Comet Lake i5 NUC Review (NUC10i5FNK / NUC10i5FNH)

Performance

Since the i5 model is the last Frost Canyon NUC for me to review we’ll be able to compare all Frost Canyon NUCs to each other. In addition I’ve included the results from the previous generation (NUC8) for comparison.

All tests were done using the BIOS version 0039.

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. Results of the various Frost Canyon models are not that far from each other and especially the i5 is very close to the i7.

In the Fire Strike test the results are similar.

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 pretty good. But still, only on par with the previous generation i5 model. You can see the difference between the i3 and the i5 model here. The i5 has twice as much cores as the i3 and thus approximately twice as good result. The i7 has again 2 more cores.

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 i5 does slightly better than the Bean Canyon i5 and sits quite nicely in the middle between the i3 and the i7.

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. There’s virtually no difference between the i5 and the i7 Frost Canyon models in this game.

Power Consumption

The power consumption figures I’ve taken with a consumer grade powermeter so they’re not exact science.

Task Power
Stand-by 2 W
Idle, Windows 10 desktop 8 W
Watching a 4K60 video in YouTube 14 W
CPU-Z stress test 64 W initially, drops to 55 W
3DMark Time Spy Around 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. If you want complete silence there’s always a fanless case from Akasa (Turing FX case).

Conclusion

Having reviewed the i3 and the i7 model already there were very little unexpected with the i5. Performance-wise it sits right between the other two models. The NUC10i5FNH or NUC10i5FNK would make a good desktop replacement if you don’t need to use any applications that require GPU power, such as games.

I said it in the reviews of the other models and I’ll say it here. The performance of the NUC10i5 is bit of a disappointment. In many benchmarks there’s only a little to none improvement over the previous generation and in the tests that utilize the GPU there’s a big step backwards. There is the support for 64 gigs of RAM and 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.

Of course a lot of the things we like about the Intel NUC product line 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 NUC10i5FNK 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 i5 Processor (Sleek Chassis)
  • Target Usage Home Office Home Theater PC Casual Gaming
  • 10th Generation Intel Core i5-10210U (NUC10i5FNK1) with Intel UHD Graphics 300 MHz – 1 1 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

14 Responses

  1. Mike Rubin says:

    I have a NUC10i7 with 16gb RAM that I use only for serving music via the ethernet port. When I engage in CPU-intensive activity like continuous upsampling via DSP on Roon or Audirvana, even with the “Cool” BIOS setting, I find that CPU temperatures exceed 80c. That’s not so good.

    I have been considering the Turing FX less for silencing and more for cooling. Have you used this case yet (or its predecessor)? If so, how is its cooling performance?

    One reason I have been a bit terrified to go the Turing FX route is that the NUC motherboard looks crazy difficult to remove. I also have read that the microphone connectors are easily destroyed. If you have used fanless cases, how difficult did you find it to remove the motherboard and microphones and install them in the new case?

    • Olli says:

      I actually have the Turing FX case and will write an article a bit later about that. If you continously load the CPU at 100% for longer periods of time you might want to drop the TDP from 30W to 25W to avoid CPU temperatures exceeding 80 degrees C.

      The main board on Frost Canyon is rather easy to remove, no problems there. The WiFi antennas are the ones you need to watch out for. I’ve managed to break a connector before… Now I’m more careful and use tweezers. The microphone connector is not bad and to remove the mic from the case you’ll need to open two screws, pull out a protecting metal plate and then remove the small PCB where the mics are attached. It’s fastened with a piece of tape that you need to remove.

  2. Mike Rubin says:

    Thanks, Olli. I will watch for the Turing FX review.

    According to Core Temp, I am not close to pegging the CPU but the temps still make me uncomfortable. The only way I know to get them down a bit is to use the advanced power settings in power management. When I used my Dell XPS 8930 general purpose computer, i ran the CPU at 99% and that gave me some thermal cushion. Is there a better way to drop TDP?

    Removing the motherboard still is hard for me to picture, but I should hit YouTube to see if there is video help.

  3. RadarJammer says:

    I removed the board of the NUC10i5FNH, put it on spacers, took off the noisy little fan and made a JST 1.25mm 4-pin connector to 4-pin PWM plug adapter to connect the little 5V NUC header to a “real fan”.

