Tag Archive | "nuc"

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S and Core i5 NUC incoming. (Your questions welcome in comments.)

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I’ve got two PCs coming in for a full review over the next two weeks and I’m happy to take questions. The detachable Samsung Galaxy TabPro S will be with me in the next 24 hours and the Intel NUC kit with latest Core i5 and Iris Graphics is expected by the end of the week. Although these two PCs use the same CPU design, they are targeted at totally different use-cases.

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S

Surface Pro 4, Lenovo Miix 700, HP Spectre X2 even the iPad Pro. These tablets want to replace your laptop and I have no doubt that they can. You’ll need to make a few compromises over the laptop form factor but yes, they are powerful enough. Latest Core m5 and m7 CPUs are about where we were with Ultrabooks two generation ago so you’ll have no problem with most business-focused office work, basic video editing up to 1080p and the usual range of multitasking. I’ve tested all the above and I’m now about to test the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S which fits into this category.  [I haven’t fully tested a Huawei Matepad yet so can’t comment on that.]

Up until now the Lenovo Miix 700 has been my favorite in this class although the Surface Pro 4 certainly outdoes all of them when it comes to long-term load performance. The advantage of a 15W TDP Core i5 shows up quickly.

In preparation for a full and detailed review for Notebookcheck that will take me over a week to complete I’ve checked out some of the detailed specifications. The Super AMOLED display is likely to be the highlight with infiniate contrast and the potential to boost low white-coverage (low APL) brightness in high ambient light situations. This could be the best outdoor tablet ever.

Indoors, the lack of keyboard backlight might be an issue and the fixed screen angles aren’t going to be great for lapping.

My key question is value. Why are Core m based 2-in-1s so expensive? The strategy of combining ‘Core’ marketing with higher prices seems to be the same as was done with ‘Ultrabook’ and high prices. I know it can help manufacturers get over the initial cost issues of designing and selling a new form-factor but we’ve dealt with this form factor for 3 years now. It’s time to cut the cost of Core m devices because they aren’t barrier-free for your average all-day multi-tasker. The Core m3 version with 4 GB of RAM is a silly 950 Euros in Europe now.

Intel NUC6i5SYH

This Core i5 barebones kit also has a Skylake CPU inside but that’s about the only similarity to the TabPro S. The Intel Core i5-6260U comes with Intel Iris graphics and can be fitted with M.2 and 2.5 inch SATA storage and up to 32 GB of RAM. There’s a fan inside. This is a kit that has potential for gaming, video editing and all-day office working.

The main questions for many people with be ‘how noisy is it’ and ‘can it play games.’ Yes, you’ll be able to get some ‘low settings’ gaming done on this but where non-Iris graphics modules tend to support older and less graphics-intensive games the Iris versions can handle a little more. I’ll be doing some games testing so if you have any specific tests, let me know.

The NUC6i5SYH has already been through the Notebookcheck lab tests and it’s on its way to me now. Again the review will take about a week.

If you’ve got specific questions about either of these Skylake-based PCs, let me know in the comments below and I’ll take them into consideration.

 

Intel Braswell NUCs will start at $140 but aren’t fanless. Tech specs below.

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Intel’s new entry-level mini PCs, codenamed Pinnacle Canyon, have appeared in retail channels and will start at $140. The new NUCs, NUC5CPYH  and NUC5PPYH, will replace the Baytrail-M versions that were available in 2014 and add an SD card slot, optical audio output, optional VGA and replaceable lid modules. A consumer IR receiver is included on the front of the unit.

Intel’s Braswell-based NUCs for 2015

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2015 Intel NUCs have upgradable lids.

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The new range of Intel NUCs, soon to include a Braswell variant, have upgradable lid capability. Yes, you’ll be able to buy different colors but the real attraction is in the data and power headers that have been provided. Intel hope that expansion modules made by third parties will include NFC, wireless charging, enhanced data ports and LTE modules. And why not have a battery pack too? With a USB-powered Displaylink monitor the NUC then becomes a truly mobile solution.

