Intel’s NUC line of mini computers have been around for years, offering a combination of compact design and decent performance for situations where you might want the power of a full-fledged PC, but you’d prefer if it didn’t take up a lot of space.

For the most part, Intel NUC computers feature laptop-class hardware. But laptop-class hardware has gotten pretty powerful in recent years, and the company’s new “Bean Canyon” NUC lineup are the first to feature 28 watt, 8th-gen Intel Core processors featuring Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655.

In other words these little computers have enough horsepower to handle some basic gaming, video editing, or other tasks that might be difficult on a system with less powerful Intel graphics.

When I ran a set of graphics benchmarks last month I found that the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 with an NVIDIA Quadro P1000 GPU easily outclassed the Intel Bean Canyon demo unit I’ve been testing… but the Bean Canyon NUC came out ahead of the Huawei MateBook X Pro with NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics in most tests.

Intel loaned me an NUC8i7BEH kit featuring an Intel Core i7-8559U processor for the purposes of this review, and I’ve been using it on and off for a few weeks, and for the most part the experience has been pretty great.

This configuration sells for around $460 and up (not including memory, storage, or an operating system), although there are also lower-priced models with Core i5 and Core i3 chips.

The version I’ve been testing is one of the fastest computers I’ve ever used — but you should keep in mind that I typically stick to low-power PCs rather than high-performance, power-hungry desktops.

Still, if you’re looking for a small, quiet desktop computer, you could certainly do a lot worse.

There are a few things to keep in mind though — the compact size comes with some compromises. You can easily upgrade the memory, storage, and wireless card, but not the CPU or GPU (although you could plug in an external graphics dock thanks to the computer’s Thunderbolt 3 port).

Intel also offers a more powerful line of NUC “Skull Canyon” and “Hades Canyon” mini PCs aimed at gamers… but they’re larger, noisier, and more expensive. Finally, it’s worth noting that Intel has announced that next year’s Integrated graphics will be even better… so while the Bean Canyon NUC is already a pretty nice little machine, if you can wait a year something significantly better may come along (although that’s kind of always true, isn’t it?)

OK, on with the review.

Overview

The Intel NUC8i7BEH is a compact computer that measures about 4.6″ x 4.4″ x 2″ and which has a simple black and grey design.

On the back of the computer you’ll find a power plug, an HDMI 2.0a port, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, two USB 3.1 ports, and a Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 3 port.

Although there’s only the one dedicated HDMI port, you could hook up two more displays by using an adapter with the Thunderbolt 3 port.

There are two USB 3.1 ports on the front of the system, along with a 3.5mm headset jack and a power button that glows when the computer is powered on.

This model also features an infrared sensor on the front and dual-array microphones for talking to Cortana or other voice software.

On the left side there’s a microSD card reader and a Kinsington lock support. A full-sized SD card reader would have been nice, but I suppose if you pick up a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 dongle or dock to add an extra display you can look for one that has a card reader built-in (like the one I recently purchased).

The lid of the computer can be removed and replaced with third-party lids if you want to customize the look or functionality of the computer. Some third-party lids add wireless charging, additional USB ports, or VGA or DVI adapters, for example.

Intel has recently started selling some NUC models as complete computers, no assembly required. But the NUC8i7BEH is offered as a kit, which means that it has most of the hardware you need to get started… but you’ll need to supply your own memory, storage, and operating system.

The model featured in this review has an Intel AC 9560 wireless card with 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5 support, two SODIMM slots for memory, with support for up to 32GB of DDR4-2400 RAM.

It also has an M.2 slot for a solid state drive as well as room for a 2.5 inch hard drive or SSD. Intel points out that the system also supports Intel Optane memory, so you could also use a combination of an Optane memory stick and a hard drive or SSD to get a small amount of super-speedy storage and a larger, cheaper drive for storing files.

If you’re looking for something a little more compact, Intel does offer models without the hard drive bay. Those shorter versions measure 4.6″ x 4.4″ x 1.5″ and only have a single storage slot for an M.2 SSD. You’ll also have to be willing to live with an Intel Core i5-8259U or Core i3-8109U processor, since Intel doesn’t offer a Core i7 model in that smaller form factor.

Adding or replacing memory and storage is pretty easy. Just unscrew the four feet on the bottom of the NUC and you’ll be able to lift the bottom cover to access the memory and M.2 storage. The 2.5 inch drive bay is built into the bottom cover itself, and you can just slide a drive into the slot and then screw it in place.

Once your components are installed, you’ll need to supply an operating system. I’ve tested both Windows 10 and Ubuntu 18.04 an haven’t encountered any major problems with either.

