Intel’s Broadwell-powered NUC mini-PC reviewed

The concept behind Intel’s NUCs is pretty straightforward: take an ultrabook, lop off the screen, keyboard, and touchpad, and then cram the remaining parts into the smallest desktop enclosure possible.

The original Next Unit of Computing launched in late 2012, delivering ultrabook-class performance inside of a 4″ x 4″ x 2″ chassis. The following year, according to Intel, shipments of NUCs and NUC-based systems surged from zero to a million units. It’s no wonder. NUCs are small and affordable, and much like ultrabooks, they’re powerful enough to run pretty much anything but graphically intensive games and heavy-duty workstation apps. A NUC may be the only desktop PC most people ever need—and that holds especially true in corporate environments.

Intel has been refining the NUC design and freshening up the internals every year since 2012. This year, the chipmaker has wasted no time. Barely more than a month after launching its latest family of ultrabook-bound processors, code-named Broadwell-U, Intel has sent us a new NUC with a Broadwell-U processor inside. The system is due out later this quarter, and its price tag is expected to be around the $399 mark.

Thanks to its Broadwell-U silicon, this machine promises better performance and power efficiency than the previous generation. Intel has made other improvements under the hood, as well, including the addition of an M.2 storage slot and a built-in Wi-Fi controller.

This machine is called the NUC5i5RYK. It belongs to the 5th Generation Intel NUC family, which is kind of a misnomer, since the NUC lineup has only been refreshed a couple of times. Intel presumably wants to evoke its 5th Generation Core brand, the official name for Broadwell-U—except that’s a bit of a misnomer, too, since it doesn’t apply to Broadwell-based Core M, Pentium, and Celeron processors.

To keep things simple, we’ll just call this thing the Broadwell NUC, or the new NUC for short.


Watch us discuss the new NUC on the TR Podcast

The new NUC looks a lot like last year’s model, but Intel has made some tweaks to the design. The port arrangement has changed a little, one of the USB ports is now of the fast-charging variety, and the chassis has slimmed down a bit, from 1.36″ to 1.29″. The actual selection of ports is unchanged, though. You’ve got quad USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, Mini DisplayPort, Mini HDMI, a headphone jack, and an infrared sensor.

What’s really new is under the hood. We’ll crack the new NUC open and poke inside soon, but our little spec sheet should elucidate things for now:

Processor Intel Core i5-5250U
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 6000
Platform hub Broadwell PCH-LP
Memory 2 DDR3L SO-DIMM slots
Storage 1 M.2 slot

1 SATA port (no room for an actual drive)

Audio 8-channel audio via [Mini HDMI/Mini DisplayPort]
Wireless 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and Intel Wireless Display via Intel Wireless-AC 7265
Ports 1 Mini DisplayPort

1 Mini HDMI

4 USB 3.0

1 RJ45 via Intel Gigabit Ethernet

1 analog headphone out

1 analog microphone in

Expansion N/A
Dimensions 4.5″ x 4.4″ x 1.4″ (115 x 111 x 32.7 mm)

The Core i5-5250U is the main event. This processor has a 15W thermal envelope, and it’s based on the larger of the two Broadwell-U dies, so it has beefier HD 6000 integrated graphics with 48 execution units. Certain other Broadwell-U variants are based on a smaller die with 24 EUs, and a handful (Pentium- and Celeron-branded parts) have half of those EUs disabled, leaving just 12 active.

The Core i5-5250U’s dual CPU cores run at 1.6GHz with a 2.7GHz Turbo peak, and its integrated graphics processor (IGP) has base and maximum speeds of 300 and 950MHz, respectively. The 3MB of L3 cache is a little less than the 4MB in top-of-the-line Broadwell-U models, and neither vPro nor TSX are supported. Otherwise, this chip has all of Intel’s special features enabled, including Hyper-Threading, VT-d, VT-x, and AES-NI.

Complementing the Core i5 is an M.2 storage expansion slot, which supports both PCI Express and Serial ATA gumstick drives in 22×42, 22×60, and 22×80 form factors. Four PCIe Gen2 lanes feed this slot, twice as many as on some desktop mobos. The system also has a regular SATA port, but the chassis is too small to accommodate a 2.5″ drive. The port is there because, as far as I can tell, Intel uses the same motherboard in the taller NUC5i5RYH, which has (literal) headroom for another storage device.

The new NUC mirrors its predecessors in that it ships without memory, storage, or a bundled Windows license. However, with this generation, Intel supplies a pre-mounted Wi-Fi controller. The controller is the new Intel Wireless AC-7265, which offers 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, and Wireless Display support. The controller uses an M.2 interface and is soldered down on the motherboard, so you can’t swap it out for a different one.

Before we start our dissection, I’d be remiss not to include a picture of the new NUC’s 65W power adapter. All too many mini-PCs seem dwarfed by their own power bricks, but the new NUC isn’t one of them. Look at the thing! It’s tiny. If you want to take your NUC abroad, the adapter comes with a set of international plugs that can be used instead of the North American one.

 

Crackin’ it open

Another novelty with this generation is the removable lid, which can be replaced with a custom one.

According to Intel, replacement lids can be purely cosmetic (“think university or corporate logos”), or they can add extra features to the system. “This can include adding USB, VGA or serial ports or adding capabilities such as NFC or wireless charging to the lid,” the company tells us. Intel even provides CAD files on its website so folks can 3D-print their own lids.

So . . . anyone wanna buy a NUC?

The lid isn’t the way to the new NUC’s heart, though. That would be the bottom plate, which is held in place by four rubber-padded screws that double as the system’s feet.

