System Performance: Miscellaneous Workloads

Standardized benchmarks such as UL's PCMark 10 and BAPCo's SYSmark take a holistic view of the system and process a wide range of workloads to arrive at a single score. Some systems are required to excel at specific tasks - so it is often helpful to see how a computer performs in specific scenarios such as rendering, transcoding, JavaScript execution (web browsing), etc. This section presents focused benchmark numbers for specific application scenarios.

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R23

We use CINEBENCH R23 for 3D rendering evaluation. R23 provides two benchmark modes - single threaded and multi-threaded. Evaluation of different PC configurations in both supported modes provided us the following results.

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R23 - Single Thread

3D Rendering - CINEBENCH R23 - Multiple Threads

The single-thread performance for the Arena Canyon NUC and the NUCS BOX-1360P/D4 round out the top two spots, but the NUCS BOX loses out significantly in the multi-threaded case due to the lower power budget (PL1 of 28W, compared to 40W for the NUC 13 Pro).

Transcoding: Handbrake 1.5.1

Handbrake is one of the most user-friendly open source transcoding front-ends in the market. It allows users to opt for either software-based higher quality processing or hardware-based fast processing in their transcoding jobs. Our new test suite uses the 'Tears of Steel' 4K AVC video as input and transcodes it with a quality setting of 19 to create a 720p AVC stream and a 1080p HEVC stream.

Transcoding - x264

Transcoding - x265_10bit

Software transcoding performance is dependent on the available power budget and number of cores. The Arena Canyon NUC is on top in both of these aspects, and it is not a surprise to see it march well ahead of the competition.

Transcoding - QuickSync H.264

Transcoding - QuickSync H.265 10bit

Hardware transcoding performance is dependent on the iGPU clock speeds and Raptor Lake-P is the best equipped family on that front. The extra power budget over the ASRock Industrial configuration helps the Arena Canyon NUC come out on top.

Archiving: 7-Zip 21.7

The 7-Zip benchmark is carried over from our previous test suite with an update to the latest version of the open source compression / decompression software.

7-Zip Compression Rate

7-Zip Decompression Rate

The power budget and number of cores helps the Arena Canyon NUC take the top spot in the compression component, but the Ryzen 7-5800U has enough chops to take the crown in the decompression test. Within the Intel family, the RPL-P implementation from Intel is the undisputed leader in both components.

Web Browsing: JetStream, Speedometer, and Principled Technologies WebXPRT4

Web browser-based workloads have emerged as a major component of the typical home and business PC usage scenarios. For headless systems, many applications based on JavaScript are becoming relevant too. In order to evaluate systems for their JavaScript execution efficiency, we are carrying over the browser-focused benchmarks from the WebKit developers used in our notebook reviews. Hosted at BrowserBench, JetStream 2.0 benchmarks JavaScript and WebAssembly performance, while Speedometer measures web application responsiveness.

BrowserBench - Jetstream 2.0

BrowserBench - Speedometer 2.0

From a real-life workload perspective, we also process WebXPRT4 from Principled Technologies. WebXPRT4 benchmarks the performance of some popular JavaScript libraries that are widely used in websites.

Principled Technologies WebXPRT4

In sustained benchmarking (like in Jetstream and Speedometer), the PL1 and PL2 values influence the results allowing the Arena Canyon NUC to take the top spot. However, in the more realistic use-case with webXPRT4, the NUC 13 Pro and the ASRock Industrial NUCS BOX-1360P/D4 perform very similar to each other across different browsers.

Application Startup: GIMP 2.10.30

A new addition to our systems test suite is AppTimer - a benchmark that loads up a program and determines how long it takes for it to accept user inputs. We use GIMP 2.10.30 with a 50MB multi-layered xcf file as input. What we test here is the first run as well as the cached run - normally on the first time a user loads the GIMP package from a fresh install, the system has to configure a few dozen files that remain optimized on subsequent opening. For our test we delete those configured optimized files in order to force a fresh load every second time the software is run.

AppTimer: GIMP 2.10.30 Startup

As it turns out, GIMP does optimizations for every CPU thread in the system, which requires that higher thread-count processors take a lot longer to run. So the test runs quick on systems with fewer threads, however fast cores are also needed. The cached start numbers for the ASRock Industrial system and the Arena Canyon NUC are similar, but the latter is significantly better in the cold start scenario.

Cryptography Benchmarks

Cryptography has become an indispensable part of our interaction with computing systems. Almost all modern systems have some sort of hardware-acceleration for making cryptographic operations faster and more power efficient. In the case of business use-cases, many applications such as VPN need cryptography acceleration.

