Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bay Trail NUC (DN2820FYKH) Review - part 1

Today I'm going to have a look at the Bay Trail NUC, that is DN2820FYKH. It is the lowest cost NUC with a price tag of approximately $140 / €120 (Check the current prize from Amazon). You'll need to add memory and a storage media, but it is completely possible to build a complete system under $250 / €200. We'll have a look what does that buy for you.

The tiny computer measures just 116.6 mm x 112.0 mm x 51.5 mm (4.6 x 4.4 x 2.0 inch) and contains a dual-core Intel Bay Trail Celeron N2820 processor, which speeds up to 2.4 GHz. This Celeron is actually more closely related to Atom series of processors than the traditional Celerons. The screen is brought to life by a HD Graphics GPU that runs up to 756 MHz and connects to your display with a single HDMI 1.4a connector. Intel has kindly prefilled the half-size mini PCIe slot with an Intel Wireless-N 7260BN WiFi adapter. If you still prefer wired connectivity, there's a Realtek Gigabit Ethernet adapter provided as well.

Which Processor?

As I mentioned earlier in April, Intel is going to produce the DN2820FYKH also with Celeron N2830 processor. Mine is produced in July 2014 and has version # H22962-102, which means it is running N2820 still. The versions with N2830 processor will have version number of H22962-103 and this is printed on the box. The N2830 itself will not offer that much over the standard N2820 - Intel Quick Sync hardware video encoding is the main difference.

Hardware Overview

After opening the cube-shaped box you'll find a universal power adapter, VESA mounting plate, a quick start guide and the unit itself. When looking at the pictures online, it's hard to appreciate how small the NUC really is. The thing is small, really small.

The front side of the aluminum chassis contains a single USB 3.0 port and a consumer infrared sensor. The power button and the hard drive LED are on top of the chassis.

In the backside there is power connector, HDMI 1.4a port, RJ-45 connector for Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 2.0 ports and a headphone / microphone jack.

Installing the Components

In order to complete the NUC you will need to provide a single memory module and a storage media with SATA connector. The unit is rather picky when it comes to the memory module - you will need a 1.35-volt DDR3 SO-DIMM. And even then some of them are not compatible. If you're unsure, check out the NUC Configurator that will choose you components that do work together.

I had a single 2-gigabyte memory chip and an old 250 Gb laptop hard drive that I installed into the NUC.

I started by unfastening the 4 screws inside the rubber feet. 

After lifting off the cover you can see the bay for 2.5 inch SSD or conventional hard disk drive. Maximum thickness is 9.5 mm, so the largest multi-terabyte hard drives will not fit. No additional cables are needed, the drive is just pushed into the connector and attached to the chassis with a couple of screws.

The hard drive bay can be lifted off and under the cover you will find the mainboard. The only thing you need to do here is to install the memory module. There is a single DDR3L SO-DIMM slot. You can see the preinstalled WiFi card with two antennas in the picture above.

After plugging in the memory module the hard drive bay can be replaced.

I slid in an old laptop hard drive that fit nicely. After that you're all done. Close the hood, tighten the screws and connect the display, power and a USB keyboard.

Visual BIOS

The NUC was delivered with BIOS version 32, so the first thing I did was to update it. I copied BIOS v39 from August 2014 on to a USB stick, plugged it in and pressed F7 at boot to launch BIOS update. Couple of minutes later my NUC was running the latest BIOS.

For someone who remembers fiddling with the text-based AMI BIOS the Intel Visual BIOS is rather nice actually. It offers you all the usual BIOS functionality with a nice graphical interface. The DN2820FYKH was initially plagued by various USB booting problems, but they seem to be a thing of the past now: I successfully managed to boot from three different USB 2.0 sticks as well as an USB 3.0 external hard drive.

In the next parts we're going to look how the NUC does as a HTPC, how does it run Windows and we wrap it up with some example hardware configurations.

More about DN2820FYKH

Read the other parts of the review:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

New NUCs are coming around New Year

FanlessTech has released interesting news regarding upcoming Intel NUC line up. At the moment they're based on leaks, but they seem credible.

All new NUCs feature 4 external USB 3.0 ports, 2 internal USB 2.0 headers, LAN port, SATA 3 connector, NFC headers and replaceable lids for customizing the looks of the NUC.

Even if Intel advertises  4k support the HDMI connectors seem to be of 1.4a variety and the DisplayPort connector 1.2 - just like they were on the previous NUC generation.

NUC4i5MYHE - The last Haswell NUC

The first model to come out is the Haswell-based NUC4i5MYHE. Preliminarily release schedule says Q4 this year. Intel has already released a driver bundle for the model and has a support page for the pre-production samples. It would seem that Intel wants to get the first new NUC out before the end of the year with this model since it will more or less be replaced with the Broadwell i5 model NUC5i5MYHE a few months later.

The NUC4i5MYHE is equipped with a Haswell Core i5-4300U CPU.  Specifications and the looks are otherwise likely to be identical with the NUC5i5MYHE that is described below.

Broadwell i3 and i5 NUCs


The first quarter of 2015 should see the release of 4 models that are based on Intel's new Broadwell architecture. There are 2 models coming with a Core i3 CPU and 2 models with Core i5. It seems there are two versions more consumer oriented: NUC5i5RYH/K and NUC5i3RYH/K. These come in High case with 2.5" drive support and a more sleeK case without space for one. Both the i3 and i5 models feature an IR sensor, a 2242-size M.2 slot and a WiFi-Bluetooth adapter. In addition to the Mini DP connector there is a Mini HDMI connector provided.

There will be two versions more geared for corporate use: NUC5i5MYHE with vPRO + TPM and NUC5i3MYHE with TPM. Compared to the consumer models these two come without IR sensor and the WiFi-Bluetooth adapter. 2 Mini DisplayPort connectors are provided.

Braswell Celeron NUC

Finally the second quarter of 2015 will see the release of the new Braswell Celeron NUC NUC5c-PYH. The Braswell model is the only one to feature HDMI and VGA connectors. It comes with an IR sensor, single M.2 2230-slot (prefilled by the WiFi-BT adapter presumably) and a TOSLink connector as well as SDXC UHS-I card slot. Only one SO-DIMM slot restricts the maximum memory of the Braswell NUC to 8 gigabytes.

If the GPU is able to handle deinterlacing better than the BayTrail models, this one could make a really nice low cost HTPC option!