Intel Skull Canyon NUC is ready to crack some heads

We've tested a few of Intel's NUCs over the course of the platform's existence. While those machines are perfectly competent mini-PCs, we've often found ourselves wanting more gaming muscle from their tiny footprints. Intel's newest NUC appears set to address that.

Codenamed "Skull Canyon," this machine uses a Core i7-6770HQ CPU with a 45W TDP. That chip offers four cores and eight threads running at 2.6GHz base and 3.5GHz Turbo speeds. More importantly, though, the i7-6770HQ has Intel's Iris Pro 580 integrated graphics processor with 78 execution units and 128MB of eDRAM cache on board, according to Ars Technica.

The Skull Canyon NUC is built for speed in other ways, too. The machine includes a Thunderbolt 3 port that can hook up to external graphics enclosures like Razer's Core. Dual M.2 slots with four lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity each are ready for zippy NVMe SSDs, and this NUC can swallow up to 32GB of memory, too. HDMI 2.0 and Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs, four USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and Gigabit Ethernet round out the port cluster.

Like other NUCs, the Skull Canyon version will ship as a barebones kit. Builders will need to provide their own memory and SSDs. Intel says the base unit will carry a suggested price of $650, and it estimates that a build with 16GB of memory and a 256GB SSD will cost about $1000. This mean machine will begin shipping in May.

Comments closed
    • tipoo
    • 4 years ago

    1.15Tflops in that Iris Pro. Not a long shot off from the Xbox Ones 1.3, though the architectures aren’t comparable. Definitely in the same ballpark though. And with 4X the eDRAM than the 32MB eSRAM in the XBO.

      • auxy
      • 4 years ago

      Nevermind that the CPU IPC in that Skylake utterly annihilates the Jaguar processors in the Xbox One. (ยดะ”โŠ‚ใƒฝ

        • tipoo
        • 4 years ago

        Yeah, even Haswell i3s thoroughly bested them. 7 of them may outclass 2 i3 cores, but only if you get them all going at the same time very efficiently.

          • Andrew Lauritzen
          • 4 years ago

          The estimates I’ve seen from game devs are that 8 jaguar cores (although game doesn’t have access to all of them) are roughly 2 haswell/broadwell cores in practice. If you’re doing any heavy math/SSE/AVX, jaguar fares far worse vs the big cores.

          Shouldn’t be a surprise – little cores @ lower clock rates are not going to set the world on fire. I maintain they are still a reasonable choice for the console use case though.

          On the GPU front, I believe they did demo it running Just Cause 3 @ ~Xbox One settings getting >30fps solid. One workload, but some solid evidence of it being in the same ballpark of GPU power as the console ๐Ÿ™‚

            • NTMBK
            • 4 years ago

            If you’re doing heavy vectorized maths workloads, put them on the GPU ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s there for a reason!

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 4 years ago

            Of course, but it’s not appropriate for everything sadly, and the overhead to spin up and down work there is high ๐Ÿ™‚ There’s still quite a gap between the amount of required parallelism even on lower-frequency parts like Jaguar due to how GPUs mortgage it in spades to hide latency.

    • NeelyCam
    • 4 years ago

    45W?! I wonder how noisy it is… Noise is one of my main annoyances in my uber-old IvyBridge based NUC

    • Chrispy_
    • 4 years ago

    What sort of equivalent dGPU does the Iris Pro 580 match up to?

    Typically all we’ve seen of the Iris Pro is in processors that cost 5-10x more than an AMD A10 which has always been sad because the A10 usually wins or ties with the Iris Pro in games.

      • PixelArmy
      • 4 years ago

      In terms of GFlops, about a GTX 750 (non-Ti)… Note according to ark, this tops out at 950 MHz vs 1 GHz here: [url<]http://wccftech.com/intel-iris-pro-graphics-gamers/[/url<]

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 4 years ago

      Price aside, I seem to recall stuff like the 5775C handily wiping the floor with A10s across the board in games. In fact even the pretty weak Skylake desktop GT2s put up a fight these days… I’m sort of surprised about your impression here actually.

