Saturday, 10 April 2021

Virtualization Performance on an Intel NUC 11 Enthusiast Phantom Canyon NUC11PHKi7C


I've previously looked at Windows and Linux performance on the NUC11PHKi7C Enthusiast Phantom Canyon which is Intel’s latest NUC 11 flagship product specifically targeting gamers as it includes an NVIDIA RTX 2060 GPU.

One usage aspect I didn't test was virtualization and this brief article looks at the performance running VirtualBox and WSL2 on the NUC11PHKi7C and comparing it to Intel’s previous NUC with a discrete GPU: the NUC 9 Extreme Ghost Canyon.


Hardware Overview

For the NUC 9 Extreme I’ve using a NUC9i7QNX model and I purchased both the NUC11PHKi7C and NUC9i7QNX as barebone devices.

The NUC11PHKi7C has an Intel Core i7-1165G7 Tiger Lake processor which is a quad-core 8-thread 2.80 GHz processor boosting to 4.70 GHz and also includes an NVIDIA N18E-G1-B notebook graphics card which is a GeForce RTX 2060 mobile GPU. I’ve installed a 2TB M.2 2280 NVMe drive from addlink (S70) and 64GB (2 x 32GB) DDR4 3200MHz memory from G.SKILL.

The NUC9i7QNX has an Intel Core i7-9750H Coffee Lake processor which is a hex-core 12-thread 2.60 GHz processor boosting to 4.50 GHz. I've installed a 2TB M.2 2280 NVMe drive from ADATA (XPG 8200 Pro), 64GB (2 x 32GB) of Team Group’s Team Elite DDR4 3200MHz memory and an EVGA GeForce RTX 2060 KO ULTRA GAMING GPU.


Software Overview

On each device I've installed Windows 10 Pro and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS as dual boot. On Windows I've enabled Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) version 2 and then installed Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Linux distribution for WSL. Then for each OS I've installed Oracle VM VirtualBox and created VMs of either Windows 10 Enterprise or Ubuntu 20.04 LTS as antithesis to the host OS. 


Installation Issues

Whilst there were no instalation problems with the NUC9i7QNX, the NUC11PHKi7C encountered a major issue. Initially for Ubuntu I was using the latest kernel (5.8.0-48-generic). Once Windows 10 Enterprise was installed in VirtualBox I noticed the VM occationally crashing for no apparent reason. However after downloading Passmark Performance Test version 10.1 the installation file refused to run:

I then had slightly more success in downloading and installing Passmark Performance Test version 9.0 however the application then refused to run:

but I did get Passmark Performance Test version 8.0 to both install and run:

however it subsequently crashed the VM.

After many reinstalls and web searching I discoverd that a bug for the crashing issue has already been raised: https://www.virtualbox.org/ticket/20180 and that 'using a Linux kernel 5.4 does not exhibit the problem'. Switching to the 5.4.0-70-generic kernel did indeed solve all the problems including no more crashes and allowed the successful installation and execution of Passmark Performance Test version 10.1.


Virtualization on Windows

For a Windows baseline I ran the CPU tests from Passmark Performance Test natively in Windows:

NUC9i7QNX

NUC11PHKi7C

and interestingly despite having fewer cores the NUC11PHKi7C's Windows performance was 3% better than on the NUC9i7QNX.

The first virtualization comparison is against running Windows in VirtualBox on Ubuntu where I ran the same CPU tests using the Linux version of Passmark Performance Test:

NUC9i7QNX

NUC11PHKi7C

and this shows that hardware-wise the NUC11PHKi7C performance was 18% worse than the NUC9i7QNX. Software-wise virtualization on the NUC9i7QNX performed similarly to its native performance at only 1% lower however for the NUC11PHKi7C it was 19% worse.

For an Ubuntu baseline I ran the CPU tests from Passmark Performance Test Linux natively in Ubuntu:

NUC9i7QNX

NUC11PHKi7C

and this time the NUC9i7QNX Ubuntu performance was 1% better than on the NUC11PHKi7C.

The second virtualization comparison is against running Ubuntu in VirtualBox on Windows:

NUC9i7QNX

NUC11PHKi7C

which again hardware-wise shows the NUC11PHKi7C performing worse than the NUC9i7QNX but this time by only 12%. Virtualization however is markedly different with the NUC11PHKi7C being 47% worse than running Ubuntu natively and 42% worse for the NUC9i7QNX.

The final virtualization comparison is against WSL2:

NUC9i7QNX

NUC11PHKi7C

where the NUC11PHKi7C performed 4% better than the NUC9i7QNX hardware-wise. It was also the best for Ubuntu virtualisation with only a loss of 1% for the NUC11PHKi7C and a 6% loss for the NUC9i7QNX. It should also be pointed out that all of the results can be affected by test run margin of error.

The full results are summarised below:



Conclusion

Although this is very limited testing it suggests that from a hardware perspective VirtualBox on the 6-core 12-thread NUC9i7QNX performs better than on the 4-core 8-thread NUC11PHKi7C even though the native performance is similar. Virtualbox on Windows is much worse than on Ubuntu however the real winner is the performance of running Ubuntu under WSL2 as it is comparable to the native performance. Also of note is that Ubuntu performance is slightly better than Windows performance.


Donate

Please donate if you find these types of comparisons useful using the following link http://goo.gl/nXWSGf as everything helps with hardware costs.

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