2015 Intel NUCs have replaceable and upgradable lids.

Cosmetic Replaceable Lids are simply shot in different colors or have custom artwork/logos -, without adding features. Functional Replaceable Lids can add features such as more NFC, USB 2.0 ports, VGA, RS232C COM ports, SDXC card reader, 4G/LTE, IoT hub, etc. There is virtually no limit to what can be done with Replaceable Lids.

Headers inside each NUC provide Power (5V out, 12-19V in,) USB 2.0 (x2) and NFC and Intel have even created 3D printing files that you can work with to create your own.

Intel NUC lid headers.

 

More information and 3D printing files can be found here and more information on the NUC lids can be found in this Intel PDF.

The new Intel NUCs come in three flavors:

  • Rock Canyon – NUC5xxRYx (consumer Core. E.g. NUC5i5RYK) [Currently $369 at Amazon – Aff. link.]
  • Maple Canyon – NUC5xxMYxE (high end Core. Eg. NUC5i5MYBE)
  • Pinnacle Canyon – NUC5CPYH, NUC5PPYH (consumer Braswell / Celeron -based.)

Information on the Braswell-based Pinnacle Canyon is difficult to find right now but we’ve tracked some data down and we expect it to make a popular HTPC choice, especially as it has a Toslink digital audio output (possibly on a header.) There’s also an SD card slot. Like the popular N2820/N2830 NUC there’s also a consumer IR receiver built-in. TDP of the CPU is down and the ‘scenario’ design power is 4W which means there’s a high possibility that it will be fanless. [Ed: My Baytrail-M DN2820FYK has a fan but it’s not loud]

NUC5CPYH, NUC5PPYH specificaitons. (Unconfirmed.)

  • Celeron Braswell processor.  (N3000, N3050, N3150)
  • TDP down to 6W from 7.5W but clock rate also down. GPU performance up.
  • 4K support via HDMI
  • Ports: HDMI, VGA, SDXC UHS-I, USB3 (x4), LAN
  • WiFi and Bluetooth included.
  • Consumer IR built-in.
  • 2.5” SATA3 SSD/HDD drive bay
  • TOSLINK/NFC & Aux Power Hdrs/2.5” drive
  • CPU performance will be in the same ballpark as teh existing Baytrail-M models but GPU performance could see a boost. Intel Quick Sync hardware video decoding is built-in.

We’re tracking news on the new NUCs and will bring you an update as soon as we have price and availability for the NUC5CPYH and NUC5PPYH.

In other SFF PC news

Keep an eye out for new ECS Liva models with Core M and Braswell. “The ECS Liva Core, which features an Intel Core M Broadwell processor, and the ECS Liva X², which has a cheaper, lower-performance Intel Braswell chip.” [source: Liliputing.]  Note: These are likely to be based on the Intel Mini Lake design. [Source.]

Intel have updated their Compute Stick information page.

Intel presents ‘no wires’ and Mini Lake Mini PC concepts

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You are probably familiar with Intel’s NUC range of Mini PCs. They’ve been popular and now that Braswell is shipping you’re probably going to see a new range of them. Intel are also introducing a Mini Lake reference design that will be over 30% smaller. Beyond Mini Lake though is a proposal for a completely wire-free Mini PC. Meet the ‘no wire’ Mini PC.

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A database of Mini PCs. What info do you need?

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We’ve been asked a number of times to add mini-PCs and stick-PCs into the UMPCPortal database so while we’re working on improving the database we thought it would make sense to put a couple of mini PC products in and to ask you what details you want to see. Mini-PCs aren’t ultra-mobile but they’re very portable and if our database is working well for you, why not add something closely-related to UMPCs? We’ve seen a lot of traction on the Intel NUC articles and the technology is closely related so expanding into mini PCs seems sensible. Stick PCs like the Intel Compute Stick are also up for discussion.

Intel NUC with Baytrail-M platform

We’ve already added a couple of NUC devices to a category we’re calling ‘headless’ mini PCs and you’ll find tailored information on the specifications pages including information about the internal slots and connectors. The new Broadwell-U based Intel NUC 5i5 is a good example.

The new ‘headless’ mini-PC category in the product database.

