Intel NUC (Core i7 and Intel Octane), Review: a configurable PC in compact format for the living room or work

Of the Intel NUCs that came to the market as a desktop alternative to cheap netbooks and desktop computers, almost nothing remains. The successive generations have managed to create a category of their own that promises a lot after its alliance with AMD to integrate Radeon VEGA graphics. In TechGIndia we have tried one of the most powerful Intel NUC classic solutions, with Core i7 processor and Intel Optane memory.

This is the Intel NUC with Core i7

As we commented in the introduction of this review, it currently makes little sense to refer to the Intel NUC as low capacity and low-cost computers. The family has evolved and looked forward to, maintained the essence of a compact computer, having nothing to envy in features and configurations with other desktops.

The limitations due to its small size fits in one hand, are evident. Both in ports and expansion possibilities we can not compare the Intel NUC with a classic desktop, but it does make sense to think of them as an option to consider when we do not need an external graphics card (having Thunderbolt 3 opens a new path for graphics solutions external) or do not want a classic all in one.

The Intel NUC model we have tested is one of the most powerful solutions available. It is ready to use Intel Optane memories and has Intel Iris Plus graphics adding Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.

PROCESSOR Dual-Core Intel i7-7567U (3.5-4 GHz) // Cache 4 MB
TECHNOLOGY 14 nm
GRAPHICS Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650
TDP 28 W
RAM DDR4-2133 maximum 32 GB
HDD M.2 and 2.5 inches SATA 3
GRAPHIC OUTPUTS HDMI 2.0;
USB PORTS 4 USB 3.0 (one charging)
OTHER PORTS microSD
PRICE Rs. 42,500

Inside this model of Intel NUC, there is room for an SSD of M.2 type, a classic hard drive (or SSD) SATA3 of 2.5 inches, as well as up to 16 GB of DDR4 RAM (there are two slots available). It is one of the models in the kit category, that is, those that allow the user to choose and assemble some components such as RAM or storage. Neither comes with an operating system installed.

Rear of the NUC with its main ports

In terms of connectivity, the NUC, despite its small size, is very well prepared except perhaps in the number of USB ports, which seems that we never have enough unless you resort to connecting peripherals wirelessly.

The NUC of Intel has on the back of an HDMI 2.0 port with 7.1 audio output (compatible with 4K content), a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports and a Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gbps, Displayport 1.2 and USB 3.1 gen2). There is also the power input there.

If we look at one of the sides, we find a Kensington lock and a handy microSD card reader.

[bs-quote quote=”In its compact size there is almost nothing missing for a consumer PC. Bring even infrared port and two microphones to talk to Cortana.” style=”style-13″ align=”center”][/bs-quote]

Already in the front is the infrared receiver, which will allow us to use remote controls if we want to give multimedia center functions to the NUC, the audio input/output, as well as two ports more USB 3.0 very comfortable for those peripherals of removes.

This Intel NUC does not neglect wireless communications and comes standard with WiFi AC and Bluetooth 4.2. Designed for use with Windows 10, Intel has included two microphones on the front so that Cortana can hear us.

In our case, the base configuration of the Intel NUC and its Core i7-7567U was complemented with a module of 8 GB of RAM at 2133 MHz, an Optane memory of 32 GB and a 1 TB hard drive. The operating system is Windows 10 installed in the 32 GB of Intel Optane memory, something that gives a lot of life to the computer but that makes, if you are not careful with where you keep content and install applications, it becomes a continuous “system it has run out of space. “

A VESA adapter is included in the box to place the NUC comfortably and safely on the back of a compatible monitor.

Simple assembly: you only need a screwdriver

If you have decided to customize your Intel NUC in certain internal components, the assembly is very simple. You just have to take into account the limited space that there is and that hinders some placement of screws, but little else.

Add or change components is very accessible

Access to the interior of the Intel NUC is made through the lower part, where we have four screws. Once we have removed them we find the casing with a SATA3 connection, which we must carefully remove to one side to access the bowels of this Intel NUC.

Interior of the Intel NUC once the SATA3 disk case has been removed

In our case, we proceeded to install in a few seconds both the 32GB Intel Optane unit, with its corresponding M.2 slot that must be screwed carefully, as the Toshiba 1TB mechanical hard drive. Finally, we puncture an 8 GB DDR4 RAM module, which has to be SO-DIMM type, replace the 2.5-inch hard disk housing just above, aligning with the holes for the screws and close.