        • auxy
        • 4 years ago

        The 4770R — which was usually thermally limited anyway — generally tied or was slightly behind the Kaveri-based APUs, particularly when the latter were paired with their recommended dual-channel DDR3-2133. I think that’s the source of this idea that “Iris Pro ~= A10”.

        Of course, the 4770R is quite old by this point. But I think that’s where it comes from.

        • Chrispy_
        • 4 years ago

        My mistake; For some reason I had it in my head that the only mobile parts with Iris Pro were in the $700+ ballpark and that IGP performance was on par with a Kaveri A10.

        Whilst there are $700+ mobile parts with Iris Pro, there are also $300 mobile parts with Iris Pro, and I remembered it wrong; The A10 usually [i<]loses[/i<] by 25% or so, or ties in some cases (GTAV and Grid Autosport).

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      5-10x more?

      I wasn’t aware that AMD’s top of the line APUs were running for $74 to $37 each. Maybe that’s why AMD isn’t making any money.

      As for winning or tying in games… TR said otherwise when they ran the tests.

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 years ago

      [s<]Intelยฎ Irisโ„ข Pro Graphics 580: Manhattan - 58.0 fps NVIDIA Asus GeForce GTX 750 Ti: Manhattan - 62.1 fps[/s<] Sauce: [url<]https://gfxbench.com/compare.jsp?benchmark=gfx40&did1=30125974&os1=Windows&api1=gl&hwtype1=GPU&hwname1=Intel%28R%29+Iris%28TM%29+Pro+Graphics+580&D2=NVIDIA+Asus+GeForce+GTX+750+Ti[/url<] Of course, performance is more nuanced than a single (non real gaming) benchmark, but it looks to be in the ballpark. EDIT: Uhh... never mind. Looks like the onscreen tests are all V-sync capped (wut). Ran a query on a GTX 970 and it also scored ~59 fps in Manhattan haha.

    • The Egg
    • 4 years ago

    Something like this would be a perfect candidate for pairing up with an external GPU. I mean, assuming the GPU enclosure didn’t cost $500.

      • Topinio
      • 4 years ago

      This would make a great HTPC, even more so if the GPU enclosure thing took off and worked — I’d love to move the GPU from the desktop to the HTPC for a bit of gaming on the bigger screen sometimes.

      • ronch
      • 4 years ago

      I see what you did there. Heh.

    • EndlessWaves
    • 4 years ago

    I was expecting the 6870HQ, not the reduced cache 6770HQ (which also has 5% lower GPU clockspeed). That’s a bit of an odd choice from Intel given that it doesn’t cost them any more money directly.

    Also, still only two rear USB ports? I suppose the USB hub can sit on the other side of the computer from the external power supply to give this three box computer a nicely balanced look.

    • NeelyCam
    • 4 years ago

    I hope they didn’t use a bright orange or green LED to light up the skull

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      Apparently the skull is actually optional. The unit ships with a replacement lid that doesn’t have the skull in case you want to be a little more professional. (See the second page of the fact sheet linked above in the TR article).

    • Dposcorp
    • 4 years ago

    I really want a few more things on this.
    I want something with long range, really good bluetooth and wifi, that I can turn on with a bluetooth remote. Toss in a slot for a cable card as well.

      • DPete27
      • 4 years ago

      Considering previous gen NUCs come with 2×2 AC wifi, bluetooth, and an IR receiver, I’d be surprised if this halo product doesn’t have those things.

        • EndlessWaves
        • 4 years ago

        It does, see the linked product sheet in the article.

    • deruberhanyok
    • 4 years ago

    This is exactly the port cluster and specs I was hoping for in a Skylake NUC. It fits my needs perfectly.

    Next system: identified.

      • Redocbew
      • 4 years ago

      Same here. Just when I thought I was done with upgrades for a while.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 years ago

    That would make for a nice HTPC.

    TR, if you get one please try Steam OS on it. I’m interested in seeing the performance in Linux vs Windows.

    • YukaKun
    • 4 years ago

    It definitely looks great and the CPU is no slouch, even being a notebook part. Now, I don’t know if bundling it without a mobile video card is a good call, since for all the good iGPU power the Iris parts have, the price difference would have been more than enough to bundle an AMD or nVidia one using a non-Iris.

