Coffee Lake i3 NUC Review (NUC8i3BEH)
The Coffee Lake NUC a.k.a. the Bean Canyon NUC has been coming for a long time. The development versions have been out almost half a year ago as I spoke to a SW developer who had had one since early summer. Finally, in October the Coffee Lake i3, i5 and i7 NUCs have hit the shelves. We start by looking at the Coffee Lake i3 NUC which sits on the low end of the range. What I have here is the NUC8i3BEH model, but there’s also a slightly more compact unit (case height is lower) without the 2.5″ SATA drive slot. That one goes with the product name NUC8i3BEK.
- Intel Core i3-8109U CPU (Coffee Lake), dual-core with hyperthreading, up to 3.60 GHz, 28W TDP
- Integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 GPU, up to 1.05 GHz, 128 MB eDRAM
- RAM: 2x DDR4-2400 SO-DIMM, 1.2 volt, 32 GB max.
- SSD: 1x 22×80 (22×42 also supported) M.2 SSD slots for SATA or NVMe SSD
- HDMI 2.0a port, 4k support with HDR
- USB Type-C port that provides USB 3.1 Gen2 (10 Gbps), Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort 1.2 capabilities
- 4 USB 3.1 Type-A (the normal one) ports (2 front, 2 rear)
- Intel gigabit Ethernet Adapter
- Intel Wireless-AC 9560 WiFi adapter with Bluetooth 5.0
- 3.5 mm front audio jack for stereo + microphone
- Consumer infrared receiver
- Dual microphone array
- SDXC card reader
- Dimensions: 117 mm x 112 mm x 51 mm (4.6″ x 4.4″ x 2.0″)
- 90W power adapter
Full technical product specifications are available as PDF.
Intel’s product brief is available here as PDF.
The Coffee Lake NUC is delivered as a barebones unit. This means there’s no operating system, memory or an SSD drive installed. You’ll need to buy them separately and install yourself or buy from a vendor that does it for you. It’s not that difficult to install the components yourself though. You will need to bring a DDR4 SODIMM memory module or actually ideally two of them for multichannel operation. Furthermore you’ll need some form of storage. The NUC8i3BEH model has a slot for a 2.5″ SATA drive, whereas the more compact NUC8i3BEK model does not. Both models have an M.2 slot that can be used with NVMe or SATA SSD drives. On NUC8i3BEH you can even install both an M.2 and a SATA drive.
In addition to the NUC itself, inside the box you’ll find a the power brick, a power cable, a VESA mounting plate, some screws for the VESA mount, quick start brochures and advertisement material as well as an Intel inside sticker.
The connectivity on this NUC is what we’ve seen before. The front panel has two USB ports, out of which one is charging-capable and line-out/headphone connector. In addition to these ports there’s also the power button, microphone array and an infrared receiver.
Both sides of the NUC now feature a mesh vent for air intake. On the left side there’s also a slot for SDXC card and the Kensington lock.
The back panel has the usual connectors. There’s a 19V DC jack, a HDMI 2.0a connector, gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.1 Type-A ports and a single USB Type-C port.
In order to assemble your NUC you’ll the RAM and an SSD drive as I mentioned. You could also use a conventional 2.5″ hard drive, but maybe don’t. Just don’t.
You’ll need to start by removing the bottom cover by unscrewing the 4 screws on the bottom plate. The bottom plate also houses the slot for the 2.5″ drive. When you have the bottom cover out of the way, you can insert your RAM into the slots as well as the drive. That’s all you need to do. I plugged in my trusty 2×4 GB HyperX DDR4-2400 CL14 (HX424S14IBK2/8 is the exact model and it costs $44.99 on Amazon) in and used a relatively inexpensive AData XPG SX7000 NVMe M.2 SSD drive as well. Those RAM modules have probably been in more NUCs than I can recount!
Mainboard and Cooling
Normally you don’t need to detach the mainboard from the case but I wanted to do so, as I wanted to see the updated cooling solution on the other side of the mainboard.
As you can see, on the other side there’s a much larger diameter fan (80 mm in this NUC) than previously was used on the Core NUCs. This is good news because large fans can move more air without spinning so fast. This in turn means less noise and noise is what some might remember the previous generation Kaby Lake NUCs from.
I detached the fan to find the copper heat pipe under the fan.
And finally you’ll find the CPU under the heat pipe. There’s quite a generous amount of cooling paste applied between the CPU and the heat pipe. A bit too much for my liking even, but seems to work ok though.
Finally, if you look close enough you can see the MegaChips MCDP2800 LSPCon chip that converts the internal DisplayPort 1.2 signal into HDMI 2.0a signal. I know this will be a disappointment for some as Intel had some problems with the LSPCon chips a couple of years ago and they did get some bad rep out there. The LSPCon and the GPU in NUC8i3BEH/NUC8i3BEK support HDR. The firmware version of the LSPCon was 1.73.
The BIOS options on this NUC are fairly typical for these units. The fan control options do let you switch off the fan completely if the CPU is not getting too hot. Also, there are limited HDMI CEC features here that allow you to switch on/off the TV or NUC automatically. The above gallery shows you the different pages in the Intel Visual BIOS. BIOS version 0048 was used for this review.
Keep reading for some performance benchmarks!