Silencing the 8th NUC – Akasa Plato X8 Quick Review

This article was written mostly already during the summer but was finalized only now. I decided to still publish it as the NUC8 still looks very much like a relevant solution for many even if NUC10 is just around the corner. The Plato X8 and the i5 NUC were kindly loaned to me by TeraStore.

I’ve taken a look at an Akasa case before when I reviewed the Akasa Newton case for the Gemini Lake NUC. This time I got the opportunity to have a look at the Akasa Plato X8 case and try out how the Coffee Lake i5 NUC stays cool and quiet inside one. Akasa’s fanless case for Bean Canyon NUC is an interesting product for many since the Bean Canyon is not exactly a silent NUC in its standard enclosure. The 28W CPU does put out some heat and it needs to be dissipated somehow.

The Plato X8 case is very similar to Plato X7 case that Akasa offered for the previous generation of NUCs. It’s basically a chunk of aluminium that provides enough heat dissipation surface so your NUC does not need a fan to keep it cool. The case is only 38.5 mm (1.5″) high and about 240 mm (9.5″) wide and deep. So the Plato X8 certainly has larger footprint than your normal NUC case but it’s still fairly compact.

Specifications

Let’s start by looking at the specifications of the Akasa Plato X8.

  • Material: Aluminium
  • Supported motherboards: NUC8i3BEH/K, NUC8i5BEH/K, NUC8i7BEH
  • Drive bay: Single 2.5″ SATA slot
  • Front panel: Microphone, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 3.5 mm audio jack, IR receiver opening, power button
  • Back panel: 2 antenna holes, power jack, 2 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port, Type-C port, Ethernet port, audio jack, Kensington slot
  • Dimensions: 240 x 247 x 38.5 mm

Basically the Plato X8 supports all front and back panel ports and interfaces that the Coffee Lake NUC provides. It’s worth noting that the case does provide holes for external WiFi antennas (the metal case will block any WiFi signal very well, so if you want WiFi you need antennas) but no antennas are provided with it, so you’ll need to go shopping if you want some WiFi. Note that you will need both the antennas and the wires between the antennas and the mainboard. The connectors on the mainboard are of MHF4 variety, so pay attention when shopping. eBay has several MHF4 antenna kits that include everything you need.

Assembly

The instructions are provided on a sheet of paper without too much explanation. Take your time when first disassembling the original NUC case and then when building up the Plato X8 case. Maybe some of the photos below will help you out.

Basically after you have taken out the NUC mainboard from the original NUC case, you’ll need to remove the fan and the heat sink. After disconnecting the heat sink you should be facing something like this:

NUC8i5BEK mainboard and heat sink separated.

Notice that there’s a good bit of silver paste and some heat pads on the CPU / GPU dies. Remove them carefully and don’t scratch too much. Cleaning alcohol is a good substance for cleaning those chips.

Thermal paste removed.

There’s thermal paste included with the Plato X8 case, so apply a bit of that on each chip. Inside the Plato X8 case there’s a chunk of metal that will be facing the chips and the thermal paste helps to conduct the heat away from the chip to the case.

This part will touch the CPU.

Once you’ve managed to screw down the mainboard into the case, you’ll need to connect a few cables to enable the front panel connectivity. Notice that rather long transparent plastic rod out there? That’s there to carry the IR light to the remote control receiver on the mainboard of the NUC.

My case was supplied with WiFi antennas, but these do not come the case as standard. You’ll need to buy them separately. Those connectors are tiny. And they break off easily. Don’t ask me how I know…

When you’re done with the WiFi you can install the SSD in the M.2 slot. Samsung’s 970 Evo Plus is one of the best options currently available.

It’s not entirely apparent from the instructions, but in order to keep the SSD cool, you’ll need to create a sandwich of the heat pads and the metal piece that’s included with the case and then stick the whole sandwich on top of your SSD. The sandwich will conduct the heat away from your SSD to the chassis.

The M.2 SSD is covered by heat pads.

There are also separate rails that you’ll need to use if you mount a 2.5″ drive, but as I did not have any, there was no need to use them.

The case seems really quite sturdy and well built. When the NUC is fully built it looks quite handsome. Booting for the first time is almost magical. The power LED lits up, but you don’t hear anything. When the NUC logo finally appears on the screen it’s still hard to believe that this is the same NUC, it’s just not making any sound at all. And then of course after a while the novelty wears out and you just get used to it.

Performance

“That all looks good, but does it really keep the CPU cool enough?” I hear you asking. It seems it does. I did run the NUC with the default BIOS settings and a whole night of Prime95 did not raise the temperature above 82 degrees Celsius (ambient room temperature 23 degrees Celsius). I’ve read that some people have had issues keeping the i7 model cool in this case, but it seems to me that the i5 is still ok in this case. I’d imagine the i3 should have no problems at all.

Conclusion

The Akasa Plato X8 is a nice fanless case for Bean Canyon NUCs. I can recommend it for the i5 and i3 models but based on what I’ve read the i7 model might get hot rather quickly in this case. Playing with Intel XTU tool and trying various settings might provide the remedy of course and certain trade-offs might be necessary with the i7 model.

If you’ve seen Akasa’s Gemini Lake case I can tell you that the Plato X8 is significantly more robust and better made case. It’s quite a handsome chunk of aluminium and feels well constructed. It’s not exactly cheap, but I can imagine that the batch sizes for these are not huge and Intel modifies the NUC design between each generation so Akasa needs to produce a new product every year. Currently it’s retailing for $138 on Amazon.

Many thanks to Henri / TeraStore for sending the items for my review.

1 Response

  1. Leo says:

    The benefit of replace a much larger heat sink? The NUC can run in turbo boost mode very long time won’t drop the frequency, am I guess right?

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