    The price would justify itself way way more like that. As it stands now, not so much, even with the external graphics talk. Adding the video card on the outside defeats the neat looking style (or competitiveness) of the whole solution. Might as well build your own using an HTPC case.

    Like I always say: CoolerMaster Elite 361.

    Cheers!

      • auxy
      • 4 years ago

      I would DRAMATICALLY rather have the Iris part (almost typed ISIS on reflex, whoops) than a notebook GPU. Those things are less efficient and less performant per-watt than anything Intel makes, owing in large part to Intel’s process technology advantage.

      The Elite 361 is a neat little case, but MUCH larger than this device. Look at some of the pictures on other sites. This thing is tiny, much smaller than it looks in the picture above. Nevermind the height difference, this thing has a much smaller footprint than the Elite 361.

      Like you, a lot of people here have been saying it doesn’t justify the price, but then, tell me where you can get this kind of performance in this kind of form factor with 2×2 wifi, bluetooth, DUAL m.2 sockets, and thunderbolt. There’s just nothing else that even comes close.

      I’m really curious about whether this thing can keep itself cool. If it can, it should be a beast, but given the miniature size of the thing, I’m not convinced that’s a reality.

      • Andrew Lauritzen
      • 4 years ago

      Performance, size, cost: pick two ๐Ÿ™‚

      It may not be the right trade-off for what you’re looking for but it occupies a unique and interesting position on that triangle. The cost vertex is not the main purpose here, for that there are other NUCs (and options entirely).

      There’s no way you could fit any discrete option into this power and thermal and volume budget. If performance+cost are the primary concerns than size for you, there’s really no reason to be looking at NUCs in the first place.

      I’ll urge you to hold judgement on the graphics portion as well. While what you can do in a combined 45W CPU+GPU budget is obviously going to be limited, it’s far from clear that any other use of the thermal envelope would produce a better result. i.e. Can you find a 20-30W GPU that has significantly more than a teraflop of power on paper even if we imagined it could fit in such a form factor?

    • NTMBK
    • 4 years ago

    At $1000, you’d think they could afford a damn optical drive.

      • Klimax
      • 4 years ago

      I don’t think there is even room for that.

        • NTMBK
        • 4 years ago

        Slimline drives don’t take up an awful lot of space.

          • shank15217
          • 4 years ago

          Actually they do, relative to the other components inside

            • Klimax
            • 4 years ago

            Especially true for this NUC.

      • auxy
      • 4 years ago

      Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!

      It’s 2016, dude. Two thousand and sixteen. And you’re asking for an OPTICAL DRIVE?

      Might as well complain about the lack of a centronics port while you’re at it.

      Good lord. (ยดะ”โŠ‚ใƒฝ

        • Krogoth
        • 4 years ago

        Optical media is superior for archival purposes and there’s still a ton of optical media out on the market.

        Serial and Parallel ports still have real-world uses for special peripherals where USB adapters don’t cut it.

          • auxy
          • 4 years ago

          Both of those use-cases you’re talking about are pretty specialized. You aren’t gonna do your optical media archival on a NUC and if you need a serial or parallel port you probably have a toughbook or something equally esoteric. Neither are valid complaints about this high-end 2016-model NUC.

            • Krogoth
            • 4 years ago

            It doesn’t help your case when your OP was completely dismissive of optical media and legacy interfaces.

        • VincentHanna
        • 4 years ago

        What the heck is a NUC for if not for sticking it next to a wall mounted TV in an office or living-room. Option 2 is to have this and a DVD player next to it.

          • auxy
          • 4 years ago

          Who plays movies off discs anymore? Who even uses physical media?

          The last time I saw a DVD movie I felt like I was unearthing an ancient relic, and that was ages ago! This is a major reason I don’t play my Wii U; it’s too annoying to have to swap out discs all the time. Call me ‘entitled’ if you want but I can flip that coin over and call you a luddite just the same. Get with the times!

            • NTMBK
            • 4 years ago

            I have a ton of DVD movies which I still watch; plenty of films aren’t available on Netflix/Amazon Prime, or used to be available and have mysteriously vanished when you go to watch them. I don’t pirate, and I don’t want the hassle of ripping all of my DVDs to a NAS, wasting the electricity to keep it running in a cupboard, and having one more overpriced system to maintain.

