Intel's new NUC trades size for scope

Credit: Fergus Halliday

Intel's latest NUC promises to be a portable - but not quite pocket-friendly - powerhouse.

Shown off at this year's CES in Las Vegas, the new Intel NUC 9 Extreme takes things to the next level in terms of compute power through support for Intel's 9th-Gen i9 CPUs. Of course, you can always kit this thing out with an i5 or i7 if you don't necessarily need or want something that powerful. But, as someone who bought and uses their Hades Canyon NUC fairly regularly, there's definitely something positively delicious about the idea of a PC this small with a processor of that class.

Beyond the processor and form-factor, the Intel NUC 9 Extreme also supports up to 64GB of RAM and features a pair of M.2 storage drives. Unfortuantely, there is something of a catch to be noted here. 

As far as NUCs go, this one isn't that small. In fact, it might be one of the largest micro-PCs that Intel have made in recent years. It's not quite so wide as a Mini-ITX build might be but it's definitely got a lot more bulk than the previous Hades Canyon NUC did. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday

Fortunately, this increase in size doesn't come without an increase in possibilities. The Intel NUC 9 Extreme brings with it support for discrete graphics cards. At least, those that'll fit within the Intel's sort-of-small-but-still-a-little-too-big case. 

The chip vendor tell us the plan here is to work with third parties to pick up where their first-party hardware leaves off. You might only be able to fit a smaller graphics card into Intel's baseline case. However, slotting the NUC 9 Extreme into Razer's Tomahawk N1 case allows you to pair up Intel's beefiest mini-PC yet the graphical prowess of Nvidia's RTX 2080. Even if this new NUC isn't as compact as I'd like it to be, that's still a really good pitch.

The other caveat here is that, as opposed to the Hades Canyon's AMD Vega graphics, the Intel NUC 9 Extreme is stuck with integrated graphics. It really does feel like you have to invest in rounding the package out with a good graphics card for it be worth it at all - which subtracts some the charm. Sure, you had to kit out the Hades Canyon with RAM and ROM but it was a still self-contained unit otherwise. 

Still, it's worth noting that the - despite the name - Intel's NUC 9 isn't intended to be an outright replacement for the gaming and VR-focused NUC. Intel told us that a successor to that particular model will be coming later down the line.

Australian pricing and availability for the Intel NUC 9 Extreme is to be determined.

Disclosure - our coverage of CES 2020 was sponsored by Intel and Dell, who covered the cost of our flights to the US and our accommodation for the duration of our stay in Las Vegas.

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Fergus Halliday
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