Intel NUC NUC6i5SYK - Your Gaming Solution

The size of the PC market has been flat to decreasing in recent years, but Intel has always found ways to maintain solid profitability in their PC division. Right now Intel's strategy appears to be focusing on the growing 2 in 1s and PC gaming market, but there is also growth and profitability to be had with the Intel NUC mini PC lineup. Intel has recently released their 4th generation NUC code named 'Swift Canyon' that features the latest 6th Generation Intel Core 'SkyLake' series of processors. Intel has also moved over to DDR4 memory for the very first time with this series, but if you wanted to see a Thunderbolt part on a Core i3 or a Core i5 NUC model you'll have to keep on waiting. [caption id="attachment_181112" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Intel NUC NUC6i5SYK Retail packaging for the slim 4" x 4" Intel NUC NUC6i5SYK[/caption] The Skylake powered NUCs have been around for several months now, but we just recently got our hands on one and have been able to take it out for a test drive. The NUC Kit NUC6i5SYK / NUC6i5SYH are the mainstream Intel Core i5 powered models that we'll be looking at closer today. The units have the same internal components, but the NUC6i5SYK ($376.99) comes with an enclosure that doesn't support the room required for a 2.5" storage drive while the NUC6i5SYH ($356.99) comes with a taller enclosure and cables that does support a 2.5" drive. Both models feature the same hardware inside and have the same level of performance. The processor Intel is using on these models would be the 6th generation Intel Core i5-6260U processor with Intel Iris graphics 540 that has 64MB of eDRAM. This model has much improved graphics thanks to the Intel Iris Graphics 540 and is arguably the most wanted new feature for this NUC generation. Intel NUC6i5SYK Features Intel Core i5-6260U 'Skylake' Processor, 1.8GHz Base/2.8GHz Turbo, dual-core, 15W TDP Intel Iris Graphics 540 GPU, 48 EUs, 64 MB eDRAM cache (Skylake-U GT3e) Two 260-pin slots for DDR4 2133MHz SO-DIMM memory, 1.2V, max. 32GB Standard HDMI 1.4b port Mini DisplayPort 1.2 port Four USB 3.0 ports (2 on the front, 2 on the rear) Intel I219V Gigabit Ethernet LAN adapter Intel Wireless-AC 8260 WiFi adapter (802.11ac, dual-band, max. 867 Mbps, Bluetooth 4.1) Support for M.2 SSD card (sizes 22×42 and 22×80) and one internal SATA III port SD card reader (support SDXC cards and UHS-I) Infrared sensor and 3.5mm audio jack [caption id="attachment_181115" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Your Gaming Solution Intel NUC Kit: NUC6i5SYK—Your Gaming Solution[/caption] In fact, Intel is marketing the Intel NUC KIT NUC6i5SYK as 'Your Gaming Solution' with 'no add-in graphics card required for amazing 3D graphics performance'. Those are pretty bold claims, so we'll be putting more focus than usual on gaming in this NUC review. [caption id="attachment_181113" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Intel nuc6i5syk build Our Intel NUC Kit NUC6i5SYK DIY Build Parts[/caption] 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 NUC6i5SYK 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 ($317.99) 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 ($172.07 shipped) to complete the build. We later learned that Intel has limited or locked memory overclocking on all Skylake mobile processors except Core i5 and Core i7 quad-core processors with a TDP of 45W or greater. We forgot about this when getting the parts for our NUC build, so save yourself a few bucks and get yourself the HyperX Impact DDR4 2133MHz dual channel kit in your choice of 8GB ($48.57), 16GB ($69.99) or 32GB ($169.99) capacities. [caption id="attachment_181136" align="aligncenter" width="645"]PCIe SSD Thermal Tape Taking A Look Under The Cover![/caption] 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 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. UEFI-update There have been four BIOS/UEFI updates since the initial production version was released, so chances are you'll need an update and we suggest performing one with the USB Flash drive method before installing the OS. Our retail model NUC Kit NUC6i5SYK came with BIOS version 0028 and we quickly updated that to BIOS version 0042 (latest) to ensure we had all the latest bug fixes and improvements. 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 method you prefer. [caption id="attachment_181168" align="aligncenter" width="645"]NUC6i5SYK front The NUC6i5SYK Front Panel[/caption] There are two USB 3.0 ports on the front with the yellow port being able to charge devices even if the NUC is turned off. You also have a 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack and a IR receiver port on the front panel. The power button is up top along with the hard drive activity light. You can replace this top cover with custom lids if you'd like. A company called GORITE sells different color lids for $9.75 and you can also expand the NUCs USB ports by adding a $19.75 cover that adds two additional USB 2.0 ports. [caption id="attachment_181167" align="aligncenter" width="645"]NUC6i5SYK SDXC Reader The NUC6i5SYK SDXC Reader[/caption]   On the side of NUC there is a full sized SDXC memory card slot and a Kensington lock. [caption id="attachment_181166" align="aligncenter" width="645"]NUC6i5SYK Back Panel NUC6i5SYK Back Panel[/caption] On the back of the NUC6i5SYK you have the power port, standard sized HDMI 1.4b port, Gigabit LAN Ethernet jack, two USB 3.0 headers and finally the DisplayPort 1.2 port for 4K panel support. It would have been nice to see Thunderbolt 3 or USB Type-C support on this model, but it looks like Intel is reserving those features for their highest end model, the NUC6I7KYK. [caption id="attachment_181143" align="aligncenter" width="609"]Intel NUC NUC6i5SYK Block Diagram Intel NUC NUC6i5SYK Block Diagram[/caption] Here is a block diagram for how everything is connected to SoC on the NUC6i5SYK. NUC6i5SYK built And of course a look at our completed build! hwinfo Now that we have a basic feel for the features and price of the NUC6I5SYK we can jump into benchmarking!