In fact, I’m using the same 16GB of Patriot Viper 4 DDR4 memory and 240GB Patriot Burst SATA III SSD that Patriot sent me when reviewing the Zotac ZBOX CI660 nano. I didn’t even bother re-installing Windows or Ubuntu — both operating systems detected the different hardware, downloaded a few updates, and allowed me to continue working as if nothing had changed (except that the processor and graphics were speedier).

I did end up installing Intel’s Driver & Support Assistant though, which prompts me to download BIOS and driver updates from time to time.

One important distinction between the NUC8i7BEH and Zotac’s compact computer is that the Intel NUC is not fanless. There’s a small fan on the flip side of the mainboard and vents on the sides and back for air to pass through.

This allows the NUC to be much smaller than the CI660, while still packing a more powerful processor. The Zotac computer measures 8.1″ x 5.1″ x 2.7″, making it more than twice as large in volume.

Zotac’s computer is quieter — while it generates a small amount of electrical noise, there are no moving parts to make noise. But the NUC8i7BEH is surprisingly quiet for a computer with a fan. The fan does spin faster (and make more noise) under heavy load, but even then it’s still quieter than many laptops I’ve used and the fan noise isn’t something that bothers me when I’m working with the computer a few feet from my ears. Put on some music while you work and you probably won’t notice the fan sound at all.

Benchmarks

Intel makes a line of gaming NUCs. They’re bigger, louder, and more power hungry than the mini computer featured in this review.

The NUC8i7BEH isn’t really designed for gaming, but it’s got one of Intel’s most powerful integrated GPUs to date and a reasonably fast processor. Those features make it a pretty good general-purpose computer, and could even let you use the tiny PC for some more resource-intensive tasks such as video editing or some gaming.

When I ran my usual audio compression, video compression, and folder zip tests the Bean Canyon NUC didn’t really perform very differently from the Zotac CI660 nano (which features a 15 watt Kaby Lake Refresh processor), but both systems outperformed most Kaby Lake-R laptops. But these tests are pretty old at this point and I’m thinking of retiring them.

The computer was one of the fastest I’ve tested when it comes to compressing video using Handbrake. And it got the second-highest score I’ve seen in PCMark, a general-purpose computing benchmark.

The only system I’ve used that scored higher was the Lenovo ThinkPad P1, which has a 45 watt Intel Core i7-8750H processor and NVIDIA GeForce P1000 graphics.

Likewise, the ThinkPad P1 outperformed the NUC in graphics rendering test Cinebench, but the Bean Canyon NUC did pretty well for a system with integrated graphics and a much lower TDP.

Unfortunately I’ve only recently started testing computers with Cinebench, so the only other system I threw in the chart was the One Mix 2S mini laptop with a 5 watt, dual-core Intel Core m3-8100Y processor. Not surprisingly the NUC and ThinkPad P1 both ran circles around it.

I was a little surprised to see that the NUC actually scored higher in GeekBench than the ThinkPad P1. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s because GeekBench is a quick test that typically takes just a few minutes to complete. There’s not a lot of time for the computer to get hot and for CPU throttling to kick in to cool things off.

So I tend to think of GeekBench as a test that measures peak performance in brief spurts. PCMark, which includes a suite of tests that take a while to complete, gives a better indication of sustained performance.

It really becomes clear that this is not a gaming PC when you run 3DMark or other tools meant to look at 3D gaming performance.

This computer, with its Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 score higher in most tests than systems with the Intel UHD 620 found in most recent Intel laptop chips. But the Huawei MateBook X Pro with a 15 watt Core i7-8550U processor and NVIDIA’s entry-level MX150 graphics comes out ahead in 3DMark’s Time Spy and Fire Strike benchmarks, and is almost neck-and-neck with the Bean Canyon NUC in the 3DMark Sky Diver and Cloud Gate tests.

The ThinkPad P1 with NVIDIA Quadro P1000, meanwhile, scores more than twice as high in some tests. And that’s a graphics card that’s not really even meant for gaming (it’s designed for mobile workstation computers that are used for photo and video editing and other graphics tasks).

Using it

For the past few years I’ve been using a laptop as my primary computer — but when I’m working in my home office I use it as if it were a desktop. I connect an external display, speakers, and a wireless mouse and keyboard.

The advantage is that all of my important data and applications are on one PC — I don’t have to switch computers when I want to fire up an application that I only have a single license for (such as QuickBooks or some paid plugins that I use with Reaper for editing podcasts). I also get to treat my laptop like a second display.

