Intel’s Next Unit of Computing (NUC) mini PCs have long pioneered making the almost all of small spaces. Its latest model, the NUC 9 Extreme (dubbed “Ghost Canyon” in the lead-up to its release), may be the most effective NUC to date, and the first one targeted at high-end gaming. It’s also the most upgradable. You can not only change out its CPU, nonetheless it accepts a double-slot desktop graphics card up to 8 inches long, an unbelievable feat considering the complete PC is merely half an inch longer than that.

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  • Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit (NUC8i5BEH) – Core i5, Tall, Add’t Components Needed – Check Price in Amazon
  • Intel NUC 10 Performance Kit – Intel Core i7 Processor (Tall Chassis) – Check Price in Amazon
  • Intel NUC NUC10i3FNK Ultra Small Mini PC/HTPC – 10th Gen Intel Dual-Core i3-10110U up to 4.10 GHz CPU – Check Price in Amazon
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None of the avant-garde miniaturization comes cheap. Intel’s suggested price for the Core i9-based, bare-bones NUC 9 Extreme Kit unit tested here’s an eye-watering $1,700, to which you’ll have to add an operating-system, memory, storage, and a graphics card. Nonetheless it makes commendably few compromises on the way. (Our test unit rings up right around $3,000 with all the current parts, in a deluxe configuration.) Highly progressive and with a lofty price its only impediment, the NUC 9 Extreme may be the high-performance mini PC to beat. Nothing comes close at its size.

The Compute Element Takes the Stage
A key thing to learn about the NUC 9 Extreme: Ultimately, the core platform comes into play other forms that wont appear to be this PC.

The model I’m reviewing is Intel’s reference design, which can be open to shoppers. But Razer, for just one, has already displayed off its larger Tomahawk Gaming PC predicated on the NUC 9 Extreme platform, and other Intel partners are anticipated to reveal their own. A few case makers (Cooler Master and SilverStone) also have exhibited their own PC-chassis designs for the NUC 9. Therefore the NUC 9 platform is inspiring the inside componentry, but it can look different externally in other implementations.

Modularity, though, may be the key common theme of the NUC 9 Extreme. The two-part kit involves the chassis, which holds the inner power and the baseboard logic board, and also the unique Compute Element. The latter may be the brains of the operation, connecting to the baseboard with a proprietary, PCI Express-like connector.

Essentially a mini motherboard that looks nearly the same as a chunky graphics card, the Compute Element holds the CPU, two laptop-style SO-DIMM memory slots, and two M.2 storage drive slots. The CPU is soldered to the board, so upgrading this means investing in a new Compute Element.

The Compute Aspect in our review model is NUC9i9QNB, having a Core i9-9980HK processor. The eight-core, 16-thread chip is Intel’s flagship mobile H-series CPU that could typically see duty in high-performance notebooks. A 45-watt thermal rating constrains its base clock to 2.4GHz, but this powerhouse can reach 5GHz in Turbo Boost mode, and the “K” suffix on the chip means it really is overclocked (via Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility software) to attain even higher.

Intel offers the NUC 9 Extreme Kit with a quad-core, eight-thread Core i5-9300H Compute Element (around $1,050) or a six-core, 12-thread Core i7-9750H-based one (around $1,250). A NUC 9 Pro kit may also be available with Xeon and Core i7 vPro-enabled processors for more of a imaginative and business focus. Intel notably backs the NUC 9 Extreme with a three-year standard warranty, something that’s always nice to see on a PC as of this price.

The NUC 9 Extreme can be bought as a bare-bones PC (NUC 9 Extreme Kit, which is how I’m reviewing it), or as a completely configured system from an Intel partner. Intel shipped my unit in a lavish configuration that highlights what this unit can do; the elements include 16GB of DDR4-2666 dual-channel memory (two 8GB SO-DIMMs, about $65 online), a 380GB Intel Optane 905p M.2 primary drive ($499), onto which Windows 10 Home ($129) is loaded, a 1TB Kingston KC2000 M.2 drive for storage ($219), and the crème de la crème, an 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card ($419).

