Braswell NUC Review (NUC5CPYH): Hardware Overview (1/3)
The Intel NUC is for many the mini PC that defined the whole genre. It was not the first small computer, and it is probably not the best for every purpose either, but it certainly is a popular one. The line up has always consisted of a low-end Celeron unit and then a couple of more pricy Core i3 and i5 models. The new Intel NUC5CPYH is the 3rd iteration of the Celeron NUC. The tiny, but fully functional PC measures only 115mm x 111mm x 56.5mm (approx. 4.5″ x 4.4″ x 2.2″) and can literally fit in your palm. It costs around $129 / €140 / £100, but you will need to add storage media and a memory module.
The NUC5CPYH features the latest Intel Braswell N3050 processor that’s produced with the 14 nm technology just like the earlier Broadwell and the upcoming Skylake Core i3/i5 processors found in the more expensive NUCs. It is a dual-core processor capable of 2.16 GHz burst frequency and has a TDP of 6 watts. It’s standing on the border of passive and active cooled domains, but this NUC definitely has an active CPU fan built in. There’s also an inbuilt graphics processor with 12 execution units – significantly up from the 4 EUs that were found in the previous low-end model, the Bay Trail powered DN2820FYKH.
There’s also a sister model called NUC5PPYH (read our review) that is otherwise totally identical to this model, but it has a slightly more powerful quad-core N3700 processor installed. Price difference is approximately $50 / €50. You can compare the specifications of the two CPUs here.
- Intel Celeron N3050 dual-core CPU, 2.16 GHz, 6W TDP
- Single DDR3L memory slot, max. memory 8 GB
- Intel HD Graphics with 12 execution units
- HDMI and VGA connectors
- 7.1 surround audio (via HDMI)
- 4 USB 3.0 ports (fast charging on one of the front ports, max. 1.5A)
- Consumer infrared receiver
- Support for a single 2.5″ SATA drive
- SDXC slot for a memory card (UHS-I support)
- Realtek Gigabit Ethernet adapter
- Intel Wireless-AC 3165 Wireless adapter (802.11ac, BlueTooth 4.0, Wireless Display)
Comparison with Previous Generation
Compared to the previous generation Celeron NUC (The Bay Trail-equipped DN2820FYKH) the new Braswell NUC offers significant improvements without any increase in price. In addition to adding some nice and unexpected features it actually fixes all of the weak points of the previous generation that I saw earlier, though the CPU is still not going to break any performance records. But you can’t have everything at $129 price point.
- faster CPU (compare)
- significantly faster GPU (12 execution units vs. 4, HEVC HW decoding)
- faster memory supported
- SDXC memory card slot
- VGA connector
- 3 more USB 3.0 ports, 1 of them charging capable
- S/PDIF optical audio connector
- 802.11ac WiFi adapter instead of 802.11n
What’s in the Box
The product arrives in the typical cube-shaped box that many of the previous NUCs have been delivered in. Intel has clearly put more effort into branding this as a Intel NUC device. Included in the box besides the main unit is a power adapter that can be used pretty much anywhere in the world thanks to multiple plugs. Also VESA mounting hardware, quick start guide/poster, Intel inside sticker, warranty terms and conditions are in the box.
Installation of the Components
The Braswell NUC is delivered without memory and storage media included. For memory you should choose either a 2, 4 or 8 gigabyte memory module. The memory module must be a 1.35 volt DDR3L module, and if this one is anything like its predecessors it can be a bit picky regarding the compatible memory modules. Luckily Intel maintains a list of compatible hardware on their website. My favorite module is the Kingston KVR16LS11 that comes in 4 or 8 gigabyte variants and I’ve never had any compatibility issues with those in different NUC, BRIX or Chromebox devices. If you want to be sure that you get the right kind of memory module go see the NUC Guru – our resident guru who can suggest you hardware that definitely works together.
For storage you have 2 options: an SDXC card or a 2.5″ SATA drive. The SATA drive could be either a conventional hard drive or an SSD drive. For this preview I used the following setup:
- Intel NUC5CPYH
- Kingston KVR16LS11/4, 4 GB memory module
- Conventional 2.5″ hard drive
In the Linux/HTPC part of the test I also test the performance when running from an SDHC card instead of the hard drive. For most uses, an SSD drive is certainly a good idea. Especially as the prices of the SSD drives keep falling.
In order to open the NUC you’ll need to unscrew the 4 screws in the bottom of the device.
When you pull the bottom cover out, you’ll see it contains the slot for the 2.5″ drive. The single memory slot is readily accessible and easily populated by a 1.35V DDR3L memory module. The single M.2 slot (2230 form factor) comes prepopulated with a Intel Wireless AC-3165 WiFi adapter. Interestingly it should be possible to remove the WiFi adapter and install an SSD module in its place according to this discussion on Intel NUC Communities page.
I also took a look at the other side of the mainboard. This is not something that you would normally need to do, but here we are. It is dominated by the heatsink fan assembly, but also contains the CMOS battery.
The device runs Intel’s usual Visual BIOS. It’s not the nicest or most flashy, but does its job. As usual, I reduced the minimum fan speed a bit in order to make the NUC a bit more quiet. While it’s not noisy by default, making this change turns it almost silent. It seems to me that when booting up the system, it spends excessive amount of time (almost 10 seconds) at the point where it shows me the Intel NUC logo even if Fast boot is enabled. I had BIOS version 31 in my NUC when testing this and expect that future BIOS versions will speed up this. I also noticed occasional glitches when it came to booting up when I had HDD drive, SD card and USB stick connected.
Read the other parts of our NUC5CPYH review!