Among the various forthcoming technologies and new products it presented in its CES keynote, Intel also presented its latest Next Unit of Computing (NUC) kits, which promise the best performance options that the mini-PCs have offered to date. In addition to a version that finally provides desktop-level gaming prowess in a NUC, there's also a workstation edition available for the first time.
With the skull design on the side of its tiny chassis, the NUC 9 Extreme -- also known as the Ghost Canyon NUC -- is a successor to Skull Canyon and Hades Canyon NUCs. While those emphasized higher performance than what is typically expected from a small form factor PC, Ghost Canyon does them better in a number of ways. Intel says the NUC 9 Extreme is the first NUC that can accept desktop-sized graphics cards, thanks to a PCIe x16 slot, and comes equipped with a Core i9 processor, including an option for an unlocked version.
As is the case with all NUCs, the Ghost Canyon model includes the processor, but leaves the rest to the user (or third-party vendors building systems from the kit), who needs to supply RAM, storage, and discrete graphics to the unit. That can be made easier with the optional Compute Element, a more convenient, modular way to swap components in and out of the NUC. Other features supplied with the NUC 9 Extreme include a 500-watt power supply, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and a pair of Thunderbolt ports and a HDMI 2.0a port. Though it can only accept graphics cards up to 8 inches in length, the Ghost Canyon NUC only takes up a mere 9.4x8.5x3.8 inches.
While clearly not as sexy as the Ghost Canyon edition, the NUC 9 Pro is notable for being the first workstation class NUC kit Intel has produced. It resembles the 9 Extreme NUC in a number of ways (500-watt power supply, support for desktop graphics cards, similar connectivity options), but rather than coming with Core i9 CPUs, the 9 Pro will be available with either a Core i7-9850H vPro or a Xeon E-2286M processor option. Other workstation-level features include support for Intel's Active Management Technology and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) inclusion.
Intel has provided no specific pricing or availability details yet for the latest NUCs, but given that you're getting legitimate desktop PC power in a device that can fit in your bag, expect to pay a pretty penny when they are finally released.