Intel NUC 9 Extreme
Intel NUC 9 Extreme

Intel NUC 9 Extreme (Ghost Canyon) is a compact, compact computer that combines some of the latest Intel technologies,

and can also pack a Nvidia graphics card, which means this massive device can compete with game consoles

and possibly even the upcoming PS5 and Xbox Series X.

Although crowned NUCs were targeting the most businesses that wanted separate computers

that could be hidden in offices and used as a desktop computer

or to run information kiosks or billboards

Intel NUC 9 Extreme is also aimed at winning players and enthusiasts who want a powerful living room computer.

Spec sheet

The following is the configuration of the Intel NUC 9 Extreme (Ghost Canyon) that was sent to Ditching for review:

  • CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i9-9980HK (Octa Core, 16 threads, 16MB Cache, up to 5GHz)
  • Graphics: Asus Dual RTX 2070 8GB Mini
  • RAM: Random memory in phones and computers: 16 GB DDR4 RAM
  • Screen: None
  • Storage: 1 TB SSD, 380 GB SSD
  • Ports: 2x USB-C, 6 x USB 3.1, Ethernet, optical audio out, 3.5mm headphone jack, HDMI, DisplayPort, memory card reader
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-F and Bluetooth 5.0
  • Camera: no
  • Size: 9.4 x 8.5 x 3.8 inches (238 x 216 x 96mm width x depth x height)

Intel NUC 9 Extreme Design

Intel NUC 9 Extreme Design
Intel NUC 9 Extreme Design

For a desktop with an Intel Core i9 and an RTX 2070 (as it shipped to us),

the NUC 9 Extreme Kit is tiny. Honestly, it would be adorable if it weren’t adorned by skulls on both sides.

The chassis’ outer edge is made of black plastic, with metal mesh sides.

The front panel has a white light ring around the power button but is otherwise unadorned

beyond its ports: an SD-card reader, two USB 2.0 Type-A ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack

The mesh side panels feature, besides the aforementioned skulls, a honeycomb pattern.

Air comes in through the metal mesh and is expelled from the top, which is covered in vents. 

On the back are all of the ports attached to the Intel Compute Element, which powers the NUC.

There are 4 four USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports, dual Ethernet, a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, optical audio, and a lock slot.

If you have a GPU as our review unit does, the video ports will also be there.

I adore how small this thing is. At just 9.4 x 8.5 x 3.8 inches (238 x 216 x 96mm),

it can fit on virtually any desk, as well as in an entertainment center plugged into a TV.

Something like this is really perfect while I’m confined to my New York City apartment with a tiny desk.  

Intel NUC 9 Extreme Specifications

The NUC 9 Extreme is larger than Intel’s previous NUC designs, most of which border on minuscule.

But it’s still remarkably compact. The 8.5-by-3.8-by-9.4-inch case works out to a volume of just 5 liters.

Several of these could fit inside a typical mid-tower desktop (usually around 34 liters),

and it’s only half the size of a typical small-form-factor tower (about 8 liters).

Apart from the skulls printed on its mesh sides, the NUC 9 Extreme isn’t an attention-getter.

Some might not even realize it’s a computer given its diminutive dimensions.

It has no dedicated lighting features; only the illuminated power button indicates it’s turned on. 

Design-wise, this NUC’s only functional shortcoming is that it can only be oriented upright,

as in the photos. Laying it on its side would impede airflow.

The NUC 9 Extreme has a port mixture that wouldn’t be out of place on a mini-tower.

The front panel has two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, an SD card reader, and an audio combo jack,

while the back panel is home to the remainder: four USB 3.1 Type-A ports,

dual Gigabit Ethernet jacks, optical audio out, an HDMI video output,

and a pair of Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) ports.

Teardown and Upgradeability 

Intel NUC 9 Extreme Design from Different sides
Intel NUC 9 Extreme Design from Different sides

Upgrading the NUC 9 Extreme is unlike doing so on any other desktop.

This is the first machine on the market with Intel’s Compute Element,

so it’s not a matter of everything simply being plugged into the motherboard.

The chassis is small, so it requires some patience, but the only tool you’ll need to get inside is a Phillips-head screwdriver.

When you get in there, you see how unorthodox this design truly is. 

To open the NUC, you need to remove two screws from the rear, near the top,

which lets you slide off the top. That includes two fans, which are connected by some contacts.

Our unit had an 8-inch Asus Dual GeForce RTX 2070 Mini inside (the dual refers to two fans, not two 2070 GPUs), so that had to be removed.

You unplug the power cable from the card, remove two screws that secure the GPU to the case and then lift it out of the PCIe slot on the baseboard.

There are two PCIe slots on the board that sit above the power supply

(one x16, one PCIe x4), though the GPU in our unit was a dual-slot card.

Inside there are two M.2 slots. The one on the left fits M.2 modules up to 110 mm in length, while the one on the right can fit a module up to 80 mm.

On the right side of the module are two SODIMM slots.

Ours came with a pair of 8GB HyperX Impact RAM (16GB in total).

Interestingly enough, it was a 3200 MHz pair, but Intel shipped it running at 2666 MHz.

The kit typically comes empty, so you will need to provide the RAM and storage if you purchase this NUC.

Intel NUC 9 Extreme Gaming and Graphics

Intel NUC 9 Extreme Graphic Card
Intel NUC 9 Extreme Graphic Card

The NUC 9 Extreme can fit an 8-inch GPU. In fact, it’s the first of Intel’s NUCs to fit a discrete GPU, period.

In the case of our review unit, the graphics card was the Asus Dual GeForce RTX 2070 Mini OC.

I took it for a spin by playing Control at 1920 x 1080 with the high settings preset and medium preset.

The game fell just short of 60 fps, typically hovering between 54 and 59 fps.

The exception was on the Astral Plane, a level with an all-white background, in which it went up to 93 fps. 

FOR

  • Tiny chassis
  • Fairly easy to upgrade
  • Strong port selection
  • Fits discrete GPU
  • Three-year warranty

AGAINST

  • Very expensive
  • Last-generation CPU

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