As expected, Intel’s latest compact desktop computers combine a 15 watt Intel Whiskey Lake-U quad-core processor with AMD Radeon 540X graphics.
Formerly code-named “Islay Canyon,” Intel is now calling the new kits “NUC 8 Mainstream-G Mini PCs.”
The little computers measure just 4.6″ x 4.4″ x 2″ and support up to an Intel Core i7-8565U processor, Intel Optane memory, and feature discrete graphics — which could make them a better option for gaming or media creation than most mini PCs.
Other features include HDMI 2.1 and mini Display Port 1.2 outputs, three USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports, a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port, Gigabit Ethernet, and an SDXC card reader.
Interestingly, while most Intel NUC systems feature SODIMM slots that allow you to install, replace, or upgrade the RAM, that doesn’t seem to be the case for Islay Canyon — each model comes with 8GB of memory that’s soldered to the motherboard.
As for the GPU, the AMD Radeon 540X is a relatively inexpensive, low-power option that’s comparable to the NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics found in some thin and light laptops… although benchmarks suggest the MX150 generally offers better performance. That said, the Islay Canyon NUC models should still outperform the Intel UHD integrated graphics you’re stuck with on most other NUC models.
Like the processor and memory, the Radeon 540X is soldered and not upgradeable. So, for that matter, is the Intel Wireless-AC 9560 module, which offers support for Bluetooth 5 and 802.11ac WiFi.
At least the storage is customizable — each system features an M.2 2280 slot and a 2.5 inch drive bay.
Intel will offer several Islay Canyon configurations at launch, including a barebones kit and several models that come with storage and software:
- NUC8i7INHJA – Core i7-8565U/16GB Optane/1TB HDD/Win10 Home
- NUC8i7INHPA – Core i7-8565U/256GB SSD/Win10 Home
- NUC8i7INHX (kit) – Core i7/8565U/no storage or OS included
- NUC8i5INHPA – Core i5-8265U/16GB Optane/1TB HDD/Win10 Home
- NUC8i5INHJA – Core i5-8265U/256GB SSD/Win10 Home
- NUC8i5INHX (kit) – Core i5-8265U/no storage or OS included
There will also be a few China-specific configurations that ship without an operating system (including an interesting one that comes with a 1TB HDD and 128GB SSD rather than Optane memory).
If you’re holding out for something with a little more CPU power, a leaked roadmap from late last year suggest we can expect a “Frost Canyon” NUC with a 25-watt Intel Comet Lake-U processor (and Intel UHD graphics) later this year, and a “Ghost Canyon” model with Intel UHD graphics and a 45 watt processor (featuring quad, hexa-, and octa-core CPU options) in late 2019 or early 2020.