Intel has enjoyed great success with their NUC lineup of ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) PCs. They have segmented the NUCs into three markets - the entry-level, mid-range, and enthusiast. The enthusiast segment is served by H series processors and the mid-range by the U series processors with the Core architecture. The entry level is served by Atom-class SoCs. Intel launched the Apollo Lake SoCs with the Goldmont CPU architecture in the second half of 2016. The NUC models employing one of the Apollo Lake SoCs was given the Arches Canyon codename.

Introduction and Product Impressions

The NUC6CAYH targets the entry-level and developing markets. It employs the same form factor as the previous-generation NUCs, and supports a 2.5" SATA drive (indicated by the H in the product code). Intel's Apollo Lake SoCs improve upon Bay Trail and Braswell by adopting a newer microarchitecture (Goldmont) for the CPU cores and also getting fabricated in a more power-efficient / mature 14nm process. In the consumer market, the Goldmont cores are exclusive to the Apollo Lake family. The SoCs target the netbook and nettop markets, with 6W and 10W TDP SKUs. We reviewed the ECS LIVA-ZN33 UCFF PC last year. It used a 6W TDP Celeron N3350 due to its fanless nature. The Intel NUC6CAYH, however, is actively cooled, and goes for the Celeron J3455 with a 10W TDP.

Arches Canyon has two SKUs - the NUC6CAYH, and the NUC6CAYS. The main difference between the two is that the NUC6CAYH is barebones, while the NUC6CAYS is ready to use out of the box. The 'S' SKU has a 2GB DDR3L SO-DIMM pre-installed, along with 32GB of eMMC flash on the board. Windows 10 Home x64is also pre-installed. We received the NUC6CAYH for review, and completed the configuration with a Corsair Vengeance CMSX8GX3M2B1866C10 DDR3 SODIMM kit (2x 4GB) and a 500GB Crucial MX200 SSD. The full specification of our review configuration is summarized in the table below.

Intel NUC6CAYH Specifications
Processor Intel Celeron J3455
Apollo Lake (Goldmont), 4C/4T, 1.5 - 2.3 GHz, 14nm, 2 MB L2, 10W TDP
Memory Corsair Vengeance CMSX8GX3M2B1866C10 DDR3
10-10-10-32 @ 1866 MHz
2x4 GB
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 500
Disk Drive(s) Crucial MX200 CT500MX200SSD1
(500 GB; 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s; 16nm; MLC)
Networking Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
1x Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit LAN
Audio 3.5mm Headphone Jack
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 2x USB 3.0 Type-A (rear)
2x USB 3.0 Type-A (front)
1x SDXC
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 10 Pro x64
Pricing $130 (barebones) / $470 (as configured)
Full Specifications Intel NUC6CAYH Specifications

The NUC6CAYH package comes with a 65W (19V @ 3.42A) AC adapter and a VESA mount / screws in addition to the main unit.


One of the interesting aspects of the NUC6CAYH is the integrated dual-array microphone. This allows the end user to configure it as an always-listening machine (if needed), without the need to connect an external microphone. The other selling point is the availability of a HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP 2.2 support. 4Kp60 capability is present, allowing for specific digital signage use-cases. It also lends itself to usage as a HTPC capable of driving a 4K display.

Platform Analysis

The specifications of the Intel Celeron J3455 indicate that the SoC can support up to 6 PCIe 2.0 lanes, 2 SATA ports, and 8 USB ports. The break-up of the high-speed I/O lanes is interesting in the context of the four USB 3.0 ports and SDXC slot in the NUC6CAYH.

Intel Celeron J3455 HSIO Block Diagram [ Courtesy : Intel Pentium and Celeron Processor N- and J- Series Datasheet - Volume 1 of 3 (PDF) ]

The distribution of PCIe lanes in the NUC6CAYH is as below.

