Coffee Lake i7 NUC Review (NUC8i7BEH)

Overview

This is the last Bean Canyon review I’ll be posting I promise. This year I’ve been lucky enough to source all 3 different versions at the same time. A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the i3 and then last week the i5 model and last but not least I have the i7 model on my desk. Unlike the smaller brothers this i7 model only comes in a single case variant. The NUC8i7BEH features a 2.5″ drive slot as is designated by the letter H in the end of the model number. I suspect the lack of the smaller case is due to the increased need for cooling the i7 CPU.

The Coffee Lake i7 NUC comes with a relatively high end i7 CPU that’s able to do some serious number crunching. I was very pleased with the performance figures that we saw on the i3 and i5 models, so let’s see how this one does.

Features

  • Intel i7-8559U CPU (Coffee Lake), quad-core with hyperthreading, up to 4.5 GHz
  • Integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 GPU, up to 1.20 GHz, 128 MB eDRAM
  • RAM: 2x DDR4-2400 SO-DIMM, 1.2 volt, 32 GB max.
  • M.2: 1x 22×80 M.2 slots for SATA or NVMe SSD (22×42 also supported) or other M.2 device
  • Storage: 2.5″ SATA slot for HDD or 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 NUCs come as a barebones units. 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 and I’ll show you here how to do it. You will need to bring a DDR4 SODIMM memory module or actually ideally two of them for dual-channel operation. The NUCs are a bit fussy on the memory, so choose one that you know works or take the easy way and consult our NUC Guru to build your own NUC. Furthermore you’ll need some form of storage. On NUC8i7BEH you can install either an M.2 SSD or a 2.5″ SATA drive or even both simultaneously.

Disclaimer: the picture above is actually taken from my i3 NUC review, but the box contents are identical for i7. 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.

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.

The NUC8i7BEH has exactly the same connectors in the back panel as all the other Bean Canyon NUCs. 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. The bottom plate contains the slot for the 2.5″ drive and is attached to the mainboard with two pretty short cables. You can disconnect these or try to work through this with the cables connected. Under the cover you’ll find the mainboard. 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. Alternatively, slip in the 2.5″ drive into the slot in the cover. 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.

Mainboard and cooling

Disclaimer: The following chapter and the pictures are from my i3 review. The i7 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 NUC8i7BEH 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. The i7 BIOS does not differ from the i5 or the i3 versions. There’s no more overclocking options here or anything. 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.

13 Responses

  1. Me says:

    All we need now is Akasa case for this 🙂

  2. omnium says:

    If akasa does it like they did in the past, is it at the expense of the NUC8’s small footprint.

  3. beczka says:

    I couldn’t understand from the text which one seems to generate less noise – i5 or i7?
    Did you have the same fan settings in bios?

    • Olli says:

      Sorry, it was a bit late when writing that. 🙂 BIOS settings were on the default settings on both cases and the same BIOS version was used. I think the i5 was somehow more noisy, but the numbers don’t seem to support that. Maybe the noise is just a bit different because of the smaller BEK case vs. the BEH model. I don’t believe that the i5 would generate more heat than the i7. In any case, there’s no big difference. Neither of them is noisy nor quiet.

  4. Mat says:

    How about the possibility of adding an external thunderbolt gpu enclosure with a nvidia 1080 card. Woukd that be enough to turn it into an upgradable games machine?

    • Olli says:

      The CPU is fast, so in theory an external fast GPU will turn the NUC into a mean gaming machine. Never tried that though and couldn’t get anyone to ship me an enclousure…

  5. Joe Duarte says:

    Hi Olli – How many PCIe lanes are dedicated to the M.2 SSD?

  6. daas says:

    How long is turbo retained when having power limit increased and cooling preference set to cool instead of balanced or quiet in the bios?

  7. FaceMcBashy says:

    Can you replace the stock thermal compound with some nicer aftermarket ones(not liquid metal) and see if there is any big improvements?

  8. KB says:

    Would you be able to upgrade to future chipsets?

  9. Mac mini 2018 i5 8gb ram 256 disco duro o Nuc8i7beh 16gb ram
    Cual sería mejor? Cual elegirías ? Gracias

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