System Performance: Miscellaneous Workloads

Standardized benchmarks such as UL's PCMark 10 and BAPCo's SYSmark take a holistic view of the system and process a wide range of workloads to arrive at a single score. Some systems are required to excel at specific tasks - so it is often helpful to see how a computer performs in specific scenarios such as rendering, transcoding, JavaScript execution (web browsing), etc. This section presents focused benchmark numbers for specific application scenarios.

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R23

We use CINEBENCH R23 for 3D rendering evaluation. R23 provides two benchmark modes - single threaded and multi-threaded. Evaluation of different PC configurations in both supported modes provided us the following results.

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R23 - Single Thread

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R23 - Multiple Threads

The single-thread performance for the Arena Canyon NUC and the NUCS BOX-1360P/D4 round out the top two spots, but the NUCS BOX loses out significantly in the multi-threaded case due to the lower power budget (PL1 of 28W, compared to 40W for the NUC 13 Pro).

Transcoding: Handbrake 1.5.1

Handbrake is one of the most user-friendly open source transcoding front-ends in the market. It allows users to opt for either software-based higher quality processing or hardware-based fast processing in their transcoding jobs. Our new test suite uses the 'Tears of Steel' 4K AVC video as input and transcodes it with a quality setting of 19 to create a 720p AVC stream and a 1080p HEVC stream.

Transcoding - x264

Transcoding - x265_10bit

Software transcoding performance is dependent on the available power budget and number of cores. The Arena Canyon NUC is on top in both of these aspects, and it is not a surprise to see it march well ahead of the competition.

Transcoding - QuickSync H.264

Transcoding - QuickSync H.265 10bit

Hardware transcoding performance is dependent on the iGPU clock speeds and Raptor Lake-P is the best equipped family on that front. The extra power budget over the ASRock Industrial configuration helps the Arena Canyon NUC come out on top.

Archiving: 7-Zip 21.7

The 7-Zip benchmark is carried over from our previous test suite with an update to the latest version of the open source compression / decompression software.

7-Zip Compression Rate

7-Zip Decompression Rate

The power budget and number of cores helps the Arena Canyon NUC take the top spot in the compression component, but the Ryzen 7-5800U has enough chops to take the crown in the decompression test. Within the Intel family, the RPL-P implementation from Intel is the undisputed leader in both components.

Web Browsing: JetStream, Speedometer, and Principled Technologies WebXPRT4

Web browser-based workloads have emerged as a major component of the typical home and business PC usage scenarios. For headless systems, many applications based on JavaScript are becoming relevant too. In order to evaluate systems for their JavaScript execution efficiency, we are carrying over the browser-focused benchmarks from the WebKit developers used in our notebook reviews. Hosted at BrowserBench, JetStream 2.0 benchmarks JavaScript and WebAssembly performance, while Speedometer measures web application responsiveness.

BrowserBench - Jetstream 2.0

BrowserBench - Speedometer 2.0

From a real-life workload perspective, we also process WebXPRT4 from Principled Technologies. WebXPRT4 benchmarks the performance of some popular JavaScript libraries that are widely used in websites.

Principled Technologies WebXPRT4

In sustained benchmarking (like in Jetstream and Speedometer), the PL1 and PL2 values influence the results allowing the Arena Canyon NUC to take the top spot. However, in the more realistic use-case with webXPRT4, the NUC 13 Pro and the ASRock Industrial NUCS BOX-1360P/D4 perform very similar to each other across different browsers.

Application Startup: GIMP 2.10.30

A new addition to our systems test suite is AppTimer - a benchmark that loads up a program and determines how long it takes for it to accept user inputs. We use GIMP 2.10.30 with a 50MB multi-layered xcf file as input. What we test here is the first run as well as the cached run - normally on the first time a user loads the GIMP package from a fresh install, the system has to configure a few dozen files that remain optimized on subsequent opening. For our test we delete those configured optimized files in order to force a fresh load every second time the software is run.

AppTimer: GIMP 2.10.30 Startup

As it turns out, GIMP does optimizations for every CPU thread in the system, which requires that higher thread-count processors take a lot longer to run. So the test runs quick on systems with fewer threads, however fast cores are also needed. The cached start numbers for the ASRock Industrial system and the Arena Canyon NUC are similar, but the latter is significantly better in the cold start scenario.

