NanoLab – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Intel NUC Models Out Soon!

This story actually broke about a week ago, but its been quite a busy one for me so I didn’t get around to posting (other than on Twitter for those who follow me). I thought for people who may have missed it, it would be worth a short post.

In essence, for people who have held out from buying either an Intel NUC or even an HP Microserver for your home lab due to the lack of CPU grunt, good news is on the way! The specs were leaked last week for the new range of Intel NUC boxes due out in Q2, featuring Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. The specs were published by Computer Base and are as follows:

D53427RK - Rend Lake

D53427RK – Rend Lake

D53427HYE - Horse Canyon

D53427HYE – Horse Canyon

D73537KK - Skull Canyon

D73537KK – Skull Canyon

Looking at the new models the best (and most feature rich) for me is the i5-3427U D53427HYE (Horse Canyon – includes enclosure). This model includes vPro / AMT support, a superbly useful feature if you plan to run these machines headless, as I currently do. It seems strange not to include this feature with the i7 version (Skull Canyon – DC73537SY). The i5 is likely to be a little easier on the pocket than the i7 whilst still allowing turbo to 2.8GHz, and with a basic clock speed of 1.8GHz it will hopefully run a little cooler than the i7 (even the i3 chassis can get very warm indeed!). Both models come with USB 3.0 which is unfortunately of limited use, unless you plan to mount a USB drive into your VMs via VT-d which is now also included with both new CPU models.

Comparing the CPUs via their CPU Benchmark scores, we can see that the i5 gives a great performance leap from the older i3 line (DC3217IYE), but not such a great jump to the i7, which also doesn’t include vPro. I have included the scores for the HP Microserver line for comparison:

ModelCores / Threads / Logical CPUsClock Speed / TurboCacheMax TDPCPU Benchmark
Intel Core i3-3217U2 / 2 / 41.80 GHz / None3 MB17 Watts2272
Intel Core i5-3427U2 / 2 / 41.80 GHz / 2.80 GHz3 MB17 Watts3611
Intel Core i7-3537U2 / 2 / 42.00 GHz / 3.10 GHz4 MB17 Watts3766
AMD Athlon II Neo N36L2 / 1 / 21.30 GHz / None2 MB12 Watts751
AMD Turion II Neo N40L2 / 2 / 41.50 GHz / None2 MB15 Watts946
AMD Turion II Neo N54L2 / 2 / 42.20 GHz / None2 MB25 Watts1314

My guess is that two things will probably happen when it comes to pricing. The current line of NUCs will drop their prices a bit, and the new line will probably come in at a higher price bracket. This means a premium for people wanting the extra grunt, but better prices for everyone else! Personally I have not found any issues with the grunt I get from the 1.8GHz i3, especially when running off SSDs (where your bottleneck usually lies in a lab or production!) so I will probably stick with my i3 pair for now… at least until the i5 range become so cheap I feel compelled to buy a couple!

If I hadn’t already invested, I would be sorely tempted to start my Intel NUC lab with the i5 range, but if a key decision driver is cost, the i3 won’t let you down! 🙂

Other NanoLab articles may be found here:
NanoLab Articles


  1. reedog117 says:

    Is it worth it to even consider the Celeron NUC? Just wondering since its possible to build a cluster with 2 Celeron NUCs with 16GB RAM each for under $500. I’m already planning on using a NAS with iSCSI for shared storage.

    • Hi, the CPU model seems to support VT-x and EPT ( but it only runs at 1.1 Ghz (dual-core, no-HT) so I would say it may be a bit underpowered IMHO and I don’t know if it would work with ESXi as I have never seen a Celeron used with vSphere before (but if you do decide to go with it, let us know how you get on!). I would suggest if money is the issue, you look at the Core i3 which packs some punch but is minimal cost.

      • reedog117 says:

        Not sure if I posted elsewhere, but just wanted to say I tried it and it works! I’m using a Thecus N5550 for shared storage and it’s actually pretty fast other than the vCenter Server Appliance’s fairly long boot time.

        • Nice one, thanks for updating! @vPeteWalker is also using the Celeron with good experience.

          Out of interest, does the Thecus support any VAAI primitives?

          • reedog117 says:

            It doesn’t support VAAI primitives as far as I can tell, but I think that’s to be expected considering it’s a sub-$500 5-bay NAS. One thing I do want to note though, is that beta firmware should be installed on the Thecus N5550 to enable iSCSI write-caching, which does improve performance a lot (especially if extra RAM is added to the NAS). v2.04.01.2 at a minimum should be installed.

            I’m currently running 2 Celeron NUCs with 16GB RAM each, and have at least 15 VMs running that are a mix of Windows 2008 Server, CentOS 6, and Ubuntu. To simulate having multiple networks available, I do have a bunch of VLANs presented to both NUCs and am running at least 6 different networks.

            I think my next step will be to get one Core i3 or i5 NUC so that vCenter is a bit happier and some processor-intensive VMs can migrate on and off of it as needed, but I think the Celerons are more than adequate for a lab environment.