Intel NUC (NUC8i7BEH) Mini-PC Kit First Impressions

Intel’s latest generation of NUC mini-PCs and kits represent a major step up from the NUC I reviewed two years ago. But they also retain the small form factor and basic functionality that are prized by NUC users such as myself.

As you may recall, Intel announced this latest generation of NUCs, which bore cute codenames like Bean Canyon and Crimson Canyon, this past summer. I was immediately interested: It’s been over two years since I bought my first NUC kit, which was based on a 6th-generation Intel Core i5-6260U chipset, after all. And my experiences with this NUC, which I upgraded with additional USB ports, has been overwhelmingly positive.

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From a BYOPC—Build Your Own PC—perspective, a NUC kit is about as simple as it comes: All you need to do is crack open the case, add RAM and storage, and away you go. It’s so simple even I can do it. But if even that sounds daunting, you could also simply buy a preconfigured NUC mini-PC from Intel.

But the appeal of NUC, for me at least, is in the doing, and in the wide-open possibilities of being able to do more—via various expansion capabilities—should you want to do so. This was once the central essence of the PC experience, back when we might weigh the relative costs of buying a PC premade from a company like Dell or assembling the parts and doing it ourselves. With NUC, you can experience the satisfaction of actually making something, albeit on a small scale that is virtually free of risk.

You might also compare this experience to that of building a mini-PC or other device based on Raspberry Pi. There are two main differences. But building off of Raspberry Pi is far more difficult, and the finished result is usually more kit than PC. More to the point, the Pi can’t really be transformed into a working day-to-day computer. With NUC, you’re getting the real thing.

And with this latest NUC generation, you’re also getting a fairly high-end PC, and a nice bump up from the NUC I built two years ago. Two generations of processor upgrades have netted some historically significant performance improvements. And Intel has pushed into USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, which dramatically improves the PC’s expansion capabilities.

Those are seismic shifts. But the design of the NUC has been improved too, in ways both subtle and profound. In other words, today’s NUC looks similar to the one I previously assembled but this is really an-all new NUC.

In the box: a VESA mounting plate and screws should you want to attach the mini-PC to the back of your display

On that note, I was delighted when Intel offered me a review unit: I was already considering buying one, after all. And while I have yet to even assemble the thing—it’s a kit, so it arrived sans RAM and storage—I already have a really good feeling about this. I can imagine this being my next desktop PC.

So what did I get? The review unit is an Intel NUC NUC8i7BEH, and if you look up this puppy, you’ll find it is full of modern and high-end parts.

First up is the Intel Core i7-8559U Processor, which runs at 2.7 GHz with a Turbo Boost of up to 4.5 GHz and is, of course, a quad-core part. But the 8559U also has a thermal design power (TDP) rating of 28-watts, almost double that of a mainstream U-series processor. That means that this NUC can deliver much better performance than a typical laptop, which wasn’t the case with the previous NUC. It also means that it requires more cooling.

There are no dedicated graphics, but the Core i7-8559U is paired with Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655, which is a step up from the Intel Iris Graphics 540 in the previous NUC. This is completely adequate for my needs, is, in fact, overkill. But those with a need for more power can take advantage of external Thunderbolt 3-based graphics, something that was not possible with the older NUC.

The NUC8i7BEH supports up to 32 GB of RAM via two DDR4 DIMM slots. This is on par with my previous NUC from a capacity standpoint, but the NUC8i7BEH supports slightly faster DDR4-2400 memory.

Like its predecessor, the NUC8i7BEH supports two internal storage devices, an M2-based card and a 2.5-inch SSD drive. I used an M2 storage card in my previous NUC and left the SSD connector unused, and would do so again with this unit.

Other internal circuitry has been upgraded as you’d expect as well. For example, the NUC8i7BEH includes Intel Wireless-AC 9560 and Bluetooth 5.0, compared to Intel Wireless-AC 8260 and Bluetooth 4.2 on the old NUC. Too, the antennas on the newer NUC are larger than those on the older one, which should improve wireless reception quality.

Looking on the outside of the NUC at the port selection, you’ll see many similarities between the two versions, but almost everything has been upgraded on the NUC8i7BEH. With perhaps one exception, no port has been left untouched.

The most obvious change is the USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port, which as noted is a huge improvement over the past thanks to its nearly infinite expansion capabilities. The previous NUC simply included a mini-DisplayPort port, which was good for video-out only.

