How We Overclocked Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK

We've spent pretty much all our free time this week using the Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK and if you couldn't tell from our review, we love the new design and the Intel 4th Generation Core i5-4250U Haswell processor that powers it. In our review we showed you the general performance of the system running at stock speeds. The one question that we didn't answer at that time is how it performs when overclocked. There aren't too many things that you can overclock on the NUC since the CPU multiplier and bus speeds are locked down, but we can overclock the DDR3 memory. In the past overclocking the memory clock frequency has yielded some pretty good results for memory bandwidth limited applications and gaming benchmarks.

Intel Haswell NUC Gets HyperX

Overclocking the memory on the Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK is extremely simple thanks to the easy to use Intel Visual BIOS. You just go to the performance menu, set the memory config to manual and change the multiplier to the divider that you want. You can even manually set the voltage as well as all the basic and advanced memory timings to fine tune your NUC. If only we could change the host clock or core multiplier!

 intel-nuc-bios

Our friends at Crucial and Kingston hooked us up with some DDR3 and DDR3L (Low Power) memory kits to try out on the NUC. Our initial goal was to get 16GB of DDR3L memory running at 1866MHz, but we encountered some issues when using the maximum memory capacity and overclocking.  Before we dive into our overclocking results we'll tell you about our experiences with each of the three kits that we used.

 DDR3L Modules

The first kit we tried out was the Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 204-Pin DDR3L SO-DIMM 1600MHz CL11 laptop memory kit that is sold under part number CT2KIT51264BF160BJ. Pay close attention to the “J” part number at the end as that dignifies this kit is based uses 4Gb density chips, so there are 8-chips per 4GB module versus the older modules that have a density of 2Gb, which means you need 16-chips for a 4GB module. This module was using Micron D9QVG memory chips that have part number MT41K512M8RH-125:J. We could not find this module for sale just yet as Newegg and everyone carries just the older 2Gb (16-chip) versions for $71.12 shipped. We were able to get this 8GB module running stable on the Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK at its default speed of 1600MHz and was able to overclock it up to 1866MHz with no problems at all, while retaining the stock timings and voltage of 1.35V.

The next kit we tried was the Kingston HyperX 16GB (2x8GB) 204-pin DDR3L SO-DIMM 1600MHz CL9 laptop memory kit.  This module was using Micron D9QBJ memory chips that have part number MT41K512M8RH-125:E. This is the same exact part number of IC's that Crucial is using on their kit, minus the revision number at the end. This kit runs $174.99 shipped. We were able to get this massive 16GB laptop memory kit up and running at 1600MHz at CL9 timings without any issues:

hyperx-1600-16gb

When we set it to run at 1866MHz in dual-channel mode the system would not post. We'd just get three blue blinks on the power button letting us know there was a memory error. We tried one module and it would run at 1866MHz in the slot farthest from the CPU, but failed to work in the slot closest to the processor/board. Intel is aware of the issue and hopes to release a BIOS that fixes the issue in the weeks ahead as they have Intel Ultrabooks with this CPU running just fine with 16GB kits at 1866MHz and 2133MHz.

The last kit we tried out just for fun, but it was the Kingston HyperX 8GB (2 x 4GB) 204-Pin DDR3 2133MHz memory kit that is sold under part number KHX21S12P1K2/8. This not a low power DDR3L memory kit (1.35V) that is required on the Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK, but a regular 1.5V DDR3 memory kit. It features 2Gb density IC's by Hynix that have part number H5TQ2G83CFR on them.  This kit retails for $89.74 shipped. This memory kit was unable to post in the system at any memory clock frequency. It was worth a shot as we really wantedto get 2133MHz memory working!

For overclocking we'll be using the Crucial 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3L 1600MHz memory kit as it is the only kit we have right now that can run at both 1600MHz and 1866MHz in dual-channel mode.

Now that you know what we are doing and the kits that we tried out, let's take a look at the results.

 

NUC Memory Overclocking Results:

SiSoftware Sandra 2013 w/ DDR3L 1600MHz:

sandra-memory

SiSoftware Sandra 2013 w/ DDR3L 1600MHz:

sandra-memory-oc

Sandra 2013 showed that the NUC went from having 17.5 GB/s of memory bandwidth at 1600MHz up to 19.7 GB/s with the 1866MHz overclock.  This is a 12.5% performance improvement when it comes to the memory bandwidth of the system.

