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. [caption id="attachment_181450" align="aligncenter" width="645"]The NUC6i7KYK Front Panel The NUC6i7KYK Front Panel[/caption] 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. [caption id="attachment_181452" align="aligncenter" width="645"]nuc6i7kyk bundle The INTEL NUC6i7KYK Key Acessories[/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 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! [caption id="attachment_181454" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Inside NUC6i7KYK Inside NUC KIT NUC6i7KYK[/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 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. [gallery ids="181459,181461,181460,181458,181457,181462"] 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. [caption id="attachment_181450" align="aligncenter" width="645"]The NUC6i7KYK Front Panel The NUC6i7KYK Front Panel[/caption] 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. [caption id="attachment_181453" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Intel NUC Kit NUIC6i7KYK Interchangeable Top Cover Intel NUC Kit NUIC6i7KYK Interchangeable Top Cover[/caption] 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! [caption id="attachment_181451" align="aligncenter" width="645"]The NUC6i7KYK Back Panel w/ HDMI 2.0 for 4K 60Hz The NUC6i7KYK Back Panel w/ HDMI 2.0 for 4K 60Hz[/caption] 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. [caption id="attachment_181449" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Our Intel NUC6i7KYK Build Our Intel NUC6i7KYK Build w/ 32GB of memory and 512GB SSD[/caption] 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!

NUC6i7KYK Gaming Performance

Intel says that the Intel NUC KIT NUC6i7KYK 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 15.40.23.4444 for Windows 10 to do our testing with. These drivers just came out on April 29, 2016 and are the latest graphics drivers for the 6th Generation Intel Core i5/i7 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 with Intel Iris Graphics 540 as the average frame rate was found to be 30.1 GPS with dips down to 25 FPS. On the NUC6i7KYK that has Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580 we found the average frame rate to be 38.4 FPS with the minimum being one dip down to 29 FPS and the maximum being 55 FPS. Battlefield 4 was playable on the NUC6i7KYK on a 1080P display with medium image quality settings! Intel has really improved their graphics performance in recent years and playing BF4 on a NUC sized device without a discrete graphics card once once unimaginable! 

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 both the Intel NUC6i5SYK and NUC6i7KYK. If we could get it to launch we were getting below 10 FPS with low image quality settings and serious driver issues. This game title was found to be unplayable. 

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider Rise of the Tomb Raider is a third-person action-adventure video game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. It is the sequel to the 2013 video game Tomb Raider, which was itself, the second reboot to its series. It was released for Microsoft Windows in January 2016. Players control Lara Croft through various environments, battling enemies, and completing puzzle platforming sections, while using improvised weapons and gadgets in order to progress through the story. rotr rotr-low Crystal Dynamics used a proprietary game engine called 'Foundation' for Rise of the Tomb Raider and it is able to create some pretty nice looking graphics. We tested Rise of the Tomb Raider with the lowest preset and left  VSync enabled. Once we had the graphics and display settings figured out we used FRAPS to manually benchmark a section of the Siberian Wilderness that is about 10% into the game for a couple minutes. Rise of the Tomb Raider does not have a built-in benchmark, so this is one of the only ways you can benchmark this particular game title. tomb-raider-1080 1080P Benchmark Results: Rise of the Tom Raider is a very tough game title, but it ran on the NUC6i7KYK and we were able to get an average of 18.1 FPS during our benchmark run with a minimum frame rate of 14. We wouldn't call this enjoyable gaming by any means, but if you lowered the resolution you might be able to get acceptable frame rates if you are willing to game at 1280x1024 or 1680x1050.  

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 battlefront 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. The Intel NUC6i7KYK was able to average 38.48 FPS with a low of 32 FPS and a max of 48 FPS. Performance is actually pretty good with the latest drivers with low image quality settings. steamvr Undoubtly someone will ask if the  NUC6i7KYK will be able to handle Virtual Reality (VR) and we ran the SteamVR benchmark and found that the Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580 couldn't provide any frames in the test above 90 FPS and failed. This mini PC will not be able to handle VR content out of the box, but that is what the Intel Apline Ridge controller is for and why there is a USB Type C (USB 3.1 Gen 2) port on the NUC. This is your way to run external graphics if you'd like to purchase a third party enclosure and discrete add-in card!

