Small form-factor (SFF) PCs and gaming systems have represented the bulk of the growing segment in the PC market over the last few years. Intel's NUC line-up has enjoyed unprecedented success, prompting the company to branch off the NUC family to target a variety of market segments and price points. Continuing that momentum, in November 2019, Intel announced the NUC10 series in their line of mainstream ultra-compact form-factor (UCFF) systems, bumping up their NUCs to using the company's latest Comet Lake processors.

More recently, Intel finally began sampling the systems for review, sending us the NUC10i7FNHAA - an Intel NUC10 Mini-PC with Windows 10. The system sports a 256GB NVMe SSD and a 1TB 2.5" hard drive along with a pre-installed copy of Windows 10 Home x64. Traditionally, most SFF PCs we evaluate sport a single storage device, so the inclusion of hybrid storage is stil a bit of an unsteady eara for vendors who are not Apple. In fact, it's so uncommon that this is the first hybrid storage system to cross my desk; Intel's latest NUC doesn't really have any peers as far as any other reviewed systems are concerned.

To that end, we've decided to simplify things a bit for Frost Canyon and take out the 2.5" HDD – essentially reducing it to the barebones version of this NUC, the NUC10i7FNH. This makes for better apples-to-apples comparisons, and in particular avoids the power and performance drag from having rotating rust in the storage mix.

So how does Intel's first Comet Lake NUC fare? Let's find out.

Introduction and Platform Analysis

The NUC10i7FNH is Intel's mainstream HDD-kit NUC with a 100mm x 100mm main-board housed in a 117 x 112 x 51mm chassis. The board comes with a soldered processor - the Core i7-10710U. This belongs to the Comet Lake-U family, and is the first U-series processor with 6 cores and hyper-threading enabled. Thanks to Intel's use of cTDP-up, the TDP of the processor is nominally at 25W, though the default BIOS settings set the PL1 (sustained) and PL2 (burst mode) levels to 30W and 64W respectively. Meanwhile the PL1 Time Window is set to 28 seconds by default.

Switching to peripherals and networking, the board's WLAN component is also soldered - the Wi-Fi 6 AX201 enables the NUC10 family to be the first UCFF PC from Intel to come with Wi-Fi 6 / 802.11ax support. As for storage, for the barebones version end-users have the flexibility to choose their own storage device and RAM. For best performance, a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD can be used, and DDR4-2666 SODIMMs are supported. The system also comes with a host of value-additions such as a quad-microphone array in the front panel, and an infrared receiver (strangely disabled by default in the BIOS).

Our NUC10i7FNHAA sample came with the following components pre-installed:

  • Kingston Design-In SSD U-SNS8154P3/256GJ (essentially an OEM version of the Kingston A1000) PCIe 3.0 x2 NVMe SSD
  • 2x Kingston ValueRAM KVR26S19S8/8 DDR4 SODIMM for 16GB of DRAM
  • Seagate ST1000VT001 1TB 5400RPM 2.5" Video HDD

The hard drive is connected to the board using a slender ribbon cable that can be easily slotted in and out, as shown in the picture below. Our evaluation was processed with the hard drive disconnected completely from the board.​

The specifications of our Intel NUC10i7FNH review configuration are summarized in the table below.

Intel NUC10i7FNH (Frost Canyon) Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-10710U
Comet Lake-U, 6C/12T, 1.1 (4.7) GHz
12MB L2+L3, 14nm (optimized), 25W TDP
Memory Kingston ValueRAM KVR26S19S8/8 DDR4 SODIMM
19-19-19-43 @ 2666 MHz
2x8 GB
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics
Disk Drive(s) Kingston Design-In SSD U-SNS8154P3/256GJ
(256 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x2 NVMe; Toshiba 64L 3D TLC)
(Phison E8-based, similar to the Kingston A1000)
Networking Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201
(2x2 802.11ax - 2400 Mbps)
1x Intel I219-V Gigabit Ethernet Controller
Audio 3.5mm Headphone Jack
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-A (rear)
1x Thunderbolt 3 Type-C (rear)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-A (front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Type-C (front)
1x SDXC (side)
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 10 Enterprise x64
NUC10i7FNHAA comes with Windows 10 Home x64 pre-installed
Pricing (As configured) $605 (barebones)
$752 (as configured)
$940 (NUC10i7FNHAA Bundle with 16GB RAM, 1TB HDD, 256GB SSD, and Windows 10 Home x64)
Full Specifications Intel Frost Canyon NUC Kit - NUC10i7FNH Specifications
Intel Frost Canyon NUC Mini-PC - NUC10i7FNHAA Specifications
 

The contents of the package include a 120W power adapter, and an additional screw for a M.2 SSD. Since the 2.5" drive comes pre-installed, the ribbon cable for the SATA data and power is already inside the system. Other components of the package include a US power cord, safety information, and a product manual.

The Visual BIOS has undergone a major re-design for the NUC10 series. While the core functionality has obviously not changed, the screens are more streamlined - a vertical organization of the various options compared to a horizontal-heavy layout in the BIOS for the older models. A new set of value-added features include the ability to configure a RAM disk in the BIOS, mount iSCSI volumes prior to boot, and set up various network interface characteristics. Given that these are the first NUCs to support up to 64GB of DRAM, the ability to configure RAM disks is welcome.

The block diagram of the components on the board are presented in the diagram below.

