Comet Lake i7 NUC Review (NUC10i7FNH/K)

It is again that time of the year when Intel’s latest mainstream NUCs hit the shelves. This is the bread and butter 4×4 inch NUC that has existed since the beginning of the Intel NUC era. Usually people refer to the NUCs by their code name, which in the case of this NUC is Frost Canyon or by the code name of the CPU: Comet Lake. So this is the Frost Canyon NUC or the Comet Lake NUC – you’ll see both names being used. Some refer to it only as NUC10. The Comet Lake NUC is available with dual-core i3 CPU, quad-core i5 CPU or a hexa-core i7 CPU. We’ll start our review round with the i7 model that was kindly loaned to me by TeraStore.

The Comet Lake i7 NUC comes in two variants: NUC10i7FNH with a taller case and a 2.5″ SATA drive slot and NUC10i7FNK in a more compact case without the drive slot. The model we have here in this review is the compact NUC10i7FNK. The only difference between these two models is the case though – the mainboard and the CPU are the same in both units.

Specifications

The key features of the Comet Lake NUC are listed below.

  • Intel Core i7-10710U CPU (hexa-core with HT, 25W TDP, 12M Cache, up to 4.70 GHz)
  • Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU (up to 1.15 GHz, 24 EUs)
  • 2x DDR4-2666 SO-DIMM RAM slots, max. 64 GB
  • M.2 slot with PCIe X4 lanes (22×42 and 22×80 form factors supported), Optane support
  • Display connectivity: One HDMI 2.0a port and one USB Type-C port with DisplayPort 1.2
  • 7.1 digital audio over HDMI/DP, 3.5mm headset jack on front panel
  • USB ports: 2x front (Type-A, Type-C) and 3x rear USB 3.1 Gen2 (2x Type-A, Type-C); 2x USB 2.0 via internal headers
  • Gigabit Ethernet port (Intel i219-V)
  • Wireless 802.11ax adapter integrated (Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200) with Bluetooth 5
  • Thunderbolt 3 on USB Type-C port
  • Full size SDXC card reader
  • Quad array microphone, IR receiver, Kensington lock…
  • Dimensions: 117x112x38 mm (for the NUC10i7FNK model in test), 117x112x51 mm (the taller NUC10i7FNH model with a SATA slot)
There’s now a Type-C USB port on the front.
Rear panel has a power jack, HDMI 2.0a port, Gigabit Ethernet, 2x USB 3.1 ports and a Type-C Thunderbolt/DP port.
Air intake grills on both sides. This year the SD card reader is full size.

The full technical product specifications are available here (75-page PDF document).

What’s New?

So it looks like the NUCs before it, but what has changed? Well, this is basically an incremental update when compared to the NUC8i7BEH that is the predecessor of this NUC. Remember, there was no NUC9 when it comes to the mainstream NUCs.

Of course, the most obvious update is the CPU. Instead of the quad-core i7-8559U CPU that was based on the 8th generation Coffee Lake architecture there is a hexa-core i7-10710U CPU that is based on 10th generation Comet Lake architecture. Mind you, both are still manufactured using the 14 nm process. This time also the Core i7 model is available in the slim, compact case.

The GPU change looks initially like a step backwards though. Instead of the relatively potent Iris Plus Graphics 655 GPU (48 execution units and 128MB eDRAM cache) in the NUC8i7BEH we now have the older Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU (24 executions units, no eDRAM) in place. The TDP of the CPU/GPU package has been decreased to 25 watts instead of 28 watts, most likely due to the GPU change.

The maximum amount of RAM has been doubled from 32GB of DDR4-2400 to 64GB of DDR4-2666.

The integrated WiFi adapter supports WiFi 6 (802.11ax) now, one of the front USB ports is now a Type-C port and there’s a quad array microphone instead of dual microphone array. Oh, and the micro SD card reader has been changed into a full size SD card reader.

Assembling

Intel NUCs are barebones PCs which means that you’ll need to add your own RAM and storage. The box contains only the NUC itself.

Intel has ditched the cube shaped box.
In addition to the NUC there’s a power supply, VESA mounting plate, few screws, quick start guide and safety material.

I’ve decided to use the following components in my review:

  • Intel NUC10i7FNK (currently $598.95 on Amazon)
  • 2×16 GB DDR4-2666 RAM modules (two Kingston KVR26S19D8/16 modules, currently $68.70 each on Amazon)
  • WD Blue SN500 250 GB NVMe SSD (M.2 22×80 form factor, newer and better SN550 version currently $45.00 on Amazon)

I’ve used Kingston RAM without issues for years in my NUCs and the RAM I’m using is part of their standard ValueRAM line. The WD Blue SN500 is a low-cost NVMe SSD drive. At that price point there’s little reason to look at slower M.2 SATA SSD drives. Since my purchase the SN500 has been replaced by the SN550 model that’s a bit faster.

If you would like to configure a NUC of your own take a look at our NUC Guru tool. It will provide you with a list of recommended components and a shopping list you can use to easily order your NUC for a competitive price.

If you’ve built a NUC before this is all going to be familiar to you. You’ll start by unfastening the four screws that hold the bottom plate in place.

You’ll see the bottom (or is it the top?) of the mainboard.

Next step is to insert the memory modules into their slots until you hear a clicking sound. Finally unfasten the small screw that will hold the M.2 drive in place, insert the drive into it’s slot and replace the screw.