Here’s what the new NUC looks like with the bottom plate removed—and with the extra hardware Intel supplied with our review unit sitting beside it.

The main attractions inside the machine are the two DDR3L SO-DIMM slots, which feed the Broadwell processor’s dual memory channels, and an M.2 storage slot, which sits at the other end of the board. Fill up those slots, and your NUC is ready to roll. As we noted earlier, the Wi-Fi controller (the tiny rectangle with the antenna wires attached) is already soldered on, and the blue SATA port is there purely for decorative purposes in this particular NUC model.

Intel shipped our machine with 8GB of 1600MHz Kingston HyperX DDR3L memory and two M.2 solid-state drives: a “mainstream option,” the Intel 530 Series 360GB, and a “high performance option,” the Samsung XP941 256GB. The Intel drive has a Serial ATA interface and fairly typical performance ratings (540MB/s for reads, 490MB/s for writes). The Samsung drive is in another tier altogether, so much so that calling it “high performance” is almost an understatement. The thing has a PCIe x4 interface, and it’s supposed to top out at 1170MB/s during reads and 930MB/s during writes. Yikes.

While we’ve got the thing open, we might as well take a look at the other side of the motherboard, where the CPU cooler sits. (By the way, getting the mobo out is surprisingly easy. All it takes is undoing a couple of screws.)

Intel apparently found the world’s tiniest fan to cool the new NUC. That’s probably okay, since the 15W Broadwell-U chip is hardly a power hog. Still, I would have preferred to see a slightly thicker machine with a beefier cooler. More heatsink surface area and a larger fan would go a long way toward reducing fan whine, which the new NUC unfortunately exhibits. Alas, Intel seems to have gone for miniaturization at all costs.

Note the wires connecting the board to the top of the chassis. Those are antenna wires clipped to the M.2 wireless adapter, and they go all around the inside of the aluminum housing.

Here’s the new NUC with memory and an M.2 gumstick drive installed. The temptation to try the Samsung XP941 was too great to resist, so that’s the drive I used for testing. Speaking of which . . .

 

Our testing methods

We used the same benchmark applications and the same methods as in our reviews of AMD’s A10-7800 and FX-8370E. For all the dirty details, check the testing methods sections of those articles.

Keeping test conditions the same allowed us to put the performance of the new NUC in a broader context. The downside is that the graphs below are pretty heavy on higher-wattage desktop processors. The NUC is, after all, a desktop machine, and knowing how it compares to full-blown desktop hardware is helpful.

In addition to the new NUC, we tested one of the system’s Haswell-powered predecessors, the D54250WYKH. That machine is powered by a Core i5-4250U, which has the same 15W TDP and $315 tray price as the Broadwell system’s Core i5-5250U. We set up the Haswell NUC with 8GB of DDR3-1600 Crucial RAM and an Intel 530 Series 240GB SATA solid-state drive.

Memory subsystem performance

The new NUC is in the same ballpark as the old one, but it falls somewhat short. The performance difference is surprising, given that the SO-DIMMs in the Broadwell system have tighter timings than those in the Haswell one. We’ll see momentarily how, if at all, this difference affects performance in real-world applications.

Productivity

Things look pretty good for the new NUC in these JavaScript-heavy web benchmarks. The Core i5-5250U delivers a small performance increase over its Haswell predecessor. You may be hard-pressed to tell the difference without a stopwatch in hand, but the extra speed is there.

Broadwell also outpaces Haswell in 7-Zip.

Yep. The Core i5-5250U is slightly faster in these software video encoding tests, too.

 

3D rendering and OpenCL

Most people probably aren’t going to use a NUC for heavy-duty 3D rendering, but Cinebench always paints an enlightening picture of single- vs. multi-threaded performance. Based on the numbers above, it looks like the Core i5-5250U gets more work done than the i5-4250U in both single- and multi-threaded apps. That’s to be expected, I suppose, since the i5-5250U has higher base and Turbo peaks (1.6/2.7GHz vs. 1.3/2.6GHz). Also, the Broadwell architecture is supposed to deliver about 5% higher performance per clock cycle than Haswell.

LuxMark gives us a sense of the integrated graphics’ GPU computing performance, and the results this time are a little puzzling.

The Core i5-4250U is way ahead of the Core i5-5250U, even though the last-gen chip has eight fewer execution units and only a slightly higher peak IGP speed (1000MHz vs. 950MHz). We asked Intel to clarify what’s happening here, and the company is still trying to figure it out. We’ll update you when we hear back.

Gaming

Do the Core i5-5250U’s integrated graphics also stumble in games? We ran Thief‘s built-in benchmark to find out. Testing was done at 1280×720 using the “Normal” detail preset.

Despite its weak showing in LuxMark, the new NUC’s Broadwell CPU beats last year’s Haswell silicon here by a small margin.

Subjective performance

Thanks to our empirical benchmarks, we’ve situated the Broadwell NUC’s performance in a competitive context. But benchmarks alone can’t fully communicate how fast a system feels during day-to-day use. That’s a job for wordsmithing—backed, of course, by the trained eye of a seasoned hardware reviewer.

I spent a little while using the NUC instead of my main PC for my daily tasks, which mostly involve Google Chrome and Photoshop. Coming from a Core i7-3770K, I expected the NUC to feel noticeably slower. And it did, but only in the sense that I was able to tell the difference. That subjective disparity quickly blended into the scenery, after which the NUC felt, in essence, like any desktop PC with 8GB of RAM and fast solid-state storage ought to feel. Sure, the Intel IGP didn’t accelerate Photoshop as smoothly as the discrete GeForce in my own system, but the slight extra choppiness didn’t impede my work or slow me down. It was more of a cosmetic annoyance than anything.