            If it’s going to be my one and only entertainment system under the TV, it needs an optical drive.

      • tipoo
      • 4 years ago

      At $1000, I don’t want any system of mine to have a damn optical drive. So much space for something I used 3 times in my last laptops life.

        • BlackStar
        • 4 years ago

        I have a USB optical drive that I’ve used in total maybe twice over the past 6 years. For stupid software that’s only distributed on DVDs.

          • Krogoth
          • 4 years ago

          Optical media is still the cheapest way for physical software distribution.

            • modulusshift
            • 4 years ago

            What kind of things do you want to distribute physically and cheap these days? Seems like if you’re doing con freebies, you could at least get the data loaded up on the tons of cheap flash drives flying around. If you’re doing boxed software, then there’s already a significant amount of money involved in the transaction and you’re likely to lose customers if your only means of distribution is DVD.

            • Krogoth
            • 4 years ago

            Flash drives still cost a lot more than pressed optical media.

            • Krogoth
            • 4 years ago

            Secured, closed networks.

            Enough said

        • Thorburn
        • 4 years ago

        A while ago I wanted to play the last game I bought on DVD – Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (2010).
        I found the case, but no disc inside it. I turned my office upside down looking for it, checked every damn disc case and wallet without luck, after an hour or two gave up and bought it for a couple quid on Origin.

        The next day I clicked in to My Computer and noticed the Need For Speed logo….. on the optical drive….

        The disc had been in the damn drive for the past 3 years.

          • VincentHanna
          • 4 years ago

          Hmm… Is this story supposed to be about how infrequently you use your disk drives? Or how you never use [b<]~any~[/b<] of your drives?

            • Thorburn
            • 4 years ago

            Rarely use the optical and had become blind to the icon I guess.

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      Not enough volume in that chassis for an optical drive even a thin unit when you factor everything else. The intended demographic for this box doesn’t care for optical media.

      You can just use an external unit if you need to use optical media.

        • auxy
        • 4 years ago

        Now you’re talking reason! (*’โ–ฝ’)

    • anotherengineer
    • 4 years ago

    ” the i7-6770HQ has Intel’s Iris Pro 580 integrated graphics processor with 78 execution units and 128MB of eDRAM cache on board,”

    From a quick search this is showing up as skylake and not broadwell

    ……………..interesting…………

      • MOSFET
      • 4 years ago

      While Intel’s ARK indeed confirms Skylake, it doesn’t mention anything about eDRAM (or anything that would equate to it) for this CPU or any other CPU. What’s up with that? Brag a little bit, Intel.

        • Andrew Lauritzen
        • 4 years ago

        ARK ftl as usual. It’s definitely quad core, 72EU Skylake (>1 tflop of GPU perf and DX12_1 goodness) with 128MB of EDRAM.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 4 years ago

          When will you let Intel actually start selling these things?

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 4 years ago

            Obligatory sigh. At least there’s a quasi-date now ๐Ÿ™‚

            • Beahmont
            • 4 years ago

            I’m more interested in when he’s going to start letting Intel sell chips with EDRAM or intel’s HMC stuff hooked up via Intel’s new chip bridging tech that’s supposed to offer most of the benefits of an interposer but significantly less cost. Kabylake or Cannonlake chips that come with those kinds of tech on the Desktop would almost assuredly boost regular PC sales through the roof.

            I admit I’m also really curious if Andrew Lauritzen, hallowed be his name, know anything about what Intel is going to use to replace LGA as chip/package to motherboard interface. It’s my understanding that chipmakers are running into the wall-o-physics with how much data they can pass between the chip/package and the motherboard.

            Given the rumors that Union Point is going to have more interconnectivity to support Optane, and the current hodge-podge that board makers are doing with the PCI flex lanes (You can have an M.2 and 4 SATA ports or no M.2 and 3 SATA Express, these SATA ports do data but not devices, etc.) this seems like it will be either very good or very bad.