Like the old version, the new NUC has four full-sized USB ports, two on the front and two on the back. But the ports are all USB 3.1 Gen 2, which provide up to 10 Gbps of performance. The old NUC had two USB 2.0 ports and two (5 Gbps) USB 3 ports. (Both include two USB 2.0 internal headers if you need more expansion; this is how I added two USB 2.0 ports to my first NUC.)

The full-sized HDMI port is HDMI 2.0a, vs. HDMI 1.4b on the older NUC. The full-sized Ethernet port is, perhaps, unchanged: It’s listed as 10/100/1000 LAN as with the older NUC.

On the side of the new NUC, you’ll find a microSDXC storage card slot. This was a larger and more old-fashioned SDXC card slot on the old unit.

You’ll almost find two far-field microphones of the front of the NUC, which appear as pin-sized holes on either side of the front panel. These microphones can be used to control a digital personal assistant, like Cortana, from across the room. But Intel is actually going to start bundling Amazon Alexa with its own pre-built NUC mini-PCs, and you’ll be able to wake up the device—whether it’s fully off or sleeping—by using a configurable key phrase.

Physically, the NUC8i7BEH differs from the older NUC6i5SYH in some key ways.

Where the body of that older NUC was made of aluminum, the new version utilizes an internal metal cage that is covered in a dark gray plastic. Opinions may vary on the relative look of each, but I find that the newer one is more attractive and professional-looking.

Also, the darker new color helps the NUC8i7BEH mask the fact that there’s far more cooling going on here. The cooling vents in the back, from which connect to the CPU cooler, are much bigger than those of the older NUC. And the two sides of the new NUC are now meshed with air holes for more passive cooling. That new 28-watt CPU runs much hotter than the 15-watt part in the previous NUC. Hopefully, that doesn’t mean it’s a lot louder too, but I’ll find out.

Getting inside the NUC is as easy as ever: Intel cleverly holds the whole thing together with screws built-in to the rubber feet on the bottom of the NUC. And the top plastic panel can be easily pried off with your fingers, for customization opportunities.

The NUC motherboard, as before, is mounted upside-down to the top of the mini-PC. And it’s held to the bottom by the SATA and power connections for the 2.5-inch drive I’m never going to use, so I could just disconnect those at any time for even better access. (I did that on my first NUC.)

Inside, the layout is familiar: All of the main components, while upgraded over the past few years, are basically in the same locations. Adding RAM and M.2 storage will be very easy, and should be completed in minutes.

So that will be the next task. For testing purposes, I’ll probably just swap out the RAM and storage from the older NUC. But I’ll eventually buy newer, upgraded RAM and storage for this unit. And if it works out as expected, I’ll almost certainly use this with a 4K display as my new PC.

More soon.


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Conversation 29 comments

  • doubledeej

    03 November, 2018 - 12:25 pm

    <p>The change from SD to MicroSD is a step backwards. MicroSD is easy adaptable to SD, but not the reverse. Many of us use cameras with SD slots.</p>

    • SvenJ

      03 November, 2018 - 1:37 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#360152"><em>In reply to doubledeej:</em></a><em> </em>Yea, but now you have USB-C, so you can get a dongle. Progress. ;)</blockquote><p><br></p>

    • Chris_Kez

      Premium Member
      04 November, 2018 - 8:02 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#360152">In reply to doubledeej:</a></em></blockquote><p>When I started using a Surface Pro as my main machine I swapped out all of my old SD cards for MicroSD cards with adapters. My photo/video needs are very amateur though, so perhaps there are limitations I just haven't bumped up against yet.</p>

    • jimchamplin

      Premium Member
      04 November, 2018 - 11:04 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#360152">In reply to doubledeej:</a></em></blockquote><p>Don’t worry! On the next go round, they’ll drop it entirely and introduce “USB-C Storage!” Another duty for that plug to pull. And no, it’s not the same as USB mass storage, oh no no no.</p><p><br></p><p>They’ll require yet another incompatible kind of cable to attach to grossly overpriced memory card readers.</p><p><br></p><p>(This is all a joke, and not something that I am aware is actually happening. Laugh.)</p>

      • mikes_infl

        26 August, 2019 - 3:06 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#360556">In reply to jimchamplin:</a></em></blockquote><p>A bit late to the conversation but I think you're right. The new microSD Express storage is on the way soon. It's backward compatible but only if you want the old speeds. New, improved and faster will require a different adapter.</p>

