Intel’s new Comet Lake i3 NUC Reviewed (NUC10i3FNK)

Performance

Even if the i3 model doesn’t quite give you the same performance as the i5 and i7 models do it’s interesting to see how does it compare in the benchmarks to the previous generation NUCs as well as the faster Frost Canyon models.

All tests were done using the BIOS version 0039.

CPU-Z incorrectly reports the codename as Kaby Lake-U/Y, whereas HWiNFO is correct:

3DMark

3DMark is a benchmarking tool that measures the performance of the computer especially when it comes to DirectX and CPU performance. I’ve used it for years so I can compare the performance of various NUC models to each other reliably.

Compared to Bean Canyon NUCs the performance is rather depressing in the Sky Diver test. You can really see how big of an impact the omission of the Iris Plus GPU has made.

Things don’t look any better in Fire Strike.

Cinebench R15

Cinebench R15 is another benchmark tool for the GPU and CPU performance. There’s also Cinebench R20 that I’m already using to collect results, but as I don’t have comparative data yet for the previous generation, I’ve left it out from this review.

The OpenGL test is a GPU test so the results don’t look too good for Frost Canyon here.

Whereas the CPU test is not impacted by the lesser GPU, so the results are relatively ok. But still, only on par with the previous generation i3 model.

Geekbench 3

Geekbench is a cross-platform processor benchmark, with a scoring system that separates single-core and multi-core performance, and workloads that simulate real-world scenarios. Good thing about Geekbench is that it’s available for a lot of different platforms including iOS and Android so it’s easy to compare performance widely.

In the Geekbench 3 test the Frost Canyon i3 does slightly better than the Bean Canyon i3.

Dirt 3

As always, I ran the Dirt 3 benchmark sequence to get an idea if the benchmark results are reflected also to real-world gaming.

As seen from the results above, they indeed are. Bean Canyon beats Frost Canyon in Dirt 3 hands down.

Power Consumption

The power consumption figures I’ve taken with a consumer grade powermeter so they’re not exact science. However, it appears from the numbers that the Frost Canyon is pretty frugal when it comes to power consumption as I did not manage to see numbers much over 40 watts.

Task Power
Stand-by 2 W
Idle, Windows 10 desktop 8 W
Watching a 4K video in YouTube 12 W
CPU-Z stress test 33 W
3DMark Time Spy 29 W, spikes at 40 W

Noise

The Frost Canyon NUC utilizes the same large fan that was used in Bean Canyon, which is good news since I found it relatively quiet compared to the older and smaller fan solution used previously. As expected the NUC is relatively quiet although the fan does spin up when the CPU is being stressed. It’s not silent, but relatively quiet. Comparable to many laptops I would say. The fan behaviour can be configured in the BIOS options either by selecting from a few preconfigured presets (such as quiet, balanced, cool) or by tweaking the individual fan speed and temperature parameters.

Should I build a HTPC based on this?

This question was asked me by a reader. The UHD Graphics 620 GPU is able to hardware decode pretty much any modern video format, so in that sense it should be just fine. The previous generation NUC (Bean Canyon i3, NUC8i3BEH) would make an equally good HTPC though as the GPU is able to decode all the same video formats and it’s much more powerful. That extra power will not matter in HTPC use, but maybe you will decide to do something else with your NUC later. Then again, the Frost Canyon is a bit more power-efficient than the Bean Canyon – even if both have rather low power consumption.

If you’re planning to build your HTPC based on the popular LibreELEC platform just be aware that the current stable version (9.2.2) does not support the GPU in the Frost Canyon yet and will fail to start. There are already development builds that do work fine so expect to see the support land into a stable release soon.

Conclusion

I’ve been using the NUC10i3FNK for normal desktop use for the last two weeks and for that use it is completely adequate. Windows 10 runs fine and I can fluently browse web with many tabs, do text editing, watch videos, etc.

