CES 2018: Intel launch new AMD Vega CPUs and two super powerful compact PCs

Intel on Jan. 7, 2018, launched the latest and most powerful Intel NUC to date, based on the newly announced 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor with Radeon RX Vega M graphics. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Remember that time when Intel said it was teaming up with AMD for an 8th Gen Core processor with Vega graphics inside? Well, said processor is just about ready to launch. Announced yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the two Core i7 chips will be arriving this spring, and Intel’s even created two of its very own teeny tiny PCs to show us exactly what they’re capable of. VR on a PC I can just about fit in the palm of my hand? Sign me up.

To be precise, both systems are actually NUC PCs. NUC (or Next Unit of Computing) is Intel’s name for its ultra small form factor systems. They’re generally barebones units intended for user customisation after purchase, but previously they’ve been about as useful for high-end gaming as a decade-old netbook. Great for media streaming, but not much else.

The new, easily-parsable NUC8i7HVK and NUC8i7HNK, however, are the most powerful NUCs Intel’s ever built, and will use its new pair of 8th Gen Core i7 processors with onboard AMD Radeon RX Vega M graphics to strike down the media streamer stereotype once and for all, supercharging the ultra compact PC into a new era of possibilities for gaming.

The NUC8i7HVK is the more powerful of the two NUCs and packs an unlocked, quad-core 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8809G processor and AMD’s Radeon RX Vega M GH graphics. The NUC8i7HNK, meanwhile, comes with a quad-core 3.1GHz i7-8705G processor and Vega M GL graphics. What’s more, both fit in a tiddly 1.2 litre case that measures a mere 221x142x39mm.

Each NUC also supports up to 32GB of RAM, and you’ll also find a pair of M.2 slots on its motherboard for adding an NVMe SSD and SDXC card reader post-purchase. In terms of ports, you get two HDMI 2.0a connectors that support 4K at 60Hz and HDR (one of which is usefully found on the front for easy access to VR headsets), two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two Thunderbolt USB-C ports and two mini DisplayPorts. Altogether, that means each NUC will be able to support a whopping six (yes, six) independent monitors at the same time. Excuse me a second while I push my eyeballs back into their sockets.

Intel NUC Radeon Vega

Elsewhere, you get dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, 802.11ac wireless, five USB3 ports (one of which can charge other devices) and two USB2 ports, and there’s even an infrared port on the front in case you do in fact want to use the machine as a media streamer together with a remote. Fortunately, you can also opt for a plain metal and plastic enclosure if Intel’s garish neon red and blue skull (see image above) doesn’t quite take your fancy. In either case, you still get a three-year warranty and a VESA plate in the box for potentially mounting it to the back of your brand-new six-monitor setup.

Intel’s NUC isn’t the only PC that will be utilizing its 8th Gen Core with Radeon RX Vega M graphics CPUs, as Dell and HP are also on track to release new lightweight 2-in-1s by the end of March. There’s no word yet on what they look like or how much they’ll cost, but with Intel saying the chip should allow for devices measuring less than 17mm thick, we could be looking at some seriously slim bits of kit.

To give you an idea of what kind of gaming performance you can expect, Intel claims its Core i7-8705G with RX Vega M GL graphics (remember, that’s the lesser of the two chips launching today) will be able to produce an average frame rate of 47fps in Vermintide 2 at 1920×1080 on High settings. Compared with the 15fps Intel got from a three-year-old Core i7-4720HQ with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M chip under the same conditions, that’s one heck of an improvement.

Intel also tested the the i7-8705G against an i7-8550U and 4GB GTX 1050 laptop system. In all cases, the i7-8705G won out, producing an average of 46fps in Hitman and 36fps in Deus Ex Mankind Divided – again at 1920×1080 on High. The i7-8550U, meanwhile, only managed 33fps in Hitman, 27fps in Mankind Divided and 42fps in Vermintide 2.

The i7-8809G is even more impressive. In the same tests described above, it hit 62fps in Hitman and 49fps in Mankind Divided, according to Intel, which puts it just ahead of an i7-7700HQ and 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with Max-Q graphics system.

Naturally, I’ll be putting both of these chips to the test as soon as review samples are available, but to see how Intel’s new CPU works in action, have a watch of the video below.

20 Comments

  1. Lars Westergren says:

    I keep being tempted by NUCs for some reason, but I don’t think I would use them as much more than a streaming home server as you said, plus maybe Steam Link replacement.

    I’ve seen developers having stacks of them as a cheap cluster for running stuff like Apache Spark on though.

  2. HiroTheProtagonist says:

    Call me a joyless pedant or “not the target audience”, but this seems like another attempt to solve the made-up problem Steam Machines tried to solve 4-5 years ago. NUCs already serve a good purpose (media streaming and basic office tasks in a small form factor), and these seem like they’re trying to court a class of user that’s more concerned with easy upgradeability and heat issues than unit size and mountability.

    Also, is there any word on potential pricing? I get the feeling these will be weighing in at a cost to rival most normal prebuilt gaming towers, at which point it really doesn’t have much to offer in the field.

    • dahools says:

      I think pricing is key…
      I know what you mean about not being the target audience, but i think steam machines have a place still. I just don’t think they are advertised well enough to the audience or potential consumer that would be interested.
      Not everyone is playing the latest AAA Revenge of the Battle Duty Wars: Oranges 7 in 4K on max gfx details. I am sure this box will play 95% of steams whole library at 1080p max details without issue, stick a 250gb ssd and 8gb of ram in and off you go. I think if you try and speck this with large amounts of blisteringly fast ram and buckets full of storage and comparing it to your gaming rig you are missing the point.

      but referring back to my opening line if they price it like a gaming rig then it will always be compared to one. . .

