“Skull Canyon” Mini-PC Takes Intel NUC to Gamers

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 0 Comments

"Skull Canyon" Mini-PC Takes Intel NUC to Gamers

As you probably know, I’ve been championing Intel’s amazing NUC mini-PC kits for the past month. But NUC is about to get a lot more powerful with the introduction of a new “Skull Canyon” model aimed at gamers and other high-end users.

Before continuing, please check out my previous articles about my “normally aspirated” Intel NUC, which I’m now using as my daily PC:

BYOPC: Starting Small with Intel NUC

BYOPC: Getting Up and Running with Intel NUC

Intel NUC (NUC6I5SYH) Mini-PC Review

Long story short, the Intel NUC lineup is a wonderful set of “kit” type mini-PCs with Intel processors. You just need to add RAM and storage—and, of course, a keyboard, mouse and screen—and off you go. These systems are essentially laptop components in a tiny desktop housing. And in my case at least, the experience is delightful.

So now Intel is adding a bit more oomph.

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At the 2016 Game Developers Conference this week, Intel introduced a new, high-end NUC version, codenamed “Skull Canyon,” that addresses the gaming market and other high-end uses. This “Skull Canyon” NUC–really model #NUC6i7KYK—provides a more aggressive case design and, as you might expect, higher-end laptop components that are a bit more suitable for gaming. (That said, this NUC is essentially a low-end gaming PC.)

So what does that mean from a specs perspective? Here’s a rundown:

Processor: 6th generation Intel Core i7-6770HQ (45W). That “HQ” bit is important: The Intel NUC I’m currently using is a “U”-type laptop part, where the “U” stands for “Ultrabook” and at 15W is designed for power efficiency. The Skull Canyon part is a higher-end but less thrifty “HQ” processor than expends 45W.

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Graphics: This NUC still uses integrated graphics, albeit a higher-end Intel Iris Pro graphics 580 chipset. I think this is what separates Skull Canyon NUCs from “real” gaming PCs, as there’s no way to add dedicated graphics.

Connectivity: As you might expect, these NUCs provide higher-end ports, including 40 Gbps Thunderbolt 3 with USB 3.1 and DP1.2 over USB-C. There are also four USB 3.0 ports (including one charging port) and a full-sized SD slot.

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RAM: Like my NUC, up to 32 GB of DDR4 memory is supported.

Storage: This puppy offers dual M.2 slots for SATA3/PCIe x4 Gen 3 NVMe/AHCI SSDs. Nice!

Video out: Full-size HDMI 2.0 and miniDisplayPort 1.2 with support for 8 channel audio (7.1 surround sound).

Networking: Gigabit LAN, dual band Wireless-AC 8260 Wi-Fi (802.11 ac) and Bluetooth 4.2.

Form factor: The Intel NUC NUC6i7KYK features a unique case design with two lids—one with a skull logo, one plain matte black—and of course supports third-party lids.

With this kind of componentry, the “Skull Canyon” NUC is of course more expensive than the comparatively pedestrian $350 Core-i5 model I recently purchased: The suggested retail price is $650. Add 16 GB of RAM, a 256 GB M.2 SSD stick, and Windows 10 Home, and the price hits an even $1000.

Interesting.

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