BitLocker is a Windows features that encrypts entire disk volumes. While drives that offer encryption capabilities are dealt with using that feature, most legacy systems and external drives have to use the host system implementation. Windows has no direct benchmark for BitLocker. However, we cooked up a BitLocker operation sequence to determine the adeptness of the system at handling BitLocker operations. We start off with a 4.5GB RAM drive in which a 4GB VHD (virtual hard disk) is created. This VHD is then mounted, and BitLocker is enabled on the volume. Once the BitLocker encryption process gets done, BitLocker is disabled. This triggers a decryption process. The times taken to complete the encryption and decryption are recorded. This process is repeated 25 times, and the average of the last 20 iterations is graphed below.

BitLocker Encryption Benchmark

BitLocker Decryption Benchmark

Hardware acceleration is available for the operations in all of the systems. The time taken for processing is directly dependent on the available power budget. Faster acceleration with more number of stronger cores in the Ryzen 7-5800U help the 4x4 BOX-5800U perform significantly better than the rest of the systems in this benchmark. The Arena Canyon NUC turns out to be the best of the Intel lot, as one would expect from the latest generation.

System Performance: UL and BAPCo Benchmarks GPU Performance: Synthetic Benchmarks
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  • lemurbutton - Monday, March 27, 2023 - link

    M2 Mini is only $599.00. It pretty much blows any Intel NUC out of the water.
  • Uncached486 - Monday, March 27, 2023 - link

    M2 and mobile Raptor Lake are fairly even matched in single threaded performance, with the desktop parts slightly ahead. M2's efficiency is definitely impressive, but performance-wise it certainly doesn't blow Intel out of the water.
  • meacupla - Monday, March 27, 2023 - link

    oh, but it doesn't straight up blow NUC out of the water? because that $599 mac mini comes with 8GB ram and a slow 256GB SSD.
    That is anemic in 2022, let alone 2023, and you can't upgrade it, unless you fully replace it.
    No thanks.
  • Affectionate-Bed-980 - Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - link

    Yes there are concerns about the Mac Mini's paper specs but the slower SSD has zero impact on daily use and is completely unnoticeable outside of benchmarks. I agree 256gb is a bit small for any general use, but if you're running a server or HTPC tasks, I think a Mac Mini is more than well specced for the task. Not to mention M2s are just freaking power efficient. I don't have one, but my M1 Pro Macbook basically maintains its battery level doing office level tasks on an 18W charger. Yes over the course of a long day or so it might lose a few % but that's mostly because there will occasionally be a few power spikes depending on what I'm doing, but it plays YouTube 4K just fine sipping power.

    Admitteldy I have an older NUC but it's not like CPU power has exponentially grown or anything on the Intel side, but an i5 Broadwell seems to completely struggle to even have a lag free desktop experience despite wiping it fully.
  • Fenturi - Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - link

    That small SSD is not replaceable. The OS reads and writes to it all day long, smaller the SSD the lower the lifespan. When it fails, you throw it away.
  • Affectionate-Bed-980 - Friday, March 31, 2023 - link

    Most people are not going to wear out their SSDs, especially Mac Mini users. And I do agree 256gb is not a whole lot, but if all you're doing is buying this for a retiree who just surfs the web and watches videos and views photos of their grandkids, a Mac Mini 256gb might be totally enough.
  • Affectionate-Bed-980 - Friday, March 31, 2023 - link

    This argument you're making is no different than early SSD concerns. SSDs are a mature product and we've seen even in using lower cost cells, average users are not wearing out QLC NAND either.
  • block2 - Tuesday, April 4, 2023 - link

    Agree. 2TB also would not be enough for anyone who is doing any machine will need external storage anyhow. 8gb seems to be plenty for apple OS and apps. 16gb would tempt me though. The problem I see with these mini PCs is that a laptop doesn't cost much more. I have a very old desktop that I built and have been looking at cheap micro (UCFF?) computers (beehive brand?) and laptops.
    (been following Anand since he was in high school!)
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, March 27, 2023 - link

    To get a 32GB mac mini to match this NUC, you must spend, at minimum, $1700. If you want multi gig ethernet, add another $100.

    Oh, and you cant upgrade RAM or storage later.

    And you can only run mac software

    And after 7 years you dont get updates anymore.

  • block2 - Tuesday, April 4, 2023 - link

    Don't need nearly as much memory to run apple OS and apps...maybe that's partly why it's faster per watt. Can emulate windows...can Intel/AMD PCs emulate IOS?

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