Coffee Lake i5 NUC Review (NUC8i5BEK / NUC8i5BEH)
Performance and Benchmarks
Henri from Terastore, the company that borrowed me the NUC for this review, had preinstalled Windows 10 on the NUC before borrowing it for me, so I didn’t have to do that this time, however, as seen on the i3 review there are no issues during the installation of Windows 10 on the NUC. The graphics driver version 126.96.36.19926 and BIOS version 0048 were used for all the following benchmarks. The system was equipped with a 2×4 GB DDR4-2400 RAM modules ($51.99 on Amazon) and a Samsung 970 EVO 250 GB M.2 NVMe SSD.
3DMark is a popular benchmarking suite that benchmarks video and gaming performance of the computer.
In the Cloud Gate test we see significant increase over the i3 model that itself showed pretty respectable performance in these tests when comparing to the previous generation of NUCs. In the Sky Diver and Fire Strike tests there are only much smaller differences between the i3 and the i5 NUCs (around 10 percent). Both NUCs have the same Iris Plus 655 GPU, so it’s understandable that the results are similar.
Cinebench runs 3 separate benchmarks and gives us figures that are comparable. First a simple 3D car chase that measures mainly the GPU (OpenGL) performance. The result is in frames per second. Second there’s a rendering of 3D model with all cores. This stresses purely the CPU. Finally there’s another rendering of the same model, this time using just a single CPU core.
The OpenGL test that stresses mainly the GPU is a similar story again: the results are a bit better on the i5 vs. the i3, but only by approximately 10%.
The raw CPU power advantage of the i5 model becomes apparent in the CPU tests. The single core result is almost identical, but the multi-core test results is 100% better. This makes me think that the i3 and the i5 are really very similar CPUs the only difference being the number of cores – the i5 has double the number of them.
The Geekbench 3 result supports that logic. The single core result of 4154 is only a little bit better (probably due to 0.2 GHz higher max frequency), but the multi-core test (result 15509) is where the difference is again about 100% better.
For those interested, the Geekbench 4 results for the NUC8i5BEK were 4885/16912.
Passmark CPU test
The Passmark test is often used to compare the CPU performance. The score for PassMark CPU performance test was 11289. Here’s a link to the full results.
Using the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) you can alter (among other things) the power limits of the CPU package. All the benchmarks above have been taken using the default settings. The default settings will limit the power to a certain rate. At that rate the CPU heats up to 80 degrees Celsius, so there’s no thermal throttling. At that setting the NUC eats approximately 50 watts of power. By increasing the power limit by 20 watts I’m able to make the NUC consume 70 watts of power and retain a higher clock rate. However, the CPU will heat up to 100 degrees Celsius before the thermal throttling kicks in. The possibility to use XTU to tune the CPU performance is probably interesting in the cases where you’re able to provide better cooling than the stock fan assembly does. In the standard case I would not like to yank it up from its default setting as I much prefer a cool PC over a bit faster but noisy one.
Thoughts on Performance
The four cores in this NUC perform each about on the same level as they do on the Coffee Lake i3 NUCs. There’s just two more of them. So in theory you should be able to see twice as much performance when using applications that can spread their load nicely over multiple cores. Of course this is not the case for many applications and then again, if you want to do some gaming the GPU is actually the bottleneck. The GPU is exactly the same as in the Coffee Lake i3 NUCs and in the Coffee Lake i7 NUC (ok, clocked a bit higher on i7). In some GPU intensive tasks the advantage was only about 10% for the i5 vs. the i3.
It’s also worth pointing out that this i5 NUC is about on par with the Skull Canyon NUC (NUC6i7KYK) that was Intel’s first gaming NUC.
If you’re interested in how this NUC does in a couple of games, I wrote a separate article on that topic.