Coffee Lake i5 NUC Review (NUC8i5BEK / NUC8i5BEH)

Fan noise, Power consumption, Conclusions

Previously I discovered that the heat pipe and the fan of the i3 Coffee Lake NUC were much improved when compared to the previous generation. The TDP increase from 15 watts to 28 watts required Intel to update it and they did a reasonably good job with it. The 80 mm fan is significantly bigger than the previous generation NUCs had and it’s also more quiet. The noise it makes sounds also more pleasant than that of a smaller fan.

While using the NUC for standard desktop tasks the fan was relatively quiet but not inaudible. For most of the times it was also a bit noisier than the i3 NUC which is not that surprising considering that it’s manufactured using the same 14 nm technology and that it contains 4 cores instead of 2. All in all, I’d say this NUC was still quiet enough for me to keep on my desktop.

The results below are obtained using a UNI-T UT353 sound meter being kept 50 cm away from the front panel of the NUC. Due to the unscientific nature of my testing the results are not comparable to any numbers obtained by anyone else and I’m sure the numbers might be some dB off.

Task Sound level
Noise floor 33.2 dB
Windows 10, idle on desktop 35.4 dB
Playing a 4k HEVC video in a MPC-HC 35.6 dB
Prime95 running stress test on all cores 38.0 dB
Prime95 running stress test on all cores, XTU overclocked 43.8 dB
Playing FIFA ’18 37.8 dB

Power consumption

The NUC of course doesn’t go without power. The following power consumption figures were taken with a simple Brennenstuhl EM240 watt meter.

Task Power
Windows 10, idle on desktop 5.6 W
Playing a 4k HEVC video in a MPC-HC 23.2 W
Playing a video in LibreELEC 14.9 W
Prime95 running stress test on all cores 74 W initially, after 45 seconds drops to 47.4 W
Prime95 running stress test on all cores, XTU overclocked 70.0 W
Playing FIFA ’18 49.5 W

Linux

Sometimes when you get the latest NUC the Linux kernel drivers aren’t quite up-to-date with your new hardware. This time that wasn’t the case luckily. I tried the very fresh Ubuntu Linux 18.10 on the NUC8i5BEK and it was pretty easy to install. WiFi, Bluetooth, network adapter etc. were all working out of the box. In case you’re interested, here’s my boot log.

HTPC

Some of you might want to build a HTPC using the NUC8i5BEH/K. There are very few reasons to choose the i5 over the very similar i3 as a HTPC, but of course you might have a certain use case that just requires a bit more CPU power than the i3 can deliver. Of course the i5 does everything that the i3 can do, so you can check 4k, 10-bit HEVC HW decoding and HDR in Windows from your list.

I did try playing a certain test video at 4k resolution and 60 Hz refresh rate using MPC-HC and MadVR renderer. This does consume a lot of GPU/CPU resources and when playing in a window, there are some packet drops. However, when played full screen it’s much better. The power consumption during video playback using MadVR was 49 watts.

Also, when tested, audio passthrough to my AV receiver was ok for all sound formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. The reason I’m mentioning this is because there were issues in 2017 with the LSPCon chip used and some audio formats did not work properly.

Of course decoding of VP9 and HEVC videos are fully supported by the HW. Here’s the DXVAChecker output still for the GPU.

LibreELEC 8.90.006 runs smoothly on the NUC. HEVC decoding, 4k, audio passthrough, IR receiver, all seem to work out of the box.

Conclusion

This is probably the best desktop replacement NUC of this generation. Plenty of power in a small package. Based on what I’ve seen the i7 has only a little bit more power reserves compared to the i5 model. Then again compared to the i3 you get a significant boost in applications able to handle multiple CPU cores/threads.

The fan noise has been kept down to reasonable levels, even if it is a bit noisier than the i3 model. Other than that the same negative points go for the i5 as for the i3: there’s no native HDMI 2.0 port supported by the Coffee Lake U architecture, so an LSPCon is used to provide HDMI 2.0. And of course, it’s not a gaming PC even though it’ll be able to run some modern games at reasonable frame rates. I’ll publish a separate article on that topic soon.

