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Power Consumption and Temperatures

Compact size is not the only advantage of systems like Intel NUC. There is another important feature closely connected to the first one: they are incredibly energy-efficient. The DC3217IYE discussed in our today’s review uses a CPU with an integrated graphics core and only 17 W TDP, and the power supply unit for this computer is only 65 W. But these are all indirect consequences of the high energy-efficiency of this system. As for the objective data, only practical power consumption tests could provide those to us.

To measure the actual power consumption of the tested platforms we used a portable voltmeter, which measures the power consumption from the wall power outlet. We took measurements in four different modes: in idle mode, under full load created by LinX 0.6.4, under full graphics load created by Furmark 1.10.3, and in case of simultaneous high utilization of the CPU and graphics core.

As we have expected, Intel NUC is not only a miniature, but also a highly energy-efficient computer. Its power consumption is comparable with that of a Brazos 2.0 platform, which is really great considering that its performance is a few times better. If we compare NUC with a DIY system built with traditional desktop Ivy Bridge processors with 55 W TDP, the ultra-compact computer will guarantee significant energy savings ranging between 40 and 120% depending on the type of operational load.

Here I would like to draw your attention to one interesting thing: NUC’s power consumption increases significantly in case of heavy graphics load, while the computing processes do not load this system to such an extent. It means that Intel lowered the clock frequency of the Core i3-3210U processor to an extreme level. Trying to retain high performance of the graphics core, but at the same time stay within the 17 W TDP, Intel engineers sacrificed the traditional performance. In our opinion, users could be more interested in NUC modifications with higher traditional performance, maybe even at the expense of some graphics speed. Luckily, we have good news for these users: Intel will have another NUC modification - DCCP847DYE, which should use a faster Core i5 processor supporting Turbo Boost. It should be available in Q1 of this year.

However, let’s get back to the Intel NUC DC3217IYE. Power consumption is not the only important parameter for computers of this form-factor. You should also keep an eye on their thermals and what it takes to get there. Luckily, Intel engineers made it possible to flexibly configure the cooling system in their mini-computer. In fact, the users can choose either lower level of noise or lower internal temperatures, depending on what their priorities are. Here you can set the maximum CPU temperature, which shouldn’t be exceeded at all times even at 100 degrees, and in favorable operational conditions the only existing fan may be temporarily turned off.

Of course, you won’t be able to completely eliminate the noise from the cooling fan. Core i3-3210U is not cool enough to do well with just a small passive aluminum heatsink. So, at some point you will have to deal with it. And I have to admit that it can be quite annoying. While it is only 30 mm in diameter, it may speed up to 6500 RPM and produce very distinct lisping whistling sound. Luckily, it is fairly hard to speed up the fan that much. If you use the existing “mixed” profile for the cooler settings shaped up around 77 degrees for the CPU temperature, the temperatures and fan rotation speeds will be as follows:

In other words, the cooling system is under maximum stress under heavy graphics load. I am sure you will agree that this isn’t a common situation for systems like Intel NUC. The applications that do not involve the 3D capabilities of the integrated graphics core, do not heat up the CPU that much at all. In this case DC3217IYE system does very well and causes no acoustic discomfort of any kind.

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