But there’s also something kind of nice about having a clean desk — and a tiny PC like an Intel NUC makes that possible. The computer’s small enough that you could mount it to the back of a display to create a pseudo all-in-one PC if you wanted to. Or you can just put it anywhere on your desk and nearly forget that it’s there.

It takes up less space than a laptop and way less space than a desktop tower. The relatively quiet fan means it’s also not particularly distracting if you’re using it in a quiet space. And best of all, it offers better performance than you’ll get from most recent thin-and-light laptops.

I’ve had no problem using it to view and edit documents with LibreOffice and Google Docs, research and write articles for Liliputing (including this review), edit photos in GIMP and Irfanview, and do some audio editing in Reaper.

The computer had no trouble keeping up with any of those tasks. I regularly found myself opening 20+ Google Chrome browser tabs while streaming music from Spotify at the same time during my work day. Your results may vary depending on your web browser of choice and how much RAM you equip the system with.

Despite the computer’s small size, it has enough ports to plug in most common accessories. I was able to plug in a monitor, speakers, a wireless keyboard & mouse dongle, and I still had a few ports left over.

Want a single-plug solution? Pick up a USB dock or hub. I recently purchased a hub with HDMI, audio, USB, and Ethernet jacks plus a few USB ports. I plugged all of my accessories into the hub and now I can connect everything to the NUC with a single cable — leaving the front of the computer looking clean (it does look a little messy with an audio cable running from the headphone jack).

I haven’t noticed any significant difference in display performance between the USB-C port and HDMI port. And I get the same data transfer speeds whether I’ve plugged an Ethernet cable into the computer’s RJ45 jack or the one on my USB hub.

I’ve primarily used Windows 10 on the NUC, but it’s pretty easy to load an alternate operating system. You can load Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, or another GNU/Linux distribution onto a USB flash drive, plug it in, and then hit the F7 key during start to open Intel’s Visual BIOS menu which lets you select the boot device priority, among other things.

The Visual BIOS is pretty advanced compared to the text-only settings available on most PCs. You can navigate with a mouse, view detailed information about CPU temperature and fan speed, set cooling policy details, disable hardware, and make many other changes.

While I’ve primarily tested the NUC8i7BEH in my office, it’s also capable of driving up to three displays and it can handle resolutions up to 4096 x 2304 at 60 Hz. It would make a pretty nice media center PC or digital signage or kiosk computer.

The integrated graphics should be powerful enough for most day-to-day tasks such as web browsing, document editing, multimedia consumption, and even some content creation and light gaming.

The inclusion of a Thunderbolt 3 port means that you could connect a graphics dock and use a discrete, desktop GPU with the tiny computer — although you’d probably end up spending almost as much on the dock + graphics card as you did on the NUC itself. The GPU dock would also probably be much, much larger than this tiny computer.

Verdict

Overall I’ve been pretty happy using this little computer as an office PC, but it’s clearly not the best choice for everyone. It’s small and quiet, but some folks might prefer a larger system that offers more under-the-hood configuration options.

Plus, if you opt for a tower PC you can probably find a more powerful PC for a lower price tag.

Sure, the $460 starting price doesn’t seem bad for a system with this kind of performance, you have to remember to factor in the cost of memory, storage, and maybe an operating system. Those additional costs can easily add $300 or more to the base price, although Linux users can probably spend a bit less since they won’t need to spend $100 on a Windows license.

But a huge part of the appeal of an NUC is that it isn’t a desktop tower. It’s a low-profile machine that doesn’t take up much space. You could use it to create a minimalist office environment. You could stick it by your TV to play games, stream videos, or act as a DVR in the living room. Or you could use it in an office, as a point-of-sales computer, or to drive a digital signage system for your store, just to name a few likely use cases.

Intel isn’t the only company making this sort of mini PC. Zotac has its ZBOX lineup. Gigabyte has its BRIX mini PCs. And I’ve seen dozens of similar devices from less well-known Chinese companies.

But Intel is the first company to make models with 28 watt, Intel Coffee Lake processors and Iris Plus graphics. And that might be enough reason to consider buying one of these little computers.

If $460 is too much to spend on a barebones computer with a Core i7-8559U processor, there are a few cheaper options.

For less than $370, you can pick up an Intel NUC8I5BEH with an Intel Core i5-8259U processor. Or you can opt for a Core i3-8109U model called the NUC8I3BEH, which is available for around $290.

Both of those systems also feature Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655, although it’s worth noting that the GPUs are a little slower on the lower-priced models, and the Core i3 version has a dual-core chip (the Core i5 and Core i7 models have quad-core processors).