We’ve already added a benchmarks section to the product pages so where we’ve tested a device (or use a trusted partner’s data) we’ll add in a set of CPU, browser and GPU scores that should allow you to ‘position’ a mini PC in terms of performance and we’ll make as many notes as we can about important things like SATA drive max-height, TPM, Intel Quick-Sync and more. We’ve got live pricing (where available at Amazon) for USA, Germany and the UK which, again, will help you to refine your choice.

What other information would you be looking for? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll take it into consideration. While you’re at it, take a look at the updated product chooser and let us know what you think. Your feedback is more than welcome, it’s requested!

Ultra Mobile Extras – CES 2015 #1

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CES is huge, scary, entertaining, unhealthy and informative all at the same time but I really wish I was there. The advantage of being in the office this year though is that even if it’s 3am I can wade through a ton of feeds to pick out relevant news items. Here are the news items I haven’t blogged in full today, Day 1 of CES 2015.

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Intel NUC as low-cost media center with Openelec, XBMCbuntu. How-To.

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Following my Windows 8.1 and Android KitKat tests with the Intel N2820 NUC I installed the software that this mini-pc is really ideal for. XBMCbuntu and Openelec are Linux-based distributions that are built purely to run the XBMC media center software. These well-developed OS builds for a mature application and for the average user are a perfect match and I’ve had success with both. The Openelec build even allows the cost to be kept down to about $160 / 140 Euro

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Previous articles on the Intel NUC

Intel NUC (N2820) Unbox, first tests and setup with Android

Intel NUC (N2820) with Windows 8.1

What is XBMC?

XBMC, a project that has its roots in original hacked Xbox hardware, is a multi-platform, free software suite that provides video and audio library and playback facilities, a PVR front-end (to software like MythTV that can control TV and satellite cards.) It has a large-screen interface and can be controlled by various remote means including infra-red, app, keyboard and game controllers. It is very network-aware which allows content to be indexed from many sources. Add-on software allows libraries to be enhanced with rich content, fan-art, community information and also allows internet-based content to be access. Podcasts, radio streams, YouTube and many other content sources are supported out of the box.

In this article I’m testing the latest ‘Gotham’ releases of XBMC.

What’s the difference between XBMCbuntu and Openelec?

XBMCbuntu is a complete Linux operating system distribution set-up in such a way that XBMC auto-runs when booted. Standard features of Ubuntu Linux are included which allows the user to run other services (web server, NAS etc.) and to use the desktop in addition to XBMC. Openelec is a very reduced Linux OS that is intended to allow XBMC to run on low-power and small storage PC builds. For example, in this case we’re running Openelec from a cheap USB stick which allows us to ignore the need for a hard drive. There’s little scope for running anything other than XBMC within Openelec.

System hardware details costs.

  • Intel NUC DN2820FYKH (Baytrail-M processor) – $120
  • 2G Memory Kingston ACR16D3LS1NGG/2G – $(recovered from an upgrade. A modern equivalent is going to be around $20)
  • For an XBMCbuntu or Windows 8.1 build I recommend an SSD. I’m using a MydigitalSSD BP4 240GB part but a 64GB version of this fast SSD is just $60. It helps to speed up boot, database updates and to keep power and noise levels low.
  • Remote – Xbox 360-compatible remote. (a remote won’t cost more than $20)
  • USB stick for Openelec – (You’re likely to have one lying around!)

Installing XBMCbuntu on the Intel N2820 NUC

I installed XBMCbuntu to the SSD but installed Openelec to a USB stick, which obviously negates the need for an internal drive. I used the Gigabit Ethernet port for Internet connectivity but an Intel Centrino WiFi module is also included. An infra-red transceiver is already mounted in the NUC (which means you must have it in line-of-sight to the IR remote control.)

XBMC install was very simple. A how-to video is shown below.

  • Burn XBMCbuntu image (available to download from here) to CDROM (250MB approx.)
  • Connect DVD drive to NUC and boot XBMCbuntu CDROM into live image to test functionality.
  • (If you already have Windows on the drive) shrink exiting Windows 8.1 data partition to free space for XBMCbuntu. (If you’re using a fresh disk, install is automated and easier.)
  • Create and select partitions (boot, root, swap, home) using advanced options
  • You’ll see the partition creation process on the demo video (or jump directly to it here.)

install2

The rest of the install process is self explanatory but on my system – pre installed with Windows 8.1 and using UEFI boot system – it rebooted straight into Windows. I had to reboot, press F10 and go to the boot menu to select to correct boot drive. Having Windows 8.1 and XBMCbuntu on a NUC isn’t likely to be a common scenario but I have it here because of the testing I’m doing.

