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Intel NUC 9 Extreme i9-9980HK (Ghost Canyon) is bitchin dude
Name: Intel NUC 9 Extreme i9-9980HK (Ghost Canyon) Price (RRP): $from 1500-2100 plus memory, SSD and video card Manufacturer: Intel
Amazing performance from a minuscule 5L boxYou choose the level of performancePCIe expansion including double-width cardInternal 500W power supply Really cool transit caseEasy access to internals – remove two screws
Cooling dictates it can only stand upright and can get a little noisyCPU options are still 9th genSkulls (and the case) do not light up - and that may be a good thing
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
4.5Overall Score
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Intel NUC 9 Extreme i9-9980HK (Ghost Canyon) is bitchin dude
4.5Overall Score
Name: Intel NUC 9 Extreme i9-9980HK (Ghost Canyon)
Price (RRP): $from 1500-2100 plus memory, SSD and video card
Manufacturer: Intel

Houston, we have a problem – a bloody big Intel NUC 9 Extreme landed on my review bench and a) it is the most powerful PC I have ever tested and b) I don’t want to give it back.

Let’s look at the ‘bloody big’ first. A normal NUC (Next Unit of Computing) is a small 4” square computer. The Intel NUC 9 Extreme model PPNUC9I9QNX is huge (by comparison) at 238x216x96mm.

Then the power bit. The Intel Core i9-9980HK. Eight cores, sixteen-threads and a PassMark of 15,408 – that’s nearly 50% faster than a core i7!

And as for giving it back – I don’t have an option as it is an engineering sample to salivate over.

Before we get into the review, know that this NUC normally comes as a bare-bone kit with the processor and motherboard only and you add memory, drives and a video card that may cost almost as much. There are also other processor variants of this form factor.

Australian review: Intel NUC 9 Extreme i9-9980HK

  • Website here
  • Price
    • i9-9980HK (barebones kit) from around $2400 (as tested)
    • i7-9850H from $2100
    • i7-9750H from $1750
    • i5-9300H from $1500
    • ASUS RTX 2070 Mini card <$800
  • Warranty: 3-years on the processor, motherboard, and chassis (other items you add have manufacturer’s warranty)
  • Elevator pitch: Go get Nucced – in a big way
  • Country of manufacture: China
  • Intel (Est 1968) is a US multinational corporation and the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor maker. Its consumer products include x86 processors, memory, motherboards, support chipsets, Wi-Fi, graphics and much more.

Who is the Intel NUC 9 Extreme for?

Its aimed at gamers but in reality, it’s a damned powerful small workstation PC with enormous flexibility.

So, it is great for Creatives, CAD, Engineers and power users as well. Or for those that feel the need for speed.

Intel NUC 9 Extreme Basic Specs

NUC9i9QNXItem
ProcessorIntel Core i9-9980HK
2.4/5Ghz, 8-Core/16-thread, 16MB cache, 45W TPD
Advanced Vapour chamber cooling and dual 80mm fans for the small form factor
AlternativeNUC917 Intel Core i9-9850H NUC9i7 Intel Core i7-9750H
NUC9i5 Intel Core i5-9300H
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 630 – supports three displays
Can add a double-width 8” PCIe x16 Gen 3 card with DP, HDMI and DVI
e.g. GeForce RTX 2070 Mini
ChipsetIntel CM246
BusPCIe for the i9 module PCIe x16/x8/x4 PCIe x4 (or used as part of a double-width video card)
Max memory2 slots SO DIMM for 64GB DDR4-2400 or 32GB DDR4-2666
Drives2 x M.2 PCIe 3 4-lane (can be SATA 6)
Raid 0/1
Intel Optane and SSD ready
Ports Rear2x Thunderbolt 3
4 x USB-A 3.1 Gen 2
HDMI 2.0a 2 x Gigabit Ethernet
3.5mm combo audio or SPDIF optical
PCIe slot access
Note there are internal; headers to add more ports
Ports front2x USB-A 2.0
3.5mm combo audio
SDXC UHS-II Slot
CommsWi-Fi 6 AX2000 dual antenna 2×2 MIMO
BT 5.0
Power500W
180W fed to the Compute Element
Internal PCIe GPU 225W PS connector
OSAdd Windows or Linux

Well it is a kit, so its demo day!

Possibly to Intel’s mortification, I decided to tear it down. After all, it is a kit, and you need to be able to add or subtract pieces. Arms with a small Philips head screwdriver only

  • Removed the only two external screws I could find
  • Gently prised the top cover off revealing twin 80cm fans
  • Removed the slide on side covers
Intel NUC 9 Extreme
Top and sides off
Everything removed – not there are more power cables than needed.

So far, so good.

  • Unscrewed the two PCIe cage screws from the ASUS RTX 2080-086-mini card
  • Unscrewed the two side brace screws
  • Removed the power connector
  • Clicked the x16 PCIe connector lock (PS there is a PCI x4t connector beside it)
  • Angled the card backwards and up and it came out. That card has HDMI, DP and DVI connectors

The other half is a fully enclosed CPU and motherboard package

  • Gently removed by hand the various power connectors and Wi-Fi/BT antennas
  • Clicked the PCIe connector lock
  • Angled the card back and it came out

The card has three screws that remove the cover for access to the motherboard

Back of the compute element

The motherboard has two M.2280 slots for PCIe NVME or SATA6 SSD or Intel Optane and 2 x SODIMMs. That’s it. There are some other headers that you can use to connect additional USB etc.

2 x M.2 2280 slots
Note 2x SODIMM slots at the rear
That is it folks

Reassembly was just as easy and voila – it works.

Intel NUC 9 Extreme
Note the strong carry case included in the kit

So as for access, it is fine if a little fiddly. And the only user-replaceable parts are in the CPU assembly (Intel call this a Compute Element).

I am guessing that Intel will keep this style of NUC chassis and that you can look forward to other CPU (within its 500W capacity) in the future. I also understand that Razer, CoolerMastrer and others will be making their version of NUC cases to accommodate this i9 assembly.

Let’s look at the processor

The Intel Core i9-9980HK 14nm is a laptop processor with a 45W TPD. In layman’s terms, it will scoot along all day at somewhere between 2.4 and 5GHz as long as the core temperature is below 50°. Given that the case has a great thermal design, we don’t see that as an issue for full-on gaming.

It is in heaps of gaming laptops – Acer Predator Helios 700, Alienware m15/m17, ASUS ROG GZ700GX and ZenBook Pro Duo, Dell XPS 15 7590m and HP Omen X.

The integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 is fine for office productivity and most undemanding games.