Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/8028/intel-d54250wykh-haswell-nuc-kit-with-25-drive-slot-minireview




Introduction

The Intel NUC category has been an interesting product line to analyze, as it provides us with insights into where the traditional casual / home use desktop market might end up. This year, we have already reviewed two different NUC systems, the Intel D54250WYK and the Logic Supply Core ML320. The Intel D54250WYKH is fundamentally the same as the D54250WYK, except for the presence of a 2.5" drive slot. Since we have already looked at the performance of the Haswell i5 NUC platform in detail, this mini review will give us a chance to comment on the chassis redesign as well as an opportunity to see what different DRAM and storage can do to performance.

Inside the D54250WYKH:

In terms of external looks, the only difference between the D54250WYK and D54250WYKH are in the height of the system. Our D43250WYKH NUC kit came with an Intel SSD 530 240 GB 2.5" drive pre-installed. It could be accessed after removing the four screws holding the underside cover to the chassis.

While the Wi-Fi card (Intel AC-7260) that we saw in the D54250WYK review was present here too, we were free to choose the RAM this time around. Corsair came forward with a 8 GB Vengeance high performance DDR3L SODIMM kit capable of running at up to 1866 MHz with a CAS latency of 10 cycles.

Accommodating the 2.5" Drive:

Since the performance of the i5-4250U in the NUC board is quite well known (after two reviews), one of the important aspects that we cover in this review is the chassis modification for accommodating the 2.5" drive. For comparison purposes, we use a pre-production sample of the BRIX H-series PC (this is the standard BRIX board with the chassis slightly redesigned to accept 2.5" drives up to 9mm in height. The internal layout of the support for the 2.5" drive in both the versions is visible in the picture below.

While Gigabyte has opted to mount the drive bay flush against the chassis lid, Intel has a metal contraption on top of the motherboard in which the drive bay is integrated. The gallery below gives a closer look at both the designs. The first three pictures show the BRIX H design where the SATA data and power pins are brought out from the board to interface with a thin horizontal connector cable. This type of cable used to be popular during the netbook era (and even now, in notebooks such as the Razer Blade Pro). At the other end of the connector cable, we have a breakout into the standard SATA data and power connector for interfacing with the disk drive (as shown in the top segment of the photograph above).

The last three photographs in the gallery above show the Intel approach. Since the NUC board has separate SATA data ports and power connectors on the motherboard, Intel is unable to provide a clean solution to the problem of interfacing with the 2.5" drive. In the first of the Intel NUC photos in the gallery above, we have the power connector on the top metal layer visible. We can follow this to the SATA power connector on the main board by unscrewing the metal layer. This also provides us with a look at the SATA data cable which connects to a similar slot on the metal layer. All these results in the height of the chassis being more for the D54250WYKH compared to the BRIX H model. It is also not a surprise that disassembling the BRIX H to install a new drive / mSATA SSD / RAM is much easier than doing the same on the NUC chassis with the 2.5" drive slot.

In the rest of this review, we will have a few sections presenting various benchmark results (including wireless and storage system evaluation numbers). A section on power consumption and thermal performance precedes the concluding remarks. However, prior to all that, we have a table presenting the details of various systems that are compared against the D54250WYKH in this review.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Intel D54250WYKH
CPU Intel Core i5-4250U Intel Core i7-3720QM
GPU Intel HD Graphics 5000 Intel HD Graphisc 4000
RAM Corsair Vengeance CMSX8GX3M2B1866C10
10-10-10-32 @ 1866 MHz
2x4 GB
Super Talent W1333SB4GH
9-9-9-24 @ 1333 MHz
2x 4GB
Storage Intel SSD 530 Series
(240 GB, 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s, 20nm, MLC)
Intel® SSD 330 Series
(60 GB, SATA 6Gb/s, 25nm, MLC)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
(2x2 802.11ac - 867 Mbps)
N/A
Price (in USD, when built) $671 $1300

 



Performance Metrics - I

The D54250WYKH was evaluated using our standard test suite for low power desktops / industrial PCs. We have recently revamped our benchmark suite (after the publication of the D54250WYK review). We reran some of the new benchmarks on the original NUC also, but some of them couldn't be run on loaner samples. Therefore, the list of PCs in each graph might not be the same.

