Intel NUC 10 First Impressions

Posted on March 1, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 42 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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