Intel Skull Canyon NUC Unveiled, Will Pair With Razer Core External GPU Dock

It’s all coming together. We’ve been anxious for full details on the Intel Skull Canyon NUC that we first saw at CES, and we’ve pointed out that the Razer Core external GPU dock was obviously designed with more than just Razer’s own laptops in mind. At GDC, Intel took the wraps off of the NUC, and perhaps the most notable detail is that it’s designed in part to make use of the Core.

Skull Canyon: Not That Kind NUC

When you hear “NUC,” you tend to think of a cute little box that has pretty good specs, but this is a cut above. Intel crammed impressive specs into the petite 216 x 116 x 23 mm NUC, including a 6th-gen (Skylake) Intel Core i7-6770HQ 45-watt CPU with Intel Iris Pro 580 graphics. It supports up to 32 GB of DDR4-2133MHz+ RAM and has dual M.2 slots for SATA III (6 Gbps), PCIe x4 Gen 3 NVMe and AHCI SSDs. There’s an SD slot that can handle up to 512 GB of additional storage, too.

You can opt for a lid for the NUC sporting the killer skull logo, or if that’s not your thing, you can go with a simple matte black cover.

In addition to the four USB 3.0 ports, full HMDI 2.0, Mini DisplayPort 1.2, Intel Gigabit LAN and headphone/mic jack, the Skull Canyon NUC sports a USB Type-C port equipped with USB 3.1, DisplayPort 1.2 and -- the kicker -- Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbps). That one addition means you can connect “other devices,” and Intel specifically mentioned the Razer Core external GPU dock.

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Intel’s Skull Canyon NUC
CPUIntel 6th Gen (Skylake) Core i7-6770HQ Processor (45 W TDP), 2.6-3.5 GHz Turbo
GPUIntel Iris Pro Graphics 580
MemorySupports Up To 32 GB DDR4 @ 2133+ MHz (2 DIMM slots)
Storage-2x M.2 connectors supporting 22x42 or 22x80 SATA or PCIe SSD-SDXC card slot (up to 512 GB)
Connectivity-Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbps) With USB 3.1 And DP 1.2 over USB Type-C-4 x USB 3.0-HDMI 2.0-Mini-DisplayPort V1.2-Intel HD Audio Headphone/Mic Jack
NetworkingIntel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 Wi-Fi (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.2Intel Gigabit LAN
Consumer Infrared SensorYes
Dimensions (L x W x H)216 x 116 x 23 mm (.69L Volume)
Barebones MSRP$650
Full "Typical" Build (16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, Win 10)$999

No Steam Machine Here

Although we were told at CES that the NUC wouldn’t ship with Windows, and we inferred that meant it may not be a Windows machine at all, it seems Intel has changed its mind. The NUC will indeed offer Windows 10, and we can’t help but wonder if the original plan was to make this a Steam Machine. It’s not surprising that Intel bailed on that notion. A teeny tiny Windows PC that can (ostensibly) turn into a full gaming PC by connecting to what amounts to a mega-peripheral is a much more enticing setup, thanks to Razer’s work on the Core.

Going with a standards-based external GPU dock, it seems, is already paying dividends for Razer. And for consumers.

Still Pricey

The cost of the Razer Blade and Blade Stealth notebooks paired with the Core bear a sky-high price, and although Intel’s offering isn't much cheaper, it does come in at the lowest-end of the cost scale. The company said the Skull Canyon NUC (NUC6i7KYK) barebones kit will be $650, although a "typical build" with 16 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD will be around $1,000. Considering the $500 cost of the Core, plus a higher-end graphics card to put in it, this is still a pricey proposition, but it just nibbles at the $1,000-$2,199 cost of the Razer notebooks. (Of course, you still need a monitor for the NUC, but, well, you probably already have one.)

You can lay your hard-earned cash down for Skull Canyon NUC preorders in April. The device will ship in May. The Razer Core begins shipping in April.

Seth Colaner is the News Director for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter @SethColaner. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

  • James Mason
    Can't wait to see those benchmarks for a setup like this.
  • Hellcatm
    To bad there isn't such a thing (that I know of) as an external PCIe port to hook it up to. I don't think this as is would be fast enough for hard core gaming?
  • Eximo
    To bad there isn't such a thing (that I know of) as an external PCIe port to hook it up to. I don't think this as is would be fast enough for hard core gaming?

    That is exactly what a thunderbolt port is. More or less direct access to the PCIe bus.
  • tiagoluz8
    To bad there isn't such a thing (that I know of) as an external PCIe port to hook it up to. I don't think this as is would be fast enough for hard core gaming?
    Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) is enough for a GTX980 @ 1440p, PCIe Gen1.1 is only 32Gbps, and this article shows that it is fine.,7.html
  • Lutfij
    Compact, nimble and packed with a punch(or more), this needs to get a review!
  • turkey3_scratch
    For some reason Skull Canyon reminds me of Skull Candy.
  • ammaross
    For some reason Skull Canyon reminds me of Skull Candy.
    More like a Skull Trail / Devil's Canyon mashup...
  • atheus
    I find this type of product incredibly interesting — a muscular compact system with robust integrated graphics plus a pathway to make it into a powerful high-end gaming pc. I think the $500 price tag on that external GPU dock is the Achilles heel to this and all compatible systems. It makes so much sense that someone who is moderately curious about high-end gaming might buy a system like this, or a similar laptop with the idea that they're getting darn near the best money can buy for CPU/SSD/motherboard, plus some fairly decent graphics handling, while leaving the door open to adding a GPU later on. This scenario is completely derailed by the $500 price tag to the external GPU dock, though, which makes the price/performance ratio more top heavy than Dolly Parton.

    I don't know what it is that makes the external GPU dock so expensive, but my hope is that price is just full of margin and that some competing products can deflate it down to sub-$250 where I imagine it belongs.
  • Brian_R170
    Agree atheus, $650 for the NUC is expensive, but the $500 for a box, 500W PSU and much less circuitry/connectors than a low-end motherboard contains really should be closer to $200. Hopefully, volume and competition will drive down the price over time.
  • tsnor
    i prefer a small tower PC at 1/2 the price for what I do.

    What's the use case for this thing? A notebook or tablet seems better for travel use, especially gaming. What am i missing ?