Which Intel NUC should I buy for VMware ESXi? (August 2020)

A question that comes up quite often is which NUC I would recommend to buy. The following article shows buying options based on Price/Performance value, performance, and special needs like Dual-NIC or vPro.

Why Intel NUC?

Intel NUCs are very widespread and reliable. They are the most common SFF systems and have great support from Intel. I'm running NUCs in my Homelab since 2013, where I bought my first NUC, the DC53427HYE. My NUCs are running 24/7 and I only had one hardware failure. The fan of a NUC6i7KYK (Skull Canyon) died after 7 months of usage. Intel replaced it within 3 days, without any issues. That was 3 years ago and the NUC6i7KYK still runs 24/7.

Intel NUC Price to Performance Diagram

The following diagram is a price to performance scatter chart. The main goal is to choose a NUC that is powerful, but also inexpensive. The CPU Performance is taken from PassMark. Prices are the average from common vendors.

As you can see, the 9th Gen NUCs are outstanding in price and performance. It's the first, and as of today only, modular approach. The 10th Generation i7 NUC has the best price/value rating, but they are very similar to the 8th Generation. If you want to buy a Generation 5, 6, or 7 I would recommend taking a look after used ones.

Top 10 Intel NUC by Price/Performance Value

The following table compares the TOP 10 NUC by Price-Performance Ratio. The base price is taken from common vendors. For 32GB I've added 2x Crucial 16GB modules ($112), for 64GB 2x M471A4G43MB1 modules ($250).

Model CPU Base Price Price
(32 GB)
Price
(64GB)
Value for
money
NUC8i5BEK i5-8259U (4x2.30 GHz) $ 452 $ 564 $ 702 18,54
NUC10i7FNK i7-10710U (6x1.10 GHz) $ 620 $ 732 $ 870 16,06
NUC10i7FNH i7-10710U (6x1.10 GHz) $ 628 $ 740 $ 878 15,86
NUC8i7BEH i7-8559U (4x2.70 GHz) $ 563 $ 675 $ 813 15,70
NUC8i5BEH i5-8259U (4x2.30 GHz) $ 548 $ 660 $ 798 15,29
NUC10i5FNH i5-10210U (4x1.60 GHz) $ 443 $ 555 $ 693 14,56
NUC10i5FNK i5-10210U (4x1.60 GHz) $ 448 $ 560 $ 698 14,42
NUC8i3BEH i3-8109U (2x3.00 GHz) $ 332 $ 444 $ 582 13,21
NUC8i3BEK i3-8109U (2x3.00 GHz) $ 338 $ 450 $ 588 12,96
NUC10i3FNH i3-10110U (2x2.10 GHz) $ 342 $ 454 $ 592 12,27

Top 10 Intel NUC by Price/Performance Value

The following table compares the TOP 10 NUC by performance. The base price is taken from common vendors. For 32GB I've added 2x Crucial 16GB modules ($112), for 64GB 2x Samsung M471A4G43MB1 modules ($250). The performance is based on PassMark Scores.

Model CPU Base Price Price
(32 GB)
Price
(64GB)
PassMark
NUC9VXQNX E-2286M (8x2.40 GHz) $ 1725 $ 1837 $ 1975 15685
NUC9i9QNX i9-9980HK (8x2.40 GHz) $ 1639 $ 1751 $ 1889 15634
NUC9V7QNX i7-9850H (6x2.60 GHz) $ 1399 $ 1511 $ 1649 11483
NUC9i7QNX i7-9750H (6x2.60 GHz) $ 1272 $ 1384 $ 1522 11415
NUC10i7FNH i7-10710U (6x1.10 GHz) $ 628 $ 740 $ 878 9956
NUC8i7BEH i7-8559U (4x2.70 GHz) $ 563 $ 675 $ 813 8846
NUC8i7HVK i7-8809G (4x3.10 GHz) $ 1108 $ 1220 $ 1358 8779
NUC8i5BEH i5-8259U (4x2.30 GHz) $ 548 $ 660 $ 798 8382
NUC9i5QNX i5-9300H (4x2.40 GHz) $ 999 $ 1111 $ 1249 8052
NUC8i7HNK i7-8705G (4x3.10 GHz) $ 892 $ 1004 $ 1142 7876

