Can it play games?
To gauge the NUC's integrated graphics, we ran Thief's built-in benchmark. Testing was done at 1280x720 using the "Normal" detail preset.
Impressively, the Core i7-5557U matches the performance of AMD's A10-6700, a desktop chip with Radeon graphics and a much higher 65W TDP. It's way faster than the i5-5250U in the smaller Broadwell NUC, too.
An FPS average from a single title doesn't tell us a lot about what it's like to actually play games on the NUC, so I spent some time going through my Steam library to see what the system could handle. Turns out it's surprisingly competent if you're mindful of the limitations.
Indie games are no sweat; the NUC renders Race the Sun, Dyad, Mark of the Ninja, and Transistor fluidly at 1080p resolution with full detail. Depending on the title, the frame rate is locked at either 30 or 60 FPS. Dyad and Mark of the Ninja don't need to kick the fan into the highest gear, but the whine is clearly audible when playing the other two games—even from across the room on the couch.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed and DiRT Showdown demand more of the hardware, and the gameplay is more sensitive to little hiccups. I had to lower the resolution to 1366x768 to get a smooth experience with frame rates consistently around 40 FPS. To the NUC's credit, it maintains that level of performance with high details in both games, but not without the blower humming in the background.
Portal 2 runs really well on the NUC: well over 60 FPS at 1080p resolution with all the details turned up, and a comfortable 35-60 FPS with 4X MSAA added to the mix. The action is smooth, and the graphics look beautifully crisp.
The more methodical skulking in Dishonored feels OK at 1080p with normal details and some shadow and lighting effects turned off. Fraps reports 28-35 FPS, but you can feel the periodic slowdowns. The game is consistently smoother at 1366x768, even with higher details, with frame rates mostly in the mid-40s.
Pro tip: gaming with headphones and the volume turned up almost makes the NUC's noisy blower melt into the background.
The NUC's fan spins up as soon as the load screen for Batman: Arkham Origins appears. Ugh.
At 1366x768 with the lowest details, the FPS counter hangs around 28-35 FPS in confined quarters, but it regularly drops to the low 20s in some snowy outdoor areas. While that's tolerable enough for a quick beatdown, I'd stick to older or more modest games for longer sessions.
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