Intel NUC 10 First Impressions

Posted on March 1, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 45 Comments

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Intel’s NUC family of small form factor PCs. But I’m not just a fan: I’m a customer and a daily user. So I was delighted when Intel asked me whether I was interested in reviewing the latest iteration, called NUC 10, so named for its use of 10th-generation Core processors.

Obviously, I am interested.

As a reminder, I’ve written pretty extensively about two previous NUC models, a 2016-era Intel NUC NUC6I5SYH that was based on a dual-core 6th-generation Intel Core i5-6260U processor, and a 2018-era Intel NUC NUC8i7BEH that utilizes a quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8559U processor. Both of those NUCs were kits, meaning that I had to supply and install the RAM and M.2-based SSD storage myself, and with the former NUC, I also did a bit of surgery to add more USB ports.

As notable, perhaps, I still use both of these NUCs regularly. The newer NUC8i7BEH has been my daily-use PC ever since the HP AIO PC I had been using gave up the ghost, and I used the older Intel NUC NUC6I5SYH as my Windows 10 Field Guide screenshot station until late 2019, when I installed Windows 7 on it to ride out the end of that product’s support life cycle.

For the NUC 10, Intel was offering something a little different: This NUC, model NUC10i7FNH, is a fully-configured PC, not a kit, so it’s already outfitted with RAM—16 GB of it, which is ideal, though it can be upgraded to 64 GB—and storage—a 256 GB M.2-based NVMe SSD stick and a 7mm 1 TB SATA3 hard drive—in addition to its newer components and a slightly revised port selection. Those components include a 10th-generation “Frost Canyon” Core i7-10710U processor and Intel UHD Graphics that Intel says combine to create a mini-PC that is up to twice as fast as its predecessors.

That it looks an awful lot like its predecessors is, of course, by design: Intel arrived at something special last time around, and so it is only tweaking things slightly for the NUC 10. It’s a bit shorter than its predecessor, which is surprising, and the side vents are larger for better airflow.

And the power button light is a lot less bright, which I prefer.

That’s about it from a design perspective, but there are some port changes as well. Where the NUC8i7BEH featured two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports on the front, the NUC 10 ships with one USB 3.1 Gen 2 port and one USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port on the front. Normally, I’d applaud the modernization, but I rely on the full-sized USB ports, and the reduction to three total (there are still two on the back) is a problem because I use one of the front ports for my Microsoft keyboard and mouse dongle. In the good news department, that USB-C port supplies up to 9-volts of power for phone fast charging.

On the left side, you’ll find an SDXC card slot where there was previously a smaller microSDXC storage card slot. I don’t have need of either, but that’s change might be justified because you can easily accommodate the smaller cards with an adapter, whereas the reverse is not true.

On the back, the NUC 10 features the same ports and layout as its predecessor: There is a full-sized HDMI 2.0 port for video-out, a gigabit Ethernet port, two full-sized USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, and a Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port. This is all good, for the most part, but I could really use one more full-sized USB port.

Internally, there are more upgrades. Connectivity arrives in the form of Intel WiFi 6 AX200 (2×2) and Bluetooth 5, in addition to that Ethernet port; the previous generation provided Wireless-AC 9560 and Bluetooth 5.0.

Intel shipped the NUC with Windows 10 Home, but I’ll probably upgrade that to Windows 10 Pro at some point so I can take advantage of Hyper-V. A barebones NUC 10 with this processor will cost about $620 from various online retailers, but with the RAM and storage, it’s probably getting close to $1000. That said, I see some incredible configurations—64 GB of RAM in many cases, and/or much more SSD storage—for about the same price.

I spent some of the weekend switching over to the new NUC, and I didn’t experience any issues while I upgraded the software, installed my applications, and synced with OneDrive. I’ll be using it as my daily-use PC going forward and will report back after I’ve got more to say.

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Comments (56)

56 responses to “Intel NUC 10 First Impressions”

  1. bob25

    As an early user of a NUC, I was happy to see this article since I've been thinking about whether to upgrade or not. I think the NUC is a really great form factor for many--or even most--home PC users. I've recommended it to others, and those that got the NUC are very pleased to get rid of the box under or on the desk housing the traditional PC components.

  2. wright_is

    SDXC card slot where there was previously a smaller microSDXC storage card slot

    That is a big, and welcome, change. Camera users have had to use adapter up until now, or use microSDXC card with an adapter in the camera. Using native <-> native is welcome. Being Intel, I'm assuming it is connected with USB 3.x, not USB 2.0 like many PCs.