None of this should come as a surprise if you’ve spent any length of time with an ultrabook, but it bears repeating. NUCs, like ultrabooks, are good enough for productivity work to make one seriously question the need for a bulkier, more power-hungry system. Yet unlike ultrabooks, NUCs aren’t necessarily priced at a premium over larger machines. That makes them uniquely compelling.

Next up: gaming. We already know the new NUC doesn’t run Thief very well, but what games will the system let you play? To answer that question, I did some seat-of-the-pants testing in a handful of other titles. In each one, I tinkered with resolution and detail settings, and then I recorded my subjective impressions, using Fraps to keep an eye on frame rates at the same time.

My first stop was the polygonal wastes of Flippfly’s Race The Sun, which the new NUC rendered with silky smoothness at 1080p using the best (“Fantastic”) detail preset. The frame rate was pretty much a constant 60 FPS with occasional 2-3 FPS dips. I’d expect other indie games with similarly plain 3D graphics to run just as well.

Next, I tried a higher-profile game with more visual ‘zazz: the first episode of Dontnod Entertainment’s Life Is Strange. Using the lowest detail preset at 1080p, even the title screen was stuck around 22 FPS. That called for further compromise.

In the end, I settled on 1280×720 with everything dialed down, which made the game playable and responsive but not particularly smooth or visually pleasing. Frame rates hovered around 30-45 FPS during playable sections and dipped into the 20s during cut scenes. For a story-driven game like this one, though, that’s probably enough.


My last stop was Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a competitive shooter without overly stringent graphical requirements. Overall, CS:GO was fluid and playable at 1600×900 with everything set to “Medium” and antialiasing disabled. Frame rates ranged from 30 to 80 depending on the map and location, which was sufficient to slaughter bots in multiple maps.

The downside? Some graphical glitches, perhaps stemming from the pre-release nature of the IGP drivers. As the screenshot above shows, cs_militia looks weirdly murky on the Broadwell IGP, even though the map’s setting is supposed to be in broad daylight. Click the “GeForce” button below the screenshot to see how the scene is meant to look.

 

Power consumption

We measured power consumption at the wall for both NUC systems. Since the NUC power bricks are much less efficient than the ATX power supplies we used with our other desktop processors, we’ll look at the NUCs by themselves here.

The new NUC draws about as much at idle as last year’s model, but it’s a wee bit more power-efficient under load. That’s a bit like having your cake and eating it, too, since the new NUC is also faster in most of the tests we ran.

Mmm. Cake.

Conclusions

Aside from those funky LuxMark results, which muddy things up ever so slightly, I think the overall picture is pretty clear.

The new NUC is a little smaller, a little faster, and a little more power-efficient than last year’s offering. Other perks include support for custom lids and faster solid-state drives, not to mention the built-in Wi-Fi adapter. All in all, I’d say that makes for a rather nice evolutionary upgrade.

Without a Windows license, the configuration we tested should set you back around $730—but that’s largely because of the Samsung XP941 SSD, which costs around $260 on its own. Swap it out for a 180GB Intel 530 Series SSD, and the system price tumbles to an eminently affordable $580. Intel will offer NUC variants with slower Core i3 processors, as well, which should start at $299 in barebones form or $480-ish with 8GB of RAM and a 180GB Intel SSD. Not bad.

Could Intel have done more? Sure. The system’s graphics and gaming performance isn’t stellar. The choice of an uber-tiny cooling solution means the new NUC emits a steady hiss during use and a kind of whine under heavy loads. It’s no louder than a laptop, but the enthusiast in me would have preferred a slightly larger but quieter machine.

That said, there’s a lot to like about the new NUC. It’d make a perfectly adequate primary PC for the vast majority of users, whether at home or in offices. As always, the included VESA bracket means you can strap it to the back of a monitor to avoid cluttering up your desk. The system also has virtually limitless use as an extra machine, be it custom file server or the like. Add the ability to snap on a cool 3D-printed lid, and the new NUC should be a compelling option for a lot of folks.

Comments closed
    • Geminiman
    • 5 years ago

    This thing is going to be used primarily for Media Center duty… but doesn’t support HDMI 2.0 and thus can’t hook up to the 4K TV that someone would buy and want this to upgrade to and there is currently no DP 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 cables out yet, so you’re stuck with horrible resolution or flickering.

    Why these were ever released with HDMI 1.4 and not 2.0 I’ll never know. Going to have to wait at least a cycle before these things are useful.

    • tsk
    • 5 years ago

    I just set one of these up for my mom to use as a office pc, altho I got the i3 version. Great little pc for those looking for a simple desktop.

    • David
    • 5 years ago

    Yeah, I just don’t understand why anyone would buy this over a Zotac.

    • One Sick Puppy
    • 5 years ago

    I’d sooner buy a Mac mini.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      To get the $499 Mac Mini a PCI-e SSD is a $250 investment for a 128GB drive + bigger mechanical storage from Apple. That’s actually not all bad. It’d be less for a SATA SSD, sure, but those PCI-e SSDs are sexy.

    • WhatMeWorry
    • 5 years ago

    I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I was expecting a little more oomph out of broadwell. The haswell NUC seemed to be awfully close in performance. Hope skylake makes up the difference.

    • deruberhanyok
    • 5 years ago

    all it needs is optical audio output to connect to a stereo. Although I suppose the analog output would work in a pinch, it wouldn’t be quite as pretty.

    Cyril, what’s your quick impression of the analog audio output vs the HDMI/displayport carried audio? Can you find out what codec it’s using? Intel used to use Sigmatel/IDT but I think they’ve switched to Realtek like everyone else these days.