Cryptography Benchmarks

Cryptography has become an indispensable part of our interaction with computing systems. Almost all modern systems have some sort of hardware-acceleration for making cryptographic operations faster and more power efficient. In the case of business use-cases, many applications such as VPN need cryptography acceleration.

BitLocker is a Windows features that encrypts entire disk volumes. While drives that offer encryption capabilities are dealt with using that feature, most legacy systems and external drives have to use the host system implementation. Windows has no direct benchmark for BitLocker. However, we cooked up a BitLocker operation sequence to determine the adeptness of the system at handling BitLocker operations. We start off with a 4.5GB RAM drive in which a 4GB VHD (virtual hard disk) is created. This VHD is then mounted, and BitLocker is enabled on the volume. Once the BitLocker encryption process gets done, BitLocker is disabled. This triggers a decryption process. The times taken to complete the encryption and decryption are recorded. This process is repeated 25 times, and the average of the last 20 iterations is graphed below.

BitLocker Encryption Benchmark

BitLocker Decryption Benchmark

Hardware acceleration is available for the operations in all of the systems. The time taken for processing is directly dependent on the available power budget. Faster acceleration with more number of stronger cores in the Ryzen 7-5800U help the 4x4 BOX-5800U perform significantly better than the rest of the systems in this benchmark. The Arena Canyon NUC turns out to be the best of the Intel lot, as one would expect from the latest generation.

System Performance: UL and BAPCo Benchmarks GPU Performance: Synthetic Benchmarks
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  • hmurchison - Monday, March 27, 2023 - link

    NUC are useless. Plastic computers with huge external power supplies yet people are actually trying to defend this shit. There's a reason why PC sales are in the sh***ter. For decades PC fanboys vomited out how much PC they could buy/build for the price we bought our Mac. Now PC aren't even that affordable. I'd rather buy a M2 Mini as well. I got Thunderbolt, easy upgrade to 10G networking. The PC industry is beyond boring right now.
  • meacupla - Monday, March 27, 2023 - link

    I think it's funny you think PC sales are being eaten up by macs.
    They're not.
    The largest market share is from smartphones, and it's primarily Android that has been eating Windows PC market share.

    The breakdown of share is basically this
    43.9% Android
    27.7% Windows
    17.1% iOS
    6.2% OSX
    5.1% Other and Unknown
  • MrCommunistGen - Monday, March 27, 2023 - link

    I don't understand the animosity that exists in the Mac vs non-Mac camps. I have and have used both platforms -- Macs since around 1990 and Windows PCs since around 2002 and continue to use both in my professional career. Each has their place and use cases.

    Just because a product doesn't match your world-view, regardless of which platform you prefer, doesn't make the other worthless or useless.

    Regardless of which platform ultimately takes the performance crown, M2, M2 Pro, etc or Raptor Lake, there's no denying that the various iterations of Apple Silicon have amazing perf/W which is especially beneficial in laptop form-factors. It's also really nice for quiet, high performance computing in small form factors, whether that's a SFF desktop or a laptop.

    That said, there are also advantages to the upgradeability of non-Apple devices. The ability to upgrade RAM or storage down the road, whether due to budget limitations at the original time or purchase, or whether you're taking advantage of lower prices in the future can help REDUCE eWaste by allowing an otherwise adequate machine to continue to be used rather than discarded.
    It doesn't help Apple's case that in addition to being non-upgradeable they DO charge pretty high prices for upgrading RAM or storage on their machines. +$200 for upgrading from 8GB of RAM to 16GB, or from 256GB of SSD to 512GB is pretty steep (especially since Apple is paying bulk prices) when as an individual you can buy either a 64GB DDR4 3200 SO-DIMM kit or 2TB NVMe SSD for less than $150 at retail.

    To directly address the claim that NUCs are useless:
    These aren't designed for your average home user. That's not to say that an average home user can't or shouldn't buy a NUC. But really, one of the major intended audience is big corporate offices where the NUC can be VESA mounted to the back of a display and the power brick can be stashed away under a desk.

