The Intel NUC 9 Extreme, aka Ghost Canyon has forever remained a piece of interest for tech geeks. They’re mini-sized desktop PC kits intended for enthusiasts who prefer size over all else. NUC stands for the “next unit of computing” for those who don’t know. Since 2012, the firm’s been developing barebones desktop computers called NUCs that are comparatively so small, you could implement one anywhere. But now, Intel eventually has a tiny device that can actually fit a desktop graphics card.

For the last few years, Intel has even tinkered with attractive projects centered on gaming. The earlier version used the short-lived chip association with AMD’s Radeon graphics. But now, Intel ultimately has a miniature gaming PC that can take on extreme gaming gears.

Intel NUC 9 Extreme

Yes, it’s bigger than any earlier NUC, which seems like a step backward. But at 5 liters, the NUC 9 Extreme is yet remarkably slimmer than any desktop with a dedicated GPU. It’s surprisingly modular: You can plug in any graphics card that’s up to 8 inches long. And Intel has also produced a swappable “Compute Element,” which houses a joined mobile CPU, two slots for laptop-sized RAM, and space for two M.2 SSD drives.

Intel NUC 9 Extreme

If you needed a processor upgrade in some time, you could just turn out the Compute Element for a brand-new model. There’s also a small 500-watt power supply with pre-routed cables. 

It just takes two screws to remove the cover, with its twin 80mm exhaust fans and spring-loaded copper connectors — there’s no fan cable to unplug — also half a dozen cables to remove, including snaps for a pair of Wi-Fi antennas, the power cable, and cables for the front audio, USB ports, and full-size SD card reader.

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Then push a lever, and the computer’s entire brain lifts right out — a graphics card-shaped brain that houses practically every critical part of the system save the modified 500W FlexATX power supply.

Intel NUC 9 Extreme

Pop open the NUC Element module after two more screws, and you’ll see an L-shaped vapor box cooler for the 45W Core i5, i7, or i9-9980HK CPU (laptop grade, but one of the fastest Intel makes); an 80mm blower-style fan and heat sink to dissipate the heat; two standard DDR4 laptop memory module slots; and two slots for stick-shaped M.2 NVMe solid-state drives — just load it up with whatever you like. Around back there’s an Intel Wi-Fi 6 module baked right in, plus a full array of ports including four USB 3.1 jacks, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, dual Gigabit Ethernet sockets, and an HDMI port.

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Right next to the CPU brain is another PCIe x16 slot where your gaming graphics card goes, and you should understand it won’t support every card — you’ll be needing a “mini” GPU like a GeForce RTX 2070 Mini that’s less than eight inches in length.

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Intel will be selling the NUC 9 Extreme this March as a barebones system starting at around $1,050 with a Core i5 module, $1,250 for Core i7, or around $1,700 for the flagship Core i9.

Intel NUC 9 Extreme
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