  3. Hal9000

    @paul, your monitor does not have an integrated USB hub?

  4. monkey butler

    I love the Nucs! Used a Gigabyte Brix for a few years, mostly purchased as it was cheap, and had a crazy pico projector on top!

  5. beckoningeagle

    I have a series 8 and it is a great little machine. I connected an eGPU and it performed quite well and for the time it was my.maim gaming rig. Then I went out and splurged on a very nice Thunderbolt docking station. I was so happy when I opened it, only to find out that the eGPU is not Daisy chainable. So, I ended up setting up a new tower for gaming and repurposed the NUC with the thunderbolt docking station to do a whole bunch of other things. All this story that I just wrote is to give the background as to why I wish it had a second thunderbolt port.

  6. rosyna

    Paul was given the fully configured NUC 10. The one Intel sells to consumers for $616 has no SSD, HDD, RAM, or OS.

  7. red77star

    I have one of these, bought it first time you reviewed it. I needed something small, but powerful enough to act as Plex Server. And this thing could not be better. I installed Linux Ubuntu and Plex Media Server, connected 10 TB WD External drive via USB 3 port and it is just awesome.

  8. curtisspendlove

    I expect I’ll be pulling the trigger on at least one of these this year. However I’m hoping that they don’t abandon the “barebones” versions as I kinda wanted to use one as a Hyper-V (or ESXI or Proxmox) server. In which case the Windows 10 license is less useful and I’d want more RAM and Storage.

    However for those wanting to use this as a very capable but lightweight workstation the prebuilt option is awesome. I’m also guessing they may offer it in a few different flavors of RAM/Storage/etc. It’d be interesting to see a “developer” oriented build with maybe more RAM and a bigger M2. Though honestly this thing is even a pretty good dev workstation as is. Windows 10 Pro (for some Hyper-V love) would be an interesting prebuild config.

    I need to look into Docker for WSL. As I am thinking about it, that might very well run fine on Home and not need Pro for Docker Desktop (Hyper-V). (I already have a workstation though, so for me this is HTPC / server cluster appliance territory.)

    Regardless, thanks for the article, Paul...look forward to updates.

    P.S. I’d particularly like to see it with the hood up. ;) I wanna see what’s under the lid (I’m assuming not much change though).

  9. evox81

    The UHD graphics in this kills me. When they have the (dramatically faster and well-reviewed) "Gen 11" graphics in other 10th Gen processors, that they're still pushing UHD, essentially unchanged, from when it showed up in 2016, is ridiculous.

  10. roho

    My atx box died a black screen death during a win10 upgrade. I've tried everything I know to get it running again but no dice. I've been thinking of getting a mini pc as a replacement. I had a bad experience a few years ago with a NUC and returned it so I was thinking of maybe a Lenovo mini.

    Anyone here have a thought on the Lenovo mini's?

  11. mrmitch

    Just a correction for Paul. The NUC10i7FN uses a Comet Lake CPU. All the codenames for the NUC are based on canyons. So FN is Frost Canyon.

  12. amarszal

    Great timing, I may be in the market for one very soon. Have bought 4 in the past of varying generations. These have been great as PCs for my not very tech-literate parents, they’ve been more reliable for them than any other PC I’ve bought for them.

    The Skull Canyon has worked a treat as my desktop for quite a few years now, and an original i5 NUC has done great service as an HTPC till MS abandoned MediaCenter and I eventually moved to Plex via an Apple TV and NAS combo. That NUC now has Ubuntu on it for tinkering, but as I’m very much a Windows man it doesn’t get tinkered with much. :)

  13. njohannes

    It has a pretty good Microphone array for some reason - I guess in theory you could set it to run fanless and put it in the middle of a conference table?

  14. mrdrwest

    I'm going to have to budget for two of these to build a hybrid deployment lab, keep it under $1500.

  15. janvv

    If you put 64Gb in it, and a large SSD... wouldn't it be a super home server? Would it be powerful enough to install Ubuntu and run a few virtual machines on it?

  16. RobertJasiek

    The form factor is alright but Intel NUCs have fans. I prefer other manufacturers and no fan.

    • blmuzzy

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      In a previous NUC review Paul had mentioned the loud fan. I'll be interested to hear about it on the NUC 10. ASUS global has also announced a similar mini pc PN62 which they claim is very quiet. Not available here, yet.

      • RobertJasiek

        In reply to blmuzzy:

        MSI Cubi 3 Silent with i3 7100 U (ca. 7W) is an example of a tiny fanless barebone suitable for office tasks and with enough USB ports (but no thunderbolt). There are also some small manufacturers with similar offers (and countless with slower CPUs). Faster CPUs with >15W TDP require a larger box for passive cooling or a fan.

