Earlier this year, Intel released its eighth-generation NUC, an incredibly compact PC that still managed to pack enough power to run AAA and VR gaming titles at playable frame rates. But the downside to the NUC is largely its cost — for the price of the NUC, which could run more than $1,500 with the necessary RAM and storage you’d need, you can get a much more powerful traditional gaming PC.
Chuwi’s HiGame PC is a new compact PC that aims to pick up where Intel’s leaves off. It runs the same platform as the NUC, but Chuwi is selling the HiGame as a complete PC (as opposed to the barebones way Intel offers the NUC) for hundreds of dollars less. The company is running an Indiegogo campaign where orders for the HiGame can be placed for the next couple of weeks before it hits retail sales later this year.
Like the NUC, the HiGame has Intel’s 8th-generation Core processors paired with AMD’s Radeon RX Vega M integrated graphics. This compact, energy-efficient package packs a surprising amount of power that runs circles around Intel’s own integrated graphics. Chuwi is offering the HiGame with either the Core i5 8305G or the Core i7 8709G processor and 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage. During the crowdfunding campaign, the i5 model is available for $899, while the i7 version is $1,099. Both are expected to have retail prices of $400 more.
Those prices aren’t exactly budget level, but compared to what it costs to equip Intel’s NUC, they are significantly lower. But Chuwi’s take on the compact PC isn’t nearly as refined as Intel’s, and there are a number of concessions made.
I’ve been testing the six-inch by six-inch HiGame for the past couple of weeks, and in terms of power and capabilities, it’s just as good as Intel’s NUC. It can handle daily workflow needs easily and can push demanding AAA games like Star Wars Battlefront II over 60 frames per second at 1080p resolution and medium detail settings. That’s a lot of power in this tiny little box.
And when I say tiny, I mean it. The HiGame is slightly taller than the NUC, but it’s square as opposed to rectangular and barely takes up any room on my desk. The aluminum case is sleeker and nicer to look at than the NUC, and it doesn’t have any obnoxious lighting or design elements.
But you do give up some things for that compact size. Though there are enough ports to run five displays at the same time, the HiGame has significantly fewer ports than Intel’s computer. The lone Thunderbolt 3 port is on the front of the computer, which makes it awkward to use as a display output or with an external GPU, and there isn’t an SD card slot at all.
Inside, the HiGame has two DDR4 RAM slots, a single M2 storage slot, and room for a 2.5-inch SSD. Accessing those is easy enough: just four hex screws secure the bottom plate, which pops off to reveal the memory and storage slots.
But the biggest difference between the HiGame and Intel’s computer is in the cooling department. The HiGame has a single, 90mm fan that runs frequently and is very loud, at least in the pre-production device I’ve been using. (The Intel has two fans that spin much quieter). The fan comes on whether I’m gaming, browsing the web, or just going about my daily workflow of Slack, email, Twitter, and writing. It’s rare that the fan isn’t on, and it makes the HiGame difficult to use as a workstation PC if you’re not wearing headphones.
Chuwi says that the shipping version of the HiGame will have a quieter fan, but the company didn’t specify if the change is hardware-based or relies on firmware and software tweaks.
If you’re looking for the smallest possible computer that can still run modern games and handle heavier tasks, the HiGame is smaller and less expensive than Intel’s niche-focused NUC. Even though the Intel computer is significantly more expensive, it’s much more enjoyable to use, showing that sometimes, you do get what you pay for.
Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge
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