Coming Apollo Lake NUC: What to Expect?

We’re almost in the middle of Q4 2016, which is when Intel is expected to release the new Apollo Lake NUC. Apollo Lake is a codename for Intel’s latest low-cost CPU/GPU architecture that is going to be found in the low-end laptops and Intel NUCs during 2017. A lot of the details have already been leaked out and first Apollo Lake mainboards have been delivered to end users, so we’ve got a pretty good idea how the Apollo Lake NUC, or NUC6CAYH if you prefer the product ID, will look like.

Intel NUC6CAYH Apollo Lake NUC

Apollo Lake NUC Specifications (prediction by nucblog.net)

These are educated guesses based on rather credible leaks.

  • NUC6CAYH
  • CPU: Intel Celeron J3455 CPU, quad-core, 1.5 GHz (2.3 GHz burst), 10W TDP
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics 500, 12 EUs, 250 MHz base frequency, up to 750 MHz
  • Memory: Up to 8 gigabytes of DDR3L-1866, 1.35 V, single channel
  • USB: 2 front USB 3.0 ports (one with fast charging), 2 rear USB 3.0 ports
  • 2.5″ SATA slot: Single slot for a 2.5″ SATA SSD or HDD drive, max. height 9.5 mm
  • Display connectivity: Full-size HDMI 2.0 port, VGA port
  • Audio connectivity: 7.1 channel digital audio over HDMI, 3.5 mm headphone jack in front panel, 3.5 mm speaker/TOSLink connector in the rear panel
  • Networking: Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek), 802.11ac m.2 2230-size WiFi card preinstalled, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Infrared: Infrared receiver in the front panel

Intel NUC6CAYH Apollo Lake rear panel connectivity

CPU Performance

The CPU in the Apollo Lake NUC is a quad-core Celeron which probably means that Intel is going to have only a single CPU in the Apollo Lake NUCs. The previous generation Braswell NUCs had 2 models: one with dual-core Celeron N3050 and one with quad-core Pentium N3700. Good news is that I’d expect NUC6CAYH retail price to be closer to old Celeron-based NUC5CPYH than the Pentium-based NUC5PPYH. At the same time I expect that the Apollo Lake Celeron NUC will beat the N3700-based Braswell NUC.

If we look at some benchmark results from J3455 from passmark.com (J3455 vs. N3700) we can observe roughly 10% improvement in the raw CPU power. The German site technikaffe.de reports similar increases.

GPU Performance

When it comes to the GPU performance I expect more significant improvements than on the raw CPU side. After all, this is a 10-watt processor whereas the previous N3700 had a TDP of 6 watts. Looking at the raw numbers there’s not that much of a difference. N3700 had 16 EUs and the burst frequency of the GPU was 700 MHz. J3455 has 12 EUs but the burst frequency is higher at 750 MHz. According to AnandTech Intel has said the GPU of the 6-watt Apollo Lake N4200 is 45% faster than the 6-watt Braswell N3710. Thus I’d expect a bigger gap between the 10-watt J3455 and the N3700. And indeed, technikaffe.de reports that in Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL test the J3455 beats N3700 by 86%!

More importantly, the GPU features full hardware acceleration for 10-bit HEVC decoding and for decoding Google’s VP9 format as well. The 10-bit HEVC decoding means that this NUC is finally the model that’s able to answer the challenges that the 4k UHD TV, 4k TV broadcasts and 4k BluRays are presenting. Google is pushing VP9 heavily via their YouTube site, so instead of taxing the CPU to the max this NUC should be able to play a VP9 coded video and happily do something else on the side as well.

The Miniature HTPC Many Have Been Waiting For

I predict that this NUC will become wildly popular as a HTPC. It’s got enough CPU and GPU power, there are finally 10-bit HEVC decoding capabilities and it has a HDMI 2.0 connector that enables you to connect to a 4k screen with 60 Hz refresh rate. HDCP 2.2 should be supported as well. An LSPCon (Level Shift Protocol Converter) is used to provide the HDMI 2.0 capability, but that should not present an issue.

In Windows the 10-bit HEVC decoding should be supported already and in Linux world ffmpeg supports 10-bit HEVC decoding for Intel hardware already. I have a feeling that Kodi will support this soon as well…

So what do you think of the Apollo Lake NUC? Let us know in the comments below.

38 Responses

  1. Patiently waiting for this to be released

  2. Bob says:

    Do you know anything about HDR / HDMI2.0a support?

  3. ggs says:

    Waiting patiently for this. I intend to replace my n3700 and n3050 NUCs with 2 of these. They are HTPC running Kodi. Hoping to get better performence with live tv from HD HomeRun Prime tuner. They struggle with live 1080i streams.

  4. Robert says:

    This will be a worthy replacement for my NUC DN2820. Just a bit miffed that they it doesn’t support two sticks of RAM….

    Glad to see the NUCblog is alive and kicking again!!

  5. Pac says:

    Holding out for a Kaby Lake i3 NUC.

    • nucblognet says:

      Yes, you’ll probably get all the goodness that the Apollo Lake has to offer plus a lot more CPU performance with Kaby Lake. Obviously the price tag is going to be about 2.5 times what you’d pay for an Apollo Lake.