Futuremark PCMark 8

This is one of the new tests in our test suite. PCMark 8 provides various usage scenarios (home, creative and work) and offers ways to benchmark both baseline (CPU-only) as well as OpenCL accelerated (CPU + GPU) performance. We benchmarked select PCs for the OpenCL accelerated performance in all three usage scenarios.

Futuremark PCMark 8

Futuremark PCMark 8

Futuremark PCMark 8

Miscellaneous Futuremark Benchmarks

Futuremark PCMark 7

Futuremark 3DMark 11

Futuremark 3DMark 2013

Futuremark 3DMark 2013

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R15

We have moved on from R11.5 to R15 for 3D rendering evaluation. CINEBENCH R15 provides three benchmark modes - OpenGL, single threaded and multi-threaded. Evaluation of select PCs in all three modes provided us the following results.

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R15

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R15

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R15



Performance Metrics - II

In this section, we mainly look at benchmark modes in programs used on a day-to-day basis, i.e, application performance and not synthetic workloads.

x264 Benchmark

First off, we have some video encoding benchmarks courtesy of x264 HD Benchmark v5.0.

Video Encoding - x264 5.0

Video Encoding - x264 5.0

7-Zip

7-Zip is a very effective and efficient compression program, often beating out OpenCL accelerated commercial programs in benchmarks even while using just the CPU power. 7-Zip has a benchmarking program that provides tons of details regarding the underlying CPU's efficiency. In this subsection, we are interested in the compression and decompression MIPS ratings when utilizing all the available threads.

7-Zip LZMA Compression Benchmark

7-Zip LZMA Decompression Benchmark

TrueCrypt

As businesses (and even home consumers) become more security conscious, the importance of encryption can't be overstated. CPUs supporting the AES-NI instruction for accelerating the encryption and decryption processes have, till now, been the higher end SKUs. However, with Bay Trail, even the lowly Atom series has gained support for AES-NI. The i5-4250U in the Core-ML320 has AES-NI support. TrueCrypt is a popular open-source disk encryption program which can take advantage of the AES-NI capabilities. The TrueCrypt internal benchmark provides some interesting cryptography-related numbers to ponder. In the graph below, we can get an idea of how fast a TrueCrypt volume would behave in the Core-ML320 and how it would compare with other select PCs. This is a purely CPU feature / clock speed based test. So, we don't expect any difference between the D54250WYK and D54250WYKH in this benchmark.

TrueCrypt Benchmark

Agisoft Photoscan

Agisoft PhotoScan is a commercial program that converts 2D images into 3D point maps, meshes and textures. The program designers sent us a command line version in order to evaluate the efficiency of various systems that go under our review scanner. The command line version has two benchmark modes, one using the CPU and the other using both the CPU and GPU (via OpenCL). The benchmark takes around 50 photographs and does four stages of computation:

  • Stage 1: Align Photographs
  • Stage 2: Build Point Cloud (capable of OpenCL acceleration)
  • Stage 3: Build Mesh
  • Stage 4: Build Textures

We record the time taken for each stage. Since various elements of the software are single threaded, others multithreaded, and some use GPUs, it is interesting to record the effects of CPU generations, speeds, number of cores, DRAM parameters and the GPU using this software.

Agisoft PhotoScan Benchmark - Stage 1

Agisoft PhotoScan Benchmark - Stage 2

Agisoft PhotoScan Benchmark - Stage 3

Agisoft PhotoScan Benchmark - Stage 4

Dolphin Emulator

Wrapping up our application benchmark numbers is the Dolphin Emulator benchmark mode results.