  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #0      In Use @ x1 (Realtek RTS5229 PCIe Card Reader )
  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #1      In Use @ x1 (Realtek RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Adapter)
  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #2      In Use @ x1 (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168 WiFi Adapter)

Since none of the PCIe lanes are multiplexed with the USB 3.0 lanes, we do not have any bandwidth-sharing issues or bottlenecks.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the Intel NUC6CAYH against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the Intel NUC6CAYH when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect Intel NUC6CAYH
CPU Intel Celeron J3455 Intel Celeron J3455
GPU Intel HD Graphics 500 Intel HD Graphics 500
RAM Corsair Vengeance CMSX8GX3M2B1866C10 DDR3
10-10-10-32 @ 1866 MHz
2x4 GB
Corsair Vengeance CMSX8GX3M2B1866C10 DDR3
10-10-10-32 @ 1866 MHz
2x4 GB
Storage Crucial MX200 CT500MX200SSD1
(500 GB; 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s; 16nm; MLC)
Crucial MX200 CT500MX200SSD1
(500 GB; 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s; 16nm; MLC)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $130 (Barebones)
$470 (as configured / No OS)
$130 (Barebones)
$470 (as configured / No OS)
Performance Metrics - I
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  • mode_13h - Monday, January 15, 2018 - link

    Still, I appreciate these benchmarks, since it should help show how much Gemini Lake (Goldmont +) actually improved. Reply
  • ilt24 - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    Am I missing something? The $470 price with No OS seems quite high if the NUC starts at $130 and your just adding a pair of 4GB Memory modules and a 500GB SSD. Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    Have you looked at the prices of RAM and flash lately? The Corsair kit was $90 when I was writing this review a week or so back (looks like it is $80 today), and the MX200 is relatively rare to find now (it was $250 when I was writing this). I think the cheapest equivalent today would be the BX300 480GB @ $145. So, the $470 price at the time of writing is probably closer to $355 now.

    That said, RAM and flash prices are fluctuating wildly due to the recent shortage. Things ought to become stable and a bit cheaper soon.
    Reply
  • powellandy - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    Do you have any comment on the ability to play 3D - looks like it's an ongoing saga with Intel chips -
    https://communities.intel.com/thread/112109
    Reply
  • bill44 - Saturday, January 13, 2018 - link

    Been following that thread, which is now dead. Intel won't/can't fix it. If they could, they've done it by now. Not enough customer complained (not to mention, 3D for the industry is dead), as such it just gets dragged out until everyone gives up.

    Going into the future, native HDMI 2.x may fix the issue, but going by past experience, there will always be problems with a HTPC setup (check out MadVR Madshi forums regarding constant driver issues).
    Reply
  • powellandy - Monday, January 15, 2018 - link

    I agree, but I was hoping if they mention it in the review and perhaps ask Intel it would put a bit of pressure on them to fix it! Reply
  • bji - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    Do the benchmarks include Meltdown and Spectre fixes? If they don't, then the numbers are not accurate. Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    The benchmark numbers were processed before the security fixes started coming in. The relative numbers are still accurate when you compare one unit against the other (all of them in the comparison graphs are Intel-based systems).

    We are waiting for the dust to settle on all security fixes before embarking on any benchmark numbers regeneration procedures.
    Reply
  • satai - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    Some comparison to Core Ms would be nice. Reply
  • fuzzymath10 - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    It's just "feel" based, but I bought my NUC (the same one + old Intel 320 160GB + 8GB ram + W10 Pro) to play videos on my 4k TV. Before, I temporarily used my Venue 7140 Pro with the 5Y10. The 5Y10 is faster for pretty much any "normal" task such as internet browsing which shouldn't be a surprise. Raw multithreaded might be more similar but the Core M is a smoother overall experience.

    However, the NUC supports 4k @ 60Hz while the HDMI from my Venue is only good to 30Hz. The NUC IGP can also decode HEVC while the HD 5300 in the Venue cannot, and the 5Y10 is not fast enough to software-decode most HEVC content (neither can the J3455). The Core M is also passively cooled while the NUC is semi-passive (fan can shut off).

    Unfortunately, Core M is also very expensive. However, I would say the jump in user experience from the NUC to Core M is greater than from Core M to my desktop (i7 3770).
    Reply

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