Intel NUC NUC6i7KYK Skull Canyon Mini PC Review

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Intel NUC NUC6i7KSYK – Skull Canyon Arrives

If you are a big fan of the Intel NUC mini-PC series, but didn’t think they had enough power for your needs, we have a special treat for you. We’ve spent the past week playing around with the Intel NUC code named ‘Skull Canyon’ that features the latest 6th Generation Intel Core i7-6770HQ ‘SkyLake’ quad-core processor and Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580 (GT4e). This is the first Intel NUC to feature a mighty Intel Core i7 quad-core processor and it also sports cutting edge technologies like Thunderbolt 3, two m.2 slots for running SSDs in RAID, support for six USB 3.0 ports, DDR4 memory and more.

The NUC6i7KYK Front Panel

The NUC6i7KYK Front Panel

The Intel NUC Kit NUC6i7KYK measures in at 211mm x 116mm x 28mm and is the largest NUC ever designed. It also just happens to be the most power hungry as comes with a massive 120W power brick to power the 45W TDP 6th generation Intel Core i7-6770HQ quad-core processor with Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580 that has 128MB of eDRAM. This is obviously the flagship NUC model is is targeted at gamers and power users that are looking for as much power they can get in a tiny form factor like this. The dual M.2 slots both feature the PCIe x4 interface and RAID can be enabled in the UEFI for truly unprecedented storage drive performance for those willing to run RAID 0. If the Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580 isn’t enough you can use the USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface (the USB Type C port) to attach an external discrete graphics card for all the graphics power you’ll ever need. Priced at $635.77 shipped, the NUC6i7KYK is expensive, but it is the most powerful and flexible NUC ever released.

Intel NUC6i7KYK Features
Intel Core i7-6770HQ ‘Skylake’ Processor, 2.6GHz Base/3.5GHz Turbo, quad-core, 45W TDP
Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580 GPU, 72 EUs, 128 MB eDRAM cache (Skylake-U GT4e)
Two 260-pin slots for up to DDR4 3200MHz SO-DIMM memory, 1.2V/1.35V, max. 32GB
Standard HDMI 2.0 port (4K 60Hz)
Mini DisplayPort 1.2 port (4K 60Hz)
Four USB 3.0 ports (2 on the front, 2 on the rear)
Intel I219-LM Gigabit Ethernet LAN adapter
Intel Wireless-AC 8260 WiFi adapter (802.11ac, dual-band, max. 867 Mbps, Bluetooth 4.2)
Support for two M.2 SSD cards (sizes 22×42 and 22×80) and one internal SATA III port
SD card reader (support SDXC cards and UHS-I – Uses PCIe x1 interface)
Infrared sensor and 3.5mm audio jack

Intel NUC Kit NUC6i7KYK

Intel is marketing the Intel NUC KIT NUC6i7KYK as having ‘the features you need to unleash powerful game play’ with 4K 60Hz display support thanks to a full-sized HDMI 2.0 port and Displayport 1.2 video outputs. The NUC6i7KYK also sports a Thunderbolt 3 port (USB Type C), so you have a 40Gbps connection available to run external graphics or something else that needs plenty of bandwidth down the road.

nuc6i7kyk bundle

The INTEL NUC6i7KYK Key Acessories

Like most all of the previous Intel NUC mini PC kits you’ll need to add your own storage drive, memory kit and operating system of choice. Intel provides an embedded Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 combo adapter (802.11ac wireless card & Bluetooth 4.1) that has a max throughput rating of 867 Mbps, so you don’t need to purchase a WiFi card. Since we are taking a look at the Intel NUC Kit NUC6i7KYK it meant that we had to use an M.2 PCIe SSD. We went with a Samsung SSD 950 Pro M.2 PCIe NVM Express 512GB drive ($317.00) for our storage needs. Kingston just recently launched new 32GB (2 x 16GB) HyperX Impact dual-channel DDR4 SO-DIMM memory kits, so we selected the HyperX Impact 32GB 2400MHz DDR4 CL14 SO-DIMM memory kit ($133.99 shipped) to complete the build. The total hardware cost for this setup would be $1086.76. At nearly $1,100 this turned out being a fairly expensive build and that is before any software costs are added up!

Inside NUC6i7KYK

Inside NUC KIT NUC6i7KYK

Building the NUC kit is simple as you just need a Philips screw driver to remove the bottom cover of the enclosure and then you pop in your DDR4 memory kit of choice into the open slots and screw in the M.2 SSD that you purchased. After that you need to download and install the latest UEFI and then install the operating system of your choice.

The BIOS/UEFI on the NUC6i7KYK is fairly robust and you can make as many alterations as any other NUC model that we’ve ever seen. We’ve included a gallery above to shows the main menu, performance options, where RAID is setup for the dual M.2 slots and the onboard devices menu.  Note that if you want to install RAID you need to follow this setup procedure as you need to download and use both the Intel RST driver (RST_Win7_8.1_10_14.10.0.1016.zip) and the F6 Driver Diskettes (RST_f6floppy_Win7_8.1_10_64_14.10.0.1016.zip).

Our retail model NUC Kit NUC6i7KSYK came with BIOS version 0034 and we easily updated our unit to BIOS version 0035 (latest internal build) to ensure we had all the latest bug fixes and improvements for our testing. Intel offers five different ways to update the UEFI, so be sure to take a look here to find the latest UEFI version and the install via your preferred method.

