Intel NUC 8 VR (NUC8i7HVK) Review: Core i7, AMD Vega Meet in Hades Canyon

Final Thoughts

Our first experience with Intel's NUC8i7HVK leaves us impressed. The company crams an amazing amount of functionality into a very compact form factor. As we've come to expect from fast PCs in small cases, you'll have to pay a premium for such an uncommon combination. And even after spending $1000 on the barebones platform, memory, storage, and an OS still need to be added.

Given the lack of affordable graphics cards right now, we set out to determine whether this system is a suitable substitute for building a gaming box at marked-up prices. For comparison, we paired a number of inexpensive CPUs with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060 6GB (currently starting around $350). In some games, entry-level processors hold the GeForce back. And in those situations, Intel's NUC shows that it can compete. Other titles are inherently more graphics-bound, allowing Nvidia's card to walk away from the Vega GPU. Your experience will depend on what you're playing.

To show what all of that looks like in chart form, check out the geometric mean of 99th percentile frame times (representing smoothness) converted into a frames-per-second measurement.

Intel aims its NUC8i7HVK at enthusiasts with unlocked CPU, GPU, and HBM2 ratio multipliers. We observed solid stock performance from the svelte little system, and even managed to overclock effectively. But thermal constraints kept us from truly tapping into the maximum potential of every component. For gaming, the best results came from tuning the GPU and HBM2, while productivity-oriented apps responded best to higher CPU frequencies.

It's fair to say that the NUC8i7HVK is fast enough to deliver smooth frame rates at 1080p using high-quality settings in most games. If you want to run at a higher resolution or know your favorite games are more demanding than the ones we tested, then you may have to hold out for a return to normalcy with graphics card pricing. Otherwise, The NUC 8 VR's AMD Vega-based GPU comes close to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 in some of the platform-bound situations we discovered (and after overclocking).

Support may prove to be an interesting challenge for Intel, and we'll have to keep an eye on how the company handles driver updates. We're told that day-zero game drivers will become a thing, but they'll naturally need to originate from AMD. Whether Intel spends time validating that software before pushing it live remains to be seen. Enthusiasts will expect nothing less than timely optimizations for new titles, along with stability on par with Radeon RX Vega add-in cards.

Intel and AMD's competition with Nvidia in their respective fields may have been the impetus for a truly surprising cooperative effort. But the end result is an incredibly powerful solution packed into a very small form factor. While we wouldn't suggest that enthusiasts try replacing their gaming rigs altogether with Intel's NUC8i7HV, this compact platform makes for an interesting alternative to mainstream machines with mid-range GPUs currently selling at inflated prices.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

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  • rgd1101
    Should the dedicated gpu be a 1030 or 1050, not a 1060.
  • AgentLozen
    I would liked to have seen it compared to the 1050Ti also. I imagine that the Intel 8809GH performs right between the two of them but I would like to see the benchmarks just to be sure.

    For $1000, how much do you get with this box? A case, power supply, motherboard, GPU, and CPU. You need to supply several hundred dollars in components to finish it off. The performance is decent, but not great compared to a i3 8350K + GTX 1060. So what advantage does this offer over building your own MicroATX computer?

    You could argue that graphics cards are over priced right now but what happens when they come down in price? The NUC8i7HVK would be REALLY cool if the final price of a complete system was $1000, but I feel like it doesn't offer enough as it is right now.
  • Gigahertz20
    I've built two Intel NUC's for family members in the past couple of years and they love them. Fast, quiet and so far reliable. They don't game at all which is why I convinced them to buy them. I'm not sure if this NUC is going to be popular at all though at $1,000 barebones. Who is going to buy it? The gaming performance of this NUC is nothing special, gamers and enthusiasts are going to stick with desktops, alot of people are just waiting for the cryptocurrency craze to die down so we can get video cards at decent prices again. If that takes another year or 2 so be it.

    Your average person that just needs an office computer won't buy this at $1k, you can get a much cheaper NUC and throw in a SSD and that will work fine. Why pay a premium for a cute little powerful box, if you want small and portable you can get a laptop for cheaper. If they would have priced this at $600 barebones it would have been much more appealing to your average user that might want to play the occasional game at 1080P.
  • Eximo
    There are i7-7700HQ laptops with GTX1060 for comparable prices.

    Great product, pricing is just too off to make sense. For this money I would look at ASRock's STX form factor.
  • Giroro
    The processor is exciting for what it is, but the barebones NUC is way too expensive. What was the value of the NUC as-configured, because isn't just the 800p SSD $200 on its own, plus the other SSD, RAM, Windows, monitor, etc.

    You can get a laptop with a 1060 for around $1000 all-in. It costs even less for a 1050ti which I agree seems closer in performance.

    I wouldn't consider buying a NUC with this level of performance unless it cost more like $800 all-in... Which would mean something closer to $500 for a barebones configuration.
  • bit_user
    I wish they sold standalone Vega 24 dGPUs as a replacement for the RX 560.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    Should the dedicated gpu be a 1030 or 1050, not a 1060.

