Coffee Lake i5 NUC Review (NUC8i5BEK / NUC8i5BEH)

Overview

Ok, last week I was looking at the i3 Bean Canyon NUC and now it’s time to do the same for the i5 model. The model I have under review here is the NUC8i5BEK that’s powered by a Coffee Lake CPU, which is the last 14 nm CPU Intel is producing before moving onwards to 10 nm manufacturing process. The model I have here is the compact version without a slot for a 2.5″ drive. I won’t write a separate NUC8i5BEH review as the only difference to this model is the larger case that has a bit more space for the 2.5″ drive. The same mainboard and CPU is used for both models.

Features

  • Intel i5-8259U CPU (Coffee Lake), quad-core with hyperthreading, up to 3.8 GHz
  • 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
  • Micro 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.

Unboxing

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 dual-channel operation. Furthermore you’ll need some form of storage. The NUC8i5BEH model has a slot for a 2.5″ SATA drive, whereas the more compact NUC8i5BEK model does not. Both models have an M.2 slot that can be used with NVMe or SATA SSD drives. On NUC8i5BEH you can even install both an M.2 and a SATA drive simultaneously. Since the mainboard is the same on the NUC, the NUC8i5BEK also has the connectors for the SATA drive, but there’s absolutely no space in the case for one.

Disclaimer: the picture above is actually taken from my i3 NUC review, but the box contents are identical for i5. You’ll find a 90-watt power brick, power cable, a VESA mounting plate to mount the NUC behind your TV or monitor, some screws and instruction brochures and advertisement material.

I really like how compact the K model is. In the above model you can see the difference between the H and the K models. There’s not much in the front panel: HDD LED, two USB ports (the yellow one is charging capable), headphone/headset jack and the power button. The two small holes are for the dual microphone array. You don’t see it, but there’s also an infrared receiver in the front panel in case you want to control your NUC with a traditional infrared remote control. That’s handy for a HTPC.

On the left side of the NUC there’s a micro SD card reader and a hole for a Kensington lock if you want to keep someone from slipping the NUC to their pocket while no-one’s watching. The right side is more plain with only a plain air intake grille there.

Despite being smaller than the NUC8i5BEH model, the NUC8i5BEK has exactly the same connectors in the back panel. There’s a DC power jack, a HDMI 2.0a connector, Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.1 type A ports and a single type C port that can be used for Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort and USB 3.1 connectivity.

Building It

The installation of RAM and the SSD drive into the NUC is simple.

You’ll need to unscrew the 4 screws on the bottom plate and pull it out. You’ll immediately see the mainboard in front of you. Click the memory modules in place first. Unscrew the small screw from the M.2 slot and insert the SSD drive into the M.2 slot before replacing the M.2 slot screw again (the screw is the one on the upper left side of the picture here – little bit left of the “970”). Nothing more to do here, so you can close the bottom cover and fasten the screws. There’s a thermal pad on the bottom cover to distribute the heat that the SSD drive generates and if you have an SSD drive that has a larger heat sink one of the screws will be a more difficult to fasten. Maybe it’s even a good idea to not fasten the screw fully in order to avoid excessive force being exerted on the SSD. If you use an SSD such as the Samsung 970 EVO seen here and what our NUC Guru – Build a NUC tool recommends, there’s not going to be any trouble.

Mainboard and cooling

Disclaimer: The following chapter and the pictures are from my i3 review. The i5 looks exactly the same so I was feeling a bit lazy and did not photograph it again.

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 NUC8i5BEH/NUC8i5BEK support HDR. The firmware version of the LSPCon was 1.73.

BIOS

The BIOS in the Coffee Lake NUCs is the Visual BIOS that hasn’t changed much over the years when it comes to the user interface. You can use your mouse and keyboard to move around. All your basic options are present, but don’t expect a host of overclocking possibilities being offered here. BIOS version 0048 was used for this review.

It’s worth pointing out that the consumer infrared receiver is disabled in the BIOS by default. The driver installation in Windows will fail unless you enable it.



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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