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 4 years ago

            Sorry, I have no idea about any of that stuff and probably couldn’t tell you if I did ๐Ÿ™‚

            • anotherengineer
            • 4 years ago

            “I’m also really curious if Andrew Lauritzen, hallowed be his name”

            “Andrew Lauritzen

            I am currently the tech lead of the Customer-Facing Architecture Initiative Technology team at Intel, where I work with game developers and researchers to improve the algorithms, APIs and hardware used for real-time rendering. Before that, I received my M.Math in computer science from the University of Waterloo in 2008 where my research was focused on variance shadow maps and other shadow filtering algorithms. My research interests include lighting and shadowing algorithms, rendering architecture, parallel programming languages and graphics hardware architectures. ”

            ….University of Waterloo…..

            I would say he is Canadian if I were to Fathom a guess so your “hallowed be his name”
            stands correct ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • ronch
    • 4 years ago

    This thing is pretty much a laptop sans the screen and keyboard. This is also the first NUC I find good-looking. A bit expensive, but if you have the means and you are willing to sacrifice some expandability and your workloads aren’t very graphically intensive, I believe this is a good choice over a big desktop PC.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 4 years ago

      With 72 EUs I imagine it probably has enough graphical oomph for all but the most discerning gamers, too. But it’s just my imagination because Andrew Lauritzen won’t let Intel sell Iris Pro CPUs yet.

        • ronch
        • 4 years ago

        Well, I did say ‘very graphically intensive’, so yeah.

        • Voldenuit
        • 4 years ago

        It might have the graphical resources, but where’s the driver support for all the games people play?

        Ars reviewed skylake’s HD 540 recently and had lots of driver issues to report.

        [url<]http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/03/review-much-improved-iris-gpu-makes-the-skylake-nuc-a-major-upgrade/[/url<] Until intel gets serious about supporting games in their drivers, their IGPs are not great choices for gamers.

          • ronch
          • 4 years ago

          Yeah, dat. Not long ago I saw a PC in a brick&mortar store (yes, we still have them here) running Intel graphics. The staff fired up a game and… hang. Of course there could be a billion and one reasons for the crash but….

            • PBCrunch
            • 4 years ago

            It probably had as much to do with the age of the installed drivers as anything else.

            Take an off the shelf system with discrete graphics and the drivers installed at the factory. Go pick a new AAA game off the shelf and try to run it. Crashing and/or terrible performance are virtually guaranteed.

            • EndlessWaves
            • 4 years ago

            Speaking as someone who’s spent the last six months gaming on an HD2000 I haven’t encountered any driver issues.

            If bigger budget games are having issues then I’d be inclined to blame the game developers, see the dual core issues for example.

          • Klimax
          • 4 years ago

          Story of Intel’s GPU since GMA 3000 at least… (Everybody thinks GPUs under GMA designation are bad HW. Incorrect. It’s mismatch between drivers and declared CAPS in DX and games.)

        • shank15217
        • 4 years ago

        Yes, I’m sure it will play the latest ray traced version of angry birds at 60 fps.

    • ronch
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]crack some heads[/quote<] I suddenly remembered TopHatKiller. Where is that character?

      • DrDominodog51
      • 4 years ago

      He was banned. He created a new account to say a long post about TR which was actually incredibly accurate about 3 weeks ago. The account was promptly banned and the post deleted. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the truth.

        • Srsly_Bro
        • 4 years ago

        Lol. Yea. This place is like high school. We all know it. Some people just don’t fit in.

          • ronch
          • 4 years ago

          Like high school? Guess that’s better than the U.S. presidential debates where they’re all acting like a bunch of pre-schools.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 4 years ago

        Really? I miss all the fun.

        • ronch
        • 4 years ago

        I remember him creating quite a stir when he first came here. I really think he should talk to a friend.

        • Anomymous Gerbil
        • 4 years ago

        What was the gist of his post?

          • Klimax
          • 4 years ago

          Didn’t see it, but I doubt it was of any value, much less accurate… (maybe if it contained prediction on his rebanning then it contained one bit of accuracy.)

      • Anomymous Gerbil
      • 4 years ago

      Nvm… replied to wrong post.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 4 years ago

    When you’re not spending 16 lanes on the GPU, you can push that connectivity in all sorts of interesting directions without a bridge chip. That’s cool.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This