Intel NUC9VXQNX Topology
We decided to put a device in every slot that the system had so we could get a topology map. Here is what that looks like:
If we look at the system’s block diagram, we can see something very important.
The PCIe x16 edge connector of the NUC is providing PCIe support to the M.2 NVMe SSD slot, the PCIe x16 slot, and the PCIe x4 slot. If we want all devices to be used we have 1×8 + 2×4 bifurcation of this x16 link. We cannot run all slots at full speed. Also, we tried bifurcating the x16 slot into 4×4 for more NVMe storage and that did not work but that may be a BIOS update away from working.
Intel NUC9VXQNX Management
The Intel NUC9VXQNX kit uses Intel AMT which allows for out-of-band management. For those that manage corporate desktops and notebooks, vPro and AMT will be very familiar. Intel has offered this as the client OOB management solution for so long you can read some of my pieces on this from years ago when I wrote for Tom’s Hardware: Intel vPro Technology: Patrick on Tom’s Hardware and Using Intel vPro to Remotely Power Cycle a Client PC.
For those who are looking at the NUC9VXQNX to serve as a portable POC tool for enterprise software, which was common with older NUCs, this is not server IPMI/ Redfish management. It is something different albeit it is still an out-of-band management solution with integrations to desktop management tools. We could install Windows 10 Pro using the remote media and iKVM:
We could also install Ubuntu 18.04 LTS by using the remote power cycle and remote media features:
This requires a $110+ Real VNC Viewer Plus license to utilize the iKVM. One also has to enable the functionality. If you are setting up a unit or a handful of units manually, this is significantly more burdensome than standard server BMCs. Still, if you just need infrequent management access, then this is a solution and far better than no solution even if there are not the same server provisioning features. Of course, if you have a client PC management solution, then you can use that to set up the NUC via AMT which will be much easier. These are meant to be deployed as client devices so this makes a lot of sense.
We will note that having this low-level access in the system does present a security attack surface. Still, having any remote access by definition is a potential security threat. On the other hand, many of our readers will find this very useful.
Intel NUC 9 Pro Power Consumption and Noise
The Intel NUC 9 Pro NUC9VXQNX utilizes a 500W 80Plus Platinum PSU neatly tucked at the bottom of the system. This is important since it provides enough power to enable up to 225W GPUs.
In our test system, we found that the power consumption was relatively low, mostly due to the 45W TDP part. Without a GPU and even with NVMe SSDs and a high-speed NUC you will not see power even close to 200W. We were getting sub 25W idle even with a 25GbE NIC and four NVMe SSDs and not peaking above 150W. Of course, adding a GPU changes this.
In normal operation, the four fans (two chassis, one Xeon compute card, one PSU) are running but virtually silent. During our benchmark suite we could get them to spin up, but our sense is that under normal desktop and even light server duties this NUC platform will be effectively silent in most offices and homes.
Next, we are going to cover performance before getting to our final words.