Intel NUC KIT D54250WYKH Review – Finally a 2.5-Inch Drive Fits

In our September 2013 review of the Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK we told you that Intel was coming up with a version that had an enclosure that was large enough to fit a 2.5-inch SATA HDD or SSD. In October 2013 we were able to get our hands on some early images of Intel NUC KIT D54250WYKH, which is the sku for the taller chassis that comes with the wiring to install a 2.5-inch notebook drive into the NUC for extra storage. Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show we were handed the Intel NUC KIT D54250WYKH, so after waiting patiently for five months we finally have a unit in our possession!

new-intel-nuc-hard-drive

The original Intel NUC KIT D34010WYK and D54250WYK ship in an enclosure that measures 116.6mm x 112.0mm x 34.5mm. Intel has added 15mm to the chassis in order to fit the mounting bracket and 2.5″ storage drive. The Intel NUC KIT D34010WYKH and D54250WYKH are the new H-Skus that feature enclosures that measure 116.6mm x 112.0mm x 49.5mm. In the image above you can see the D54250WYK on the left and the new D54250WYKH on the right with a standard Pepsi can behind them to give you a size perspective.

nuc-side-air-vents

At first glance one might think that Intel just increased the height of the chassis and called it a day, but the Intel engineering team did a bit more than that.  One change that is clearly visible from the outside is that ventilation holes were added to both the left and right sides of the housing for improved airflow. Adding an SSD or hard drive will raise the internal case temps, so it makes sense to improve the cooling during the case redesign.

nuc-tall-plastic-housing

When you remove the four Philips screws that hold down the bottom cover you’ll notice a number of changes.  For starters the bottom cover is now entirely plastic and for the first time we find a metal SATA drive tray! We asked Intel if there were any EMI differences with the plastic bottom and the said that the SATA drive shelf itself acts as the EMI shield.  The 2.5″ drive slides into the metal SATA drive tray and is secured with two screws on the side of the tray. The Intel SSD 530 Series 2.5″ drive that we are using has a 7mm z-height, but you can use up drives that are up to 9.5mm thick in the metal housing. This means that thicker 12.5mm and 15mm z-height drives will not be able to fit, so if you are looking at rotational storage (hard drive) be sure to check the thickness of the drive before ordering.

It should be noted that you can modify the metal drive bracket by cutting off the tabs above the drive in order to fit a larger tab, but that will void warranties and require some modding. This is what Intel had to say:

“With the design of the 2.5” drive bay you could slip in a 15mm height drive.  But some modifications are in order.  You would need to break the tabs on the drive bay enclosure.  That allows for higher than 9.5mm drives.  To get the full 15mm you have to loosen the 4 screws that attach the drive cage to the bottom plate.  Then you will be able to install the 15mm drive.  But this means that the bottom plastic cover will not seat completely.  You will be raised ~2 mm from complete closure. It should also be known at none of these taller drives have been tested the NUC thermally, so we don’t know if this will work thermally.” – Intel’s NUC Team

Legit Reviews, LLC reached out to WD and these are the largest hard drives that they offer for each respective z-height to give you an idea of what you can get when it comes to capacities.

WD Internal 2.5″ Z-Height and Maximum Drive Capacities as of 1/15/14

  • 5 mm – 500 GB
  • 7 mm – up to 1 TB
  • 9.5 mm – up to 1 TB
  • 15 mm – up to 2 TB

It looks like 1TB will be the most you largest that you can go without any modifications and that will set you back about $110.99 shipped for the WD 1TB Blue SATA III 5400 RPM hard drive (WD10SPCX) that is 9.5mm in thickness. If you wanted to get a 2TB drive inside and are okay with doing the aforementioned modifications you can get the WD 2TB Green SATA III hard drive (WD20NPVX) for $169.16 shipped.