Recommended Setup

For building the NUC8i5BEH or NUC8i5BEK I recommend you equip it with the superfast but still reasonably priced 250-gig Samsung 970 EVO NVMe SSD drive and 2×4 gig HyperX DDR-2400 CL14 RAM modules. Below you can find the prices of the various components on different Amazon sites.

If you’d like to have your NUC equipped with something else go visit the NUC Guru to build your own Coffee Lake NUC.

Product US UK DE FR
Intel Coffee Lake i5 NUC NUC8i5BEK $365.99 £376.22 EUR 354,00 EUR 412,32
Kingston HyperX 2x4GB DDR4-2400 CL14 RAM (8GB) $79.99 £65.00 EUR 91,13 EUR 84,97
Samsung 970 EVO M.2 250GB NVME SSD drive $77.99 £83.69 EUR 94,15 EUR 103,50
Check out the total price of the whole setup on Amazon.com!

38 Responses

  1. omnium says:

    Again: Thank You very much for this great review!

  2. Zokkel says:

    Thanks again for your review. Very curious about the fifa18 benchmarks. Already have my nuc8i3 and 970 Evo, but still waiting for my ram…

  3. Jason says:

    Another solid review and much appreciated! Will you be posting a review of the i7 version? If so, when do you expect that to be done?

  4. Jacob says:

    Much appreciated review! I find the performance with relation to power consumption very interesting. Especially when comparing to the i3 version, where the i5 perform more than twice the perfromance. I suppose the cinebench score of 779p is with power consumption equal the prime95 of 74W, i.e. with the higher power limit? What is the steady-state performance of the i5 version when consuming around 50W, which is also equal to the i3 version during the same load?

  5. TOM says:

    So if you’re looking to use the NUC primarily as an emulation machine, you can just go with the i3-version? Seeing how must emulators are not optimized for or don’t support a multi-core architecture.

    Btw, have you heard anything about a possible passive, fanless case for these new NUCs?

  6. Juan K says:

    As usual, a great review. I bought my Skylake i5 NUC 2.5 years ago after reading your review of that model, and I still read your blog entries, just in case I decide to upgrade my little box.

    I have a request, and I hope is not a weird one: as the CPU has 4 physical and 8 logical cores, could you disable hyperthreading, perform some tests and compare them to the “normal” (with HT enabled)? I’m mainly curious about temperaturas and power consumption.

    Many thanks in advance.

    • Olli says:

      Here’s NUC8i5BEK Geekbench 3 results with HT enabled/disabled: http://browser.geekbench.com/geekbench3/compare/8696390?baseline=8705551
      Cinebench multi-core result was 575 with HT disabled. Graphics related tests (Cinebench OpenGL, 3DMark etc) show only a minor drop as the GPU is the likely bottleneck there. When running applications that handle multiple cores, the power consumption and fan speed seem identical. For example when running Prime95 there’s no difference in power consumption nor fan noise. I suppose that is because the CPU core frequency gets adjusted as high as possible before a certain power consumption (read: heat generation) level is reached. If you disable HT, there might be less load on the core, but that pushes the CPU core frequency a bit higher so the power consumption becomes identical.

  7. TOMillr says:

    How about the included HDMI-CEC capabilities? Can the NUC automatically turn on a connected TV when cold booting? Or is this feature only available in sleep states?

    • Zokkel says:

      It turns my TV on (when cold booting), but turning off is another thing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt…
      I have a Samsung KS7000 TV

      • TOMillr says:

        Thanks for the feedback. Does it also switch the HDMI input to the one the NUC is connected to?

        • Chorizo says:

          Yes, you can choose the HDMI input in the BIOS of the NUC. So if you connect it to your TVs HDMI2 you should set HDMI2 in BIOS. Or you might be left wondering why the TV always goes to HDMI1 when you start the PC…

  8. Poli says:

    Great blog. Keep it coming! Looking to buy a NUC so this blog really aids my choices!

