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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  • lilmoe - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    Call me when Intel is capable of delivering anything remotely equal in terms of video/streaming playback performance and efficiency as my 2 year old Galaxy S7.

    Such incompetence, what a joke.
    Reply
  • Hixbot - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    Are you kidding? This nuc is leaps and bounds more powerful that your smartphone. Reply
  • lilmoe - Thursday, January 18, 2018 - link

    Can this decode 4k60p HEVC HDR with little to now CPU usage and under 2w? No? Didn't think so. Reply
  • mode_13h - Saturday, January 20, 2018 - link

    Unfortunately, he reviewed a NUC that's > 1 year old. The new Gemini Lake SoCs can do 4k60 @ 10bit HEVC, with native HDMI 2.x.

    In 2W? I don't know but maybe close to that, and for less $$$ than any phone or tablet that could do it.

    Anyway, I wouldn't say Goldmont or Goldmont+ can run circles around a modern, high-end ARM core. But, if you check out the benchies, they're definitely in the same ballpark.
    Reply
  • Arbie - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    Good luck keeping Windows 10 updated on the 32GB machine. No more of those for me. Reply
  • smegforbrain - Friday, January 12, 2018 - link

    Yeah, we tried one of these out at the office. Out of the box with nothing but the Creators Update installed, and it didn't have the space to install the Fall Creators Update. Now I'm not sure what the hell to do with it. Reply
  • 69369369 - Saturday, January 13, 2018 - link

    Use it to cook marshmallows? Reply
  • Badelhas - Monday, January 15, 2018 - link

    I am having the exact same problem, had to connect an external drive to be able to update Windows 10. Incredible. Reply
  • jimjamjamie - Monday, January 15, 2018 - link

    put linux on it :D Reply
  • jabber - Monday, January 15, 2018 - link

    I've had a couple of those 32GB trash heaps in to put the main updates on.

    Basically did it two ways. Deleted as much of the non OS software and data off, did the update and put it all back.

    Or...compressed the drive after cleaning it up. Makes little difference to performance. In fact I now use full disk compression on several small SSDs I use.
    Reply

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