    Thanks for the review! Been thinking of picking one of these up to seriously downsize my desk. Very curious how the i7 version will perform in comparison, because as it is, it looks like finding the Haswell version on clearance might be a better deal – not a huge bump in performance going to Broadwell (which we expected).

      • Cyril
      • 5 years ago

      Looks like it’s a Realtek ALC283 codec. Analog quality is pretty good for onboard. No background noise, decent mids. The bass is a little boomy, and the highs are a little tinny, but I could definitely live with it.

        • deruberhanyok
        • 5 years ago

        Thanks Cyril!

      • MadManOriginal
      • 5 years ago

      Yeah, having a S/PDIF output would be really nice. USB as a digital transport has come a long way though, but wouldn’t suffice for surround afaik. I suppose in that case one would just use HDMI anyway. Still, the Atom version of these would be very flexible streaming devices with a S/PDIF output, at a decent price.

    • Shinare
    • 5 years ago

    What is the performance diference between the reviewed $6-700 unit and this $130 zotac unit from Newegg which includes Windows 8.1 with free upgrade to 10?

    [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883218045[/url<]

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      no turbo, so if the NUC is staying above the base clock during load, then it’d be pretty considerable. Plus no hyper threading, less cache, and less graphics. My guess is that you’re missing out on quite a bit with that Celery.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 5 years ago

      Shit those are inexpensive though…and includes a Windows license. (I guess there’s a good reason it shows sold out.)

        • NovusBogus
        • 5 years ago

        Yeah, that’s a heck of a deal…basically renders the Bay Trail NUC obsolete.

        To answer OP’s question, the i5 is going to do substantially more CPU throughput and also hosts a better graphics package, HD 6000 (capable of playing medium-settings games) vs. generic low-level HD Graphics (capable of playing 1080p video). PassMark usually isn’t the best judge of performance but it’s often the only one for trying to compare mobile/embedded CPUs, and it pegs the difference as about a [url=http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Celeron+2957U+%40+1.40GHz<]60%[/url<] [url=http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i5-5250U+%40+1.60GHz<]increase[/url<].

        • Shinare
        • 5 years ago

        Dayum… they weren’t sold out when I linked it. 🙁 Guess I should have pulled the trigger when I had the chance.

    • EndlessWaves
    • 5 years ago

    I’ve never seen the point of NUCs. I can see the attraction of slightly bigger Mini PCs in the 1-3L range (Futjitsu Q520, Apple Mac Mini, Asrock VisionHT etc.) with 35-45W processors, built in power supplies, decent numbers of ports and sensible fans. A low power mobile processor and only 2 rear USB ports in exchange for a saving 0.5-1L doesn’t seem like a sensible compromise though.

    • DPete27
    • 5 years ago

    Cyril, can you post the model number of the CPU cooler?

    [Add] Reason I ask is because reviews are saying the Broadwell Brix is very quiet. The fan mounting holes look the same and [url=http://www.kitguru.net/desktop-pc/leo-waldock/gigabyte-brix-s-bxi5h-5200-review/<]the Brix uses[/url<] a Delta Electronics - BSB05505HP fan which sells for about $5 on ebay. I'm interested in the Intel NUC over the Brix because: NUC: AC wireless, M.2 slot with SATA or PCIe connectivity Brix: Wireless N, mSATA slot.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      TH-15 TH-1NG SUX

      • Cyril
      • 5 years ago

      The fan is a Sunon MagLev GB0555PDV1-A. Dunno about the cooler, but the label on the shroud reads SFN141027A.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 5 years ago

        Seems like a bit of a mystery fan, my brief searching only found that it is a replacement fan for an HP Elitebook, but I didn’t find any RPM specs. Any chance of doing a basic followup like posting the max RPMs at extreme load (say Prime95+Furmark)?

    • dimmer
    • 5 years ago

    Do we know specifically when this is being released for public purchase? (Other than “later this quarter”)

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      The i3 version is already on Amazon from third-party sellers, which is how Phronix got theirs:

      [url<]http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=intel-i3nuc-broadwell&num=1[/url<] Given that, I don't think it'll be long.

        • dimmer
        • 5 years ago

        Well, that was quick:
        [url<]http://www.amazon.com/Intel-Next-Computing-i5-5250U-BOXNUC5I5RYK/dp/B00SD9ISIQ/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1424330828&sr=8-13&keywords=NUC5i5RYK[/url<]

          • derFunkenstein
          • 5 years ago

          and it’s not even super over-priced.

    • nico1982
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]More heatsink surface area and a larger fan would go a long way toward reducing fan whine, which the new NUC unfortunately exhibits.[/quote<] Noise figures would be nice to have. I mean, those things end up often on the desk or being used as HTPC. I'd rather chose a slower 35 dB whirling box over a faster 41 dB whining one.

    • TravelMug
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]Without a Windows license, the configuration we tested should set you back around $730—but that's largely because of the Samsung XP941 SSD, which costs around $260 on its own. Swap it out for a 180GB Intel 530 Series SSD, and the system price tumbles to an eminently affordable $580. Intel will offer NUC variants with slower Core i3 processors, as well, which should start at $299 in barebones form or $480-ish with 8GB of RAM and a 180GB Intel SSD. Not bad.[/quote<] Yes it is bad, the pricing is brutal on these. If you can buy a whole laptop with RAM, HDD, screen, keyboard, other bits including Windows for less than that it is simply not good. Too expensive.

