Intel’s Flagship Skull Canyon NUC Rocks ‘Console-Level’ Iris Pro 580 iGPU and AMD XConnect Technology

Usman Pirzada

Intel recently unveiled its flagship Skull Canyon NUC device and it packs a hell lot of power in an incredibly tiny small form factor design. The SFF Gaming market is a niche but very lucrative market that OEMs are desperately attempting to get a foothold in. With Steam Machines already being sold to this market, Intel's brand new NUC is the tiniest and also probably one of the most flexible designs in terms of graphical power out there (thanks to AMD's external GPU or XConnect technology). Intel Skull Canyon NUC_1

Intel perfects the philosophy of a tiny gaming powerhouse with the Skull Canyon 'NUC6i7KYK' NUC

Intel’s Next Unit of Compute or NUC for short is, as most enthusiasts know, a very tiny form factor all-in-one PC – usually with a not-so-tiny price tag. The applications of these little powerhouses are diverse and can include anything from being the brain of a robotics project to high performance distributed computing. They can also act as the ultimate small form factor pc that can easily be hidden out of sight. While the compute or CPU portion of things was reasonably powered, the lack of a powerful iGPU posed quite an interesting quandary for more graphically intensive applications. With the inclusion of the Iris Pro 580 graphics in Skull Canyon (NUC6i7KYK) however, things are about to change.Intel NUC6i7KYK NUC

Intel's latest NUC is designed with high performance SFF gaming in mind

The flagship Skull Canyon NUC is incredibly powerful. Not only is the in-house iGPU itself more than capable of running modern games at moderate settings but if you really want to step it up a notch then the tiny SFF PC fully supports AMD XConnect technology. Meaning you can plug in an R9 Nano if you find the iGPU lacking. The device is the ultimate in tiny SFF gaming (think hidden out of sight). Although the price tag is pretty hefty, it employs a fully tricked out Core i7 6770HQ - a 42W TDP beast that can handle all sorts of intensive modern day loads (and almost certainly high end gaming). Couple that with a dGPU upgrade via the XConnect enclosure and you have got some serious horsepower. The following list of GPUs are supported with the flagship Skull Canyon NUC NUC6i7KYK.

Supported Radeon™ GPUs for AMD XConnect™:

  • Radeon™ R9 Fury
  • Radeon™ R9 Nano
  • All Radeon™ R9 300 Series
  • Radeon™ R9 290X
  • Radeon™ R9 290
  • Radeon™ R9 285

The Intel GT4e Iris Pro graphics are a Generation 9 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. This is also approximately equal theoretical horsepower to an Xbox One. While this is nowhere near the amount of horsepower a high end dedicated graphic card can pull, this is roughly double of what AMD’s Godavari chip can output. The performance of the Iris Pro 580 in Skull Canyon however, should be just enough to run modern titles at playable frame rates (medium-high settings, 1080p).

Intel NUC6i7KYK (Skull Canyon) Specifications

 Intel NUC6i7KYK (Skull Canyon) Specifications
ProcessorIntel Core i7-6770HQ
Skylake, 4C/8T, 2.6 GHz (Turbo to 3.5 GHz), 14nm, 6MB L2, 45W TDP
Memory2x DDR4 SO-DIMM (2133+ MHz)
GraphicsIntel Iris Pro Graphics 580 (Skylake-H GT4+4e with 128MB eDRAM)
Disk Drive(s)Dual M.2 (SATA3 / PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe / AHCI SSDs)
NetworkingIntel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 (2x2 802.11ac - 867 Mbps + Bluetooth 4.2)
Intel I-219V Gigabit Ethernet
Audio3.5mm Audio Jack (Headphone / Microphone)
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports1x Thunderbolt 3 / USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
4x USB 3.0 (incl. one charging port)
1x HDMI 2.0, 1x mini-DP 1.2
Consumer Infrared Sensor
Operating SystemNone
Pricing$650 (Barebones)
$999 (Typical build with 16GB DDR4, 256GB SSD and Windows 10)
Fact SheetIntel NUC6i7KYK GDC Fact Sheet (PDF)
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