Small, light, quiet and powerful – these five words neatly sum up Intels mini PC, the Hades Canyon. Designed with virtual reality and gaming in mind, I was curious to see just what this diminutive desktop computer was capable of. Having plugged everything in, I eagerly powered it up. Used to hearing the familiar whir of fans kicking in, I was instead startled to find the only indication that it had booted (ignoring my computer monitor) was a couple of lights and a glowing skull suddenly springing into life atop the chassis.
I can’t stress just how quiet – delightfully quiet – the Hades Canyon is. When idling, you can only hear it if you put your ear against it. And even when it gets under load, the sound difference is negligible, making most gaming laptops (and definitely desktops) unbearably noisy by comparison. Equally impressive is the heat management.
Even under intense, sustained loads, the Hades Canyon only reached 24°C over ambient (a comfortable 52°C). Intel has clearly managed to pull off some impressive engineering with its lightweight yet solid, compact yet cool design. They’re also obviously confident in the build quality, offering a generous three year warranty.
So how does this little box compare as a gaming computer? While it won’t run the latest and greatest games at 4K resolution (which is to be expected, considering that most high-end graphics cards are, by themselves, nearly the same size as the Hades Canyon), performance is still solid.
Armed with a Radeon RX Vega M GH, at 1920x1080, both Doom and Crysis (set to Ultra and Very High respectively) maintained a comfortable 60+fps. At 2560x1440 this dropped to a still respectable 40-45fps. Final Fantasy XV proved more of a challenge for the Hades Canyon. While performance at lower resolutions and qualities was solid (40-50fps @ 1920x1080, standard settings; 25-30fps on High quality, and 25-30fps on standard quality at 2560x1080), it struggled on the high setting at 2560x1440, hovering around an unplayable 21fps and occasionally dropping to 14fps.
While it packs impressive performance into a small, quiet and light box, there are some things potential buyers should be aware of. Note that these aren’t negatives, merely things to keep in mind.
Firstly, as this is a kit PC, unless you buy one already pre-assembled and ready to go, you’d need have some know-how when it comes to assembling PCs, as you’re going to have to finish building it yourself: by default, RAM, storage and an operating system are not included.
This leads to the second point, price. While the price of the computer is reasonable, you do need to remember to add a few hundred dollars, for not only extra components and operating system, but also for a monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers (remember, this is not a laptop and these things don’t come included).
Finally, if you want to read DVDs or have additional storage space, external drives are a must – fortunately, they’re easy to accommodate as the Hades Canyon come packed with more connectivity features than you can poke a stick at, including: SDXC card reader, 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, 6 high-speed USB 3 ports, 2 ethernet ports, 2 mini display ports, an HDMI port, and an audio port, to name a few.
All in all, provided you don’t mind the trade-offs in performance and price, the Hades Canyon is a viable and portable alternative to a desktop computer – especially if you hate the sound of fans. So if you’re looking for a desktop computer which a) takes up barely any space; b) is whisper quiet, and c) weighs only 1.2kg all-up, then Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC may be just what you’re looking for. ■