However, comparing this NUC to the Bean Canyon i3 NUC is a bit frustrating. Significantly weaker GPU and more or less an equal CPU. I think I don’t remember ever seeing such a small increase in performance (or a step backwards as we see in the GPU related benchmarks) as seen when comparing the Bean Canyon and Frost Canyon i3 NUCs. Yes, it does support 64 gigs of RAM and has an improved Wi-Fi adapter but those changes will not manage to tip the scale for me. The possibility to equip it with 64 gigabytes of RAM might make it interesting as a micro server, but then again, if you’re building a micro server you probably want the quad-core CPU of the i5 model or the hexa-core of the i7 model. All in all, it’s quite hard to justify purchasing the NUC10i3FNK over NUC8i3BEH.

A lot of the things we like about the Intel NUC product are still there: the build quality is solid, the unit is tiny in size, the fan is not too noisy and its behaviour can be customized and it features latest Intel CPUs. It’s just that there’s not much we didn’t already see and have in the unit that has been on the market since last year.

That’s it for the NUC10i3FNK review. If you think I missed something important or if you want to tell your feelings about the NUC10 please use the comments box below.

Intel NUC 10 Performance Kit – Intel Core i3 Processor (Sleek Chassis)
  • Target Usage Home Office Home Theater PC Casual Gaming
  • 10th Generation Intel Core i3-10110U (NUC10i3FNK1) with Intel UHD Graphics 300 MHz – 1 0 GHz
  • Supports Microsoft Windows* 10 logo’d compatible with various Linux distros
  • Supports up to 3 displays HDMI 2 0a USB-C (DP1 2) 6 USB Ports

Contents

9 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    This one or NUC8i3 for use as HTPC? They have almost the same price at the moment. Does the better GPU matter for decoding video?

    • Olli says:

      Hi Chris, that’s a good question! For video decoding the UHD Graphics 620 GPU is more than enough. I’m currently using a NUC7PJYH with even lesser GPU for my HTPC and it’s perfectly fine for HEVC/4k content. Personally I’d pick the NUC8i3 over this just to have some headroom. Also, if you plan to build a Linux based HTPC, the NUC8i3 is better supported. This will change soon as the drivers evolve, but the Bean Canyon is ready to go out-of-the-box. On the other hand, the NUC10i3 does consume slightly less power.

  2. Tomi says:

    I just don’t get what Intel product manager was thinking when this product was developed and released…

    Or maybe Intel is so badly in ropes after AMD blow on their face, that they are just trying to get anything new out…

    … but losing even for their own previous generation product is beyond my understanding. Price of i3 8th and 10th gen NUCs seems to be pretty munch the same.

    Strange.

    • chubaduba says:

      Interesting question. Things are sometimes a bit strange in large companies and they might have been told to develop a NUC using a 10th gen CPU, but there’s no Comet Lake-U CPU with a more powerful GPU (maybe it was, but got axed for some reason and at that point they didn’t want to cancel the NUC). But yeah, I’d give this gen a pass and wait for Tiger Lake.

  3. Tom says:

    i owe it also a few weeks and i used Celeron NUCs last 5 yeas so my impression is:
    -much more performance for standard work, i would not recommend Celerons only if you dont use parallel tasks.
    -quite like the Celeron NUCs, very rarely the Fan is noticeable for a few seconds after windows was booted

    what i dont like is the jack on the front now but not an probleme due my monitor has an front jack for the speakers :-D

    overall very nice NUC and the dualcore is great for standard work :-)

  4. GM Datura says:

    Wow, pathetic. What an embarrassing product.

  5. Olaf says:

    Still no Power Delivery support over USB Type C? :(

  6. KAPIL says:

    Even this one has a LPSCON Chip? Has Intel sorted out its problems? You mentioned this in the review of the 8th Gen i3 NUC..Thanks

  7. 4blips says:

    I’m looking for a mini PC to build an HTPC under Windows 10
    I see an IR port in the description but not visible on the facade ?
    Is it possible to control this NUC with a Logitech Harmony remote control (IR) and especially to start it with this remote control ?
    Have you tested this port or the use of remote control ?

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