 

Intel NUCs with 2 Gigabit Network Adapter

There are few NUCs available that have 2 Gigabit network adapters available. The Skull Canyon was the first model to have 2 Gigabit network adapters and it's successor, the Hades Canyon, also has 2 NICs. All 9th Gen Models are also equipped with 2 NICs, and they also have PCIe Slots.

Having two NICs is great, even for home labs, but they are only available in special and expensive NUCs. The problem I have with those is that they are not only more expensive but also have a higher power-consumption due to their graphics card.

Model CPU Base Price Price
(32 GB)
Price (64GB)
NUC9i9QNX i9-9980HK (8x2.40 GHz) $ 1639 $ 1751 $ 1889
NUC9i7QNX i7-9750H (6x2.60 GHz) $ 1272 $ 1384 $ 1522
NUC9i5QNX i5-9300H (4x2.40 GHz) $ 999 $ 1111 $ 1249
NUC9V7QNX i7-9850H (6x2.60 GHz) $ 1399 $ 1511 $ 1649
NUC9VXQNX E-2286M (8x2.40 GHz) $ 1725 $ 1837 $ 1975
NUC8i7HNK i7-8705G (4x3.10 GHz) $ 892 $ 1004 $ 1142
NUC8i7HVK i7-8809G (4x3.10 GHz) $ 1108 $ 1220 $ 1358
NUC6i7KYK i7-6770HQ (4x2.60 GHz) $ 780 $ 892 $ 1030

Intel NUC with vPro Technology

If you want to build a remote controllable System, you have to buy a NUC with vPro Technology. NUCs with vPro are available in Generation 5, 7, 8, and 9. How to get the AMT Remote Management up and running is explained here.

Model CPU Base Price Price
(32 GB)
Price
(64GB)
NUC9V7QNX i7-9850H (6x2.60 GHz) $ 1399 $ 1511 $ 1649
NUC9VXQNX E-2286M (8x2.40 GHz) $ 1725 $ 1837 $ 1975
NUC8v7PNH i7-8665U (4x1.90 GHz) $ 711 $ 823 $ 961
NUC8v7PNK i7-8665U (4x1.90 GHz) $ 711 $ 823 $ 961
NUC8v5PNH i5-8365U (4x1.60 GHz) $ 548 $ 660 $ 798
NUC8v5PNK i5-8365U (4x1.60 GHz) $ 528 $ 640 $ 778
NUC7i7DNHE i7-8650U (4x1.90 GHz) $ 760 $ 872 $ 1010
NUC7i7DNKE i7-8650U (4x1.90 GHz) $ 672 $ 784 $ 922
NUC7i5DNHE i5-7300U (2x2.60 GHz) $ 691 $ 803 $ 941
NUC7i5DNKE i5-7300U (2x2.60 GHz) $ 502 $ 614 $ 752
NUC5i5MYHE i5-5300U (2x2.30 GHz) $ 496 $ 608 N/A

 

Additional Tips

  1. Thanks for the nice post.

  2. I really appreciate the performance/dollar scatter chart. Of course the entire post is great.

  3. Wow, that comparison is just awesome and will help a lot of homelab folks! Thanks!

  4. Great Summary
    What I miss is a Power consumption chart

    • I'm currently working on charts for the NUCs that I own. I'm testing Idle, Average Load, Stress-Test, and Standby. I'm also trying to compare "CPU Power to Power Consumption Ratio".

      Unfortunately, I will never have data for all NUCs. I could use specs like TDP or Watt of Power Supply, but that would be very inaccurate.

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