The video card, in cases like this made by Asus, may be the most powerful GPU which can be stuffed into an 8-inch mini form factor. It’s nevertheless a standardized design, something that’s not usually the case with mini PCs. (A good example, Zotac’s ZBox Magnus EN7207V fields the same basic GPU, but it’s not upgradable.)

THE TINY Desktop That Could
The NUC 9 Extreme is bigger than Intel’s previous NUC designs, almost all of which border on minuscule. But it’s still remarkably compact. The 8.5-by-3.8-by-9.4-inch case computes to a level of just 5 liters. A number of these could fit in the typical mid-tower desktop (usually around 34 liters), and it’s only half how big is an average small-form-factor tower (about 8 liters).

In addition to the skulls printed on its mesh sides, the NUC 9 Extreme isn’t an attention-getter. Some may not even know it’s a computer given its diminutive dimensions. It does not have any dedicated lighting features; only the illuminated power button indicates it’s fired up. Design-wise, this NUC’s only functional shortcoming is that it could only be oriented upright, as in the photos. Laying it on its side would impede airflow.

The NUC 9 Extreme includes a port mixture that wouldn’t be out of put on a mini-tower. Leading panel has two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, an Sdcard reader, and an audio tracks combo jack, as the back panel houses the rest: four USB 3.1 Type-A ports, dual Gigabit Ethernet jacks, optical music out, an HDMI video output, and a set of Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) ports.

The Asus GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card, meanwhile, has DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI-D video outputs. Internally, the NUC 9 Extreme comes standard with an Intel AX200 wireless card supporting Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.

Intel NUC 8 Mainstream Kit (NUC8i5BEH) - Core i5, Tall, Add't Components Needed

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Features

  • 8th Generation Intel Core i5 8259U processor
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  • 2. 5 inches SSD/HDD bay
  • Dual channel DDR4 2400 SODIMM support, 32GB max

Intel NUC 10 Performance Kit – Intel Core i7 Processor (Tall Chassis)

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  • Target Usage Home Office Home Theater PC Casual Gaming
  • 10th Generation Intel Core i7-10710U (NUC10i7FNH1) with Intel UHD Graphics 300 MHz – 1 15 GHz
  • Supports Microsoft Windows* 10 logo’d compatible with various Linux distros
  • Supports up to 3 displays HDMI 2 0a USB-C (DP1 2) 6 USB Ports

Intel NUC NUC10i3FNK Ultra Small Mini PC/HTPC - 10th Gen Intel Dual-Core i3-10110U up to 4.10 GHz CPU, 8GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB NVMe SSD, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth, Intel UHD Graphics, Windows 10 Professional

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  • Wireless-AX MAC 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax, Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit Ethernet Controller, High Definition Audio
  • 3 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A, 1 x Thunderbolt 3 / Type C, 1 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (Fast-Charging), 1 x HDMI 2.0
  • 2-Year Warranty by Techno Intelligence and Free Tech Support, A/C Adapter Included, User Manuals Included

Intel NUC NUC10i5FNK Ultra Small Mini PC/HTPC - 10th Gen Intel Quad-Core i5-10210U up to 4.20 GHz CPU, 16GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB NVMe SSD, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth, Intel UHD Graphics, Windows 10 Professional

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  • Wireless-AX MAC 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax, Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit Ethernet Controller, High Definition Audio
  • 3 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A, 1 x Thunderbolt 3 / Type C, 1 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (Fast-Charging), 1 x HDMI 2.0
  • 2-Year Warranty by Techno Intelligence and Free Tech Support, A/C Adapter Included, User Manuals Included

Intel NUC NUC10i7FNH Ultra Small Mini PC/HTPC - 10th Gen Intel 6-Core i7-10710U up to 4.70 GHz CPU, 16GB DDR4 RAM, 512GB SSD, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth, Intel UHD Graphics, Windows 10 Professional

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Intel NUC 8i7BEK Mini Desktop, Intel Quad-Core i7-8559U Upto 4.5GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, HDMI, Thunderbolt 3, Card Reader, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Windows 10 Pro

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Intel NUC 9 Extreme Kit, NUC9i7QNX, w/US Cord, Single Pack (BXNUC9i7QNX1)

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Features

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