  9. Padaung says:

    Great review as always, thank you.

    If you find the time and means, I would be very interested in a performance review update for this machine (or the i3) with an external graphics card plugged in via the thunderbolt port (if these machine are compatible with such a setup of course…)

  10. SZQ says:

    I ended up buying the i5BEK from Amazon US as it received a little price drop recently to $369. I was planning to wait for the Black Friday sales but the temptation was too great 🙂

    Ordered yesterday and should receive tomorrow (US -> Japan, impressed with Amazon logistics). However I will buy the SSD and RAM locally as those parts may have a higher chance of issues. I’ll probably go with the popular Samsung 970 Evo 250GB NVMe. Not sure about the RAM but will get 4GBx2 for dual-channel.

    Thank you for the reviews, they really helped me a lot!

  11. din says:

    the new NUC mounts a microSDXC reader with UHS-I support: what if I insert a microsd with UHS-II support?

  12. Frisbee says:

    Wonder how people feel about the Lenovo ThinkCenter M720SFF. With a coupon, i5-8400, 8GB RAM, 512GB NVME SSD, & Win10 for ~ $600USD. I get that it’s a bigger than the NUC (but a has a lot more ports), but for similar configuration (if you need WinOS), it’s about $100 cheaper.

  13. cihi84 says:

    Do you know if there is any noise and cooling differences between the BEH and BEK versions? (with and without a 2.5″ drive)? the NUC8i5BEK (no 2.5″ drive) should, in theory have better cooling as the fan is not blowing directly into the 2.5″ metal cage.

    I have some older 2.5″ SSDs and I am wondering if it is even worth considering buying the NUC8i5BEH or if it is better to get the smaller NUC8i5BEK and just sell my SSDs on ebay.

    Thanks in advance everyone !

    • omnium says:

      What do you think, why is there no NUC8i7BEK? In my theory, the cooling is better on the H models.

    • Olli says:

      My gut feeling is that the BEH models have better cooling. I don’t understand your comment regarding the fan blowing into the 2.5″ cage. The fan is on the other side of the mainboard vs. the drive cage. I don’t think it makes a difference here…

  14. Robert says:

    Anyone with this or the i7 can tell me how many fps they get in world of warcraft Thank you

  15. Dilbert says:

    Could you by any chance be convinced to make a video where you can hear the fan noise at different load levels? 🙂

  16. dd4u says:

    Hi. I asked a question regarding USB C and Power Delivery (PD) in another article before. Additionally I read in an article of the current issue if the german magazine c’t (computer technology) that the USB C is capable to deliver up to 15 Watt. Now: As I understand USB C can deliver power in both directions and up to 100 Watt. Can the NUC be powered by a monitor? Or vice versa: According to the c’t article the NUC should be capable to power a monitor with up to 15 Watt. Maybe someone hat the possibility to test that?

    • hulabalooza says:

      The NUC cannot be powered via its USB Type-C connector. I just tested using my laptop’s USB Type-C charger, but the NUC doesn’t show any signs of life.

  17. Le Matmasta says:

    Guys, who can tell me about NUC8i7BEH –
    Can i raise CPU frequency manually in bios?
    I want to disable function “turbo boost” and raise manually base frequncy from 2.7mhz to 3.2mhz – it is possible?
    It would be great – if anyone make a screenshot of the tab “Performance” in bios!

  18. Alex segers says:

    Hello, I am looking to buy a small pc for Office mail internet and banking. Is a NUC like this fast enough to do al these tasks without having to wait a minute or so to open up like a big file on the internet?
    I want it to be fast like a normal desktop would be or like a fast laptop.
    As I do not understand those tests and benchmarks just asking here.
    Thank you for the answer.
    Great blog btw

    • nucblognet says:

      Hi, it certainly is. It would be about as fast as a high-end laptop and certainly more than fast enough for mail, internet, office applications etc.

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