sata-data-cable-top

The new H-Sku Intel NUC Kits come with both a SATA data and power cable and that is a really good thing. The wiring inside the NUC is extremely tight and it would be extremely tough to find any off the shelf connectors that would work and fit inside the case. Even with special connectors, the wiring in the D54250WYKH is pretty extreme with lots of 90 degree bends. The good news is that once the NUC is assembled that the wires shouldn’t be moving around, so hopefully the tight quarters aren’t an issue.

sata-data-cable

Under the drive tray everything is identical to the regular Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK as the motherboard itself has received no changes. The only changes with the NUC H-Skus are the redesigned chassis and the inclusion of the SATA cables needed to hook up a notebook drive. It should be noted that our particualr D54250WYKH doesn’t have a thermal pad for the mSATA SSD on the metal drive tray, but this will be there on the full production units. Intel sent out 15 units for early review to the media and didn’t have enough pads on hands for these early hand built units. Intel is currently shipping the full production units to the usual distributors and expects that these new H-Sku NUCs will be at online retailers like Newegg and Amazon in about two weeks. 

We took a number of images and put them into the gallery above if you’d like to some larger images at various angles and points of assembly.

test-system

The one thing that Intel asked us to look at was boot times between the mSATA drive slot that is on the board versus the standard SATA port. We built up our NUC and used the latest BIOS along with G.Skill RipJaws 1866MHz 8GB (2x4GB) CL10 memory modules.

drives

The two drives can’t be identical, but we used the Intel SSD 530 Series 180GB mSATA Drive (Part number SSDMCEAW180A4) and compared it to the Intel SSD 530 Series 240GB SATA Drive (Part number SSDSC2BW240A4). Both Intel SSD 530 series drives were running Windows 8 and we used Acronis True Image 2013 to clone the drives to ensure the OS installation was identical. We then unplugged the internet to ensure repeatable tests and ran BootRacer 4.6 for a total of 15 times on each drive and took the best score from each.

bootracer-ssd-best

The Intel SSD 530 Series 240GB SATA drive was able to boot to the Windows 8 desktop in 20.046 seconds, which is pretty darn quick!

bootracer-msata-best

The Intel SSD 530 Series 180GB mSATA drive was able to to the same in 20.000 seconds.  The mSATA drive also averaged out to be just slightly faster than the SATA drive, but nothing significant. This is a good thing though as we didn’t really expect to see any difference in boot times or performance between these two drives. Our testing also showed that the NUC can easily boot off each drive with no issues whatsoever, so you can now build a NUC without needing a mSATA drive. This is worth mentioning as it makes build cost for the NUC lower and you now have many more options to fit your unique storage needs.

new-intel-nuc-hard-drive

Final Thoughts and Conclusions:

We are excited that the Intel NUC Kits with the ‘H’ Skus are finally coming out as we’ve been waiting for nearly half a year! It appears that the Intel Core i3 version is already available on Amazon and that the Intel Core i5 version will be out in about two weeks. We asked Intel for MSRP guidance and we were told that there is a $10 price premium for the new models that support a 2.5″ SATA drive. That means for the those wanting the Intel Core i5-4250U based system you are looking at around $363 for the D54250WYK and $373 for the D54250WYKH. A small $10 price delta is more than acceptable as it gives you a larger chassis, drive tray and the needed cables to hook up that 2.5-inch drive. Having the ability to hook up a secondary drive for storage is key for many people and we think the expanded storage capabilities of the NUC will make it more appealing to consumers.