NUC6i7KSYK General Performance Testing

cinebench-corei7 The Intel NUC Kit NUC6i7KYK with the Intel Core i7-6770HQ processor scored 86.07  FPS on the OpenGL benchmark, 711 points on the multi-core CPU test and 130 points on the single-core CPU test. 3dmark-nuc-skydiver In 3DMark we scored 8,596 points in Sky Diver, the benchmark for mid-range PCs, specifically 37.29 FPS in Graphics Test 1 and 39.58 FPS in Graphics Test 2. x264-corei7 On the x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit video encoding benchmark we found the NUC with the Intel Core i7-6770HQ quad-core processor was capable of roughly 15 FPS with regards to the average frame rate for encoding HD (1080p) video in the new H.265 / HEVC format. handbrake-corei7 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 42.2 FPS in 15 minutes and 3 seconds. aida64-nuc AIDA64 v5.70 beta showed that the dual channel 2400MHz DDR4 memory had 14-14-14 2T timings and was capable of 41,489 MB/s read and 60,580 MB/s write speeds with a latency of 59.7 ns. The copy test bandwidth was found to be 57,528 MB/s. These are very respectable scores and the highest that we have ever seen on an Intel NUC model since we aren't limited to 2133MHz by a dual-core processor. If you plan on purchasing this model we highly suggest going with a 2400MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM memory kit. cpu-z cpu-z-bench The benchmark included in CPU-Z showed we had a single thread performance score of 1630 and a multi-thread performance score of 6203. cipher-corei7 CipherShed v0.7.4.0 shows that the Intel NUC6i7KYK had a mean score of 3.9 GB/s on the AES Encryption test. jetstream-corei7 We ran the JetStream v1.1 JavaSctipt on Google Chrome 50 and found an overall score of 195.77. 7zip-corei7 The 7-Zip 15.14 benchmark test showed that the Intel Core i7-6770HQ Processor in this system had a total rating of 20348 MIPS and handled compression tasks well.
cdm-i7
A quick run of CrystalDiskMark v5.1.2 showed the performance of the Samsung SSD 950 Pro 512GB storage drive was pretty solid. Sequential read speed to be 2550 MB/s and the sequential write speed was 1535 MB/s. The Random 4K read speed was 56 MB/s and the 4K random write speed was 215.4 MB/s. wireless-performance When it comes to wireless performance the we used LAN Speed Test to check the performance of the included the included Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 802.11ac PCIe solution. This is a dual-band 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi card with a theoretical peak speed rating of 867 Mbps. We used a desktop with Gigabit Ethernet to run LAN Speed Server that was hard connected to the ASUS RT-AC68U 802.11AC wireless router with Firmware version 3.0.0.4.378.9313. We tested the 2.4GHz and 5GHz performance with the router placed 10-feet away from the Intel NUC NUC6i7KYK and ran performance tests with 1MB and 100MB packet sizes. The results showed that we were averaging 250-300 Mbps (Up to 37.5 MB/s) with regards to writes and 470-480 Mbps (Up to 60 MB/s) for reads on the 5GHz band.

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-corei7
UPDATE 5/23/2016: A reader in the comment section requested that we run Intel SGEMM on the NUC6i7KYK, so we loaded up Microsoft VS2013 Update 5 and looked at the kernel performance on the 6thGeneration Intel Core i7-6700HQ Processor with Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580, which contains 72 EUs running at 950MHz. With 8  shader cores per EU it means that there are a total of 576 shader cores. Intel says that the compute performance of the Iris Pro Graphics 580 is 1.1 TFlops and that it is up to 75% faster than the previous generation Broadwell Iris Pro 6200 performance (GT3e with 48 EUs / 384 shader cores). The block_read_32x2_1x8 results for a 2048x2048 matrix show a 772  GFLOPS  for the peak kernal performance.  That is just over 70% compute efficiency. SGEMM Let's take a look at power consumption and CPU temperatures on the Intel NUC NUC6i7KYK.