    Also, MOST non-Atom/Pentium/Celeron NUCs (including the 13th generation models in this article) have Thunderbolt.

    Circling back to what I hope my key takeaway is:
    Can't we all just agree that we all like tech and that new technology is cool rather than just needing to bash on whoever has a different opinion than us?
  • Samus - Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - link

    Ditto. I use both. In fact I have an iPhone, iPad, Intel i7 custom-built gaming PC, Ryzen 5600G HTPC for media, 8th Gen Dell Latitude work laptop and my old Macbook Air for when I need OSX for something like testing a clients software. I have a Pixel 3 without cellular connection to fly my drone (because frankly the iPad and iPhone suck for this) and use Android and Raspberry Pi's for projects of all kinds. I've considered getting an M2-based laptop as soon as they are financially viable to replace my aging iPad Pro as my kitchen table media toy.

    This is the definition of a competitive industry benefiting the consumer and pushing technology forward. EVERYTHING HAS ITS APPLICATION.
  • ingwe - Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - link

    Spot on. I also don't understand the need to be a fanboy of these gigantic companies that care nothing for individuals.

    I'm perfectly happy to use whatever fits my application.
  • block2 - Tuesday, April 4, 2023 - link

    Been building PCs since 1999 and do not recall upgrading any. Once they need more RAM the CPU is also too slow. I replaced HD with SSD many years ago before many people had SSD which was huge upgrade. Still using that PC (2.8Ghz AMD Phenom II)!!!
  • Pixol22 - Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - link

    I'm pretty sure this is bait, but I'll bite. NUCs are not useless, because NUCs are real computers. Mac minis are gimmick computers more alike to an iPhone than a desktop computer. If you buy a NUC, you can use it to run or host anything you'd like, between multiple operating systems. Yes it matters to me if hardware is supported by Linux or not. You can also upgrade components using industry standard technologies like M.2, SODIMM, SATA. Apple exists in this strange bubble outside the industry and at every single opportunity they will screw over their customers with crazy pricing, hostile repair practices, and expertly designed price brackets designed to cause distress in customers so they just spend $200 more...$200 more...$100 more. Also, I am not sure how you came to the conclusion that PCs are more expensive, as AMD and Intel have caught up to Apple Silicon, and PC manufacturers offer more competitive upgradeable components for a lower cost.
  • Pixol22 - Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - link

    As a M1 Mac mini owner, been there, done that. There is a lot to like about that computer, but a lot more limitations that make it so infuriating. First, Apple starts those machines at $600 but Apple charges a whopping $200 for an extra 8 GB of ram, which is ridiculous. Then you have to pay $200 extra for 512gb of storage instead of 256gb of storage. Apple's flash isn't even particularly fast, and it is soldered. So all those people that would worry about SSD failure, I hope you are comfortable de-soldering flash. (If such a thing is possible.) Another annoyance is the base configuration with the M2 has a very limited display engine on the GPU, which means you only get two monitors, and the built in HDMI port is more problematic than its worth as it constantly limits resolution, refresh rate, HDR, and variable refresh rate. Perhaps worst of all, the Mac mini comes with macOS and there is no choice to change the operating system, even though there has been some progress on reverse engineering, it is not useful. Running a server or something on a Mac mini is simply painful. I suggest that most people avoid the Mac mini even though the marketing seems appealing.
  • abufrejoval - Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - link

    My oranges have 64GB of RAM not 8GB, and 2TB of NVMe not 250GB.

    And I use 10Gbit networking via TB, because they run containers and VMs as µ-servers, not sure if Apple allows NICs they don't sell.

    You can't even get 64GB of RAM from a Mini, while it's €120 including taxes on Intel or AMD.

    You fancy 8TB of NVMe next year, no issue swapping the stick, some NUCalikes offer a 2nd slot.

    I seriously wouldn't mind an Apple SoC in my Linux systems, but not with the ballast of MacOS or the prices they charge for meaningful configurations.
  • Fenturi - Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - link

    Until the SSD runs out. Apple needs to not make systems that can't swap the SSD and RAM, none upgradeability on the SSD is a deal breaker.

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