  • per

    Premium Member
    03 November, 2018 - 2:16 pm

    <p>Great! I'm looking forward to hearing about performance and noise, especially playing fullHD video playback. My old i5-4250U-based NUC is slow and loud and I was already looking to replace it with <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">exactly </span>the model you are evaluating.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      04 November, 2018 - 11:17 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#360188">In reply to per:</a></em></blockquote><p>So this NUC just completed my "Tears of Steel" 4K to 1080p encoding test in just over 42 minutes, the second-best score I'd ever seen (the fastest was a gaming PC with dedicated graphics that needed just over 31 minutes). Modern quad-core laptops usually finish this test in a bit over an hour. </p>

  • thespecificocean

    03 November, 2018 - 5:40 pm

    <p>If you still have interest in mini PC's, check out the ASRock Deskmini 310 barebones kit when you can. It's a Mini-STX (Intel 5×5) form factor and it lets you pick your cpu since the teeny tiny motherboard has a standard LGA1151 socket. The kit comes with case, power supply, motherboard, wireless card, and 2x SATA hard drive cables. I was going to go the NUC route for my desktops at my office but chose the DeskMini instead for it's flexibility in hardware choice. :)</p>

  • chrisrut

    Premium Member
    03 November, 2018 - 7:42 pm

    <p>Very fond of my NUC 7i5BNH. </p><p>One nice thing: because both the NUC and my 4K LG monitor run off – nominally – 19V DC, they are very happy to run off the same standard 13.5V supply I use to power my amateur radio station, and it all floats on a 100AH LiPo battery backup. Just in case, and all that… For my application the added power of the i7 would add no benefit. But I'll be curious to hear how it fares in testing.</p>

  • markld

    Premium Member
    03 November, 2018 - 8:04 pm

    <p>Thanks Paul, NUCs fascinate me. I had a Mac Mini, up until 2013, switched to Microsoft when the mini died after 7 years of hard use, and I have always missed the small form factor. </p><p>Seems like these newer NUCs are a significant step up from two years ago.</p><p>I'm curious what is the actual size dimensions? </p><p>You did mention:</p><p>"<span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">But they also retain the small form factor and basic functionality that are prized by NUC users such as myself."</span></p><p>I will await more info. </p>

    • infloop

      Premium Member
      03 November, 2018 - 8:48 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#360279">In reply to Markld:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>According to <a href="; target="_blank">Intel's Product Brief</a> page, the chassis size is 4.60" x 4.40" x 2.01" (117mm x 112mm x 51mm). This is the same sizing for the i3, i5, or i7 models that have an H. The standard NUC models that have a K usually mean that it is shorter in height and there is no connector for a 2.5" (mobile) drive. In fact, on the i5 Product Brief page it lists both. So the NUC8i5BEK is stated to be 1.41" (36mm).</p>

      • markld

        Premium Member
        04 November, 2018 - 12:52 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#360293">In reply to infloop:</a></em></blockquote><p>THANK YOU, lazy me, I probably could have looked that up, too. That's really small, it's about 4.5 inches square, only 2 inches high! </p><p>That's not much desktop space! Nice! </p><p>Appreciate your info. </p><p>Thanks again. </p>

        • infloop

          Premium Member
          04 November, 2018 - 7:37 pm

          <blockquote><em><a href="#360598">In reply to Markld:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Haha, no problem.</p><p><br></p><p>Yeah, definitely small in size. They seem to have found uses as virtualization servers in home labs for example. These and systems like them are also low in power usage so they can be great for that reason as well.</p><p><br></p><p>I am actually looking into these for that purpose — reduce space and power usage.</p>

    • Greenberry Woods

      03 November, 2018 - 8:59 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#360279">In reply to Markld:</a></em></blockquote><blockquote></blockquote><p>Mechanical Chassis Size • 4.60" x 4.40" x 2.01"</p><p>• 117 mm x 112 mm x 51 mm</p>

      • markld

        Premium Member
        04 November, 2018 - 12:53 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#360295">In reply to Greenberry Woods:</a></em></blockquote><p>Thank you, it's tiny. </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      04 November, 2018 - 11:15 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#360279">In reply to Markld:</a></em></blockquote><p>It's nearly identical to the previous NUC, but is apparently slightly different (so that the lids and other add-ons from that generation don't work). Not sure of the exact dimensions, but roughly 4 x 4 x 2 (tall) inches.</p>

