Intel NUC with ROCK processor advice

Hi all,

Having just upgraded my Roon membership to lifetime, I’m thinking of ‘upgrading’ my core from my self built quad core desktop PC to a dedicated intel NUC with ROCK; the PC has loads of power and runs Roon brilliantly, but it’s not ideal having all music playback tied to a full desktop always being switched on. I have a very small library compared with many of you (currently less than 10,000 tracks) and the only processing I use at the moment is parametric EQ. I’m primarily running only one zone, though will almost certainly get another end point so I can run a wireless speaker somewhere else in the house (grouped 90% of the time) and longer term I also want the ability for my missus to listen to whatever she wants while I’m listening to my headphones on the Chord Mojo.

Given the comparatively small library and limited DSP demands I don’t think I will need an i7 and I want the option to upgrade to a fanless case in future if the fan noise annoys me, so that means I almost certainly want the lower TDP offered by a 7th Gen i3 or i5. It’s not a huge step up in price to an i5, but most of the benchmarks for these processors show their max capability in turbo mode while gaming, so not a fair representation of how Roon will be running. Interestingly, the i3-7100U actually has a base frequency that is higher than the i5-7260, so after any experiences of how the two run in real-life ROCK world.

So I guess my question is, for day to to day running of Roon ROCK, is there really any performance advantage from the i5 with a lower base frequency, or does the extra MB of L2 cache swing it for the i5-7260 (there is also an i5-7300 which runs a bit faster than the 7260 but has the same 3MB cache as the i3).

In reaaaaaally short form, i3-7100, i5-7260 or i5-7300 for my Roon server??

Hi Peter

Why not a quad core i7-8650U in a fanless case and running Roon OS, with a TDP of 15W?

Great CPU, but given it is 2.5 times the cost of the i3 NUC and just under double what I can get the i5 for, not sure I can justify the cost of it. Is it not kinda like buying a Ferrari for the morning commute?

Hehe fair enough. I guess when I look at these things I don’t just look at my current needs.

I’m sure you’ve given thought about potential future needs and ruled out things like maybe trying more CPU intensive DSP one day?

I got my old man (dad) a Roon Lifetime subscription and I’ve seen his library increase by 50k tracks in very little time - he’s gone bonkers with adding Tidal albums to his library. I can see his library passing 200k tracks by the end of next year :grin: Plus he’s doing more and more DSP.

So it’s kind of difficult for anyone to answer because you may want to have a think about your own potential future needs too.

Agreed though, if you are absolutely certain you won’t need more power in future or have your library balloon in size, I’m sure the i3 will be more than fine.

Heck my NAS has a Celeron and can handle Roon Core duties fine (right now…)

If you have a budget set and you can stretch it to the i5, I’d get that if I were you.

Here’s a snippet of a great post by Brian. I’m not suggesting that he’s hinting at getting an i7 either, by the way. That’s my own decision.

The full post is a great read:

Suggested hardware

That’s very interesting what you say about the celeron being powerful enough for the time being. I’m not intending to go below an i3, but I think my question is less about “is an i3 powerful enough” but more “is the i3 actually more beneficial to Roon day to day given the higher base speed” if that makes sense? I’m happy to pay a bit more for the i5, but don’t want to do so if away from graphics heavy processing (my NUC will be server only) the i3 is actually better.

The question is similar between the i5-7260 and the 7300; what is more important day to day, increased cache of the 7260, or higher base speed??

Great question and I’d love to play armchair expert (always fun) but I’d have to defer to The Guru there @brian

I have experience with both the 7th gen i3 and i5 NUCs running ROCK. The i5 fan was considerably noisier than the i3 (out of the box). The i5 was for a friend and he complained that he could hear it in the next room. Changed the settings in the BIOS to make the fan less aggressive, but it’s still not the quietest thing at idle. As far as Roon performance is concerned the two are essentially identical.


Noted @AMP but my NUC7i7DNHE I mentioned is the 8th Gen i7… with a TDP of 15W.

