There were rumors last year about an Intel CPU with an AMD Radeon Vega GPU, which were later confirmed by Intel. The official slides were shown off by Intel at a press conference at the beginning of 2018, but the press remained skeptical of Intel’s performance numbers and their choice of benchmarks. The Intel Core i7 8809G, otherwise known as Kaby Lake-G is finally accessible to the press now (via the new Intel Hades Canyon NUC), so we have a fairly good idea of what it’s capable of.

Intel Kaby Lake-G: Kaby Lake meets AMD Radeon Vega

As PC gaming has become a source of appreciable profit, Intel has been trying it’s hand to in the budget GPU market. As such, it has been expanding it’s NUC lineup by creating the NUC6i7KYK (Skull Canyon) with high-end iGPU (Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580). The Hades Canyon NUCs were unveiled at CES this year. They are the first desktop PCs to make use of Kaby Lake-G, which basically is an Intel i7 Kaby Lake with a Radeon GPU and HBM2 memory in the same package.

Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR
Spec sheet for the Kaby Lake-G

There have been many portable or small factor gaming solutions, but something has always ended up limiting the performance, be it the space constraints, or the TDP limit or the thermals. There have been discrete graphics solutions with outrageously complex cooling solutions, like the Zotac E-series SFF PCs with high-end 175W TDP GPUs and 65W liquid cooled desktop CPUs. However, these PCs more or less break the parameters set by the NUCs. And so here we’ve got the Intel Core i7 8809G aka Kaby Lake-G, where an Intel CPU is in complete harmony with an HBM2 packed Radeon Vega GPU.

Kaby Lake-G Benchmarks

Futuremark PCMark 10

PCMark 10 benchmarks hardware for various usage scenarios from web browsing and starting up applications to productivity tasks such as editing spreadsheets and documents, gaming, and digital content creation. The Core i7 8809G was benchmarked using PCMark 10.

Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VRNothing groundbreaking here. At stock frequency, the Intel Core i7 8809G falls slightly short of the quad-core i3, but once overclocked the Kaby Lake-G manages to beat all the Core i3 CPUs

Cinebench R15

Cinebench is the most widely used application for evaluates CPU and GPU capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON animation software Cinema 4D, which is used extensively for 3D content creation and for animated movies as well as games. Both the single-threaded and multi-threaded tests were run on the Kaby Lake-G.

Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VRIn Cinebench, the Core i7 8809G destroys all the previous gen i5 CPUs and comes in just ahead of the Ryzen 5 1500X in the multi-threaded test and the overclocked Kaby Lake-G sits at the top of the benchmark in the single-threaded test.

7-zip Compression and Decompression

7-zip is the de-facto compression and decompression utility these days, and so we generally refer to it in our tests. We used the LZMA algorithm, as it both the most popular as well as the most efficient.

Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VRWith the Core i7 8809G, the GPU is the star and so here once again the Kaby Lake-G performs as anticipated. Faster than mobile CPUs but slower than the full fledged desktop parts.

Video Encoding: Handbrake

We used the open-source encoding tool handbrake to test the video compression speed. The age old X264 codec was used and so was the new X265.

Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VRAlmost in all the CPU bound tests, the Core i7 8809G sits between the Ryzen 5 1500X and the Ryzen 5 1600. On the Intel side, the Kaby Lake-G beats pretty much all the i3 chips but falls short of the Core i5 8400. These two tests are no exception.

Gaming Benchmarks

Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VRWhile the HBM2 packed Radeon Vega GPU on the Core i7 8809G can’t quite compete with the GeForce GTX 1060, it did manage to give satisfactory performance in almost all games at 1080p resolution. This proves that the Intel NUC 8 VR is a suitable solution to 1080p gaming if you need your rig in a small form factor. Also, the Kaby Lake-G gave an admirable show in DX12 titles giving the GTX 1060 a run for it’s money. Not bad, not bad at all. If I were to compare the Vega GPU on the Core i7 8809G to a discrete GPU I’d put it side by side to an GeForce 970m, 980m or perhaps even a GTX 1050.

Thermals, Power Consumption and Conclusion

By now you’re probably wondering how much power does this NUC 8 VR consume. Well, it certainly does require a lot more than it’s predecessor. Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VR Intel Kaby Lake-G NUC 6 VRWhile idle it draws a puny 17 watts, but under load it consumes a considerable 230 Watts, almost on par with the Zotac Zboxes that sport a GTX 1080. Nothing to joke about, eh. But then again, AMD Radeon Vega cards are also pretty power hungry.

As Anandtech notes, all the the cores maintain a core clock of above 3.1 GHz under all conditions. Till the CPU approaches the TJ max temp of 100 degrees, the clock stays at 3.9 Mhz consistently. The power test was run using our beloved Furmark and AIDA64 System stability test.

Closing Thoughts

Intel had promised that the Core i7 8809G, or it’s Radeon Vega powered hybrid CPUs would be sufficient for 1080p gaming and they indeed are. However, that’s not the end of the story. The Intel Kaby Lake-G consumed a fairly considerable amount of power, and it’s price is unclear at this point. And given the shortage of GPUs in the market, will the new NUC 8 VR be snatched by starved gamers (Miners, nah don’t think so, but it’s possible). That might further drive up the prices. The thermals are also not very encouraging. The CPU quiet easily hit the 100 degree mark, and started throttling. As for the GPU, it is too overclockable to a nice extend as promised.

Now if the prices are affordable or let’s say more lucrative than a discrete GPU solution, which is not at all unlikely these days, then for 1080p this is a pretty good option. Intel seems to be taking advantage of the graphics card shortage that’s the cause of much distress for gamers right now. It’d be interesting to see how this stacks up against the AMD Ryzen 5 2400G APU.

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