Intel Confirms ‘Skull Canyon’ Platform at CES 2016 – Positioned as an SFF Gaming PC, Could End Up Being a Steam Machine

Usman Pirzada

A month or so back, we talked about an upcoming platform from Intel dubbed “Skull Canyon”. From what we heard it appeared to be a revolutionized NUC platform. At CES 2016, Intel has confirmed the existence of this platform in an interview to Tom’s Hardware as well as revealing some more juicy details about the same. The more interesting thing they revealed was that Intel might not market the device under its existing NUC branding – rather it might be marketed as a “gaming PC” or a steam machine. This is further supported by the fact that the Skull Canyon PC will not come installed with a Windows OS.

Intel Skull Canyon NUCThe original slide from Intel's documentation that revealed the existence of the platform.

Intel confirms Skull Canyon at CES 2016, positioned as a gaming device

The folks over at Tom’s Hardware managed to get a good look at the SFF PC and noted its dimensions to be approximately 4x8x1 inches. This is a very tiny footprint and the casing has apparently not been finalized and currently supports a dark metallic gray look with rounded edges – which is a departure from the no-nonsense corners of the Intel NUC. The Skull Trail logo is featured on the PC and will rock DDR4 memory with an M.2 SSD. An H-Series Skylake processor is being utilized to power the PC and has a total TDP of 45W. According to information leaked before, the processor will house the powerful Iris Pro 580 graphics with 128MB of eDRAM.

Steam MachineSteam OS is one of the more plausible alternatives for Intel's gaming pc.

The Intel GT4e Iris Pro graphics are a Generation9 core that ship with select Skylake parts. The ‘e’ at the end refers to eDRAM which the Iris Pro 580 has around 128MB of. The eDRAM acts as a fast L4 cache and facilitates the 72 Execution Units (EUs) present on the die. The core clock of the chip was 1 Ghz according to Intel’s marketing material, but this could change in the closed thermal envelop of the NUC. The chip is rated at a resounding 1152 GFlops of Single Precision or 1.15 TFlops. To put this into perspective, this is slightly above the Maxwell 1.0 debut graphic card: the Geforce GTX 750. The performance of the Iris Pro 580 in Skull Canyon however, should be just enough to run modern titles at playable frame rates (at medium settings, 1080p).

Other specifications that we now know include the fact that the Skull Canyon PC has 4 USB 3.0 ports, a LAN port, an SD card slot and 1 DisplayPort and HDMI each. A USB-C port is also included and is one of the most important parts of the machine because it runs Thunderbolt 3. It would also allow the Skull Canyon flagship to utilize an external dedicated GPU boosting up its gaming potential by orders of magnitude. The Skull Canyon PC is expected to launch in the first half of 2016 and Intel has not yet decided upon a price tag, although it would be safe to say that it would cost at least as much as the pricey NUCs.

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