Intel NUC Kit NUC7PJYH Review – An Intel Gemini Lake Pentium Silver J5005 Barebone Mini PC


When Intel released their latest NUC Gemini Lake mini PCs they prioritized cost over performance. As a result the processor they chose for the ‘Intel NUC 7 Essential’ mini PC is somewhat underwhelming. Fortunately they released another model in the series, the rather misleadingly named ‘Intel NUC Kit NUC7PJYH’ which is is actually a ‘barebones’ mini PC just needing a stick or two of RAM and an SSD for storage.

June Canyon NUC List
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It contains an Intel Pentium Silver Processor J5005 SOC which is a quad core processor bursting up to 2.80 GHz together with a slightly more powerful Intel UHD Graphics 605 processor that is capable of 4K support at 60Hz.

Visually it is no different to the Celeron NUC reviewed earlier in that it is physically small consisting of an approximately 4.5″ square case about 2″ tall with a distinctive front panel that includes the power button and a couple of USB ports with the rest of the ports including two HDMI (2.0a) ones at the rear:

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The specifications (refer to NUC7PJYH) include:

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As mentioned being a kit barebones you first need to add memory and storage and for this review I’ve gone a bit OTT by adding 16GB of Dual Channel SODIMM DDR4 2400MHz G.Skill Ripjaws (F4-2400C16D-16GRS) memory and a Samsung 860 Evo 2TB 2.5″ SATA III 6GB/s V-NAND SSD (MZ-76E2T0BW). Basically the minimum memory you really need is 4GB together with a 64GB or larger SSD.

To prepare for the review I initially installed Windows 10 Home using the April ISO from Microsoft:

NUC Disk Management

followed by Intel’s Driver Assistant and Support tool together with the drivers it recommended:

NUC intel drivers
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Starting with a quick look at the hardware information shows it is aligned to the specification:

As usual I ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

The results need interpreting carefully otherwise they could be misleading when compared to other Intel mini PCs. This is because being a barebones mini PC benchmark the results will be heavily influenced by the quantity and type of memory and storage installed:

Windows Mini PCs Comparison
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In part one of the reasons I’ve used the installed configuration is so that extremes are obvious. Under these circumstances comparing different mini PCs should be made based on CPU and GPU results. For example in the above chart I’ve highlighted green for good hardware attributes and best test results or in red for limiting hardware factors and worst test results.

Similar to the earlier NUC the Passmark 9 test resulted in some anomalies during execution:

passmark-error-full-screenalthough a result was recorded.

Overall however the NUC7PJYH performance is the best of all mini PCs tested.

Next I shrunk the Windows partition and created new a 200GB partition so I could install and dual boot Ubuntu using the recently released Ubuntu 18.04 LTS development ‘Bionic Beaver’ ISO.

Once installed I first ran some basic commands to look at the hardware in more detail:

I then ran my usual suite of Phoronix tests to look at performance in Ubuntu. First I looked at this Pentium Silver NUC7PJYH model in comparison with the earlier Celeron NUC7CJYSAL model configured the same ‘OTT’ memory and storage:

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The results highlight that the key performance gains are from the extra cores and faster processor speed.

Next I compared the Pentium Silver NUC7PJYH model with the earlier Celeron NUC7CJYSAL model using its original ‘OOTB’ configuration:

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which highlights which tests are affected by the extra memory (stream) and faster SSD (iozone).

So when comparing the Pentium Silver NUC7PJYH model against similar Intel based mini PCs:

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the results can be interpreted to show that overall the device is genuinely better than the other mini PCs.

Ubuntu’s Octane result was also tested and it was slightly better than in Windows:

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Next I looked at real-world usage by playing videos under Windows using both Edge and Chrome browsers. Under both browsers [email protected] and [email protected] videos played fine:

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although on Chrome the [email protected] video had the occasional dropped frame which was unnoticeable.

In contrast playing videos in Chrome on Ubuntu was a similar story to on other Intel processor-based mini PCs with [email protected] being unwatchable but fine when played at 1080p:

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The [email protected] video resulted in over half the frames being dropped and was unwatchable:

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however [email protected] was fine with only the occasional unnoticeable dropped frame:

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Playing videos using Kodi on Windows worked for VP9 codec encoded video but used software for decoding resulting in high CPU usage and higher CPU temperatures:

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whereas an H.264 codec encoded video used hardware to decode without these overheads:

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as did videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC:

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Both VP9 and H.264 codec encoded videos used hardware to decode in Kodi on Ubuntu:

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However some H.265 or HEVC videos were unwatchable experiencing frequent loss of frames:

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whilst others used hardware to decode and played fine:

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As can be seen the software decoding creates high CPU usage resulting in higher internal temperatures. The NUC7PJYH includes a virtually silent fan and is inaudible even under these conditions. Cooling is effective and under Ubuntu I ran a 1080p video in Chrome for 20 minutes and the internal temperature remained under control averaging around 55°C:

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Audio works on Windows:

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and also on Ubuntu without issues:

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Network connectivity throughput was measured using ‘iperf’:

Similar to the Celeron NUC7CJYSAL model the results showed a very slow download speed for 5.0 GHz which given the newness of the Intel Wireless-AC 9462-D2W module may indicate that further tuning on Linux is necessary.

Power consumption was measured as follows:

  • Powered off – 0.9 Watt
  • BIOS* – 6.0 Watts
  • Boot menu – 5.6 Watts
  • Idle – 4.7 Watts (Windows) and 5.2 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • CPU stressed – 18.7 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • Video playback** – 9.7 Watts (4K in Windows) and 10.8 Watts (1080p in Ubuntu)
    * BIOS has a full graphical user interface (see below)
    ** The power figures fluctuate so the value is the average of the median high and median low power readings.

The BIOS features a full graphical user interface and includes the ability to monitor the fan speed and various temperatures together with features like screen capture:

I installed both the memory and SSD by unscrewing the base of the device and carefully lifting it out and sliding in the SSD into the drive bay on the underside. The cables connecting the drive bay and the motherboard are not very long but they can be unplugged although care is advised:

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Once the base is screwed back into the device and the power and cables reconnected it is straightforward to install both Windows and Ubuntu from ISOs written to USBs.

Overall this is an excellent ‘barebones’ mini PC. It combines flexible hardware configuration with performance and affordability. Coupled with the manufacturer’s warranty and support for BIOS and Windows drivers the majority of hurdles and pitfalls are resolved.

Except for one: a Windows license. Ordinarily with the cheapish Chinese Windows mini PCs you get the OS pre-installed and it will then activate on connecting to the internet using an OEM license key. This is also the case for the Celeron NUC7CJYSAL Windows mini PC and because these licenses are low cost (under $30) the overall total cost for the mini PC is quite attractive. Unfortunately to run Windows (legally) on this mini PC you will need to purchase a consumer OEM license (at around $100) or use a time-restricted evaluation copy downloaded direct from Microsoft.

Alternatively, you can install Linux such as Ubuntu or Fedora or any one of the numerous distro variants for free albeit with varying chances of success.

To conclude it is an excellent Ubuntu mini PC, but as a Windows mini PC it is expensive as you also have to factor in the cost of memory and storage when comparing with other products which include them by design or default.

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