Dolphin Emulator Benchmark



Storage & Wireless Networking Credentials

We have recently started devoting a separate section to analyze the storage and networking credentials of the units under review. On the storage side, one option would be repetition of our strenuous SSD review tests on the drive(s) in the PC. Fortunately, to avoid that overkill, PCMark 8 has a storage bench where certain common workloads such as loading games and document processing are replayed on the target drive. Results are presented in two forms, one being a benchmark number and the other, a bandwidth figure. We ran the PCMark 8 storage bench on selected PCs and the results are presented below.

Futuremark PCMark 8 Storage Bench

Futuremark PCMark 8 Storage Bench

On the networking side, we restricted ourselves to the evaluation of the WLAN component. Our standard test router is the Netgear R7000 Nighthawk configured with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks. The router is placed approximately 20 ft. away, separated by a drywall (as in a typical US building). A wired client (Zotac ID89-Plus) is connected to the R7000 and serves as one endpoint for iPerf evaluation. The PC under test is made to connect to either the 5 GHz (preferred) or 2.4 GHz SSID and iPerf tests are conducted for both TCP and UDP transfers. It is ensured that the PC under test is the only wireless client for the Netgear R7000. We evaluate total throughput for up to 32 simultaneous TCP connections using iPerf and present the highest number in the graph below.

Wi-Fi TCP Throughput

In the UDP case, we try to transfer data at the highest rate possible for which we get less than 1% packet loss.

Wi-Fi UDP Throughput (< 1% Packet Loss)



Power Consumption and Thermal Performance

The power consumption at the wall was measured with the display being driven through the mini-HDMI port. In the graphs below, we compare the idle and load power of the D54250WYK with other low power PCs evaluated before. For load power consumption, we ran Furmark 1.12.0 and Prime95 v27.9 together.

Idle Power Consumption

Load Power Consumption (Prime95 + FurMark)

In order to evaluate thermal performance, we first ran our test for load power consumption and made sure that the unit wasn't getting throttled. Given that the D54250WYKH is an actively cooled system, it had no problems passing this test. In order to determine the efficiency of the cooling system, we first loaded up the CPU alone using just Prime 95 for around 30 minutes. This was followed by addition of the GPU load (FurMark) for another 30 minutes, and then removal of the CPU load for 10 minutes. The system was then left idle. The various frequencies and temperatures during this loading process are recorded in the graphs below.

We find that under pure CPU load, the maximum temperature inside the system was less than 80 C. With both CPU and GPU loading, we see the DRAM temperatures rise, but the CPU package temperature goes down. Looking at the frequency graph, we find that the cores and the GPU adjust themselves to stay within the thermal budget (this doesn't show up as thermal throttling in the hardware monitoring programs as the temperatures are nowhere near TJUNCTION). After removal of load, temperatures get back to idling (around 40 C) in less than a hour.



Concluding Remarks

Coming to the business end of the review, we can say without doubt that the Haswell NUC kit with the 2.5" drive slot presents much better value for money compared to the pure mSATA version. Not only are 2.5" SSDs cheaper than mSATA for the same capacity, they also don't create a point of thermal concern near the Wi-Fi module. Pretty much the only downside of the unit over the mSATA-only NUC is the thicker chassis. Our choice of a faster DDR3L memory also improves quite a few benchmark numbers, but not all workloads.

Haswell UCFF PC Options
(From Top Left / Clockwise - Intel D54250WYK, BRIX Pro, BRIX - H, Intel D54250WYKH, BRIX)

The only aspect that Intel could improve from a board perspective is the replacement of separate SATA data and power ports on the motherboard with something similar to what Gigabyte has done for their BRIX boards. In that way, the complicated contraption put in place to support placement of the 2.5" drive slot could have been hugely simplified. They could also include the horizontal SATA power / data cable with the pure board kit so as to simplify things for chassis builders as well as DIY consumers. It is obviously too late to do anything for the Haswell NUCs, but something to consider for the future generation.

In another minor detail, Intel also provides a power cord with this version of the NUC, something that was absent in the D54250WYK and previous generation NUC kits. Given all this, consumers interested in a Haswell NUC would do well to opt for the D54250WYKH with the 2.5" drive slot compared to the D54250WYK unless chassis height or availability of a spare mSATA drive is a major factor in the purchase decision.

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