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Performance is great. Libraries seem to update very quickly considering the amount of data I have on my remote drives. I used a combination of UPnP from my NAS and SMB shares from my NAS because via SMB I was able to tag the directory a data type and let, for example, a movie database plugin scan all my films and add metadata to them. For audio I used uPnP as I was able to link artists and genres as separate directories. I’m still experimenting with network protocols.

In terms of video playback performance I was impressed to see every single one of my Carrypad video test files play. From simple DivX through WMV and H.264 to complex MTS containers with H.264, AC3 sound and subtitles. Videos from the local network all started quickly and I saw no tearing or sync issues. In terms of bitrate performance I saw only one issue with a 25Mbps-30Mbs H.264 fullHD file at 50FPS with Dolby AC3 that was taken direct from a camera recording. During the 90-second video if needed to buffer once so it looks like either some buffering settings need to be adjusted or I need to ensure that my NAS and network is performance correctly.

Under XBMCbuntu I was not able to configure Wi-Fi and I could not get any response from my basic or my Xbox 360 (3rd party) remote control. The XBOX 360 remote worked under the Openelec build (below.)

Video: Testing 30Mbps file  here.  (On this video it works better than I describe above, possibly because I was working on the same switch as my NAS. Other tests were performed in my living room where the NAS is behind a second router. )

YouTube 1080p performance appears good although I was only able to see 720p versions of most files. 4K content was delivered as 720p despite having the YouTube app set up to request 1080p On my 100Mbps internet connection there were no delays. Other video apps tested: TED, Revision 3, Twit and a few others. I did not test any locally stored content so am not able to give an ‘upper limit’ on, for example, H.264 decode bitrate.

In terms of music content I have a very large library and have been accessing it via a UPnP share. Initial tests seem to indicate that it’s usable but more testing is needed here as I’m in a transition phase where I’m also testing the Xbox Music streaming and offline service. XBox Music streaming services are not supported on XBMC.  (See notes below on DRM content.)

Boot up time (after selecting the boot partition manually in the BIOS) was around 15 seconds. (Note: This is on a fast SSD.)

No lock-ups or crashes were experienced during the testing period.

Video: Installing XBMC via XBMCbuntu on an Intel N2820 NUC

 

Low-Cost: Openelec on the Intel N2820 NUC

For the Openelec test I used a small USB stick as the boot media (created automatically using the Live image creator) and a 4GB USB stick as the permanent ‘disk.’ For more details on the installimstall process, which is very simple, are available in this guide.

Due to the system running from a relatively slow USB stick I experienced occasional freezing on the UI. In some cases of mapping new content into the system this was 10 seconds or more. In normal playback usage I didn’t experience any serious freezing.

Out of the box, so to speak, I had a better remote control experience. A third-party XBOX 360 remote worked although as you’d expect, it turned on both the NUC and the XBOX at the same time. You’ll need to keep your XBOX turned off while you use XBMC!

DVDs I tested worked although there were some buffering issues experienced. I’m not sure why but maybe the decrypting process isn’t that efficient? I have yet to watch a full film through so beware that there could be hidden issues that I haven’t experienced yet. DVD menus worked OK.

Video playback performance was good as long as the network could keep up. In my living room I connected via Gigabit Ethernet but saw a few buffering issues with a 30Mbps H.264 file. You’ll have to make sure your routers, switched and NAS are fit for the job if you want to deliver high bit-rate files. This could be an issues for those of you wanting to play FullHD or 4K files made with home video equipment. As with XBCMbuntu I successfully tested a suite of about 20 remote files ranging from low-bitrate to high-bitrate H.264, MPEG-2, DivX, WMV and various containers including MKV files with subtitle content. H.264 encoding seems to be the best solution for high-quality HD content.

The NUC has a quiet fan inside. I didn’t detect any noise or fan spin-up during testing (3 meters away from TV.)