And if you don’t need a 2.5 inch drive bay, there are also NUC8i5BEK ($366) and NUC8i3BEH ($290) configurations that are half an inch thinner and which only use M.2 storage.

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21 replies on “Intel Bean Canyon NUC review”

  1. Tried debian 9.5 and 9.9 on NUC8i7BEH but fails to recognize Ethernet and it is not so easy to solve. There is plenty of discussions on the web about that. So, I would not support you mentioning Debian in your article. Trying a more recent debian-test install now instead of the netinstall ones or then reverting to Ubuntu, which I hear is working fine.

  2. These are also the hottest things in audiophile servers and endpoints. Running audio-linux,
    these boxes, with high end DACS, are providing superb music playback.

  3. Thanks for the review. The bios doesn’t show cpu temp or I didn’t see it?

  4. I have the 2017 Intel NUC NUC7i7BNH (Core i7) set up with 16GB DDR4, 500 GB Samsung 960 NVMe (primary), and a 2GB 2.5″ 5400rpm HDD (2nd data drive). OS: Windows 10 and Mint Linux. I can not get Mint Linux to output sound via HDMI to my TCL 55″ TV on the NUC, and Windows 10 creates a lot of fan noise when streaming 1080p and has some shuttering when adjusting volume. Works good on my 23″ and 29″ monitors when using the headphone jack to PC speakers. I am a bit disappointed. I won this back in April, put about $500 into it for the NVMe, HDD, and RAM back then. Wish I could send it back in and upgrade it to the 8th Generation Bean Canyon or Hades Canyon.

  5. “[T]he Bean Canyon NUC did pretty well for a system with integrated graphics and a much lower TDP.”

    Actually, it is not lower. The recommended TDP is lower, but it clearly is not operating in that range. It is cranked up to H-series power targets in the BIOS power curves.

    The crazy thing is how high the TDP jumps on these mobile processors to achieve this level of performance. In Cinebench, it literally pulls more peak CPU power than many higher performing desktop CPUs (e.g. Ryzen): 74.2 W! (via NotebookCheck.net)

    Typical Coffee Lake: TDP is idyllic at best. There is no way any CPU is going to achieve 800+ in Cinebench R15 at a true sub-30W power draw unless it is a 10nm or 7nm engineering sample. It is simply impossible.

    Giving credit where credit is due, hat’s off to Intel for getting the fans and supporting cooling system so efficient that it can handle this sheer level of heat. But the CPU is definitely not operating anywhere near its default TDP with peak loads.

    1. Quoting NotebookCheck:

      “Energy Management
      “Power Consumption
      “Power consumption when idling on desktop ranges from 3 W to 7 W or almost half of a laptop since there is no display. When under higher loads, consumption will jump to 47 W or higher.
      The highest consumption we can record is 78 W from the small (~12.3 x 4.5 x 3.0 cm) 90 W AC adapter when running both Prime95 and FurMark simultaneously. Because of throttling, however, the system is unable to maintain a consumption of 78 W and it eventually stabilizes at just under 50 W to mirror our observations when running the CineBench R15 Multi-Thread loop test. Our NUC is not even able to run the first benchmark scene of 3DMark 06 at a steady clock rate to show poor Turbo Boost sustainability when gaming.”

      Link: https://www.notebookcheck.net/Intel-NUC-Kit-NUC8i7BEH-i7-8559U-Mini-PC-Review.360356.0.html

      1. When I fired up HWMonitor and Prime95 I saw a peak of 50W, but it only held that speed for less than a minute before dropping to 29-30W.

        1. 50W peak for the CPU exclusive sounds about right on the money for when taking into account that that is the CPU package only. Tack on motherboard, RAM and storage and that would balloon 50W up around the 78W NotebookCheck is quoting for total system power draw.

        2. Any chance you might get an UDOO BOLT for review? It is basically the AMD NUC that finally meets parity or at least offers alternatives to stand neck and neck with Intel’s NUC feature set.

  6. The article gets the CPU name wrong: Intel Core i7-8559U processor, not i5-8559U

  7. These things are horrible, merely because they cost so much.
    I got a Hell Box One for less… basically it was a Dell Optiplex 9020 (basically a Potato Masher before JERM) which I bought from work which didn’t have the HDD and CPU. I later dumpster dived and found another non-working (fried PSU) one for free, then frankenstein them together. My first unit was running a 3.7GHz Core i5-2500, 8GB DDR3-1300, 0.9GHz Iris HD2000, 2TB SeaGate 2.5in-5400rpm. It even came with a free Stock DVD drive, Stock Dell Keyboard, Stock Dell Mouse, Windows7 CoA….and it was cheaper than the NUC. The advantages of the NUC is that its smaller/cleaner, can be mounted behind a monitor, is quieter and newer.