AIDA64 v3.20 Beta w/ DDR3L 1600MHz:

aida64-1600

AIDA64 v3.20 Beta w/ DDR3L 1866MHz:

AIDA64-OC

AIDA64 v3.202602 Beta doesn't properly read the Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK details just yet, but it looks like it is correctly reading the memory and cache performance. This benchmark shows about a 3GB/s performance jump across the board! The memory read went from 19633 MB/s to 22373 MB/s, which is a 14% performance increase. So, AIDA64 and Sandra are showing a 12.5-14% increase in memory performance by going from 1600MHz to 1866MHz.

Futuremark 3DMark11 w/ DDR3L 1600MHz:

3dmark11

Futuremark 3DMark11 w/ DDR3L 1866MHz:

3dmark11-oc

The Intel NUC scored P995 on 3DMark 11 with the performance preset with 1600MHz and the overall score jumped up to P1029 with the memory overclocked to 1866MHz.  This is only a 3.4% performance gain, but was had be changing a single multiplier in the Intel Visual BIOS.

Futuremark 3DMark w/ DDR3L 1600MHz:

3dmark13

Futuremark 3DMark w/ DDR3L 1866MHz:

3dmark13-oc

In the latest build of 3DMark we found solid performance with a score of 39,339 in Ice Storm, 4,409 in Cloud Gate and 679 in Fire Strike with 1600MHz memory. With 1866MHz memory the scores improved across the board to 41,188 in Ice Storm, 4,499 in Cloud Gate and 699 in Fire Strike. This is a 2% performance gain in Cloud Gate, which is the ideal 3D benchmark for the NUC.

PCMark8 w/ DDR3L 1600MHz:

pcmark8

PCMark8 w/ DDR3L 1866MHz:

pcmark8-oc

In PCMark 8 we found the Intel NUC had an overall score of 2700 with 1600MHz DDR3L and 2734 with 1866MHz DDR3L memory. This is not a significant change by any means, but we did notice that the casual gaming score went from 20.6 FPS to 22.2 FPS. That is a nice ~8% performance gain in the gaming test.

Cinebench 11.5 w/ DDR3L 1600MHz:

cinebench

Cinebench 11.5 w/ DDR3L 1866MHz:

cinebench-oc

Moving along to Cinebench we found the Intel NUC with the Intel Core i5-4520U processor scored just a tad higher on the CPU test, but the Intel HD Graphics 5000 jumped up from 15.72 FPS to 16.49 FPS on the OpenGL benchmark. We'll take a 4.8% performance gain!

Bootracer w/ DDR3L 1866MHz:

bootracer-best

Bootracer w/ DDR3L 1866MHz:

bootracer-oc

The last performance test that we wanted to run was Bootracer 4.5 to see how fast the system is able to boot Windows 8 64-bit. We were happy to see that the Windows boot times were nearly one second faster with the memory overclock.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions:

The bottom line here is that overclocking the memory up to 1866MHz or using DDR3L memory can work in the Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK, but don't expect massive performance gains. Overclocking the Intel Core i5-4250U processor by changing the core multiplier is not supported, so overclocking the memory is the easiest way to get a little more out of your system. 

We hope you enjoyed this article and that it helped answer some of your questions about what memory kit or what memory speed to use with the Intel NUC. We highly advise using at lease a DDR3L 1600MHz memory kit with as low of timings as you can find. You might get lucky and be able to manually overclock it up to 1866MHz like we did today. If you don't want to risk an unstable overclock with a 1600MHz kit, then be sure to keep an eye out for a 1866Mhz DDR3L memory kit.  Just remember, right not Intel has an issue where 16GB 1866MHz DDR3L kits won't post on this system. They hope to have it resolved with an updated BIOS in the future, but that isn't promised and 1866MHz is not officially supported.

We also advise getting a DDR3L memory with that has a 4Gb density as it will use less power and there are half as many chips to have an issue with down the road. Feel free to let us know if you have any questions in the forums via the link below.