      • w76
      • 5 years ago

      Not to mention an old 2500K spanks it, but that gets more at my annoyance that such weak little chips have the i5 badge bestowed upon them.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        the model name has to do with the features supported. i3 is 4 threads, i5 is 4 threads and turbo, and has done so since the 32nm dual-core shrink in 2010. It’s the i7 one that bothers me. That shouldn’t be on anything other than quads with 8 threads, but it also covers 4 threads, turbo, and more cache than i5 when it comes to mobile.

    • Bauxite
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]The concept behind Intel's NUCs is pretty straightforward: take an ultrabook, lop off the screen, keyboard, and touchpad, and then cram the remaining parts into the smallest desktop enclosure possible.[/quote<] One key thing about intel's "market concept" you left out that spoils the whole pot: they lop off bits from just about everywhere except the price. (for naysayers: add back in the ram/ssd/OS/etc you get with the ultrabook)

      • NovusBogus
      • 5 years ago

      As much as I like mini PCs the non Bay Trail ones are too expensive to really justify it. HP’s new mini PCs on the other hand offer a very appealing balance of performance, features and value–$180 gets you a fully loaded dual-core Haswell, complete with Windows license. NUC is like Nexus, Intel mainly wants to show the world what can be done but thus far most manufacturers have simply cloned the NUC rather than do their own interpretation.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 5 years ago

    No sound measurements (I realize Cyril wrote this though, so data from Scott’s reviews wouldn’t be directly comparable, so ok.)

    But! Need detailed storage benchmarks with the sexy Samsung SSD! I hope you do a mini followup article with this; even if it’s held back by the CPU somehow, a comparison to an AHCI SSD would be cool.

    • Chrispy_
    • 5 years ago

    These NUCs are cool but always demonstrate how pointless Intel’s IGPs are

    A broadwell i5 dual-core is about 75% graphics, 15% traditional CPU cores (half of which is just cache) and the rest is just IO/memory/SoC stuff.

    despite blowing 4x the transistor budget to give this thing HD6000 graphics, it’s still woeful on a modern AAA game. If Intel was serious about graphics their solutions wouldn’t be so bad, and if they didn’t think people really cared about graphics why are they quadrupling the size of their die to include something that’s largely useless on anything but outdated titles?

    It just seems to me that NUCs are useless for graphical tasks, so why divert so much transistor budget to something that clearly isn’t ever going to be a competitive or even useful product? Software gets more demanding about as fast as Intel IGPs improve, so they’re effectively always useless!

      • ozzuneoj
      • 5 years ago

      The vast majority of computer users don’t play AAA games on PC. I’d even go as far to say that most enthusiasts don’t even bother playing AAA games on anything but their fastest gaming system (which will never be as small as NUC), and yet most enthusiasts own more than one PC.

      NUC is clearly just not meant for AAA gaming, and yet it has a perfectly reasonable purpose. My laptop gets a huge amount of use and it has a meager i5 3210m with HD4000 graphics. It plays many older titles and indie-type games just fine… and this is coming from someone who is pretty picky. If a game doesn’t run well on my HTPC (with an HD7750) I won’t even bother playing it until I get some time to play it on my main system. There was a time when I went through three graphics cards in one year (7900GTX for $400, traded up to a 7950GX2 for another $100, then sold it to buy an 8800GTX for $670)… and now my dumb little laptop is sufficient for what I do most of the time now. I don’t need it to play AAA games.

      … that said, I still feel that there is little point in having a stationary\desktop system be THIS small. It is harder to cool (louder) and will likely have to sacrifice speed in some way to save space that is likely not really going to be used for anything else.

      NUC is neat, but unless it was super cheap I wouldn’t buy into it myself, but that has less to do with Intel’s CPU design and more to do with the fact that I don’t need a non-mobile PC to be this small.

        • guardianl
        • 5 years ago

        >> NUC is clearly just not meant for AAA gaming, and yet it has a perfectly reasonable purpose.

        The point is not iGPUs needs to deliver modern AAA relevant performance. The point is that spending 75% of the die space (minus I/O) on GPU performance is pointless if it doesn’t play modern AAA games because that die area would be better spent on CPU performance that practically every user would benefit from. There’s minimal use cases for iGPUs like the HD4XXX/HD5XXX/HD6XXX because only a tiny fraction of people who play really old AAA games (but not new ones!?) benefit. Also, before anyone tries to expand this group to include the much larger “casual games market”, that space (i.e. web based games) cater to the lowest spec hardware possible still (i.e. Core2Duo era) and so the iGPU is completely irrelevant there.

        The PS4 / Xbone proved that iGPUs can be high enough performance and relevant to modern gaming, but Intel’s pathetically slow iGPU improvements are too marginal and [b]expensive[\b] to be anything but a waste. [url=http://ark.intel.com/products/84984/Intel-Core-i5-5250U-Processor-3M-Cache-up-to-2_70-GHz<]It's crazy that the i5-5250U costs $315 in bulk![/url<]

          • ozzuneoj
          • 5 years ago

          Somehow I think Intel has probably thought this through since they have been selling CPUs with integrated IGPs for over 5 years now. I don’t see how any of us can say that we have a better grasp of how Intel should use the die area of their CPUs. If it made business sense for them to do it, don’t you think they would?

          Also, despite the fact that so much of the CPU is being used for the IGP, they still manage to provide more CPU performance than most people can make use of or notice with lower power consumption than the competition.

          The way I see it, they’ll never improve their IGP performance if they don’t keep working at it.

          As to the bulk price of the i5-5250U being so high… what are we comparing it to? Its a 15W CPU that provides enough performance for the vast majority of users. AMD doesn’t even have anything to compete directly with a CPU like this. Its single threaded performance isn’t far off from AMDs 100W desktop chips from a year or two ago. Multithreaded performance will be much lower due to throttling but we have to remember the size of the systems these things are going into.