    Though now (after further surgeries/purchases) the Hell Box One running 4.1GHz Core i7-4790, 32GB DDR3-1600, 8.0GHz GDDR5 4GB, 1.5GHz GTX 1050 Ti-LP, 1TB WD Blue3D, 2TB SeaGate 2.5in-5400rpm, USB-Wifi dongle, BluRay Writer, Windows 10 Pro (with spyware settings disabled). All it needed was some TLC; cleaning, cable management, new fan and thermal adhesive. I had it setup under the Living Room TV, with a Keyboard/Mouse inside the Coffee Table (my coffee table transforms into a LapDesk). Also threw in a Xbox One Slim Bluetooth controller there. This whole package came at the same cost of a higher-specced/kitted NUC. And it runs better.

    Overall, it runs more stable (+60fps) than say an Xbox One X but is slightly graphically worse (1080p-High instead of 1440p-High)… but its not that noticeable on a Living Room TV. And it allows me to play some PC Exclusive titles, some fun Web Games, and emulation from Atari, Sega, NES, SNES, GBA, N64, PS1, PSP. And high-end emulation too such as PS2, DSi, Gamecube, Wii, and Wii U. I think it will do PS Vita and Nintendo Switch sooner or later, but won’t ever achieve the “Weird Ports” Xbox, 360, PS3, PS4.

    I also tried to further overclock the CPU and Memory, but the Dell OEM Custom BIOS doesn’t let me. Nor did it accept my SSD multi-boot solution; 640GB Windows 10 Pro, 128GB OS X/Hackintosh, 128GB Linux/ElementaryOS, and 128GB Android/PheonixOS. I will do these on my next (fresh) build with a Ryzen HTPC and a SFF case like the nCase m1 or SilverStone rvz02. The little Console-Killer That Could is now staying with my younger brother, since I find myself hardly having the time for it, but I don’t think he appreciates the amount of research, budget, and tinkering that went into it.

    Have a look at this setup:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5wZ_9LEqPk

    1. The point of these things is the small footprint. They have the guts of a laptop stuffed into a <1L desktop form factor. The closest you can get is HP elitedesk mini, Lenovo tiny or similar products which have the guts on an AIO stuffed into a 1L desktop form factor

      I personally was assessing my options a couple of years ago between a NUC and a Lenovo m700 tiny, which is close in size and I ended up choosing the latter because it was cheaper to buy it pre-configured with i7/8gb/128gb/win10pro than to get a NUC and assemble it myself with similar parts.

      1. Exactly. I think these are the right computers for the majority of users that don’t want a laptop as a primary device. I’ve had mine for about 2 years and love it. I have an i5, a M.2 SSD and 16 GB of RAM. It’s overkill for my needs but I love that there is never lag in anything I do on it.

        1. You guys might be right, I just cannot get over this pricing. Zotac is just as guilty.

          Because devices that are slightly larger cost much less and can offer more, that was the gist of my initial comment. Yet, they don’t actually have a downside compared to the NUC, besides, slightly less clutter/size, weight, ability to VESA mount these, and the fresh/new factor.

          It kind of makes me think of someone going from a 12inch ultrabook to a 10in ultrabook, where the downsizing increases the costs by 50%, introduces dongle-life, and gets you weaker specs. Whilst the size difference is noticeable, in real-world, they both offer comparable portability (need to be put into backpack/sidebag). So it makes the transition moot. That was the analogy I wanted to make.

          PS: The Dell SFF is ~8.4L in capacity. The NUC is ~0.7L (XXS) in capacity.
          Other popular cases and sizes for the curious:
          – FractalDesign Core 500 (19.5L)(M)
          – nCase m1 (12.6L)
          – SilverStone SG13 (11.5L)
          – FDesign Node 202 (10.2L)(S)
          – Silverstone RVz02 (9.8L)
          – LOUQE Ghost S1 (8.2-11.0L)
          – Dan case A4-SFX (7.3L)(XS)
          – Dr Zaber Sentry (6.9L)
          – S4 Mini (4.6L)
          – Open air, woodblock/desk, ziptied

  8. bought one at work for a bean counter (no really!) and it works very well. used the little tray thing included to attach it to the VESA mount on the back of their monitor. silent and no heat with an m.2 installed.

      1. No, it only runs at 4k, but considering it is a thunderbolt-only monitor, I’m happy that I can drive it from a non-MacOS machine.

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