Openelec Links:

 

XBMC and the issue with modern digital media.

XBMC and other open-source media centers are good for those with a lot of local content but there’s an issue for those that don’t have local films and music and this problem gets bigger as time goes on. Over the last 10 years most of us bought our films on DVD. Recently we’ve started to buy HD films on Blu-Ray too but we’re also starting to use streaming services a lot more. TV shows, music videos and the music itself in these service is almost always controlled via a digital rights management system. While it’s acceptable to make a personal backup of a personally owned DVD in some countries (not in the USA) it’s not permissible to break DRM on streaming content that you rent. In order for pure and DRM content to be accessible via the same program the media centers need to implement closed DRM standards in order to support protected content playback. Unfortunately that’s rare in an open-source system. I know many of you avoid DRM (and for the target audience for XBMC maybe this streaming issue is a non-issue) but it needs to be said so that the average person is aware that XBMC is not a modern all-encompassing digital media player.

There are some reasons to have a media center if you haven’t got any local video content. Digital audio files are generally DRM-free and there’s a lot of online video content out there on services like YouTube that could keep someone happy for years but wouldn’t it be better just to buy a Chromecast stick, or similar, for $35? Or how about just connecting your Android, IOS or Windows phone to the TV so you can run whatever program is needed. It’s not a fully integrated front-end but it’s pretty easy to switch apps these days. Although I haven’t tested it yet you can even run XBMC as an Android app.

Alternative: XBMC / Windows tablet solutions.

I seems to me that a hybrid solution is needed to cover all forms of modern digital media and to that end I took a cheap Windows 8 tablet and tested XBMC alongside my music streaming service from Microsoft and my wife’s video streaming services from Amazon. The Windows 8 solution I chose is now available for just $215. The Acer Iconia W4 has HDMI output, can be remotely controlled via a Bluetooth keyboard, accesses the network via built-in WiFi and charges over a USB port.

Acer Iconia W4-820-2894 8-Inch 32 GB Windows Tablet (Smokey Gray) < Amazon affiliate link.

If you want to connect over Gigabit Ethernet, that works via a USB adaptor (although you’ll lose charging unless you buy a data+charge solution or buy a larger Windows tablet with separate charge and USB ports.)

I also tried Miracast wireless display to have an XBMC-in-the-hand experience. While Miracast is a terrible way to use an interactive user-interface on a remote screen (due to at least 100ms latency) it’s actually possible to use a tablet with a Full-HD screen in mirrored mode and just use the touch UI on the tablet. I tested the Lenovo Miix 2 10 and it worked well and played a 2Mbps film over WiFi. Miracast isn’t good for environments with poor WiFi or for gaming or any other UI-interactive application as the Miracast solution has too much latency for that and I wouldn’t recommend Miracast as a permanent solution. A Windows tablet with HDMI and Gigabit Ethernet adaptor and a remote Bluetooth keyboard is the best way to do the Windows / XBMC hybrid solution.

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An Android-based alternative could be to use XBMC on a powerful tablet with Miracast capability or to use an Android box. Given that Android 4.4 works on the Intel NUC I have it could be a good follow-up test.

Summary.

XBMC is easy to install on the Intel NUC via XBMCbuntu and Openelec and it makes a small, stylish, quiet solution. Connected via Gigabit Ethernet it’s able to decode 20Mbps+ of remote content. The user interface is easy to control with mouse, touch, remote or keyboard. For the lowest cost solution a fast-USB3.0-stick install of Openelec would be my recommendation and with 2GB of RAM it brings the total cost to around $160. As a hybrid Windows 8.1 / XBMC solution it should do well too and in some respects that’s a better solution for the modern media subscriber. Beware though because disk, memory and license requirements would take the price up into territory where a Windows 8 tablet could perform just as well.

Intel NUC (DN2820FYKH, Celeron N2820) Windows 8.1 Performance Review.

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I started testing the Intel NUC with Bay Trail-M yesterday and in the post you’ll see some performance figures for Android 4.4. Today I’m looking at Windows 8.1 (Pro) which was a simple, if lengthy, install process. Windows installed correctly from a DVD but a lot of time was taken installing all the (64-bit) drivers. Today I’ve had a chance to go through my usual suite of tests and you see the results below along with some comparison figures.