      • markld

        Premium Member
        04 November, 2018 - 12:54 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#360578">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>Thank you Paul… </p><p>I can see it on my desktop. Wow! </p>

  • innitrichie

    03 November, 2018 - 9:05 pm

    <p>Lack of TPM support is a deal-breaker for me on these NUCs.</p>

    • echorelay

      Premium Member
      04 November, 2018 - 12:10 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#360296">In reply to innitrichie:</a></em></blockquote><p>This is the second time I’ve heard this – these NUCs **have** TPM. I don’t know where people are getting the information that they don’t. This is a requirement Microsoft places on manufacturers offering Windows 10 (since 2016).</p>

      • echorelay

        Premium Member
        04 November, 2018 - 12:22 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#360330">In reply to echorelay:</a></em></blockquote><p>And if you’re looking at ARK – they’re listed as having the following (which as far as Windows is concerned, is the exact functionality as a TPM): </p><p><br></p><p><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(85, 85, 85);">Intel® Platform Trust Technology (Intel® PTT) is a platform functionality for credential storage and key management used by Windows 8* and Windows® 10. Intel® PTT supports BitLocker* for hard drive encryption and supports all Microsoft requirements for firmware Trusted Platform Module (fTPM) 2.0.</span></p>

        • innitrichie

          07 November, 2018 - 10:05 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#360331">In reply to echorelay:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Yep I was looking at ARK. I just searched for "TPM" saw "No" and wandered off in a huff. I wasn't aware of PTT and that it would do the BitLocker encryption I always require. It's good to know. 🙂 Thanks!</p>

  • Rcandelori

    Premium Member
    04 November, 2018 - 1:00 am

    <p>Interested to hear about fan noise. I've got the old Skull Canyon NUC with Skylake and it's noisy. </p>

  • ezilka

    04 November, 2018 - 1:23 am

    <p>Got one with i5-8259u.</p><p>Previuos was an 3/4th gen i3.</p><p><br></p><p>Well… even on medium load high pitch cooler whistling is disturbing.</p><p><br></p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    04 November, 2018 - 4:02 am

    <p>At my previous employer, we just put RAM in them and used PXE boot to run an FTP Linux image on them, for connecting to a Linux terminal server. They made a great thin client, quiet and fast.</p><p>At my current place of work, they are being used to replace old laboratory servers and for managing CCTV.</p><p>These things are very versatile.</p>

    • markld

      Premium Member
      04 November, 2018 - 12:55 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#360494">In reply to wright_is:</a></em></blockquote><p>Nice, that's amazing</p>

  • CaedenV

    05 November, 2018 - 12:20 pm

    <p>I love NUCs, they are quick, and small, and quiet.</p><p>At work we are in a virtual environment, so in the rare case we need a real PC we throw together a NUC. Typically this has not been an issue, but this last time we had a tough time finding one with a TPM module built in. They were listed on Intel ARK, but the units with TPM simply were not available which was really weird.</p><p>Anywho, we found one eventually, but one wonders why this isn't a standard feature on Intel products.</p>

  • Tirith

    Premium Member
    05 November, 2018 - 6:42 pm

    <p>oh I love these things!</p><p><br></p><p>I have two running ESXi, and are the corner stones of my home lab. I have been looking into a new one, so thank you Paul for the forthcoming reviews of the device!</p><p><br></p><p>The only thing I could want for, is another nic, but such is life :)</p><p><br></p>

  • nanovak

    Premium Member
    05 November, 2018 - 8:05 pm

    <p>I also jumped into the NUC game right about the same time you did a couple years ago. I've been eyeing an upgrade as get into more and more data analysis, but I can't quite determine if the new generation includes a TPM chip or not. My wife and I both use our NUC as a home office workstation for the occasional work from home session, so our NUC is corp domain-joined and needs to have a TPM for our remote access solution and Bitlocker policy. Does this new NUC have a TPM like my old one? Browsing Intel's website I couldn't quite confirm yes or no.</p>

  • jlmerrill

    09 November, 2018 - 12:35 am

    <h1>Is this the same that is on Amazon – Intel BOXNUC8i7BEH1 Bean Canyon NUC&nbsp;?</h1><p><br></p>

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