firstname.lastname@example.orgIntel's NUC 9 Extreme kit is like a mini-PC-inside-a-mini-PC, with support for upgradeable graphics. Alaina Yee digs inside Ghost Canyon.
A day before CES 2020 officially kicked off, Intel teased a Core i9-based NUC with discrete graphics, said Comet Lake H is imminent, and revealed that AI performance will get even better with its upcoming Tiger Lake chips.
Ghost Canyon is a PC inside of a PC
The much-leaked Ghost Canyon NUC is now official, and the latest iteration of Intel’s mini-PCs will feature up to an unlocked mobile Core i9 chip inside. This one’s a little different though. While Ghost Canyon looks like most mini PCs, the design is quite radical, revolving around a complete Intel Compute Element card that slots into a PCIe slot, rather than relying on the usual motherboard in a tiny PC case. The replaceable Compute Element card includes the mobile CPU, RAM, chipset and storage.
This would let the Ghost Canyon NUC be easily upgraded down the road by simply removing the card and dropping in a new one. It’s almost as though the Ghost Canyon is a Russian nesting doll of a PC.
Next to the Compute Element, though, is a x16 PCIe slot and a x4 PCIe slot. Intel said the Ghost Canyon NUC will accept up to a 225-watt mini-GPU, which can make the 5 liter PC a decent tiny gaming machine.
Comet Lake inbound at 5GHz
With AMD expected to finally launch its 7nm Ryzen 4000 chips at CES, Intel pushed back a little by saying it too would soon have newer parts in its Comet Lake H series of laptop processors.
The 10th-gen Comet Lake CPUs are essentially more massaged versions of its well-oiled 14nm parts, with the latest iterations taking Core i7 hitting boost clocks up above 5GHz. That’s about 500MHz faster than the common Core i7-9750H. Intel also teased that the Core i9 Comet Lake H chips will run in excess of 5GHz.
Perhaps throwing shade at AMD’s chips shortages (while oddly seeming to ignore OEM’s own frustrations with getting chips out of Intel) the company said its 10th-gen Core chips will offer “8-core/16-thread at scale.”
Intel spent much the time at its performance workshop to reiterate that both its U-class and H-class CPUs easily dispatch today’s AMD’s Ryzen mobile chips in battery life and performance. Intel won’t find much disagreement from neutral parties about that, but AMD’s current Ryzen mobile chips aren’t really what anyone is thinking about right now. Instead, with AMD expected to soon disclose its “Renoir” 7nm parts during its CES 2020 keynote on Monday, this could all change literally today.
The last bit of info Intel officials dropped was to say that its upcoming Tiger Lake CPUs will have improved AI performance. Not much was disclosed, but Intel is clearly expected to drop more details at its press conference scheduled for this afternoon—just after AMD’s press conference.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on 1/6/20, but was updated on 1/9/20 to include the hands-on video embedded at the top.
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One of founding fathers of hardcore tech reporting, Gordon has been covering PCs and components since 1998.