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Intel's Skull Canyon NUC will be a powerful mini-PC for gamers

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Intel's NUC Core i7

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Intel has announced that a high-performance version of their NUC mini-PC designed for gaming, codenamed Skull Canyon, is on the way. This confirmed rumors that Intel would be using a quad-core Skylake chipset in its updated NUC line. The name Skull Canyon, however, had only reached the tech rumor mill in the weeks before CES.

Though we’re not allowed to describe the device itself, there are a few key specs that can help you start to picture what Skull Canyon might be used for. The high-powered NUC will feature a Skylake quad-core i7 processor with an Iris Pro GPU and a thermal design power of 45 watts. That’ll put it in league with the most powerful laptop computers.

The mini PC will also support Thunderbolt 3 across USB-C, so gaming-minded users can connect an external graphics card dock. This means Skull Canyon can be a mini-PC for gaming and GPU-intensive work that can compete with current mid- to high-end gaming laptops. It could potentially open the door for gamers and other demanding PC users to at least play with the idea of building a PC with a form factor previously incapable of meeting their needs.

Related: What the NUC? Here’s how to outfit Intel’s miniature PC

Intel is still playing their cards close to the vest with Skull Canyon, holding back pricing and design details. That’s an important part of the puzzle. If the system is affordable, it might be a reasonable alternative to a large gaming desktop. We’re skeptical that’ll be the case, however, given that Core i7 dual-core NUCs typically retail for at least $400. A quad-core chip will further inflate the price.

Skull Canyon will be available in Q2 2016, but suggested we’ll get a better look at it during the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco this March.