NUC6i5SYK Gaming Performance

Intel says that the Intel NUC KIT NUC6i5SYK doesn't need an add-in graphics card for amazing 3D graphics performance, so we put those claims to the test! We used Intel Graphics Driver version for Windows 10 to do our testing with. These drivers just came out on April 22, 2016 and are the latest graphics drivers for the 6th Generation Intel Core i5 processor series.

Battlefield 4

bf4-screenshot Battlefield 4 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts. It is a sequel to 2011's Battlefield 3 and was released on October 29, 2013 in North America. Battlefield 4's single-player Campaign takes place in 2020, six years after the events of its predecessor. Tensions between Russia and the United States have been running at a record high. On top of this, China is also on the brink of war, as Admiral Chang, the main antagonist, plans to overthrow China's current government; and, if successful, the Russians will have full support from the Chinese, bringing China into a war with the United States. bf4-settings This game title uses the Frostbite 3 game engine and looks great. We tested Battlefield 4 with the medium graphics quality preset . We used FRAPS to benchmark with these settings on the Shanghai level. All tests were done with the DirectX 11 API. bf4 Benchmark Results: Battlefield 4 with medium image quality settings ran pretty well on the NUC6i5SYK. The average FPS was found to be 30 with dips down to 25 FPS and some topping out at 40 FPS. Lowering down to low image quality settings helped remove stutters in the heavy battle scenes, but the game was playable on medium. 

Fallout 4

Fallout4 Fallout 4 is an open world action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Fallout 4 is set in a post-apocalyptic Boston in the year 2287, 210 years after a devastating nuclear war, in which the player character emerges from an underground bunker known as a Vault. Gameplay is similar to Fallout 3.  The title is the fifth major installment in the Fallout series and was released worldwide on November 10th, 2015. fallout-settings Fallout 4 was benchmarked with low image quality settings. V-Sync can't be disabled in the games options, so we edited the necessary INI files and disabled vsync in the driver software as well. We used FRAPS to benchmark Fallout 4 after you emerge from the vault and are in The Commonwealth. Fallout4 Benchmark Results: We had troubled launching Fallout 4 on the NUC6i5SYK and if we could get it to launch we were getting below 10 FPS with low image quality settings and series driver issues. This game title was found to be unplayable. 