Power Consumption and CPU Temperatures

[caption id="attachment_181449" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Our Intel NUC6i7KYK Build Our Intel NUC6i7KYK Build w/ 32GB of memory and 512GB SSD[/caption] We aren't sure how energy efficient the Intel NUC NUC6i7KYK is, so we figured we'd take a look and see how much power the system uses. power-consumption We found the NUC6i7KYK consumes a fair bit more power than the NUC6i5SYK. The NUC6i7KYK used 17.7 Watts of power from the wall outlet at idle. When watching Youtube 1080P videos we averaged 24.7 Watts of power draw. When running the AIDA64 System Stability test the system power consumption topped out just over 85 Watts. When playing BF4 at 1920x1080 with medium image quality settings we hit 83.2 Watts. If you run an additional M.2 drive and have other accessories plugged in we can easily see how you could top 100W of power and understand why Intel shipped the Skull Canyon NUC with a 120W external power brick! temps AIDA64 reported that the Intel Core i7-6770HQ processor idled on the desktop with a core temperature of 39C. With the built-in AIDA64 stress test we found that we got up to 91C on the quad-core CPU 1.184V. The noise level of the CPU coolers fan wasn't too bad at idle (2750 RPM), but you could certainly hear it when it reached 4,200 RPM while the system was under full load. At that speed the fan was easily heard, but it shouldn't be annoying unless you are in a totally quiet environment with no other noise. turbo The one thing we did notice is that the clock speeds of the Intel Core i7-6700HQ dropped shortly after we started the test. When the stress test began the Core i7-6700HQ processor was running at ~2800MHz for the first three minutes or so, but when the temperatures hit 88C the clocks dropped down to ~1400MHz. This wasn't reported as CPU throttling by AIDA64, but the clocks dropped as did the voltage, fan speed and the CPU core temperature. Let's wrap this review up!

Final Thoughts On The NUC6i7KYK

The Intel NUC6i7KYK 'Skull Canyon' Mini PC kit is without a doubt the fastest NUC system ever developed. For years enthusiasts have begged Intel to put a more powerful quad-core processor in a NUC with more bells and whistles and that is exactly what they have done on this model. Having this much performance in such a small form-factor is tremendously impressive and it really is amazing how much performance this tiny box can deliver. Playing Battlefield 4 with medium on a 1080P display with Intel integrated graphics was something we didn't think we'd be doing on a NUC. Thanks to Intel Iris Pro Graphics 580 (GT4e) you can actually play a wide selection of game titles without the need of a discrete graphics card. If you really want to play GPU intensive game titles like Fallout 4 we found that you need to use an external graphics solution, but the good news is the Intel NUC6i7KYK has Thunderbolt 3 and supports such a solution. [caption id="attachment_181450" align="aligncenter" width="645"]The NUC6i7KYK Front Panel The NUC6i7KYK Front Panel[/caption] The NUC6i7KYK that we focused on in this review is priced at $635.77 shipped and is backed by a 3-year warranty. The Samsung SSD 950 Pro M.2 512GB drive was $317.00 and the Kingston HyperX Impact 32GB 2400MHz DDR4 CL14 SO-DIMM memory kit was $133.99 shipped. The total hardware cost for the setup that we tested was $1086.76. At nearly $1,100 this turned out being a fairly expensive build and that price will be too high for many. If you are a critic of the price you just have to remember that this is the flagship model and that is reflected in the price point. We expect to see some of the new technologies trickle down to the more affordable Core i5 models in the next generation NUCs, but for now you'll have to pay to get them! [caption id="attachment_181449" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Our Intel NUC6i7KYK Build Our Intel NUC6i7KYK Build w/ 32GB of memory and 512GB SSD[/caption]   LR Recommended Award Legit Bottom Line: The Intel NUC Mini PC Kit NUC6i7KYK is the most powerful NUC every released! NUC6i7KYK Price