          If you want to know why these cost so much, simply do a Google search for AMD Ultrabook and let me know what you come up with.

      • chuckula
      • 5 years ago

      In Thief — an AMD optimized AAA title — the 15 watt Intel part gets 50% of the performance of the 65 watt A10-7800 (using Mantle). In other words, even in an AMD-slanted game benchmark the NUC has more than twice the performance per watt of the A10-7800, which is generally regarded as the optimal Kaveri part.

      Do you think AMD is looking forward to the gloves coming off later this year?

        • raddude9
        • 5 years ago

        [quote<]the NUC has more than twice the performance per watt of the A10-7800, which is generally regarded as the optimal Kaveri part.[/quote<] I'd like to point out that the A10-7800 is generally regarded as a desktop part...... But what's the point, you don't care.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 5 years ago

          That’s actually worse for AMD.

            • raddude9
            • 5 years ago

            Surely pointing out that Chuckie made a biased comparison between a laptop part and a desktop part paints AMD in a better light (and Chuckie in a biased fanboi light)?

            • derFunkenstein
            • 5 years ago

            It’d paint AMD in a better light if it was their mobile CPU vs Intel’s desktop, but it’s not. Regardless of whether you lower the speeds on the desktop part or raise the speeds on the mobile part, once both architectures are in the same thermal zone, Intel’s performance will become closer to AMD’s. And that’s bad for AMD.

            • raddude9
            • 5 years ago

            [quote<]It'd paint AMD in a better light if it was their mobile CPU vs Intel's desktop,[/quote<] But that would be biased too. Anyone who pretends to care about performance per watt should compare mobile processors with mobile processors and desktop processors with desktop processors. Comparing mobile with desktop is only for biased fanboys. [quote<] once both architectures are in the same thermal zone, Intel's performance will become closer to AMD's. And that's bad for AMD.[/quote<] I know. But that's fine, because it's fair. There's a lot of variables when it comes to CPUs, the main ones are single-threaded performance, multi-threaded performance, GPU performance and power consumption, but the most important one that techies often seem to ignore is price.

          • JumpingJack
          • 5 years ago

          You do realize that the emphasis you make on the A10-7800 paints AMD in a worse light, you should have well left alone…. *shakes finger* ‘bad fanboy, bad fanboy’

            • raddude9
            • 5 years ago

            I mentioned that the A10-7800 was a desktop part! The implication was that Chuckies comparison was inappropriate, no?

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        perf/watt doesn’t scale perfectly linearly (the ratio will go down as both watts and performance go up, because power consumption will increase faster than performance does), but to answer the question: no. I can’t imagine AMD is looking forward to Skylake’s IGP at all.

        edit: BTW I’m sure you know this but 15W and 65W in these cases aren’t power usage, it’s heat dissipation, and AMD numbers mean something nuanced and different than Intel numbers.

      • nico1982
      • 5 years ago

      They basically killed the budget graphic segment of the market, Radeon and Nvidia alike, and eroded, if not exceeded, most of the lead AMD had in the IGP. They have been very aggressive and quite successful, IMHO.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 5 years ago

      They have pretty good compute, though.

      My own testing, Dell Latitude 3440, LuxMark:

      Core i5-4200U
      Intel HD 4400 (4GB + 2GB, probably single channel or asymmetric dual)
      Nvidia GT 740M

      [u<][b<]Ball[/b<][/u<] [b<]CPU:[/b<] 1410 [b<]IGP:[/b<] 2082 [b<]dGPU:[/b<] 1986 [b<]All:[/b<] 3967 [u<][b<]Sala[/b<][/u<] [b<]CPU:[/b<] 206 [b<]IGP:[/b<] 306 [b<]dGPU:[/b<] 283 [b<]All:[/b<] 604 [u<][b<]Room[/b<][/u<] [b<]CPU:[/b<] 123 [b<]IGP:[/b<] 193 [b<]dGPU:[/b<] 141 [b<]All:[/b<] 330

      • Deanjo
      • 5 years ago

      [quote<]These NUCs are cool but always demonstrate how pointless Intel's IGPs are[/quote<] Actually it points out how any IGP is pretty much useless at gaming including AMD's solution. The A10-7800 with Mantle optimizations can't even reach 30 fps on "Normal" detail @ 720 p. Even a casual gamer isn't going to be satisfied with that performance. If you want to game on these devices, you really have to start looking at a "streaming" solution like what Valve does with steam and by that time you just might as well buy one of those HDMI Atom powered dongles.

        • Chrispy_
        • 5 years ago

        Okay, yes. That’s what I was getting at.

        Why dedicated 75% of your entire product to something that is pointless. Even a casual gamer can’t be happy with an IGP, so why blow so much transistor budget on it. There’s room for an octa-core in there if Intel used the die-area dedicated to IGP, but instead we get useless graphics that nobody is happy with and an underwhelming dual-core that hasn’t moved the performance envelope on from Sandy Bridge all those years ago.

          • Andrew Lauritzen
          • 5 years ago

          First, I think you’re somewhat overstating the point here. Sure it’s not going to run Thief acceptably but I should remind folks that a lot of people just want to play LoL or DotA or CS Go or similar, which it will run acceptably at appropriate settings.

          Second, it’s not 75%. HD6000 is generally more than 50% if I remember the die shots, but there are several shared components and caches between the CPU/GPU so the division is not quite so clean.