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It’s important to note that I’ve gone for a fast SSD drive in the system. The MyDigitalSSD BP4  I have is a 240GB version but you can pick up the BP4 in a 64GB version for around $60 and it’s something I would recommend because this dual-core Atom CPU isn’t hugely powerful. We’re talking about the CPU and GPU power of an 8-inch Windows tablet here so in order to use this as a desktop PC you really can’t cut corners on storage speed. Oh, and why wouldn’t you just use an 8-inch tablet with a free copy of Microsoft Office? It’s a good question but a SATA disk interface and USB3.0 are just two arguments against that but given that a Windows 8 license is around $100 on top of the, approximately $240 you’ve already spent on the NUC, RAM and disk, if you’re also in the market for a student solution with MS Office you can afford to look at a 64GB Lenovo Thinkpad 8.

Buying a tablet isn’t as much fun as building your own NUC though and I suspect that most NUCs won’t end up running Windows. XBMCbuntu or some other free Linux distribution is more likely, especially when you consider the built-in IR receiver. Advertising displays, education, POS and automotive industries (and hobbyist) are also likely to be interested. Having said that, I’m enjoying this Windows 8.1 solution so far. The SATA SSD is making it feel much faster in operation than a Windows 8 tablet and it’s quieter than any laptop once the unit is mounted behind a monitor. The Gigabit Ethernet port is helping to boost internet speeds too.

Systeminfo

devicemanager

System information and device manager information.

In terms of raw power I am a little disappointed. I should know better but the promise of a 2.4Ghz dual-core CPU had me thinking in terms of Ultrabooks and not tablets. It’s good, but don’t get over excited about anything like PC gaming or video editing. On that topic, note that there is no Intel Quick-Sync hardware video encoding so rendering videos could take a long time unless, you have a very very recent (we haven’t seen any in circulation yet) version with the N2830 processor inside. That version does support Intel Quick Sync and should improve basic video encoding performance by about 10X.

As mentioned, general performance is OK. It reminds me of the performance I got from the Acer V5 laptop with A6-1450 CPU after I had done an SSD upgrade. That platform, however, has better GPU performance. The PCMark7 score was good at 2732 points which safely beats al the Bay Trail-T tablets and even the Lenovo 11S with an Ivy Bridge Y-Series Core i3 CPU. Ultrabooks with recent CPUs and SSDs are getting around 5000 points in this test though and that’s the sort of performance you should be looking for if you’re doing serious multitasking and are looking for a ‘barrier-free’ office PC platform.

PCMark7

For a raw CPU test we ran Cinebench 11.5 64-bit and saw a rather poor score of 0.83 which is the slowest CPU we’ve tested this year. The Z3740-based Windows tablets are showing 50% better CPU performance. Clearly the SSD is helping to prop-up the PCMark7 scores so if it’s CPU performance you need (excel calculations, software development environments for example) then step away. A 2012/2013 Acer W510 running Clovertrail returned 0.53 points in our review so at least it’s a step up from that.

cinebench cpu

In addition to Cinebench we ran Passmark.

Intel NUC (N2820) Passmark CPU: 970

  • Integer Math:2313
  • Floating Point Math:723
  • Prime Numbers:2.35
  • Extended Instructions (SSE): 2.49
  • Compression:1242
  • Encryption:174.2
  • Physics:55.6
  • Sorting: 958
  • Single Threaded:537

GPU performance is comparable to the Bay Trail-T tablets we’ve seen. The Cinebench OpenGL test returned 6.0 FPS. We also ran the cross-platform 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme and saw results slightly above that which we see on the Intel Windows 8.1 Bay Trail-T tablets. The Ice Storm result on Windows 8.1 was also 13% better than the result on the NUC when we tested it with Android 4.4 although that OS build is still an early one and might need some optimizations. Again, this isn’t a gaming platform but Windows 8 ‘modern’ games did play smoothly. Pinball FX was smooth and responsive on a Full HD screen. F18 Carrier Landing was the same; Drift Mania Street Outlaws too.