Star Wars: Battlefront

Star Wars Battlefront Star Wars: Battlefront is a series of first- and third-person shooter video games based on the Star Wars films. Players take the role of soldiers in either of two opposing armies in different time periods of the Star Wars universe. Star Wars: Battlefront is built on the Frostbite 3 engine. Thief is the fourth title in the Thief series, developed by Digital Illusions CE and published by EA DICE/Disney Interactive on November 17, 2015. starwars-graphics We ran Star Wars: Battlefront with the image quality settings set at low and VSYNC  was disabled. We used FRAPS to benchmark with these settings on Battle on Tatooine. starwars-1080-chart 1080P Benchmark Results: The NUC6i5SYK averaged 28.04 FPS in Star Wars: Battlefront with a low of 22 FPS and a max of 36 FPS. Performance wasn't exactly stellar, but we were able to play the game with low image quality settings if we could get it to launch right. starwars Star Wars: Battlefront might have come out six months ago, but Intel still has some driver issues that need to be worked out! The Intel NUC KIT NUC6i5SYK isn't the best choice for 'Your Gaming Solution' from what our use saw. The dual-core system had pretty long load times and we ran into graphical issues on multiple game titles. You can do very light 1080P gaming on some older game titles, but the driver support just isn't there for some of the latest games.

NUC6i5SYK General Performance Testing

NUC6i5SYK Cinebench The Intel NUC Kit NUC6i5SYK with the Intel Core i5-6260U processor scored 63.90  FPS on the OpenGL benchmark, 296 points on the multi-core CPU test and 122 points on the single-core CPU test. skydiver NUC6i5SYK In 3DMark we scored 5,615 points in Sky Diver, the benchmark for mid-range PCs, specifically 25.88 FPS in Graphics Test 1 and 26.45 FPS in Graphics Test 2. x265-nuc-test On the x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit video encoding benchmark we found the Gigabyte Brix S was capable of 6.57 FPS with regards to the average frame rate for encoding HD (1080p) video in the new H.265 / HEVC format. handbrake NUC6i5SYK We ran Handbrake 0.10.5 and used the Big Buck Bunny 1080P 60 FPS movie as our test file. We were able to complete the transcode with an average speed of 20.51 FPS in 31 minutes and 25 seconds. aida-nuc AIDA64 v5.70 beta showed that the dual channel 2133MHz DDR4 memory had 13-13-13 1T timings and was capable of 30,524 MB/s read and 45,534 MB/s write speeds with a latency of 63.7 ns. 6260skylake cpuz-bench-nuc The benchmark included in CPU-Z showed we had a single thread performance score of 1420 and a multi-thread performance score of 3051. ciphershed-nuc CipherShed v0.7.4.0 shows that the Intel NUC6i5SYK had a mean score of 1.7 GB/s on the AES Encryption test. jetstream-nuc We ran the JetStream v1.1 JavaSctipt on Google Chrome 50 and found an overall score of 161.99. 7zip-nuc The 7-Zip 15.14 benchmark test showed that the Intel Core i5-6260U Processor in this system had a total rating of 8817 MIPS and handled compression tasks well.
cdm nuc
A quick run of CrystalDiskMark v5.1.2 showed the performance of the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB storage drive was pretty solidc. Sequential read speed to be 1390 MB/s and the sequential write speed was 1532 MB/s. The Random 4K read speed was 56 MB/s and the 4K random write speed was 189 MB/s. NUC Boot Speed The last performance test that we wanted to run was Bootracer 5.0 to see how fast the system is able to boot Windows 1o Pro 64-bit. We found that the Intel NUC Kit NUC6i5SYK takes 6 seconds to get to the logon screen and it takes about 20-21 seconds on average to get up and running on the desktop when using the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD. This is a pretty quick boot time, but not the fastest that we have ever seen in a Skylake powered mini PC.

Video Playback

Since many Intel NUC  Kits will be used in the living room we thought we'd take a second and look at a number of video types on the device to see how it would perform as a HTPC as many people might be looking into buying this and running Kodi. We took a quick look at DXVA checker and found that the Skylake processor with Intel Iris 540 Graphics offers hardware acceleration for MPEG-2, VC1, H.264, HEVC, VP9 (8-bit only) and WMV9. When it comes to audio bitstreaming the device supports DTS, Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus.
 dxva checker
Let's take a look at power consumption and CPU temperatures on the Intel NUC NUC6i5SYK.

