There is a group in the PC community that loves small, space-saving systems. With the NUC 9 Extreme Kit (formerly known as “Ghost Canyon”), Intel has paved the way for a new form factor that could be smaller than the Mini-ITX. It is powered by Compute Element, a PCIe-based unit with Intel’s 9th generation mobile chip. In theory, this paves the way for smaller, constantly evolving systems. It’s being sold as an abstract kit, so you’ll need to bring your RAM, solid-state drives, operating system, and if you like, a discrete GPU, pushing the i9 version we reviewed well beyond its base price of 1. , $ 639.99.
This makes the NUC 9 Extreme Kit suitable for a particular type of person – someone who wants as small a gaming desktop as possible and doesn’t have to worry about paying for it. But if caught, Compute Element could turn out to be one of the biggest changes in PC building we’ve seen in decades.
For a desktop with Intel Core i9 and RTX 2070 (as shipped to us), the NUC 9 Extreme Kit is very small. Honestly, it would be great if you didn’t decorate the skulls on both sides.
The outer edge of the box is made of black plastic, with metal mesh sides. The front panel has a ring of white light around the power button, but it’s otherwise not decorative outside of its ports: an SD card reader, two USB 2.0 Type-A ports, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The mesh side panels, along with the aforementioned skulls, feature a honeycomb pattern. Air enters through the metal mesh and is expelled through the ventilated upper part.
On the back are all the ports connected to Intel Compute, which supports NUC. There are 4 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, dual Ethernet, HDMI, a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, optical audio, and a lock slot. If you have a GPU like our review unit, the video ports are there too.
I love how small this thing is. At just 9.4 x 8.5 x 3.8 inches (238 x 216 x 96mm), it can fit in almost any office, as well as a TV-connected entertainment center. Something like this is really perfect while I’m tied up in my New York apartment with a small office. It’s a lot of power for such a small device. The Zotac Mek Mini is slightly larger at 10.3 x 10.2 x 5.4 inches, while one of our favorites, the HP Omen Obelisk, is relatively bulky at 17.1 x 14.1 x 6.5 inches.
Upgrading NUC 9 Extreme is different from upgrading to any other desktop. This is the first device on the market with Intel’s Compute component, so it’s not just about connecting everything to the motherboard. The chassis is small so it requires a bit of patience, but the only tool you will need is a Phillips screwdriver. When you get there, you see how original this design is.
To open the NUC, you need to remove two screws from the back, near the top, which will allow you to slide in from the top. Includes two fans connected to contacts.
Once they were out, we were able to lift the side panels. Next, there is a keel, which is fixed with another screw, on the left side for removal.
Our unit has an 8-inch Asus Dual GeForce RTX 2070 Mini inside (duo refers to two fans, not two 2070 GPUs), so it should be removed. Disconnect the power cable from the card, remove the two screws that secure the GPU to the case, and then lift it out of the PCIe slot on the motherboard. There are two PCIe slots on the board above the power supply (one PCIe x16 slot and one PCIe x4 slot), although our GPU was a two-slot card.
With the GPU out of the way, it’s on the Compute Element. If you want to upgrade storage or RAM, there is no real reason to remove it.
The element door is blocked by a paper “wind deflector” so you must install it upside down. The door itself is held in place by two screws that need to be loosened. You can then lift the door, but be careful because a wire is connected to the fan, which is part of the door.
Inside are two M.2 slots (one of us was filled with a 1TB Kingston KC2000 SSD). The device on the left accommodates M.2 drives up to 110mm in length, while the drive on the right can accommodate a drive up to 80mm.
There are two SODIMM slots on the right side of the drive. We came with a pair of HyperX Impact 8GB RAM (16GB total) and oddly enough it was a 3200MHz pair, but Intel loaded it at 2666MHz.
The kit usually comes blank, so you will need to provide RAM and storage if you buy this NUC.
At this point, the grinding is essentially complete. The state, compute element, and GPU are all separate. However, the pre-installed 500W Flex ATX PSU is still in the box. To put it all together and work, we had to effectively “build” the computer, reconnecting components and cables.
Games and graphics
NUC 9 Extreme can fit an 8 ” GPU. In fact, they were the first Intel NUCs to fit a discrete GPU, period. I took it on the tour by turning on the Control at 1920 x 1080 resolution with medium and preset ray tracing presets. The game was at just under 60fps and typically ranges from 54-59fps. The exception was the astral plane, a level with a completely white background, which rises to 93 fps.