The reduction of superfluous elements in total, and for example that casing SATA3 is screwed to the base plate with the same screws that close the lower cover access to the interior of the Intel NUC.

You have to have a little patience with the M.2 slot screw for the little space available to place it

Once we finish assembling all the components not included in the kit (32 GB Optane memory comes out for Rs. 5,800), we proceed with the installation of the operating system. We chose Windows 10 Pro, which we installed in Intel Optane memory / SSD. The 2.5-inch mechanical disk, which we could perfectly substitute for an SSD if we wanted to, we left it for pure storage.

Consumption, temperature, and noise in operation of the Intel NUC with Core i7

With the Intel NUC already perfectly ready to start working with it after the installation of several applications and the occasional games, we started the battery of test to measure consumption, noise in operation and temperature in different scenarios.

Regarding consumption, the power supply (thank you so compact) that comes with the NUC marks a maximum of 65 W, so we knew that by that margin we should move. In fact, in our measurements, the average working load of 100% was 49 W, a very interesting figure, especially considering its use as a multimedia center.

Regarding noise and operating temperature, in our test, the Intel NUC never exceeded 60 degrees Celsius, with an ambient temperature of about 15 degrees Celsius. At the noise level, the system includes a small ventilation system with a loudspeaker that starts up as soon as we demand a little over 25% of the processor’s workload. In complete silence the continuous noise is noticeable but neither as a multimedia center watching content nor in the daily work, it is a problem despite the difficulty of cooling this Core i7 in such a small space.

Intel NUC with Core i7: performance test

In everyday life as a consumer computer, the Intel NUC has been shown in our test very reliable, showing no problem in tasks related to office automation, web browsing and even photo editing.

He also passed different tests of video playback to corroborate that if we want to use it as a multimedia player, thanks to its HDMI 2.0 output with 7.1 sound. The maximum support is for 4K content at 60 Hz, and with videos that offer that quality, the reproduction was perfect. Ideal as a compact multimedia center for the living room except for the nuance that, with its cost, it is not advisable to exclusively give it that functionality. But it is manageable and in a matter of seconds can be placed in the living room next to the TV or a project if we wish.

Proven that the practice was perfect for their characteristics, we went to synthetic test to put numbers to our experience.

The first battery of test had PCMark and 3DMark as protagonists. In the case of the latter, in the TimeSpy test, this NUC with its Core i7 offered us a figure of 535 points, with 1434 for the Fire Strike test. The data corresponds to the expected for this processor and its range.

Finally, we have the test with Cinebench, which scored 49.8 fps in the OpenGL test, and 401 cb in the specific for the CPU.

Intel NUC to play, is it possible?

Who is thinking about buying an Intel NUC with Core i7 and Intel Optane is very unlikely that, for the nearly Rs. 42,500 it would cost a configuration with a hard drive and RAM, take it into consideration for gaming tasks. It is a team that suffers from intense graphics loads and is not prepared for it.

Despite this, we wanted to put it to the test both with first level games in terms of graphics requirements, as in other sports or less demanding.

The test of fire is done with our reference game for these test: The Division. Nothing else to load, if we skipped the notice that the configuration of the PC was not the most suitable for that game. We ignored him and executed him. It should be noted that, by the combination of 32GB Intel Optane memory as the main disk and a 1 TB mechanical one as a secondary, the Steam games are stored in the second.

The first test with The Division is done with 1080p resolution but in detail mode Low. The average 16.4 fps we obtained already made it clear that going up in detail was not within the possibilities. Yes, we reduced the resolution to 1366×768 pixels to get, in that same mode of detail Low, about 26 fps that we could support playing ever.

If retaining the same idea of playing 1080p but with low quality in the configuration, we move on to other habitual titles of our hardware reviews, only with the little demanding we can think of some other game session with this Intel NUC.

For those who aspire to more, external graphics solutions can be a solution although, with the price of the system in its entirety, one might wonder if it is precisely what we want to have.

In the case of its use as the main PC at home, for office tasks, navigation and the interesting extra to use it as a multimedia center, its compact size, consumption and low noise in operation make up an interesting pack although in a range already priced at to consider.

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Omar Belkaab

Journalist Editor for TechGIndia. Although I am passionate about new technologies and the best Android devices, I remain very attached to the good old feature phones that have often left me in the lurch.