The NUC6i7KYK Front Panel

The NUC6i7KYK Front Panel

On the front panel you have the power button, two USB 3.0 ports (yellow port being able to charge devices even if the NUC is turned off), 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack and a IR receiver port on the front panel.

Intel NUC Kit NUIC6i7KYK Interchangeable Top Cover

Intel NUC Kit NUIC6i7KYK Interchangeable Top Cover

Intel includes two top covers and you can choose to install one with or without a skull on it. Intel is hopeful that someone will release custom lids if you’d like as companies like GORITE have offered replacement lids in the past that add  two additional USB 3.0 ports. In the image above you can see the USB 3.0 header is accessible and ready for such an aftermarket product. This is the most USB 3.0 ports ever supported by any NUC model!

The NUC6i7KYK Back Panel w/ HDMI 2.0 for 4K 60Hz

The NUC6i7KYK Back Panel w/ HDMI 2.0 for 4K 60Hz

On the back of the NUC6i7KYK you have the power port, standard sized HDMI 1.4b port, 3.5mm headphone / TOSLINK connection, Gigabit LAN Ethernet jack, two USB 3.0 headers,  DisplayPort 1.2 port, USB Type C (Thunderbolt 3) and full-sized HDMI 2.0 port.

NUC6i7KYK Diagram

Here is a block diagram for how everything is connected to SoC on the NUC6i7KYK.

Our Intel NUC6i7KYK Build

Our Intel NUC6i7KYK Build w/ 32GB of memory and 512GB SSD

And of course a look at our completed build along with HWiNFO64. The latest version of HWiNFO64 doesn’t yet support the Intel Core i7-6770HQ processor, but it correctly detects the Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580 processor.

hwinfo-corei7

Now that we have a basic feel for the features and price of the NUC6i7KYK we can jump into benchmarking!

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  • Intel says it supports DDR4 2133+, but mostly it talks about simply 2133. Are there benefits from using 2400?

  • Joe Schmoe

    Still waiting on the 6770HQ to be released for 3rd parties… especially for the triple-fan Z Canvas. At least that thing would keep this from ever throttling.

  • B Brad

    Not terrible, but the GPU isn’t as fast as I expected. Anyone seen numbers to compare the Skylake integrated graphics (Intel Pro 540/580) to the previous best integrated GPU in the broadwell (i5-5675c and i7-5775c)? LegitReviews has a i5-5775c review, but don’t cover any of the same games for an apples to apples comparison.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      What would you like to see exactly? We have an office PC running a 5775C, so can run some benchmarks for you if you’d like.

      • B Brad

        Recreating any of the above published game benchmarks would be great. I just want a general idea of how the new skylake iris pros compare to the previous generation equivalents with intel’s in package video memory. From what I can tell the new iris pro 580 isn’t delivering the expected performance increase that you would expect from the published specifications.

        • Mariano Ruiz

          Did you find any direct comparison between the Iris 580 and the 6200?

          I’ve done some research but couldn’t find any direct comparison. I would say they are very even, even though the Iris 580 has more EUs.

  • KurtKrampmeier

    Can Undervolting achieve significantly better thermals and less
    cpu throttling? And if so, by how much? I want to use this as a 24/7
    load and very small and light portable cpu package. Thank you!

  • Charles Borner

    “This is the first Intel NUC to feature a mighty Intel Core i7”

    Uh. No. No it isn’t.

    The 5th Gen BOXNUC5I7RYH came with an i7…

    • Nathan Kirsch

      You are correct… I forgot to put in there ‘quad-core’ after Core i7! Thanks!

      • Charles Borner

        Ah HAAAAAA!!!!

        Don’t ever let it happen again!

        =)

  • Paul

    I wouldn’t recommend these Intel NUC’s. Filled with Bios bugs and hardware failures. Intel should just stick to what they are good at. Making cpu’s.

  • Can you try running the decent and non-naive Intel SGEMM example on the Skull Canyon? It’s a quick compile.

    https://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/sgemm-for-intel-processor-graphics#_Toc419731380

    Results for 64-bit VS2013 build and .4444 drivers

    A Core i7-4790 HD4600 peaks at ~280 GFLOPS which is ~75% of theoretical (160 FMA @ 1.2 GHz)

    A NUC 5i5RYH HD6000 peaks at ~480 GFLOPS which is ~66% of theoretical (384 FMA @ 950 MHz)

    • Nathan Kirsch

      Got some KISS (keep it stupid simple) instructions as it looks like there many options you can run and don’t see any examples online on how to run it. I’ve installed VS2013 Update 5 and am running .4444 drivers.

      • You just run it with no arguments (“C:…> GEMM.exe”) and it will iterate through all of the possible kernels. The article identifies the kernels that are expected to be more performant. For example, The “block_read” kernels perform more efficient loads using an Intel OpenCL extension.

        The best result for each matrix size is probably a fair measure as it seems pretty consistent.

        • Nathan Kirsch

          send me an e-mail to nate at the sites url if you could

        • Nathan Kirsch

          Here are the results that I worked out with Allan for SGEMM! Will add these to the review for all that are interested in compiler performance of Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580!

        • Achieving over 70% of theoretical (1094.4 GFLOPS) and nearly reaching 800 GFLOPS with such a clean OpenCL implementation is a very respectable result.

          One of the neat things about the HD580 is that it can also perform lower resolution 16-bit floating point operations with doubled throughput over 32-bit floats.

          Perhaps Intel will update their benchmark to reflect this as fp16x2 support is quite interesting to some people.