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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  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    Bleh UHD graphics. Terrible. The previous NUCs had Iris plus GPUs. AMD APU NUCs would dominate these things. Reply
  • drexnx - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    looks like the 2 year old 2400G already does, a 4800U would embarrass this Reply
  • timecop1818 - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    Yeh, if only AMD had stable/working graphics. Oh, wait... Reply
  • kaidenshi - Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - link

    If only you had something else to troll about. How about some citations to back up your claims? Going on a year with my 2400G APU based system with zero graphics issues and far outperforming any Intel iGPU. There's a reason Intel chose AMD graphics for its Hades Canyon NUC. Reply
  • MenhirMike - Wednesday, March 4, 2020 - link

    I think he might mean the (very real) issues that the RX 5x00 drivers have, like stuttering and random driver crashes. This has been much improved in later drivers, my 5700 XT is running perfectly fine now, but there were definitive issues. That said, those are Navi cards while integrated GPUs (which are applicable here) are using Vega. And initially, there was an issue with at least mobile APUs where AMD didn't offer their own drivers - I got a Ryzen 5 2500U laptop, and for the first year, I had to deal with way outdated drivers from Dell. But AMD finally came around and is now offering first-party drivers.

    So: There were definitive issues, there might still be issues, but it seems that all the big ones are resolved.
    Reply
  • HStewart - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    You got to take in account of the market of this machine, most people do not need high end graphics for games and such. This is also likely use for engineering stuff where graphics is not actually used too much - like a monitor system, or back office systems for services and possibly reports. Reply
  • 29a - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    That's still no excuse for Intel's horrible iGPUs. Reply
  • Qasar - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    nope.. but hstewart, will keep making excuses for them. sorry hstewart, amds new apus would be for this market, and would probably out perform this by quite a bit. face it, your beloved intel, has lost this round. Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Monday, March 2, 2020 - link

    I strongly doubt that even AMD's latest APUs can idle with a 4K display at under 5W. That power-sipping performance is critical to the market segment these devices are aimed at. Reply
  • evernessince - Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - link

    Well yes if you are comparing desktop APUs vs the mobile chip in this system. If you compare apples to apples though, AMD certainly does have chips capable of idling that low even on the high end: https://www.notebookcheck.net/Lenovo-ThinkPad-T495...

    And that's with last generation Zen+, not Zen 2.
    Reply

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