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Intel officially unveils Ghost Canyon, the upgradeable NUC

Ever wish you could put a discrete graphics card into Intel’s diminutive NUC computers? Well, soon you’ll be able to do just that.

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Intel Ghost Canyon upgradeable NUC
Intel / Thumbsticks

Ever wish you could put a discrete graphics card into Intel’s diminutive NUC computers? Well, soon you’ll be able to do just that.

Intel released its first NUC – that’s Next Unit of Computing, for the acronym impaired – back in 2012. It’s a diminutive cube, roughly the size of a small Tupperware container, that packs in a barebones system including an Intel motherboard and a choice of Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processor. Bring your own hard drive and RAM and you’ve got yourself a functional and cheap mini PC, perfect as a home theatre system.

But they’re not very gutsy. An NUC is perfectly adequate for Netflix (other streaming services are available) but you’ll struggle to play any games that require more grunt than, say, pixel art indie games. or esports titles like CS:GO.

Then everything changed when AMD attacked.

In a surprising move, rival chipmakers AMD and Intel worked together to put AMD Vega graphics onto an Intel CPU. The whole thing was bolstered with 4GB of blazing-fast HBM2 video RAM – overcoming the biggest bottleneck with integrated graphics solutions – and Intel had a capable little gaming board on its hands. They then stuck it in a long, thin NUC chassis little bigger than an internet router, and put a skull on it. (Because it’s a gaming PC and, even though they couldn’t fit in RBG lighting, they still wanted it to look somewhat tacky.)

But – other than the RAM and hard disk – the Skull Canyon NUC was still a fixed point in time. It couldn’t be upgraded. And as good as that CPU/GPU combo is, it’ll only ever get older.

Which is why Intel’s latest NUC, called Ghost Canyon, is so exciting. It’s a lot bigger than Intel’s regular NUC portfolio, and even the longer Skull Canyon, but it’s bigger for a reason: Because you can fit in a full-size, discrete graphics card, which means you can upgrade it.

It’s been rumoured for a little while, and third-party manufacturer XPG is making its own version added credence to the idea, but Intel unveiled the Ghost Canyon upgradeable NUC for the first time at the CES 2020 event in Las Vegas.

We don’t have any further information on the Ghost Canyon NUC at the moment, including its price or release date, but we’re hoping to hear more details during CES.

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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.