          Third, the reason why Intel puts a bigger GPU on these chips is… because people keep making a big deal that graphics is really important. This is the proof that Intel takes graphics seriously; if that wasn’t the case we wouldn’t dedicate so much die (i.e. $) to it for still fairly modest gains over a GPU ~1/2 the size at this power level (15W). But you still have the option to buy either chip (HD5500, HD6000).

          The point here is that everything is power limited. Adding more CPU cores wouldn’t really help much as it would just slow down the ones that are there. See the DX12 asteroids demo for a pretty stark demonstration of how power-limited these chips are. GPUs tend to scale a bit better that way – if you can build a 2x wider GPU and drop the clocks comfortably south of ~1Ghz, you end up doing better in terms of power efficiency, although to a limit. There’s an “optimal size” of GPU for a given power budget and as you can imagine, these designs fall into the two sizes of that area. Conversely most workloads do not scale very efficiently onto >2 cores/4 threads even today so you can end up doing worse than just running a narrower machine at higher clock rates.

          Finally it’s also worth noting that as there are portions of the media pipeline that are distributed to the multiple slices in the HD6000, things like Quicksync can be significantly faster on the larger part. Perhaps TR will benchmark that side of things a bit more in the coming days but that’s one reason to go for the HD6000 over the HD5500 in these sorts of machines.

          Ultimately the goal is to fit as much CPU and GPU power into 15W as possible. It’s a zero sum game on *power* these days, not area (although area is obviously related to $). The question is – does any other design pack as much CPU and GPU performance into that power budget? And if the performance isn’t acceptable at 15W, is by extension everything below 15W (i.e. tablets, shield, etc) unacceptable too (even for “casual” gaming as you say)?

          In any case things will keep improving.

            • Chrispy_
            • 5 years ago

            75% is a guess, but I don’t think it’s far out.

            [url=http://images.anandtech.com/doci/8814/Slide%2010%20-%20Iris%206100%20Die%20Labelled_575px.png<]The dual-core 6100 die shots for example[/url<] are about two-thirds GPU and one-third CPU, shared L3 cache, display engine and other misc IO. The memory controller runs along the bottom of the whole thing and is shared proportionally by everything, so effectively irrelevant to this discussion. Given that 66% of the die is obviously pure GPU transistor count, the remaining 33% is some L3 that is also used by the GPU, some display engine area that is obviously related to GPU, and then some crossbar CPU/GPU interaction that wouldn't be necessary without a GPU. How much extra that adds on top of the obvious 66% is unknown, but I can say that it's probably 5-15% so it's not unreasonable to assume that Broadwell dedicates 70-80% of its die area to graphics. What is painfully obvious is that each CPU core is only around 6% of the die. Add its share of the system agent and some shared L3 cache and that goes up a bit, but the core itself is tiny and it's share of the "support" area like system agent, memory controller, cache etc - it's pretty hard to eyeball it up as anything more than 10% of the whole die per core. So really, my 4x was a conservative estimate. If you had NO GPU AT ALL, the same CPU cores could be built using one fifth of the current Broadwell silicon. I admit that [i<]some[/i<] kind of GPU is necessary but it doesn't have to chew up four times the die area of the CPU if it's inevitably going to be unable to play current, let alone future titles with any acceptable level of performance. I agree its power budget that really caps things, but the cost of these chips is insane for what they are, especially when 80% of the [i<]production[/i<] cost goes on die area that is irrelevant to almost everyone, and barely satisfactory for those few who are casual enough about gaming to be happy with old titles at greatly-reduced settings.

      • NovusBogus
      • 5 years ago

      This isn’t a NUC specific chip, it also goes into ultrabooks which need to support dual 1080p desktops and light CAD/games/etc. since a discrete GPU simply isn’t an option. As far as gaming performance goes, no it’s not discrete but it’s getting pretty close to something that can run low-medium settings and a *LOT* of people would like to have that without buying a $1500 uberleet gamer blingbook.

      In other words, Intel seems to have figured out that trashy “entertainment notebooks” make x86 look bad so they threw consumers a bone.

      • Beelzebubba9
      • 5 years ago

      I sort of don’t understand why die size seems so confusing to people? Smaller isn’t always (or even usually better) and not all transistors /mm^2 carry the same cost.

      There is a functional minimum die size for any modern CPU – you still need enough surface area on the silicon to account for all of the pin outs for your intrasystem IO – so at some point in scaling down you have to pad your die out. Intel could do this with more cache, more cores, or a bigger GPU and for this market it looks like they decided the GPU was a good use of die space.

        • Chrispy_
        • 5 years ago

        Uh, Xeon server chips pretty obviously prove your statement wrong; They are “padding out their die” with more cores.
        How does that work in your “CPU cores need padding for all the IO” world?

          • Beelzebubba9
          • 5 years ago

          Go back and re-read my post there champ; I addressed that pretty unambiguously in the original text.

            • Chrispy_
            • 5 years ago

            Re-read it twice, and I still don’t understand your logic:

            15C Xeons break your argument by cramming billions of very high density transistors into the same package size as a 6-core on S2011. In fact, regardless of the die size, all Xeons above quad-core use LGA2011 with the same pinout.

