Comet Lake i7 NUC Review (NUC10i7FNH/K)

Linux, HTPC, Conclusions

Often when you get brand new hardware there is something that doesn’t fully work under Linux. Sometimes the GPU isn’t supported and you cannot get a graphical desktop open and sometimes it’s something small that doesn’t work such as the Wi-Fi adapter. This is why it’s a good idea to select the most recent version of your favorite distribution.

I downloaded the version 19.10 of Ubuntu Linux and quickly installed it on the NUC. To my great surprise everything seemed to work straight away. I was expecting issues with Wi-Fi since the NUC has the brand new Intel AX 200 Wi-Fi adapter with 802.11ax support. However, it seems even that was supported since kernel 5.1 and the Ubuntu has kernel version 5.3. Here’s my full boot log if you’re interested.

HTPC Use

There’s not much to say about the media playing performance in Windows 10. For the last couple of years any NUC has been able to decode HEVC video at 4k resolutions effortlessly. That is the case this time as well. HDR output to my TV was fine as well.

LibreELEC

It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing to get LibreELEC running on the NUC10i7FNK. My first attempt with the latest stable version (9.2) resulted in a black screen staring at me with the infamous Failed to start xorg. Is your GPU supported? error. Well, apparently not. Things got a bit better when trying out a recent nightly development build. At least it would work, I mean. However, hardware decoding using VA-API was not working which meant that all videos were decoded by the CPU. Of course this 6-core i7 effortlessly managed to decode even 4k resolution HEVC coded video. 4k HEVC (Sony Swordsmith demo clip) is quite a bit for the CPU to chew so the loads were up to 60%. This of course meant that the CPU fan boost up annoyingly.

Now I’m sure that things will improve soon but at this moment running a LibreELEC-based HTPC is not something I’d do on the Frost Canyon NUC.

EDIT: With the nightly build VA-API can be enabled by running the following command in the shell:

echo LIBVA_DRIVER_NAME=iHD >> /storage/.config/kodi.conf

Conclusion

The Comet Lake i7 NUC failed to impress initially. There’s not much improvement compared to last year’s Coffee Lake i7 NUC. Basically it is very much the same product with a yet another iteration of Intel’s 14 nm CPU. In addition, Intel decided to drop the Iris Plus GPU from this NUC and replace it with much weaker UHD Graphics 620 GPU. No doubt this is done intentionally to differentiate the Frost Canyon NUC and the upcoming gaming-oriented Phantom Canyon NUC that will feature a discrete GPU.

However, I liked the good CPU performance and the fact that the i7 model this time has a hexa-core CPU. I’m sure many home lab enthusiasts will welcome the addition of 2 more cores. Furthermore, this year the i7 option seems worthy as it gives you extra 2 cores over the i5. Previously the i7 has often been more or less the same as i5 offering with some increased CPU frequency (and thus heat and noise). This is the fastest CPU currently available in a 4×4 NUC form factor I believe.

When it comes to the performance in GPU-demanding applications I’m not so impressed. A decrease of 40% in the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark or a decrease of 37% in Dirt 3 FPS is not something you’d like to see when comparing to the corresponding previous generation NUC. Some have pointed out that the previous NUCs didn’t have a capable GPU anyway (even if clearly better than UHD Graphics 620) so why waste any effort on that.

As said before, I’m sure this was partly done because of product positioning. The NUC10i7FNH/K is a pretty powerful small computer provided that your usage does not include gaming or other GPU intensive tasks. I think the message is clear: Frost Canyon for typical office tasks, content creation, mini servers etc. and Ghost Canyon or upcoming Phantom Canyon for gaming.

All in all, I don’t think it’s a bad product. There are small improvements here and there. You’ve got Type-C port in the front panel now (wish there was power delivery on those ports, but no) and the Wi-Fi adapter supports 802.11ax a.k.a. Wi-Fi 6. The 6-core CPU is faster than anything on a NUC before this. It’s not ridiculously noisy either and the fan behaviour can be adjusted in the BIOS rather extensively. Shame about the GPU really but if you’re not looking forward to playing games or doing other GPU intensive tasks on the thing it could be just the ticket.

Thank you for reading and let me know what do you think in the comments section below!

Sale
Intel BXNUC10i7FNK Core i7-10710U 6-Core NUC Mini PC (Slim Version)
  • Intel Core i7-10710U 6-Core Processor; Intel UHD Graphics supports Three 4K Displays
  • Supports up to 64GB DDR4 SODIMM Memory
  • 1 x M. 2 2242/2280 slot (PCI-E 3. 0 x4 or SATA), 1 x SDXC Card Slot
  • Intel GbE LAN, Wireless 802. 11ax, Bluetooth, Thunderbolt 3 on USB Type-C
  • NUC Form Factor: 4. 6" x 4. 4" x 1. 5"

Contents

17 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.

  12. Antonio says:

    (P.S.: I’m able to read next pages of all your reviews only through google cache, since they don’t open from the link at the bottom of the first page; can you check please?)

    According to your table, the nuc stays just below 60W under stress test; but what its power consumption during normal operations? I acknowledge that “normal operations” is a vague expression, but maybe it is possible to have some indicative value…

    I have focused on nucs because I’ve read that they have a power consumption similar to the one of a notebook equipping an equivalent computing power, and for me a low power consumption is fundamental.

    On my notebook, which I use for browsing (but heavy browsing, with a lot of tabs opened at a time), coding testing javascript inside the browser, document processing and spreadsheet computing, I always stay between 25W and 35W.

    Can I get the same consumption with this nuc, which I have choosen for its low TDP?
    Or can I get better results (=lower consumption) with the i7 version of the 7th gen nuc?
    Would the power supply of 65W instead the one of 120W make a difference?

    Thank you for your help.

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