      However, an i3 is what I have been running in my living room for the last couple of years. I might try to replace it with an Apollo Lake though and if I feel that it’s lacking somehow I’ll replace it with a KL i3. Definitely there’s no need for an i5 as a HTPC. The are many other cases where the i5 makes sense though.

  6. Robert says:

    More interested in the i3. Now…what is the release date? One of the top (if not THE top) tech company on the planet & they can’t figure out how to give a firm release date? Specs & features are nice but saying Q4 availability is useless to me.

  7. kingrob says:

    Guys, I’m actually getting more excited about the new Zotac MAGNUS EN1070 – you get an i5 with a GeForce 1070 inside it. Needless to say, it smokes the Skull Canyon Iris Pro 580 graphics…….

    • Olli says:

      Well, yes, sure, but the Zotac costs approximately 10 times as much as the Apollo Lake NUC. I think they don’t they’re aimed at the same target audience. The Zotac looks nice though – hopefully it doesn’t sound like a jet engine!

      • kingrob says:

        Haha……you are absolutely right! However, I was more talking about a comparison between the Intel NUC & Zotac MAGNUS mini pc. The Skull Canyon i7 NUC is very expensive for what it is, while for a few bucks more, you can have a GeForce 1060 in your mini pc! Well, in the end I’ll probably settle for a Kaby Lake i5 NUC and get myself a PS4 Pro….still considering if I should buy something now or wait for the New Year.

    • Santiago Draco says:

      The Zotac is running a Skylake processor… which has no 10-bit HVEC decoding… so it would be a waste for those looking to build a “future proof” HTPC rig that can also game. Now a similar system based on Kaby Lake would be my dream HTPC system.

  8. Sene says:

    Do you think this GPU can run MadVR with default setup ? any chance to use more advanced MadVR algorythms ? decoding is important but a high quality renderer is also key for HTPC

  9. Jon says:

    I seem to remember reading about dual channel memory being a requirement for smooth HEVC 4K playback. Seeing that 4K HEVC is mentioned multiple times in this post; is the dual channel no longer a necessity?

  10. drego85 says:

    I want buy a NUC with Lake CPU, I should wait 1/2 months for KabyLake or take the current models? Thanks!

    • nucblognet says:

      Kaby Lake (coming Core i3 and i5 models – I’d say early 2017) is totally different from Apollo Lake (I’d expect this year) when it comes to performance and price. What do you plan to do with your NUC?

      • drego85 says:

        Ok, thanks! I would like an i5 processor, I want build a small server with ProxMox and at least two Debian virtual machines.

        I would just figure when release the new KabyLake with i5 processor, last year were announced on November 15…!

        If new i5 NUC arriving in January/February I wati, but if I have to wait in April or more no …

        • Olli says:

          Hi there! Skylake was available a bit after Christmas. I don’t know when Kaby Lake will be available, but I would guess that it’ll be a bit later since the Apollo Lake is released clearly later than Braswell (that came out in the summer). It’ll hopefully be January/February, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if it will be later…

          If you don’t need HDMI 2.0 or HW decoding of HEVC video, Skylake i5 will not be that much different (expecting 10-20% difference in CPU speed).

  11. e says:

    10-bit 4K HEVC decoding is still the hybrid acceleration ala Skylake, no? Full hardware acceleration is finally arriving in Kaby Lake, which presumably means they’ll show up in the generation after Apollo Lake.

  12. Pac says:

    Whats this about Intel shutting down their NUC Twitter account and possibly discontinuing the product line after Kaby Lake?

  13. Fred says:

    I’ll wait for Kaby Lake. Hopefully it will have full HDMI 2.0 support so we can finally get proper 4K playback.

  14. cyc says:

    I’m very happy to read about new NUC to be able to hardware decode 4K video! At the same time, this unit still has the TOSLINK, so I’ll be able to directly connect it to an amplifier, not via HDMI to a TV set. 🙂 Nice!

  15. cyc says:

    Oh … by the way – why is TOSLINK available only on cheapest NUC, i3 and better are without it?

  16. pepe garcia says:

    do you know if this NUC J3455 will be fanless?

  17. psc says:

    Dual Channel Memory – (Two DIMM Sockets)
    Realtek* 8111HN Gigabit Ethernet Controller
    Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168 module
    Digital microphone (DMIC) array header for support of digital voice assistants, such
    as Microsoft* Cortana (dual digital array microphones are included with Intel NUC
    Kit NUCC6AYH and Intel NUC Kit NUC6CAYS) (These are the two holes on the front panel)

  18. AnthonyW. says:

    Kind of disappointed that there’s no mention of USB-C support

  19. Simon says:

    Looking at possibly running Plex Media Player embedded, with audio passthrough into an atmos system and 4k projector. Given that it’s not doing that much heavy lifting, is this overkill do you think?

  20. Hello at all,
    what do you think about new Baby Canyon NUC7i7BNH? It’s better then Skull Canyon NUC6i7KYK.I must change 2 PC’s in office and I have see that the prices are similar.
    Many thanks

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