Intel NUC Kit Comparison Table For Haswell SKUs
Model D34010WYK D34010WYKH D54250WYK D54250WYKH
Codename Wilson Canyon Wilson Canyon Wilson Canyon Wilson Canyon
CPU Intel Core i3-4010U Intel Core i3-4010U Intel Core i5-4250U Intel Core i5-4250U
  1.7GHz Dual-Core 1.7GHz Dual-Core Up To 2.6GHz Dual-Core Up To 2.6GHz Dual-Core
Turbo / Hyper Threading No / Yes No / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
GPU Intel HD Graphics 4400 Intel HD Graphics 4400 Intel HD Graphics 5000 Intel HD Graphics 5000
Chipset Intel Lynx Point Intel Lynx Point Intel Lynx Point Intel Lynx Point
RAM 2 x DDR3L SO-DIMM slots 2 x DDR3L SO-DIMM slots 2 x DDR3L SO-DIMM slots 2 x DDR3L SO-DIMM slots
Mini HDMI Output 1 x 1.4a 1 x 1.4a 1 x 1.4a 1 x 1.4a
USB 4 x USB 3.0 4 x USB 3.0 4 x USB 3.0 4 x USB 3.0
Gigabit Ethernet Yes Yes Yes Yes
mini PCIe (half-height) 1 1 1 1
mini PCIe (full-height, mSATA support) 1 1 1 1
Chassis Color Black Black Black Black
Power Supply External 19V 65W DC External 19V 65W DC External 19V 65W DC External 19V 65W DC
Overall Unit Size 116.6mm x 112.0mm x 34.5mm 116.6mm x 112.0mm x 49.5mm 116.6mm x 112.0mm x 34.5mm 116.6mm x 112.0mm x 494.5mm
Warranty 3-Years 3-Years 3-Years 3-Years
MSRP Guidance By Intel ~$285 ~$295 ~$363 ~$373

At the end of the day the Intel NUC Kit D54250WYKH is what we feel is the NUC done right. The NUC is powerful for how small it is and can do pretty much anything that you’d need it do. That is a pretty powerful statement, but the NUC can sever as a Point of Sale system, a media center PC with XMBC installed or even replace your aging desktop PC. The only thing lacking is the horse power to play high-end games and you can’t add discrete graphics to the NUC. If that doesn’t bother you, be sure to take a closer look at the NUC by reading our performance review of it here!

If you have any other questions about the D54250WYK or D54250WYKH be sure to ask us here in this forum thread and we’ll be happy to answer it for you.

Intel NUC Kit DN2820FYKH

In other news we hope that we can get our hands on Intel’s value SKU for the NUC, which is the Bay Trail powered DN2820FYKH that is code named Forest Canyon. The MSRP on that one is just $128 and it  comes with internal support for a 2.5″ HDD or SSD as well. We’d love to give that a test drive with the Intel Celeron processor N2820 (up to 2.4GHz dual-core, 1MB cache, 7.5W TDP) as it might be the perfect platform for many entry level solutions or even HTPC build. It only features single channel DDR3 memory though, one USB 3.0 port (2 additional USB 2.0 ports on the back) and Intel HD graphics. Was too much cut back to get the price down to $128 or will it work good enough for the masses?

 Want to see more coverage of the Intel NUC by Legit Reviews?

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  • teleshoes

    typo: D54250WYKH height “494.5mm” => “49.5mm” {in the table; in the text its correct}

  • O. W. Kone

    Any new data on the noise measurement at full load?

  • Olly

    Regarding heat load, is this NUC meant to be able to run for example a 120GB mSata boot drive and a 1TB 5400rpm 2.5″ low-power storage drive like the Hitachi 9.5mm high TravelStar?

  • Matt

    I had mine running open elec and there was no noise coming from the nuc. Running win7 though and after a few hours on the fan noise gets up a bit. Louder in sound than my desktop. Only notice it on the really hot days when it was 35c plus in tempature.

  • Matt

    The Nuc i5 haswell’s are out in Australia. Own a few myself. Running open elec and they are silent. Running Win7 and there is a noise of the fan going. All in all though its a fantastic little unit. Stores that sell them in Australia.
    SalesMart is the cheapest at $499
    Pc Case Gear has them at $519
    and the rest up over the $600 mark.

  • exitmrhat

    If I were to pull my 2.5″ SSD from my desktop as it is (Win 7 x64) and put it in the NUC, would it boot? Or do I have to reinstall Windows? Thank you.

  • jtsongas

    So for those of us who already purchased the D54250WYK, I suppose it is too much to ask for an option of just buying the newer/taller case?

  • Nosgis

    How did you get the G.Skill RipJaws 1866MHz 8GB CL10 memory modules to run? I thougt the limit for the NUC was 1600 mhz.