      • Paul Thurrott

        Yeah. It's a concern. So far so good. Maybe I'm finally losing my hearing.
  17. geoslake

    Love the nucs too. I hate the glossy top and front part, but other than that...

    Intel support is great as well, my old D54250 from 2013 and the 5i5 from 2015 still get bios updates! And they work fine after all those years.

  18. jberls

    Is this NUC fanless? If not, how quiet are the fans?

    • Paul Thurrott

      I've only been using it for a day or so, so my observations are a bit meaningless. Yes, it has fans. Yes, I heard them during initial configuration, etc. It's been quiet since then, but we'll see.
  19. simont

    Where did you buy this model from?

  20. joeaxberg

    I have three NUC's. Two NUC7i3BNH's and one NUC5i3MHE. The NUC5 has run as a VMWare ESXI hypervisor continuously for three years without a hiccup. They've worked great for me as power-sipping home servers to test stuff on. The two NUC7's are running Ubuntu. One is a desktop and the other is GUI-less server that is currently running single node OpenStack. They are great for dinking around. Ubuntu installs without issue (for me anyway).

    They escalate to Mac mini prices quickly, but sometimes nice stuff cost money. I was worried that Intel would abandon them early on. They must sell enough of them for commercial applications to make it worth it.

  21. red.radar

    nucs are fantastic home lab boxes and they are easy on power. There is so much you can do with them.

    my favorite application was reading about someone using four of them in a kubernetes cluster The form factor is great for scaling and buying multiples

  22. infloop

    I kept the NUCs on my radar once I learned about them, and when the 8th-generation ones came out I decided to give them a go.

    They are a lot smaller than I had expected (much smaller than the Mac mini 2012 that I have, though taller), but they work well. I use two NUC8i5BEH models for Hyper-V Server 2016 to run my virtual machines, and a third as a desktop running Ubuntu 18.04.

  23. angusmatheson

    I am trying to get my 98 year old PC builder grandfather-in-law to switch h over to the NUC. Last year he lifted his tower up to work on it and suffered a compression fracture. He doesn’t trust something this small could really be fully accessible. Now when he started working on computers for the phone company in Fortrans computers filled rooms.

  24. datameister

    Is it a 1GB ethernet port or a 2.5 GB ethernet port?

  25. hrlngrv

    I've owned 2 Zotacs (MAG and ZBox) and a Dell Optiplex Mini. All larger than the NUC, but still smaller than a typical hardbound book. Since I also have a collection of external drives (DVD, Zip, tape) which use USB connections, I have no interest in nor need for ever again buying larger desktop PCs. This type of device is just so darned efficient for home computing, and it's a mystery to me why they aren't used more broadly in offices for employees who don't rate laptops.

    Are you going to discuss the NUC this week on Windows Weekly?

  26. r2d22

    I want one of this with a Ryzen 4xxx ... the only option I found is the asrock desmini a300

  27. justme

    I'm glad to see more on the NUC, and that you will have another one to review. More and more, I am thinking a NUC may be my next "desktop", especially as you can now buy them fully configured with a gaming video card.

    You mention the lack of a USB port - will you be trying to change the lid again, will you add a USB dongle, or just live with it as-is?

    EDIT: One thing I have wondered - how big is the power supply brick for your NUC? Do you have a picture of that? I have read a few articles online that imply earlier models had power bricks that were large.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Sorry, I meant to take a picture of that. It's pretty big compared to the device, and a bigger but flatter than the typical PC laptop power supply. Maybe 2.5 x 5.5 x .75 inches.
      • chrisrut

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I've integrated mine into my ham radio station, and power it from the same 13.8V DC supply as the rest of the station equipment. This also allows the whole station to run on battery backup. Although the nominal NUC power input is 19V, running it at lower voltages (in the 13s) has created no issues in 2+ years of daily use. I am not alone in this application: I know of a "super station" back east where 7 operating positions each have NUCs controlling the stations. Great devices...

  28. lightbody

    My work has given me an HP laptop (1040 x360 G5) with a matching thunderbolt dock. Due to the pandemic, all of this is now at my home office. The dock has everything plugged into it, and I just attach the one thunderbolt cable to my work laptop to use it.

    I'm now thinking an Intel NUC with thunderbolt could be a great answer, so that I can use the same dock setup and when I'm finished working for the day just move this one cable over to my personal NUC.

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