Braswell Pentium NUC Review (NUC5PPYH Review)
Not so long time ago we took a good look at the Intel NUC5CPYH mini PC kit, which was based on a Celeron N3050 CPU. Today we take a look at its more powerful cousin, the NUC5PPYH that is based on the quad-core Intel Pentium N3700 CPU. This Intel NUC5PPYH review is going to be a bit shorter than the previous review due to the fact that the two units are otherwise identical. Literally, as you can’t tell the two units from each other unless you look at the model number written on the bottom plate. If you haven’t already done so, reading the NUC5CPYH review will give you good background.
The Braswell family of processors has 4 members. The dual-core Celerons N3000 and N3050 are on the lower end, quad-core Celeron N3150 in the middle and the quad-core Pentium N3700 at the top. Intel has chosen to offer a NUC with two of the Braswell CPUs. The list below describes the main differences between the N3050 (NUC5CPYH) and the N3700 (this model, NUC5PPYH):
- N3700 has 4 cores instead of 2 on the N3050
- The CPU burst frequency is 2.4 GHz on the N3700 vs 2.16 GHz on the N3050
- N3700 has 16 execution units in the GPU vs 12 EUs in the N3050
- The GPU burst frequency is 700 MHz on the N3700 vs 600 MHz on the N3050
You can take a look at Intel’s website for detailed comparison. Basically the CPU is significantly more powerful and the GPU slightly more powerful.
- Intel Pentium N3700 quad-core CPU, 2.40 GHz, 6W TDP
- Single DDR3L memory slot, max. memory 8 GB, 1.35V
- Intel HD Graphics with 16 execution units, burst frequency 700 MHz
- 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)
What’s in the Box
Like it’s more modest cousin, it arrives in the typical cube-shaped box that many of the previous NUCs have been delivered in. In addition to the NUC itself there is a power adapter that can be used pretty much anywhere in the world thanks to multiple plugs, VESA mounting hardware to attach the NUC behind your TV, a quick start guide/poster, Intel inside sticker and warranty terms and conditions.
You will need to add a single memory module and some form of storage. It could be a 2.5″ SATA drive (be it SSD or HDD), SD memory card or an external USB drive or a stick. The installation of the components into the unit is a five minute job – if you’ve never done it before watch the video below.
Windows on the NUC5PPYH
I installed Windows 8.1 on the NUC to run the benchmarks below. Installation from a USB drive was easy, but if you’re going to put in Windows 7 be prepared for a challenge. I wrote a separate article on installing Windows 7 on the Braswell NUCs, as it’s a bit tricky.
As it was the case with the slower NUC5CPYH, the overall performance in Windows is surprisingly good. The system is very responsive when doing basic things like web surfing or browsing through the image collection. My setup contained a 4 GB DDR3L-1600 memory module and an SSD drive. If you plan to use your NUC as a desktop PC, do yourself a favor and install an SSD drive instead of a conventional hard drive – this makes a bigger difference than any other choice you can make when building your NUC.
Intel HD Graphics driver for Braswell version 10.18.14.4234 was used for all of the following tests and screen resolution was set to 1920×1080.
In 3DMark the result for Cloud Gate is 2121 (Graphics 2308, Physics 1653) and for Ice Storm it’s 23147 (Graphics 24885, Physics 18602). In our previous test the NUC5CPYH scored 1489 in Cloud Gate and 17542 in Ice Storm, so we’re seeing approximately 30-40% increase in performance here.
In Cinebench R15 the OpenGL test gives a result of 13.81 fps, which is about 10% more of what the N3050-powered NUC reached. Even if this is a rather small improvement, the CPU score of 141 cb is significantly better though (110% improvement!). Single core result is almost identical.
Overall we have a mixed bag of results. An increase in performance of about 10% to 110% is seen in the benchmarks when comparing to the NUC5CPYH. When it comes to the GPU tests this is mainly explained by N3700 GPU having 16 executions units whereas the N3050 GPU has only 12. The Cinebench CPU test gives a whopping 110% better result (141 vs. 67), mainly due to N3700 having a quad-core CPU vs. the dual-core in N3050. The single core CPU performance of both N3700 and N3050 seems to be about the same. Keep in mind that the absolute scores are not earth-shattering in any way. The Braswell NUC is a low cost, low power unit and that’s reflected in these numbers. There are the Core i3, i5 and i7 models for those who need more computing power for more demanding tasks.
HEVC Video Decoding
The Braswell NUC is the first NUC to support hardware decoding of HEVC encoded video. HEVC is a recent video encoding standard that promises better quality video even when compressed more. It’s not yet in that wide use, but it definitely will be in the future.
On Windows 8.1 the HEVC video decoding on the hardware is supported by the display driver for the NUC5PPYH. Software such as MPC-HC supports HEVC HW decoding, although it’s by default switched off as it’s still considered to be in its early stages. You can turn it on in the settings at Options – Internal Filters – Video Decoder – Codecs for HW Decoding. Tick the HEVC checkbox and check that UHD is ticked as well.
First I tried a HEVC encoded 4K video (3840×2160, 29.97 fps, 80 Mbps), which is scaled down to 1920×1080 on my screen (which increases the load even a little bit more), as I don’t have a 4K screen at my disposal. According to Intel 3840×2160 at 30 fps is also the maximum resolution and frame rate that the device can support. As expected, NUC5PPYH manages this just fine – CPU load constantly under 10% and playback is smooth.
Finally a test of HEVC encoded 4K video at 60 fps. This was too much for the N3050 powered model, but would the quad-core Pentium with 16 EUs survive it? It seems that the result is identical to the N3050. Judging with plain eye the video seems equally bad, even if there are 33% more EUs in the GPU. It could be that the driver or the HEVC support in MPC-HC is not yet fully up to the task, or it could be that neither of the CPUs will simply be able to handle 4K video decoding at 60 fps. I guess this is something we’ll see in future.
Anyway, even if you would have a 4K TV, there’s no way that you could get a 4K picture out at that resolution as the maximum that is supported by the HDMI 1.4b interface is [email protected] The only situation where you would need this is if you have 4K video stream at 60 fps and you would like to watch it downscaled to full HD (1920x1080p). Movies these days are typically at 24 frames per second (so called 24p), which the NUC plays just fine.
Turning the NUC5PPYH into a HTPC
In our earlier article we already explained that NUC5CPYH makes a nice Linux-based HTPC using OpenELEC, but support for the HEVC decoding is still not there. Everything what I wrote there applies also for this model. You will get some extra power reserves, but it seems that NUC5PPYH at the moment cannot achieve anything more under OpenELEC than NUC5CPYH does.
EDIT: Now that HEVC decoding is supported, this might not be true any more! Read more here.
It is interesting to note that the Braswell N3700 NUC is bridging a gap in Intel’s NUC product line. It is more powerful than the low-end N3050 NUC, but it’s not on the same level as the Core i3 models. I expect the NUC5PPYH to become a rather popular model, as the price difference between the slower Braswell model is only about $50. Then again, in order to go for the faster i3 model you’ll need to shell out at least $100 more.
The benchmarks give you a clear message: the NUC5PPYH beats it’s Celeron-based cousin NUC5CPYH hands down and yet on the other hand the absolute performance from this N3700-powered Braswell is still rather unimpressive. However, even if the NUC is not a powerful number cruncher it has enough power for basic desktop use: web surfing, checking your emails, office applications will all be just fine with this one. Of course only light, casual gaming will be possible with such a low powered CPU/GPU. I’d imagine this would also make a nice terminal in a lobby of a hotel, convention or other place like that.
As a HTPC, it will be excellent with a single caveat. No [email protected] from this NUC (there is no HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort interface) but as long as you don’t need more than [email protected] it will do pretty much whatever you require. Anything at 1080p resolutions will be a piece of cake. If you’re running OpenELEC though, you can get pretty much the same performance out from the lower cost NUC5CPYH model. That being said, if I was buying hardware for a HTPC now I’d probably take this Pentium-based NUC5PPYH over the Celeron-based model.
If you’re interested in one, our resident guru, the NUC Guru can assist you in choosing the parts that will work nicely together and give you a shopping list with exact items to buy. There are also some suggested setups below.