When the minimum requirements for VR HMDs first saw the light of day there was a lot of collective groaning from computing enthusiasts. Their perfectly good 1080p 60FPS gaming rigs were suddenly completely inadequate to drive the hungry VR monster. Getting a machine that would meet even the minimum specifications would represent an expensive upgrade.
Now things have changed drastically and it’s only a year or two after that initial specification pain. Even mid range gaming laptops sporting GPUs such as the GTX 1050 are perfectly capable of handling premium VR. Which still does nothing to take away from this tiny, tiny, VR-certified PC from Intel.
What the NUC?
The NUC or “Next Unit of Computing” is Intel’s attempt at providing a powerful desktop in a very small form factor. They’ve been making these things for a long time now. The first generation of NUC was based on the Sandy Bridge architecture, which is more than half a decade old by now.
They’ve always been impressive machines for the size, but way too expensive for the actual performance you get. I’ve always struggled to understand the exact use case, but apparently enough people have been buying NUCs for Intel to keep at it. They are pretty great for mounting on the back of a TV.
What the Hades?
This specific NUC is part of the “Hades Canyon” NUC range and sport a badass skull graphic on the side. The big deal here is that they not only have a snappy processor but also dedicated GPUs.
The VR-ready model is priced at $999 and has an unlocked i7-8809G onboard. Graphics power comes courtesy of an AMD RX Vega M GH with 4GB of next-generation high-bandwidth memory sporting a massive 1024-bit bus.
It’s important to understand that NUCs are sold as “barebones” machines. So you still have to pony up for RAM (up to 32GB) and an SSD or two. No matter which way you cut it, this is not a cheap option for VR enthusiasts.
I still don’t really get the value proposition of the NUCs given that they lack the upgradeability of desktop PCs AND the mobility of laptops. I will admit that as a technical showcase NUCs are astounding. Actually buying one seems like a rather bad deal. Although I guess coupled with a large capacity battery and some other hardware you could literally attach it to an HMD or belt clip. Although backpack VR computers already exist.
As a piece of hardware the VR-ready NUC is pretty awesome, but perhaps it’s best admired from afar.