Power Consumption and CPU Temperatures

[caption id="attachment_181135" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Intel NUC NUC6i5SYK HSF The Intel NUC NUC6i5SYK CPU Cooler[/caption] We aren't sure how energy efficient the Intel NUC NUC6i5SYK is, so we figured we'd take a look and see how much power the system uses. nuc-power-chart We found the the entire system was consuming 9.9 Watts of power from the wall outlet at idle and just 1.5W at sleep. When watching Youtube 1080P videos we averaged 13.5 Watts of power draw. When running the AIDA64 System Stability test the system power consumption topped out just over 45 Watts and when playing BF4 at 1920x1080 with medium image quality settings we hit 47.8 Watts. nuc temps AIDA64 reported that the Intel Core i5-6260U processor idled on the desktop with a core temperature of 37C. With the built-in AIDA64 stress test we found that we got up to 88C on the two CPU cores at 0.960V. The noise level of the CPU coolers fan wasn't too bad at idle and we were shocked to see it was spinning at 2900 RPM as it wasn't noticeable in a normal office or room situation.  When the temperatures got above 80C the fan began to ramp up and reached 4,440 RPM. At that speed the inaudible fan was easily heard, but it wasn't really that bad sounding. clocks-drop-3min The one thing we did notice is that the clock speeds of the Intel Core i5-6260U dropped about three minutes into the test. When the stress test began the Core i5-6260U processor was running at ~2700MHz for the first three minutes or so, but when the temperatures hit 88C the clocks dropped down to ~2300MHz. This wasn't reported as CPU throttling by AIDA64, but the clocks dropped as did the voltage, fan speed and the CPU core temperature. The Intel Core i5-6260U has a maximum turbo frequency of 2900MHz, but we never hit that in AIDA64. [caption id="attachment_181136" align="aligncenter" width="645"]PCIe SSD Thermal Tape Intel Placed Thermal Tape Above Where the M.2 SSD Goes.[/caption] Another interesting test that we did was to see if the thermal tape Intel adhered to the bottom of the enclosure actually did anything. For this test we removed the bottom cover and let the system run at idle for 30 minutes. The Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe drive had a temperature of 41C. We left the system running and put the cover back on and the temperature almost instantly dropped and after a few minutes the drive was at just 31C. The thermal tape lowered the idle temperatures of our storage drive by nearly 25%! Let's wrap this review up!

Final Thoughts On The NUC6i5SYK

The Intel NUC6i5SYK Mini PC kit was found to be a very capable system that is super slim and won't break the bank. Intel keeps improving the NUC with every generation that they release and the move to Skylake processors with much improved graphics and DDR4 memory is great. The only features that we wish the NUC6i5SYK had would be HDMI 2.0 and  full hardware-accelerated decoding of 10-bit HEVC. The Intel Core i5-6260U processor with Intel Iris 540 Graphics supports full hardware-accelerated decoding of 8-bit HEVC, but only GPU-accelerated decoding of 10-bit HEVC. If HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 and 10-bit HEVC decoding with full hardware support are something you need for your 4K HTPC build then you'll need to wait until the next-generation NUC comes out with 'Kaby Lake' processors. Overall performance left us happy with NUC6i5SYK as the WiFi was solid, the USB 3.0 performance was fast and even the audio sounded solid. The Bluetooth worked perfectly with the keyboard and mouse that we connected it to and the power consumption wasn't that bad. We didn't talk about many of those topics in the review as here in 2016 we expect features like USB 3.0 and Bluetooth to simply work. [caption id="attachment_181113" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Intel nuc6i5syk build Our Intel NUC Kit NUC6i5SYK DIY Build Parts[/caption] When it came to gaming performance we found that the NUC6i5SYK had pretty long game load times despite the M.2 PCIe SSD and some game titles like Fallout 4 were unable to be played due to driver issues. Older game titles like Battlefield 4 turned out to be playable with low or medium image quality settings though, so Intel is making major improvements on the graphics performance. We wouldn't call this a mainstream gaming solution by any means, but it can most certainly do light gaming and will be a hit for those playing DOTA 2, Team Fortress 2, Heroes of the Storm or Dirt 3 at medium or low image quality presets. The NUC6i5SYK that we focused on in this review is priced at $376.99 and is backed by a 3-year warranty. If you are looking for a solid performing NUC and are okay with assembling the missing parts the NUC6i5SYK should be a pretty good option for you. This isn't the least expensive or the fastest NUC model out there, but it will give you solid CPU performance and the GPU should allow for light gaming. If you are a MOBA gamer you should be able to do so on this Skylake powered NUC, but other more graphic intensive game titles are still too much for the Intel Iris 540 graphics solution. LR Recommended Award Legit Bottom Line: The Intel NUC Mini PC Kit NUC6i5SYK won't meet the needs for serious gamers, but it should be a good solution for casual gamers and mainstream users! NUC6i5SYK_Price