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Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) review

by Tarinder Sandhu on 28 September 2012, 08:33 3.5

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qabmyj

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Testing methodology

Comparison Systems

System name Intel NUC (Core i3) Intel Core i3-2100 ATX AMD A8-3870 Mini-ITX
Processor Intel Core i3-3217U @ 1.80GHz Intel Core i3-2100 @ 3.10GHz AMD A8-3870K @ 3.0GHz
Cores/threads 2/4 2/4 4/4
Cooler Intel NUC reference Intel reference AVC reference
Motherboard NUC reference Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H ASRock A75M-ITX
Memory Nanya 4GB DDR3 (2x2GB) Patriot 8GB IEM DDR3 (2 x 4GB) Patriot 8GB IEM DDR3 (2 x 4GB)
Memory speed 9-9-9-24-1T @ 1,333MHz 9-9-9-24-1T @ 1,600MHz 9-9-9-24-1T @ 1,600MHz
Graphics card(s) Intel HD 4000 Graphics Intel HD 3000 Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6550D
Graphics driver Intel Intel Catalyst 12.8
Sound card Onboard high-definition audio Onboard high-definition audio Onboard high-definition audio
Primary storage 80GB Intel mSATA SSD 256GB Samsung 830 SSD 256GB Samsung 830 SSD
PSU Intel NUC 60W Corsair AX750 Corsair AX750
Chassis NA Corsair Graphite 600T Corsair Graphite 600T
Operating System Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit


AIDA v2.60 Tests system bandwidth, cache bandwidth, and latency
HEXUS PiFast A single-threaded number-crunching test we've been using for over 10 years now
Cinebench R11 Using Cinebench's multi-CPU render, this cross-platform benchmark stresses as many cores as possible.
TrueCrypt 7.1a This benchmark evaluates the AES-encryption ability of the systems
X264 HD 5.0.1 Much-used, standardised test that encodes a 1080p clip into H.264 format
LuxMark Uses LuxRender and OpenCL for GPGPU performance evaluation
PCMark 7 PCMark 7 combines various single- and multi-threaded CPU, Graphics and HDD tests to score overall system performance
7-zip 9.2.0 Popular program for zipping files. Includes compressing and decompressing tests
3DMark 11 Run at Entry preset
3DMark Vantage Run at Performance preset
DiRT: Showdown 1,280x720, 4x MSAA, Medium settings, DX9
Batman: Arkham City 1,280x720, 2x MSAA, High-quality settings (DX9) and Medium-quality settings (DX11)
Power consumption Noted for system idling, under X264 HD all-core load, and for GPU playing Batman: Arkham City


This NUC is not sanctioned or provided by Intel in any way, and it represents an engineering-sample model whose specifications are not optimised for performance, particularly the memory. We could have used faster memory - DDR3-1,600 - or a better mSATA SSD but chose to go as-is. Please understand this when comparing the upcoming benchmarks.

How best to test the qualities of the NUC? The only reasonable course of action is to take a look at what else is out there from competitor AMD's side. Ignoring products that are yet to find their way to the channel - desktop Trinity, ahem - we've put AMD's finest APU, the A8-3870K, on top of a Mini-ITX board from ASRock. The pair come in at a combined Ā£140 and, while not presented in the same form factor as Intel's NUC, do provide insight into how much power can be shoehorned into a small PC box.

Looking a little further back, Intel's second-generation Core i3 chips have been a popular choice for low-end build. We've thrown a Core i3-2100 into the regular Z77 chipset-based test system and run a bevy of benchmarks. This chip should be quicker than NUC in 2D tasks - it clocks in at 3.10GHz, for starters - but slower in the 3D tests, as it takes in the older HD 3000 Graphics.

We've run a full gamut of tests here, so feel free to pick and choose the ones that are most relevant to you.