  • Cmmdr Keen

    *well enough for the masses

    /pedant

    also will these be able to run basic metro games like asphalt 8 at least and run plex?

  • Laser

    180 gig vs 240 gig , is not a good comparison , considering the fact most ssd’s have a major jump in performance the larger there capacity is..

    • legitreviews

      There are a number of differences at play and we hate that the capacity is different, but we actually are okay with this difference and here is why.

      Intel rates both the SSDSC2BW240A401 and SSDSC2BW180A401 the same:

      Sustained Sequential Read: Up to 540MBps
      Sustained Sequential Write: Up to 490MB/s
      4KB Random Read (8GB Span): Up to 41,000 IOPS
      4KB Random Write (8GB Span): Up to 80,000 IOPS

      The Intel SSD 530 Series 180GB mSATA module is rated the same:

      Sustained Sequential Read: Up to 540MBps
      Sustained Sequential Write: Up to 490MB/s
      4KB Random Read (8GB Span): Up to 41,000 IOPS
      4KB Random Write (8GB Span): Up to 80,000 IOPS

      Guess what the Intel SSD 530 Series 240GB mSATA module is slower (sequential write):

      Sustained Sequential Read: Up to 540MBps
      Sustained Sequential Write: Up to 480MB/s
      4KB Random Read (8GB Span): Up to 41,000 IOPS
      4KB Random Write (8GB Span): Up to 80,000 IOPS

      We heard months ago that there was a performance difference between boot times on mSATA and SATA, so we did this test to see if there was a significant difference. The rumor we heard was that there was a 3-5 second boot time difference with mSATA being faster, but that clearly isn’t the case. Hope that clears up your concerns and it was something we looked into before testing as we wanted to make sure the specs were the same.

  • ed

    With the additional vent holes, are cpu temps / fan noise appreciably better?

    • Dieudo

      Yeah, could we get a word on the noise?

      • Nathan Kirsch

        I didn’t notice any temperature or noise differences, but I have asked Intel to share their thermal chamber testing numbers with me. Here in St. Louis it’s gone from highs from 40F to 0F this week and our room temperatures are fluctuating too much right now to do proper testing.

        • Dieudo

          Thank you Nathan; hopefully Intel will give you those numbers soon enough.

        • Nathan Kirsch

          Looks like the Intel Legal team shut that down. I don’t see any significant temp differences though in my uncontrolled testing.

  • Naim

    These NUCs would be wonderful, if, and only if, you could get them. The prices mentioned, are not to be found anywhere, certainly not amazon. If they are listed, supply is always 4-5 weeks in the future. It seems as if intel in not really selling these puppies, not to the general population.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      Intel is moving a good number of them weekly (thousands worldwide), but you are right there is serious markups being done. It’s being done by the distributors and retailers though from the looks of it as they know these are selling well. Right now Amazon has the standard height skus for around $10 more than MSRP, which isn’t bad. The H-Skus are new, so they’ll have the ‘new product’ premium on them for a bit.

  • Gross Bro

    I wonder how the performance on these machines? One of my client uses Corel Draw / CAD, he doesn’t want a massive black box taking up half his workstation.

    • Paul Margettas

      The issues with these NUC is that they are running laptop CPUs not only thta but they are U for ultra book. They are scaled back even further to keep power consumption and heat to a minimum, the graphics suffer even worse than usual. I know silverstone has a few vertical Micro ATX cases you should look into that.

  • Jay

    What is the maximum height drive that will fit in the H series? I want to use a 15mm 2TB WD drive in it.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      The maximum officially supported z-height is 9.5mm. I updated the article to include this important detail and also added some more about hard drive options!

  • anon

    AMD would beat intel in this segment specially for HTPC given its more powerfull GPUs and the poor driver support from intel for fullRGB, sync, etc.
    I’ve got a couple of NUCs (i3, and i5) and are really great! I would love they existed in “AMD flavour”.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      I’m very shocked that AMD has not released their own platform using this same form factor.