4K HTPC Credentials

The Intel NUC6CAYH is actively cooled, but the fan curves are quite good. We were barely able to hear the fans at a distance of 6 ft. While not being as good as fanless unit with respect to acoustics, the NUC6CAYH fits the bill for a secondary / bedroom HTPC.

Refresh Rate Accuracy

Starting with Haswell, Intel, AMD and NVIDIA have been on par with respect to display refresh rate accuracy. The most important refresh rate for videophiles is obviously 23.976 Hz (the 23 Hz setting). As expected, the Intel NUC6CAYH has no trouble with refreshing the display appropriately in this setting.

The gallery below presents some of the other refresh rates that we tested out. The first statistic in madVR's OSD indicates the display refresh rate.

Network Streaming Efficiency

Evaluation of OTT playback efficiency was done by playing back the Mystery Box's Peru 8K HDR 60FPS video in YouTube using Microsoft Edge and Season 4 Episode 4 of the Netflix Test Pattern title using the Windows Store App.

The YouTube streaming test played back the 4K non-HDR version (VP9 video and Opus audio), while the Netflix one delivered the 1080p 5.8 Mbps AVC version.

The graph below shows the power consumption at the wall and the GPU loading parameters for the YouTube streaming case. Initially, the power consumption is a bit high as the video is fetched at a lower resolution (less taxing overall), but, needs to be scaled up for display. Later on, as the buffering stabilizes, the power consumption of the system (around 14W) and the GPU power (around 4.5W) settle down.

A similar graph for the Netflix streaming case is also presented below. Manual stream selection is available (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-S) and debug information / statistics can also be viewed (Ctrl-Alt-Shift-D). Statistics collected for the YouTube streaming experiment were also collected here. Despite the availability of a 4K display and HCP 2.2 support, I couldn't get Netflix to play back the 4K version of the title, even though the Apollo Lake NUC is supposed to be able to do it. On a hunch, I went back from the Fall Creators Update to the much older Anniversary Edition. That time around, I got the ULTRA HD 4K tag on the title, but, the playback was still that of the 1080p version 1080p, with the 4K stream option not visible at all.

It must be noted that the debug OSD is kept on till the stream reaches the 5.8 Mbps playback stage around 1.5 minutes after the start of the streaming. Toggling the state of the debug OSD results in variation in the at-wall power consumption (as much as 3W) and GPU loading parameters. In the steady state, we find that the at-wall and GPU power numbers are around 10W and 2.7W respectively.

Decoding and Rendering Benchmarks

In order to evaluate local file playback, we concentrate on Kodi and MPC-HC with EVR for the two systems. The integrated GPUs are too weak to handle madVR. We recently revamped our decode and rendering test suite, as described in our 2017 HTPC components guide. For the purpose of testing, we utilized Kodi 17.6, MPC-HC x64 1.7.13, and LAV Filters 0.70.1-83. The video decoder was set to native DXVA2 mode.

Playing back the SD and 1080p streams at 4K requires scaling, and that shows in the power numbers of the above graph. One point to note is that Apollo Lake does not support VP9 Profile 2 decoding, and the playback of the final stream in the above test suite was essentially a slideshow.

We see similar behavior with Kodi 17.6, as shown in the graph below.

Kodi turned out to be much better than MPC-HC, and we were happy to note that all streams except the VP9 Profile 2 one played back without any frame drops or stutters.

Finally, it must be noted that the GPU inside the Apollo Lake SoC does not support UHD Blu-ray playback despite the presence of a HDCP 2.2 HDMI 2.0 port. The SoC does not have SGX capabilities either.

Networking and Storage Performance Power Consumption and Thermal Performance
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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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