    Except:
    Quote:
    Intel claims its new chips should serve up similar graphics performance as Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q.


    However:
    Quote:
    Test System & Configuration
    Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1060 G1 Gaming 6G

    So, it seems the legit complaint is that they used a standard GTX 1060, instead of something closer to the Max-Q model. Here's how they compare:

    http://gpuboss.com/gpus/GeForce-GTX-1060-Max-Q-vs-GIGABYTE-GeForce-GTX-1060-G1-Gaming


    I think the Quadro P2000 would be pretty close to the GTX 1060 Max-Q:

    https://www.nvidia.com/content/dam/en-zz/Solutions/design-visualization/documents/Quadro-P2000-US-03Feb17.pdf

    But, it's not a perfect match, and it would make for a slightly awkward comparison, probably raising more fuss than the card they chose. Still, they should've at least used a slower GTX 1060, like one of the ITX-friendly single-fan cards.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    You can get a laptop with a 1060 for around $1000 all-in. It costs even less for a 1050ti which I agree seems closer in performance.

    ... something about equating desktop and laptop GPUs.
  • zodiacfml
    Glad to see products though I want to see even more such as integrated RAM.

    I wonder how AMD APUs would fare with HBM memory available to its CPU and GPU.
  • FD2Raptor
    Anonymous said:
    Should the dedicated gpu be a 1030 or 1050, not a 1060.


    The dedicated comparison should have been the RX 570/580 4GB GDDR5 to remove any nvidia vs amd optimizations difference from the equation.
  • redgarl
    The GPU is really similar to a RX 570. Well, it is impressive for an IGPU. I am surprised AMD is not doing anything for that market on mobile.

    Probably next year with Zen 2.

    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Should the dedicated gpu be a 1030 or 1050, not a 1060.


    The dedicated comparison should have been the RX 570/580 4GB GDDR5 to remove any nvidia vs amd optimizations difference from the equation.


    I totally agree. As of now it is impossible to know what this VEGA 11 chip really is in comparison to APU.
  • redgarl
    Anonymous said:
    I wish they sold standalone Vega 24 dGPUs as a replacement for the RX 560.


    It is kind of true, Vega is really good at these level. The problem with Vega is that it was a multipurpose GPU. It was intended to do everything, iGPU, dGPU and special GPU functions for specific product like electronic slot machines.

    Anyway, Vega is power hungry on the discrete side of the house and I totally understand Lisa Su for scrapping Vega for Navi ASAP, especially when AMD is switching to 7nm process and dumping 14nm.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    I totally understand Lisa Su for scrapping Vega for Navi ASAP, especially when AMD is switching to 7nm process and dumping 14nm.

    Um, there's another Vega GPU coming. Launching sometime this year (I'd guess by Q3).

    They already added support for it to the Linux kernel driver (which is open source, so that's how everybody knows). No clue about the size & shape of it, or if it'll be desktop or mobile.
  • Giroro
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    You can get a laptop with a 1060 for around $1000 all-in. It costs even less for a 1050ti which I agree seems closer in performance.

    ... something about equating desktop and laptop GPUs.


    Mobile 1060s perform similarly to a (low end/not overclocked) desktop 1060, its only about a 10-15% difference if the laptop has decent cooling. The 1060 configurations were outperforming stock Hades Canyon by over 50% in GPU-bound games. Most laptops with 1060s have better CPUs than the tested configurations, so I still feel good about saying a $1000 gaming laptop is going to outperform Hades Canyon. A mobile 1050 ti probably lands between the GH and GL variants. I haven't seen a benchmark like that, but it should be close enough to compare.

    I think the comparison is fair. Kaby Lake G is itself a mobile processor in small form factor with laptop-like cooling.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    You can get a laptop with a 1060 for around $1000 all-in. It costs even less for a 1050ti which I agree seems closer in performance.

    ... something about equating desktop and laptop GPUs.


    Mobile 1060s perform similarly to a (low end/not overclocked) desktop 1060, its only about a 10-15% difference if the laptop has decent cooling.

    If you look at Anandtech's review, there's a bigger difference than that between the 980 Mini PCs and the 980M laptops. Sadly, they didn't compare it with any 1060 Max-Q laptops.

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/12572/the-intel-hades-canyon-nuc8i7hvk-review-kaby-lakeg-benchmarked/4
    https://www.anandtech.com/show/12572/the-intel-hades-canyon-nuc8i7hvk-review-kaby-lakeg-benchmarked/5

    And they didn't say any laptop GTX 1060. They specifically cited the Max-Q implementations, which are designed for lower-profile enclosures with reduced cooling capacity than a typical gaming laptop. Here's how the targeted GTX 1060 Max-Q compares with the desktop GTX 1060 they used in the test:

    http://gpuboss.com/gpus/GeForce-GTX-1060-Max-Q-vs-GIGABYTE-GeForce-GTX-1060-G1-Gaming