      IMO £650 tops inc storage and mem or its too much

      • PoulWrist says:

        You should probably think more along the lines of 1000£ for the topend one…

        • dahools says:

          I imagine you will be right, $799 and $999 without drives or memory are what other sites recon, that’s why they will struggle to sell lots I would imagine but who knows? What equivalent PC can you buy for that money (rhetorical)! They are only selling case/power/board/chip/gfxcard.

    • wackazoa says:

      The last Skull Canyon NUC launched at around $900 US. After Ram and Storage it was something like $1100 US. Im intrigued by the NUC but for that price I’ll build my own or get a Xbox X if I want the form factor.

    • MajorLag says:

      Considering Intel’s history with this form factor, I expect these things will be pretty pricey.

      I really have no idea what market they’re targeting here. Media streamers don’t really need much horsepower and Intel sucks at low power, so competitors have an advantage there, people who need a smaller (more portable) form factor generally opt for laptops, consoles are much simpler and easier to use, and people who have the space for a monitor (or 2-6), keyboard, and mouse, don’t have these kinds of space limitations.

      Maybe it is meant entirely for VR? Someone who drags a VR rig around to parties or something is the only use case I can see for this thing.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      I am the target market here. I currently have a near silent HTPC in a Hi-Fi style case hooked up to a really nice TV. It plays almost any media using Kodi, but then it also plays Steam, Origin or emulated games, all running seamlessly from a controller driven GUI.

      So basically you have one box that can deal with almost every kind of digital entertainment, and also a gaming ‘console’ with far more variety, customisability and power than an actual console.

      So these all in one things are very interesting to me. The main issue I have with them is that they’re just not quite powerful enough. I am a tad sceptical about the suggestion that these things can beat a 1060, particularly as those numbers look way too low for a 1060.

  3. Cederic says:

    Form factor is great, driving multiple displays has plenty of uses, but they’re hardly gaming chips if the highlight is 47fps at 1080p.

    They might be able to drive VR goggles but you wouldn’t want to try them – guaranteed nausea in seconds.

    Did Intel mention whether these new chips are also crippled by Meltdown and/or Spectre?

    • wackazoa says:

      I get the push for always 60FPS, but you can game at less or even 30FPS. Perhaps its me coming from consoles when I was younger but my main gaming PC constantly plays games at 30-60FPS and I don’t have issues. Unsteady frametimes I do have issues with, most of my online shooters I have medium-high settings mix to play on, but it is entirely possible to game on 30-45FPS.

      *But that is also what makes the PC great right? If you have the money there is no reason to settle for just 60. Or settle for just 1080p max.

      • Vandelay says:

        I never played on consoles when I was a kid, always PC. I used to be happy with the high teens!

        I’ve got used to 60FPS more now and playing something like Bloodborne on the PS4 makes me long for a PC version that can play it at a high framerate.

        But, Cedric is referring to VR, which the article says they would like something like this for. You are looking at needing 90FPS to be getting something that won’t be causing nausea. 47FPS would require a bucket to hand at all times. The games they are benchmarking here probably are less demanding then most VR games, but still I don’t think you are looking at a portable VR system with these. Would be great if they could manage it in the future though.

        • Asurmen says:

          It seems to me like they were referring to both.

          For a 1080p machine, 47fps is perfectly fine. As for VR, depends on game in question and personal tolerance.

        • Premium User Badge

          particlese says:

          If the top end one indeed beats or equals a GTX 1060, then that might do the trick – assuming those “OC” and “Founder’s Edition” willywaivers don’t actually amount to anything significant. *waves hands* Those Enhanced Editions mostly beat out the vanilla R9 390, according to a quick flip through Anandtech’s GPU16 results, and I can attest that that thing’s just fine for nausea-free VR at what I consider reasonable settings. (medium-high-ish). Depends on the game, of course, but that’s been my experience so far.

    • MajorLag says:

      Every chip Intel and AMD produce for the next few years will have the same vulnerability. Fixing the root cause will require time to redesign tried and true microarchitecture and fab new chips.

      However, it should be noted that modern processors as so ludicrously complex that it is incredibly unlikely any CPU produced will not have similar flaws. It may take 20 years to develop a realistic attack against them (by someone who’s willing to divulge that information to the public), but they’ll be there.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Aquarion says:

    … and are still susptible to the hardware vulnerability announced last week. Great timing.

  5. TheSplund says:

    But will it play Crysis?! But seriously, this is great for the current swathe of games but what happens when you have to upgrade?

    • Will the wtf says:

      Hard luck I expect, as is true with most laptops today. Storage, speakers, screen, body, PSU, all can be in perfectly good nick but you have to shell out to replace all of it when the computing innards become inadequate for contemporary applications. I think this is half to do with the need for the small form factor meaning a priority for tight elegant arrangements with moddability suffering necessarily, and partly to do with the weird motivations of capitalists. I’m price gouged and the planet is sick with electrical waste! I’d hope Dell and HP would make the whole bridged CPU/GPU module upgradeable because that would be extremely sensible, and I’m hoping this comes to laptops too. I wonder if the EU could clout the paradigm into submission through regulation as they did phone the phone charger situation.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      If it’s anything like the cheap NUCs, you can swap out the storage and memory, and that’s about it.

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