Before I put it in a fanless case it was noticeably quieter than my previous 7th Gen NUCi7BNH.

And thanks for the link to that post, I had read it, but re-reading it I think this might be the key bit:
CPU cache is also really important to an app like Roon. Some CPU series (Celeron, Atom) are severely cache constrained. Once you get into Core i5 territory, there’s enough cache to go around, and as usual, a top-end CPU will confer an incremental performance benefit above that.

Your advice to consider future upgrades is sound, but at this point I feel that going for a quad core i7 will just be overkill for me; putting that extra £250 towards a new NUC in a few years time if my Roon experience starts to suffer will probably be a better return than buying the latest and greatest now and not using it anything like its capabilities.


Exactly. Just gotta make a judgement call and that’s a fair call indeed.

If anyone is able to predict the future can you please PM me the next winning Powerball numbers too :grin:

I’m having the ping pong decision at the moment. I’m on gen 4 i3 and only using upsampling in two out of my 5 zones. I know my zone count will grow next year as I have decided to fit some outside speakers and get a pi with amp hat to run them. My system now is fine and does not drop a beat but I’m never running all zones at the same time.

I also just ordered an umik-1 Mike with a look to start using DSP for room correction in my main zone, possibly my 2nd to. So I know I am going to need to upgrade soonish. But I cant decide what to go for. I currently use ROCK but I miss cd ripping on the same machine as I did when using Vortexbox. But I have a limited budget. Decisions decisions.

Definitely see how it goes before assuming you need to upgrade. You might be surprised how much that NUC can do.

They are very different CPUs–the i3 uses dramatically more power to be a little bit faster, it looks like. The cooling requirements will be very different. I would be a lot more concerned about that than the above stuff.

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I have been using an i3 in an Akasa Plato X7 case for a while now. It copes fine with about 60k tracks. If/when it runs out of puff I will replace it but I am sure I will have had my money’s worth by then. I had been running on an older i3 windows nuc for a couple of years before building the current Rock system so I have never needed more than i3 power.

Thanks for your valued input Brian, so you think that the increased ability of the i5s will enable them to do the same work as the i3 but at a lower TDP/working temp?? Given the design of Roon, what do you think it would favour as far as the 7th gen i5s go i.e. the i5-7260 with lower clock speed and more cache or the i5-7300 (I have the option of NUCs with both i5s). Or is it so close that it will make very little difference?

I’ve tried to add a link to the comparison below.
Intel 7th Gen i3 and i5 comparison

It looks like the core i5 and core i7 of the new NUCs (which will be out in September) are quad core and have 8 threads. Likely that these will both work with a big collection.


I thought you were comparing i5-7260 and i3-7300 when I was pointing to differences above. i3-7300 is 51W vs 15W on the i5-7260.

Between i5-7260U and i5-7300U it’s basically a toss up.

Ah, apologies for the confusion. Understood on the minimal differences between the two i5s; by way of measuring the difference that cache makes I did a comparison of i5-7300 with one of the i7 models with pretty much the same clock speed and there was no difference at all between them; in fact, the i5-7300 faired better in many cases.

I think I will go for the i5-7300; the i3 will probably do 99% of the time as they have the same base speed and TDP, but I guess for only a little extra the ability to turbo upto 3.5 GHz can’t hurt. Thanks all for your assistance!

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I don’t intend to use Roon with a physical library. It seems that one CPU limitation is dealing with large physical libraries.

For me I intend to use Tidal streaming exclusively. So for me I need CPU only for DSP. I am using only one stream currently. I intended to use REW and the UMIK to create a convolution filter. Possibly I would use other DSP also. I only care that I could do this for 2 potential simultaneous streams.

In that regard I am between the 8th generation i3 two core and the 8th generation i5 four core.

If these processes are single core processes then I doubt it would make a difference. I suppose cache sizes might. Still for streaming i suspect not. If indeed it does then I may consider an optane drive. Still I doubt it would make a difference.

i3 is obviously cheaper but also quieter.

Based on your requirements of DSP for convolution, 8th generation, and quietness, it reminds me of: