Gemini Lake NUC Review (NUC7CJYH) – Overview (1/3)
The Gemini Lake NUC is finally here! It’s been quite a long time since we saw any new NUC from Intel, but the next months should be pretty much full of new releases and the Gemini Lake-based NUC7CJYH is the first. This is our review of the unit.
For those not familiar with the Intel NUC line of products, NUC7CJYH is a miniature computer that has a footprint of approximately 10×10 cm (4×4 inch). The form factor has been pretty much the same since the introduction of the first NUCs about five years ago. The Gemini Lake in the name refers to the SoC (system on chip) that powers this computer. It contains an entry level dual-core Intel Celeron J4005 CPU. A bit later in April we should see the slightly more powerful NUC with an Intel Pentium Silver J5005 CPU hit the shelves.
The NUC7CJYH is powered by a 10-watt dual-core Celeron J4005 CPU that is clocked up to 2.7 GHz. There’s no fanless model in Intel’s lineup, but third parties most probably will manufacture a fanless case for this.
The NUC7CJYH is delivered as a barebones system. This means that you will need to add your own memory chips and the storage media. The Gemini Lake NUC has 2 SO-DIMM slots for DDR4-2400 RAM, but a bit disappointingly the maximum amount of memory supported is only 8 gigabytes. For storage you’ll need to bring a 2.5″ SATA drive. I wholeheartedly recommend installing an SSD drive instead of a conventional hard drive. The installation of the components is really quite simple even if you have never done it before. If you’re worried about getting the right parts you can use our NUC Guru tool that will prepare a complete shopping list for you.
For this generation of NUCs Intel has adopted the 2 entry-level NUC strategy. Last time there was a single quad-core Celeron (NUC6CAYH). Generation before that we saw both a dual-core Celeron (NUC5CPYH) and a quad-core Pentium (NUC5PPYH). Now there’s a dual-core Celeron (NUC7CJYH) and a quad-core Pentium (NUC7PJYH) again.
|Processor||Intel Celeron J4005 CPU, dual-core, up to 2.70 GHz, 10W TDP|
|RAM||2 slots for DDR4-2400 1.2V SO-DIMM, max. 8 GB, dual-channel|
|Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics 600, 250 MHz base frequency, 700 MHz max, 12 EUs, 4k up to 60 Hz
2 full-size HDMI 2.0a ports
|Storage||One SATA 6.0 Gbps port, supports one 2.5″ drive up to 9.5mm
One full-sized SDXC slot
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet port, Realtek 8111H-CG
Intel Wireless-AC 9462-D2W 802.11ac WiFi module soldered-down, Bluetooth 5
|Audio||Intel HD Audio via HDMI port, supporting 7.1 audio streams
Realtek ALC233 HD Audio via a microphone/headphone 3.5 mm jack on the front panel
Compressed 5.1 digital audio through a mini-TOSLINK jack on the back panel
Digital microphone array for support of digital voice assistants (Cortana, Alexa)
|Ports||2 USB 3.0 ports on the front panel (one charging capable)
2 USB 3.0 ports on the back panel
|Other||Consumer infrared receiver
HDMI CEC header
Simple HDMI CEC functionality in-built
|Price||Approx. $129 / €129 / £129|
There’s also a full technical product specification document available as PDF here.
The product arrives in the typical blue cube like many of the previous NUCs have been delivered in. Included in the box besides the main unit is a power adapter that contains only a plug for one region this time (for last couple of years NUCs were delivered with a multi-country power adapter). Also VESA mounting hardware (you can mount the NUC behind your monitor or TV with these), a quick start guide/poster and some warranty papers are included.
On the front panel we find two USB 3.0 ports (the yellow is charging capable), a microphone/headphone jack, an the power switch and LED, the infrared receiver. The two small holes are for the dual microphone array. Intel chose not to include the ring LED this time. Instead there’s a conventional HDD LED.
On the back panel there are 2 HDMI connectors, Gigabit Ethernet port, TOSLINK stereo jack, two USB 3.0 ports and the 12-19V DC input jack for the power brick.
On the left side of the unit there’s an SDXC card reader and the Kensington security key lock hole.
Let’s take off the bottom cover and see what we find inside. The open the bottom cover you’ll need to unscrew 4 standard Phillips screws. There’s a 2.5″ drive slot in the cover where you plug in your SSD drive. No screws are needed for fastening the drive as it’s pretty tight fit. Behind the cover you’ll find the mainboard. The two memory slots dominate the scenery here.
Here’s how it looks with the memory installed and a 2.5″ drive in the slot. The RAM modules are just clipped into place. Installation is actually very easy. It’s worth noting that this NUC did not work with two Kingston HyperX HX424S14IB/4 modules installed. It would only boot up with one module installed. The slightly lower specced HX421S13IB/4 worked perfectly, so that is what I used for this. In the past I’ve compared the difference between DDR4-2400 CL14 and DDR4-2133 CL13 RAM on the Skull Canyon NUC (see here) and found that the difference was minimal.
EDIT: The Gemini Lake NUC seems to require CL16 or higher when using DDR4-2400 RAM. I contacted Kingston and for Gemini Lake they recommend the KVR24S17S6/4 model. I’ve tried it also, and the performance in benchmarks is within 2% of the HyperX HX421S13IB/4. The HyperX shows marginally better performance in most tests.
Now I’m going to dismantile the NUC just to see how does it look like on the other side of the board. You would not normally do this for your NUC.
Here’s the other side of the board where you can see the cooling solution.
After removing the heat sink and professionally cleaning the thermal paste from the chip with a toothbrush and some solvent (read: Stolichnaya vodka) it looks like this. I know some people in the past replaced the thermal pad used by Intel with a good quality silver paste but this time I was surprised to see that Intel had actually used something that looks like proper thermal paste.
BIOS version 0027 was used for this review. Intel Visual BIOS is pretty much the same as it was on every other NUC before this. It works ok, but only a limited amount of options can be changed on this NUC.
It’s worth noting that you can set the fan speed to 0 if the temperature falls below a configurable threshold.