 

3DMark ISE

3DMark Ice Storm Extreme (Windows 8.1) : 8468  (Android 4.4): 7504

Update: Under ‘Performance’ power profile and with the latest BIOS installed we saw a score of 8604 under Windows 8.1

 

Browsing speeds are good on the NUC. The SSD and Gigabit Ethernet are helping but tests like Peacekeeper and Sunspider show some lead over Baytrail-T devices. A Sunspider score of 495 beats all the Baytrail-T tablets we’ve tested and a Peacekeeper score of 1374 is good too. It doesn’t come close to the value you get out of an Acer C720 Chromebook though – and that’s cheaper!

peacekeeper

sunspider

Finally we come to video performance. In a Handbrake encoding test both with and without Intel Media SDK options turned on we saw under 9 FPS in our test which is truly bad. The Bay Trail-T tablets are scoring over 100 on this test and current Ultrabooks score over 300 fps. As for decoding, we played a 50 FPS Full HD H.264 video (30Mbps) through Windows Media Player and saw no problems but a CPU utilization of over 70%. Under Windows 8 Video app, however, the utilization was down to under 20%. Clearly there’s some hardware acceleration going on under Windows 8 modern that doesn’t happen when using Windows Media Player on the Desktop. Playing a 3Mbps H.264 video from a network drive through the Windows 8 Video app resulted in about 6% CPU utilization.

YouTube performance varied between browsers with Chrome struggling to offer a 1080p video without dropping frames at 100% CPU utilization. Both Modern and desktop versions of Internet Explorer were able to provide a smooth playback experience with under 20% CPU load. We continue to recommend Internet Explorer for YouTube playback on Windows 8.1 (the Modern app comes with extra security advantages too.)

A video playback test under XMBCbuntu is probably more relevant for many people thinking about the Intel NUC. We’ll be testing that out at a later stage.

Disk Speed.

We are using a MyDigitalSSD BP4 240Gb unit to test with. Here are the Crystal DiskMark results.

CDM

Intel NUC DN2820FKYH (2)

As you can see there’s not much to moan about. In a previous test with this SSD on an AMD A6-1450 system (here) we saw slightly lower scores.  We don’t recommend using this NUC as a desktop with a spinning hard-disk as it will significantly slow down the perceived performance of the system.

Power.

Idle power used on this platform is so low that it’s not possible to measure it accurately using a consumer ‘Watt’ meter. In our tests it looked like the PSU was actually using 9W of power. We’ll set up a DC-only test at some point in the future in order to allow us to more accurately measure power usage.

Other Tests.

Noise measurement has proved almost impossible here as the levels are so low. As ambient noise on the workbench is 44 dB it’s very difficult to tell if the NUC is on when mounted behind the screen but there is definitely fan noise detectable if you listen carefully in a silent room. We are running the latest BIOS with default cooling settings and understand from owner feedback that it might be possible to reduce the fan noise through settings available in the BIOS.

We haven’t performed tests on the WiFi module or done any audio tests.

In a follow-up article we’ll be looking at XBMCbuntu.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below.

Summary.

We’re reluctant to call this NUC an all-round capable Windows desktop PC but there are definitely some interesting use cases here. It’s small and quiet and can support fast SSDs. It works well as a video playback unit (assuming Modern or IE is used as the playback environment) and keeps up well with multi-tab browsing usage. With the built-in WiFi unit it’s very portable and could make a useful camping, holiday home or hotel solution. For those thinking of Microsoft Office use cases we would suggest to take a look at the Lenovo Thinkpad 8 which comes with a 64GB SSD, USB3.0, HDMI and Office Home and Student for the same price as a NUC with Windows 8 and the Office license. For those looking for a browsing only solution, you can’t beat the Acer C720 at $220 with this unit.

Overall we think that the Celeron N2820 NUC may appeal to those who have specific Windows 8 use cases in mind (data collection, control, advertising, education, kiosk, IoT etc) or for those that have a spare SSD, memory and Windows license lying around. For those wanting a media-center solution, stay tuned. We’ll be looking at XBMCbuntu where we really think this NUC will shine.

Intel NUC (DN2820FYKH, Celeron N2820) set-up and first test with Android 4.4.