    Then I took a Noctua NH-L9x65 cooler with four heat pipes, changed its thin 12V fan to a Noctua NF-A9 5V PWM, which is easy, since the cooler can accomodate two fan heights. Then I unscrewed one of the side braces of its cooler plate, which was an obstacle for mounting.

    Thanks to you pictures, which I used for planning, I saw that the original copper heat pipes of the NUC are needed as a spacers so I left the copper at its place. There is no way to screw mount another cooler, and I saw on reddit a user who strapped a Noctua NH-L9i onto a NUC8 with cable zip lock fixers (but it was cramped) so I took that cable fixer route, too.

    To optimize the heat transfer between the NUC copper heat pipes and the Noctua plate, I put Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut paste onto that copper and filled its central gap.

    Since I had removed the brace on one side of the NH-L9x65 cooler plate, there were two srew holes open. I threaded a slim and long cable fixer through the holes under the Noctua fins.

    That cable fixer actually fits under the steel wings on each side of the NUC copper cooler on its rear side, thus you can press and fix the Noctua base plate against the exhaust fins of the NUC copper by closing the cable fixer loop with another cable fixeraround the rear of the NUC board. More cable fixers around the center and the front of the Nocua-NUC combo.

    A metal filter on top of the fan completes the build. The result remains without a housing, preventing heat traps, like inside thise closed Akasa cases. All this is just a compromise and not suitable for transport, but the Noctua remains within the perimeters of the NUC board, only adding height. There is enough room under the cooler fins, unlike with a Noctua NH-L9i.

    The result? Almost inaudible, unleashed and cool Comet Lake-U power.

    No throttling, just power oriented settings in the BIOS, cool settings for the fan. At 35% base, the NF-A9 5V PWM is running with 820 rpm, amost inaudible. HWinfo tells me about idle temps of 33 C, while the fan cools the whole upper side of the board, not just the SoC.

    This is made for half the price of an Akasa Turing FX, with better performance and cooler temps for longer component life.

    Ah, and I fitted the NUC with 32 GB of HyperX RAM and an 512GB Adata XPG SX8200 Pro NVMe.

    Not pretty but it does the job very well :)

  4. Sven says:

    Thank you for the review. Seems like a part of the review is not available yet. When I click on the “Keep on reading” link I get a error page not found. Tried different browsers. I hope this can be corrected. Keep up the great work!

  5. Mike Lim says:

    “The possibility to equip it with 64 gigabytes of RAM”

    Though not officially supported, NUC8 do support 64 GB RAM and many have used it as ESXi server (see https://www.virten.net/2020/03/intel-nuc-with-64gb-memory-support-6th-10th-gen/ and https://madlabber.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/running-esxi-6-7-on-a-bean-canyon-intel-nuc-nuc8i5beh/)

  6. Mike Lim says:

    I am surprised by the CPU benchmark values. A comparison between NUC8(i5-8258U) and NUC10 (i5-10210U) CPUs show quite a big difference at https://www.cpubenchmark.net/compare/Intel-i5-8259U-vs-Intel-i5-10210U/3299vs3542 with values of 8371 and 6486 respectively.

    • RadarJammer says:

      No surprise there: you linked table shows i5-8258U with 28W and the i5-10210U with 15W!

      But in the NUC10 is allowed 30W, while the iGPU needs less energy than that of the predecessor.

      Im my NUC10i5 mainboard with attached Noctua cooler and HW-Info running in the background, the CPU package average is 8W with maximum shown as 40W.

      Temps range between 30°C and 82°C with an average of 42°C.

      • pipsel says:

        How do you attached a Noctua cooler to the NUC? And which cooler did you use? Have you done this to reduce noise or to improve performance?

  7. Mike Lim says:

    “The possibility to equip it with 64 gigabytes of RAM might make it interesting as a micro server.”

    Many users have been successful running ESXi with 64 GB RAM on NUC8. See https://madlabber.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/running-esxi-6-7-on-a-bean-canyon-intel-nuc-nuc8i5beh/ and https://www.virten.net/2020/03/intel-nuc-with-64gb-memory-support-6th-10th-gen/. Supported RAM speed is slower at DDR4-2400 vs DDR4-2666 on NUC10.

  8. marcolopes says:

    Did Intel just made a NEW “REVERSED” version of the FAN just to make it “incompatible” with, let’s say, NUC v8 versions???

    I just HATE that!!! Damn these manufacturers. I just moved away from lenovo, because they make a NEW fan model for every “SAME LINE” of tiny PCs!

    Did you noticed that?

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