The AIDA64 system report provides a breakdown of the usage of the PCIe lanes and confirms the above block diagram:

  • PCIe 3.0 x4 port #5 In Use @ x4 (Intel Titan Ridge Thunderbolt 3 Controller)
  • PCIe 3.0 x4 port #9 In Use @ x2 (Phison PS5008 PCIe 3.0 x2 NVMe 1.2 SSD Controller)
  • PCIe 3.0 x1 port #14 In Use @ x1 (Genesys Logic PCI-E Card Reader)

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Intel NUC10i7FNH against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the Intel NUC10i7FNH when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Intel NUC10i7FNH (Frost Canyon)
CPU Intel Core i7-10710U Intel Core i7-10710U
GPU Intel UHD Graphics Intel UHD Graphics
RAM Kingston ValueRAM KVR26S19S8/8 DDR4 SODIMM
19-19-19-43 @ 2666 MHz
2x8 GB
Kingston ValueRAM KVR26S19S8/8 DDR4 SODIMM
19-19-19-43 @ 2666 MHz
2x8 GB
Storage Kingston Design-In SSD U-SNS8154P3/256GJ
(256 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x2 NVMe; Toshiba 64L 3D TLC)
(Phison E8-based, similar to the Kingston A1000)
Kingston Design-In SSD U-SNS8154P3/256GJ
(256 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x2 NVMe; Toshiba 64L 3D TLC)
(Phison E8-based, similar to the Kingston A1000)
Wi-Fi Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201
(2x2 802.11ax - 2400 Mbps)
Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201
(2x2 802.11ax - 2400 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $605 (barebones)
$752 (as configured)
$940 (NUC10i7FNHAA Bundle with 16GB RAM, 1TB HDD, 256GB SSD, and Windows 10 Home x64)
$605 (barebones)
$752 (as configured)
$940 (NUC10i7FNHAA Bundle with 16GB RAM, 1TB HDD, 256GB SSD, and Windows 10 Home x64)
BAPCo SYSmark 2018
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  • yankeeDDL - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    I don't think anyone is arguing that high-end graphics is needed in NUC. The iGPU of a 2400G, or that of a 4800U are definitely *not* high-end graphics. UHD is a sore thumb on pretty much anything that is not office and email. Reply
  • Rookierookie - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    Office and email are exactly what most people would buy this for. UHD even has competent video playback. Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - link

    What? 1Kusd for a PC for office and email? You can buy a good laptop for that price, and get the screen and the portability. No, at least not only office and email. I, for one, have been looking at NUCs to use as a light gaming machine, video/Youtube player to be connected to my TV. I've been looking at Zotac's products, to give you an idea: a "NUC" with a Ryzen 4800H should blow this out of the water, both in CPU and GPU performance, while probably being quite a bit cheaper. Reply
  • Samus - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    Nearly 90% of all PC's sold (desktops, laptops, PC, MAC, etc) rely on Intel iGPU's and the UI's their OS's run must be built around their limitations.

    You need to consider Intel has been indirectly holding back UI progress and developement for two decades while everyone around them (from AMD to SoC chipmakers) has been focusing on GPU performance. It could be argued

    A) Intel couldn't be taken seriously in the ultramobile SoC space because they don't have a GPU to backup their APU\FPU IP and advanced production capabilities, which is why they threw in the towel.

    B) Intel is responsible for the collapse of the PC market (the death of the PC as they call it) because they have halted evolutionary progress on the UI experience, meanwhile mobile devices have vastly outpaced PC's due to their superior graphics performance, and thus UI's.

    C) Intel is embarrassingly the ONLY chipmaker struggling with GPU development. Because of their blind devotion to margins and profits, they have refused to license IP from companies that actually know what the fuck they are doing, meanwhile seemingly unable to engineer a product that's even close to competitive with the markets slowest options.
    Reply
  • khanikun - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    B) Huh? What was halted for the UI experience, due to graphics? Rounded corners in Windows? Translucent windows? If anything, MS is the ones ruining the UI experience with Win 8, Win 10, and the current garbage Start Menu.

    If all you're looking at is eye candy, check out today's Windows, Android, iOS. They're all flattening out the UI. Shit's literally Win 95 with more color options.
    Reply
  • Lord of the Bored - Thursday, March 5, 2020 - link

    "current garbage Start Menu"
    As opposed to the old garbage start menu.

    The Start menu has always been terrible. Back in 1995 AD, it was actually worse than Program Manager, and it hasn't actually improved a lot since then. (Windows 95 made several other changes that were very welcome, like the one-touch close button and always-accessible task bar. The start menu is notable for how uniquely bad it is in an overhaul otherwise full of good ideas.)

    Just because you are used to it doesn't make it right.

    (And the Windows 10 interface is not Win 95 with more colors. It is a flatter and less complex Win 95 with FEWER colors. Nary a 3D bevel in sight.)
    Reply
  • Foeketijn - Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - link

    Then buy a SimplyNUC’s Sequoia. I like that I sold dozens of the things, and the only complaint is HDMI not coming on after sleep state once in a while, and 1 broken after a lightning incident.
    So they are in general bullet proof. Nobody once even asked about the GPU. And I am typing this using an old NUC on a 4k screen combined with a 1440p screen. No gaming, no Autocad and everything is well.
    Reply
  • AbRASiON - Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - link

    Interesting, some of us /couldn't possibly care less/ about the graphics, as long as it's enough to run Windows reliably and play back video. But we would like more and more CPU performance in a low sized form factor. Reply
  • nico_mach - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    You ... took a delivered, complete system apart to review it? And it's the first assembled NUC ever offered? Well, that's bold. Reply
  • BedfordTim - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    The used to make complete Atom based NUCs which were pretty good value. Reply

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