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For the purposes of creating an exciting project for myself and something different than 8-inch Windows tablets for the readers I’ve bought an Intel NUC. The Intel Next Unit of Computing is now in its second generation and this Baytrail-M powered (N2820) version has been chosen for a number of reasons. Firstly, Intel are building Android X86 for it (and KitKat has already booted and installed without a problem,) it’s new and finally, I’d like to see just how Baytail perfroms in real-world scenarios with a very fast SSD – something we can’t do on the Baytrail-T platform.

Intel NUC DN2820FYKH (4)

The Intel Celeron N2820 is a dual-core (no hyperthreading) 2.13 – 2.39 Ghz processor based around the Silvermont CPU you find in all ‘Baytrail’ variants. It’s a 7.5W TDP SoC with 64-bit architechture that can handle  a useful 8GB of DDR3L-1066 memory. HD graphics (gen 7) up to 756Mhz clock, USB3.0 and SATA storage interface make it more flexible than any Baytrail-T platform although you won’t get, in this N2820 version, high-end Quick-Sync performance. [The new versions of this product will have an N2830 that supports Quick Sync. If you can find one, it’s better than the N2820 version.

The box itself is mainly aluminum with a plastic top and bottom. Inside you’ll find a SATA interface and 2.5” 9mm drive bay, one RAM slot and a PCIe slot that contains an Intel WiFi module. There is one front-facing USB3.0 port, two USB2.0 ports, audio port, HDMI port, power port and a Gig-E port. Also on the device is an IR receiver which is obviously intended for home theatre usage. A VESA mount is also provided…

 P1170205

Intel NUC DN2820FYKH (2)  Intel NUC DN2820FYKH (10)

 

Memory choices for the DN2820FYKH

You’ll see in the video below that my first attempt at boot-up resulted in no response. I thought the unit was dead until I tried a third, newer stick of memory. I’m currently using a 2GB module from Kingston. (ACR16D3LS1NGG/2G.) Intel have published a list of working memory modules here.

Visual BIOS

Intel’s Visual BIOS is a much, much easier way to handle BIOS settings. It’s mouse-controlled, interactive, live and far more useful than the old BIOS setup systems of old. Current fan speeds, voltages and temperatures can be seen and there’s a lot that can be configured over and above the boot-sequence order. There’s even a built-in screenshot facility. More time is needed with this before I can report in detail on Visual BIOS but I’m already hoping to see it on more PCs in the future.

bioimage2biosimage

 

OS testing.

As a quick-start route into OS testing I’ve already installed Android KitKat from the Intel Android site 01.org. Latest downloads are available here. I tested a 28 April 2014 release of Android 4.4 ( android-4.4.2_r1-ia2 – Bat Trail generic.) which booted from a USB stick without any modifications to the BIOS. Installation onto the hard disk was simple.

This build is a raw Android open-source image without any Google services but after installing the Amazon store I was able to test Facebook, Twitter and a few other apps.

P1170239Android 4.4 on Celeron N2820 NUC performance.

After installing the above Android KitKat build on the SSD I ran a series of tests. Here are the results. [Windows 8.1 is being installed as I write this. Watch out for a follow-up post.]

Sunspider : 1.01: 520

Quadrant : 5544

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited : 13214

3DMark Ice Storm Extreme : 7504

3DMark Ice Storm : Maxed Out.

Linpack : 167.667 MFLOPS

 

Fan Noise.

In normal operation this mini-PC is very quiet. The fan runs at about 3000 RPM under zero load. After 3DMark IceStorm tests were run fan noise was audible with air rush and mechanical hum. This level of noise is, in my opinon, not acceptable for a home office when the unit is positioned on the desk. Under a desk or at home TV viewing distances this (max) level of noise should not be an issue. In the current test setup an Acer V5 laptop, next to the NUC, is creating more noise than the NUC.

Full image gallery.

A gallery of various images is available here. It includes internal close-ups and some images of Android 4.4 running.

Intel NUC (DN2820FYKH, Celeron N2820) Video

Further Testing.

This report is based on the first 12 hours of testing with the Intel NUC. Windows is being installed as this is being written and a follow-up post with Windows performance test results will come within 24 hours. This report will include information on the consumer IR receiver.

What would you like to see tested? XBMC? Games? What video demo’s would you like?