Intel NUCs are not officially supported by VMware but they are very widespread in many homlabs or test environments. They are small, silent, transportable and have a very low power consumption, making it a great server for your homelab. I've posted a preview at the beginning of the year and got my first 5th Gen NUC up and running in February. Today all versions of the NUC, including the flagship with the i7 CPU, are available in the market. Time to give it a more detailed review
5th Gen Intel NUCs are available with an Intel i3, i5 or i7 CPU. The Intel i3 and i5 are available with and without 2.5" slot where the i7 is only available with 2.5". With the NUC5i5MYHE there is also a i5 model with a faster vPro CPU.
The Kits are shipped with:
- System board
- Processor (soldered)
- Power adapter
- Power cord
To get an ESXi Host installed you need:
- Memory (1.35V SODIMM Memory)
- M.2 SSD (22×24, 22×60 and 22×80), 2,5″ HDD or USB-Stick
In my opinion, the best candidates for ESXi are the i5, i5 with vPro and i7 models. You should definately get one with an 2.5" slot.
|no 2.5" Slot||n/a||NUC5i5RYK||n/a||NUC5i3RYK||n/a|
|Architecture||Broadwell (14 nm)|
|Base Frequency||3.1 GHz||1.6 GHz||2.3 GHz||2.1 GHz||2.1 GHz|
|Max Frequency||3.4 GHz||2.7 GHz||2.9 GHz||2.1 GHz||2.1 GHz|
|Cores||2 (4 Threads)|
|TDP||28 W||15 W|
|Memory Type||DDR3L SODIMM 1.35V|
|USB Ports||2x USB 3.0 (front panel)|
2x USB 3.0 (back panel)
2x USB 2.0 (internal)
|Storage||M.2 SSD Card|
SATA3 2.5" HDD/SDD
HCL and VMware ESXi Support
All NUCs have hardware support for virtualization and a 64-bit capable CPU. Therefore it should be compatible to VMware ESXi.
To clarify, the system is not supported by VMware (Not listed in HCL), so do not use this system in a productive environment. I can not guarantee that it will work stable. As a home lab, or a small home server it should be fine.
For ESXi 5.x you have to create a customized image or the installer will fail with an "No Network Adapters" error message. VMware ESXi 6.0 has the network drivers included.
Tested ESXi Versions
- VMware ESXi 5.0
- VMware ESXi 5.1
- VMware ESXi 5.5
- VMware ESXi 6.0
Delivery and assembly
The 5th Gen NUC is shipped in well designed box. The Box contains a short description how to open and assemble the components. The system is a little bit heavier than it looks and has a high build quality. The upside is scratch-sensitive, so be careful with it.
The installation is very simple. Remove 4 screws on the bottom and remove the lid which is also the 2.5" drive holder. The assembly takes about 5 Minutes to open the NUC, install the memory, M.SSD module and an 2.5" HDD.
The installation of VMware ESXi 5.x fails due to missing network drivers. ESXi 6 works out of the box, but there is a problem with the AHCI controller. Therefore you have to create a customized Image for all versions.
If you see a malformed Manufacturer and Model in the vSphere Client, here is a fix for you.
32GB Memoy with 5th Gen NUC?
There are reports that the 5th Gen NUC works with 32GB of memory if you use Intelligent Memory 16GB SO-DIMMs. I can't verify that with ESXi at the moment as these modules are not available here. I also doubt that it makes sense at the moment as the 16 GB I'M SO-DIMMS are very expensive at the moment, but technically it should be possible.
Power consumption differs a little bit based on the model.
i5 NUC: 7W (idle) - 33W (load)
i7 NUC: 8W (idle) - 45W (load)
During normal usage the average consumption is about 18W.
With that, the average operating costs are at about 3-4 Euros per month:
18 watt * 24 h * 30 (days) = 12,96 KWh * 0,25 (EUR) = 3,24 EUR
Consumption measured with Voltcraft Energy Monitor 3000