Now you’re ready to close the bottom cover and start your NUC after connecting the necessary cables for power and your peripherals.

Teardown

What else can we find inside that tiny case? Let’s do a quick teardown to see. The WiFi antennas have to be disconnected very carefully in order to not break the connectors. They’re really small and pretty fragile (learned that the hard way once).

The mainboard can be removed after unfastening the two black screws that hold it in place.

Once we flip the board we can see the cooling solution. It seems to be very similar as the one used on NUC8.

Finally, after detaching the fan the heat sink solution is visible and again that looks very familiar.

There’s plenty of silver paste between the CPU and the heat sink.

64 GB Should Be Enough for Everybody…

Ok, so this NUC officially supports 64 GB of RAM unlike the ones that came before it. The thing is there are not that many 32 GB RAM modules available that work with this NUC. However, the Samsung RAM M471A4G43MB1 ($136.33 per module on Amazon) that I tested on the NUC seems to work flawlessly.

The RAM was detected in the OS and in the BIOS as expected and works at full 2667 MHz rate. What’s there more to say, it’s memory and it works, eh?

For some reason the new Visual BIOS does not have a screenshot functionality like the old one did. However, I captured a short video if you’re interested in the various options available:

Contents

16 Responses

  1. johnt78 says:

    It’s a pass from me. UHD graphics Intel, really?

  2. Damian says:

    All I want is a nuc that can play Ultra HD 4k discs via an external player. That’s all. :(

  3. Juan Carlos says:

    Many thanks for your review. Your blog is, to me, *the* information place about NUC.

  4. Ref nuc says:

    I have last years nuc8i3 and the logitech k380 keyboard, when I dual boot windows 10 both x64bit I lose bluetooth connection to the keyboard

    I not sure why but you can use the nuc bios with bluetooth?

    When I get to the windows dual boot screen I can not select which OS I want to boot it’s really annoying

    I also have logitech m720 triathlon mouse and get same issue

    Any ideas?

  5. Jaap says:

    Thanks for the review! I read the SD card slot has not only become full size, it has become much faster as well supporting UHS-II.

  6. INTC says:

    https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/29530/Intel-Graphics-Windows-10-DCH-Drivers

    “Unlocked drivers: We heard how much our users want the freedom to upgrade their systems to our regularly released generic graphics drivers and enable our latest game enhancements, feature updates, and fixes. As of this release, Intel Graphics DCH drivers are now unlocked to upgrade freely between Computer Manufacturer (OEM) drivers and the Intel generic graphics drivers on Download Center. Simply use the exe and enjoy the update on your 6th Generation Intel Processor platform or higher, and don’t worry about your OEM customizations–they remain intact with each upgrade and the OEMs can maintain customizations separately via Microsoft* Windows Update. Intel Drivers and Support Assistant drivers will also be unlocked starting April 28th, 2020. See the Release Notes section *4 for important information about this update.”

    Intel 26.20.100.8141 graphics driver.

  7. roop says:

    Ok, this NUC is a mess. I mean with a weaker GPU it would be great as an Server, because they, mostly, dont need high graphics. BUT, it looks like the CPU has thermal issues. I mean, 2 more cores, HT and a smaller GPU. This Thing should yield much better Results.

    Next Gen Nuc (11) seems to be the real deal. 2.5 gbit/s networking, new Gen Graphics and maybe much better Performance. Let’s see what Intel has to offer then.

  8. INTC says:

    https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/29557/Intel-Graphics-Windows-10-DCH-Drivers

    “This driver is WDDM 2.7 compliant and ready for the Windows 10 May 2020 Update. It introduces support for Dolby Vision and the new DirectX 12 Shader Model 6.5 compiler on 7th Generation Intel Core processors or higher (Intel HD Graphics 610 or higher).”

    Intel 27.20.100.8190 WDDM 2.7 driver.

  9. Starlinq says:

    @Ref nuc From what I have seen from Intel NUC support web site, an operation of bluetooth keyboards in BIOS is not supported! You can use only any USB keyboard (including those wireless ones with separated USB receiver).

  10. edcentric says:

    I miss the Iris. Had a 6i5 die on me (intermittent power related issues). I wanted to go to an 8I7 but the there was a premium over the 10i7 and this was to be a lower budget build re-using the memory (2×16) NVME M.2 drive and a Samsung SSD. I’ll survive for now, but better graphics would really be helpful.
    Another nice machine and well built.
    And as they have said I have a wired KB and wireless mouse with USB receiver.
    My wife is happy again.

  11. Smot says:

    The NUC10i7FNH won’t work with Ubuntu 20.04 – the fan never starts (regardless of the BIOS setting) and the system just gets hotter & hotter until it shuts down. Typically I get 15-20 minutes use before it dies,
    Not impressed!

    • Starlinq says:

      I quite understand your disappointment. However trying Ubuntu on new hardware and doing it without known reports of successful running is risky. Also, a Linux is well known of some delays in support of just released hardware. I currently run Ubuntu 18.04 LTS on two computers, NUC7 and NUC8 models. Both models are perfectly supported by version 18.04. For quick test, I tried to run Ubuntu 20.04 on the NUC8i3BEH, and I found no problems!

    • NUC10User says:

      I’m typing this on NUC10 and Ubuntu 20.04 and the fan does run (I can hear it). Maybe there’s something else wrong? I have the latest 0039 BIOS though.

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