fit some impressive gaming power inside a 2.5-pound machine with the latest product from Intel’s Next Unit of Computing (NUC) line. The upcoming models, codenamed Hades Canyon, are heftier than the square-ish mini-PCs from before. But they feature a notable surprise: an eighth-generation Intel Core chip built with a Radeon RX Vega M graphics processor from AMD.
Last November, Intel and AMD raised eyebrows when the two rivals announced they were building a chip together. Their goal: high-performing silicon that works in a tight package.
Intel plans on rolling out the new chips to create slim gaming PCs; Hades Canyon products are one example. PCMag tried out the more powerful model, the NUC8i7HVK kit, which is slated to retail for $999 when it goes on sale next month.
Inside the model is an i7-8809G processor with 3.1GHZ base clock speed that’s built over four cores. It also supports up to 32GB in RAM and features two M.2 SSD slots.
However, the main selling point is its size. Imagine transporting a computer no larger than a hardback book, but with the graphics power of a mid-tier gaming PC. Throw it inside your backpack and carry it around with ease.
But how does the mini-PC actually perform? We ran several AAA games, all of which played with no major problems. But of course, the devil is in the details. You’ll probably play the games at medium or high settings on a 1,920-by-1,080-resolution screen. But graphic quality will suffer when ramping the settings to the absolute max. For instance, when playing AAA titles at max settings, the game’s frame rate often stumbled around 30fps or lower.
The Intel chip runs a Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics processor, which can pack a punch. But it’s still no substitute for higher-end graphics cards, according to the benchmarks we ran.
Nevertheless, the mini-PC has other perks. It’s quiet, easy to set up, and takes up very little desk real estate. It also sports plenty of ports that support HDMI, Thunderbolt 3, USB-A, and USB-C connections.
There’s an important catch about the NUC model we tried. The $999 model won’t come with the RAM, storage, or even the Windows OS. It’s up to the consumer to add them, meaning you can end up spending an additional $300 to $500 to get the PC up and running.
That may put off some customers. But if you’re looking for a gaming desktop with a slim profile, the Hades Canyon is worth looking into. Intel is also releasing a $799 model, but with a slightly less powerful chip.