            Even more obviously, versions of Broadwell U without Iris graphics (HD5500) are only 83mm^2, so a 40% reduction in die size (or “IGP padding” as you call it) seems to make [i<]absolutely no difference whatsover[/i<] I refer to my original post. Intel is blowing die area on IGP unnecessarily and the gains aren't exactly worth it. Anandtech has just reviewed the new XPS13 laptop with broadwell U and the IGP sucks. It sucks on games from the previous console generation at lousy resolution on low details and it sucks of games that are from 2011. Intel IGP's are incredibly poor in terms of absolute performance but Intel keep ploughing R&D and die area into it. We [b<]*pay*[/b<] for that die area just as we pay for the R&D. The money Intel spends comes from us buying their products, and the bit we [i<]want[/i<] (the CPU cores) isn't improving much, isn't getting more numerous or more efficient. The bit we don't want (the IGP that is always too slow, and that throttles the CPU cores if it's used) is where Intel is pumping money and transistor budget from our purchases. If you could have a 16-core i7 or a 4-core i7 with lame IGP that couldn't run three-year-old games, which one would you pick?

            • MadManOriginal
            • 5 years ago

            Considering that >4 cores show very diminishing returns in all but the most parallelized tasks, which have an insatiable need for cores, I would choose neither. The ‘ideal’ might be 4c/8t or 8c/8t with no GPU, but with high enough low core (1-4) load clockspeeds that low thread count tasks are still fast. Single/low-thread count use still dominates for most users.

            Also, consider that things in the ‘GPU’ are dedicated silicon that are much more efficient than general purpose cores. Video encoding/decoding etc would need to remain.

    • auxy
    • 5 years ago

    Where is the NUC-alike with an FX-7600P in it? (ノД`)・゜・。

    Hell, make it four times as tall, just include some dual-channel 1866 DDR3. Maybe when Carrizo comes…

      • exilon
      • 5 years ago

      Where is anything with a FX-7600P in it?

      I don’t mean the AMD demo laptop, either.

    • NovusBogus
    • 5 years ago

    As promised in the other post, a bit of analysis of that lid w.r.t. 3D printing capability. They offer the CAD files but if you’re working with something that doesn’t play nice with step/dxf (i.e. a lot of free/cheap editors) you’ll need to convert it to STL first, which is pretty easy to do with 123D Design. Wall thicknesses and the like look pretty manageable, but since the little attachment clips go all the way around the edges of the lid you’ll either need to print it sideways or get rid of the ones where the layers would fall right along the ~0.02″ thin parts of the clips.

    Looks like a very serviceable design, all in all. Should lead to some interesting mods.

    • chuckula
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]The new NUC draws about as much at idle as last year's model, but it's a wee bit more power-efficient under load. That's a bit like having your cake and eating it, too, since the new NUC is also faster in most of the tests we ran. Mmm. Cake.[/quote<] THE CAKE IS A LIE!

      • Deanjo
      • 5 years ago

      [quote<]THE CAKE IS A LIE![/quote<] Lol, they don't get it.

        • Firestarter
        • 5 years ago

        it was sorta funny 7 years ago

          • MadManOriginal
          • 5 years ago

          Deanjo is a Linux gamer. He is the actual inspiration for the guy in this cartoon: [url<]http://xkcd.com/606/[/url<] (just substitute OS for 'high-end system') so it makes perfect sense.

            • Deanjo
            • 5 years ago

            Umm ya, because the current game that I’m playing, Dying light, came out a couple of weeks ago.

            Still I’m not that much of a gamer. I prefer to use cutting edge OS’s, thus why I use linux and don’t have to download 5 gig of patches on a clean install to a new system like Windows 8.1 users have to.

            • anotherengineer
            • 5 years ago

            5 gigs of patches lol

            Try this on for size, got a 2015 Autocad deluxe design suite home use license from work. It came in 4 compressed sections, 1.6GB, 4GB, 4GB, 2.6GB

            First one uncompressed was 4GB, second was 27GB!!!!! Didn’t get around to uncompressing the other 2. Going to see if the installer (1st one will install it in a compressed state)

            If not that is going to chew up my ssd. Just ridiculous!!

            • MadManOriginal
            • 5 years ago

            Those cutting edge Linux distros just show up magically? AWESOME.

            • Deanjo
            • 5 years ago

            Yup, beautiful to to a net install and heck, we don’t even have to reboot when we upgrade the kernel.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 5 years ago

            Wow, you really missed the point on that one.

            • Beelzebubba9
            • 5 years ago

            …the patching/upgrade process for Linux feels like magic if you’re coming from Windows…

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 5 years ago

    I think what this segment needs are more custom cases and more ITX boards being built by someone not Intel. I don’t expect user-installed CPU’s (at least not yet), but I think Asus, ASRock, and Gigabyte could give us soldered CPU’s in small boards like this in the same size format.

    Then we could buy our own custom case and use custom cooling to make this sort of thing whisper-quiet. User installed boards and we could make it as chunky (and quiet) or thin (and loud) as we want.

    I’m a little surprised that someone would go to the trouble of testing a machine like this including gaming and forego the most obvious gaming application for a device like this (ie., with its gigabit ethernet)…

    Where’s the Steam streaming test?

      • thedosbox
      • 5 years ago

      Yeah, I’m hoping a third party produces it’s own case (or lid) that supports a quieter cooler. While it’s fair to expect fan noise under load, these things should really be silent in general use.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 5 years ago

      Steam streaming test is exactly what i’m waiting for.

      Also, I think TR should consider benchmarking party games on these things.

        • stdRaichu
        • 5 years ago

        What sort of tests are you looking for? I recently built myself a [url=http://forums.kustompcs.co.uk/showpost.php?p=506143&postcount=37<]passively cooled linux HTPC[/url<] with a leftover Intel mITX motherboard - streaming games over steam appears to work really well but I'm not aware of any way of quantifying it other than "obviously much higher CPU load on the source machine (which doesn't have quicksync), looks OK but not as great as native, needs reliable network". mITX of course means it's still about twelvety times the size of a NUC but silence is more important to me than size. There's a bunch of relatively lightweight 2D games installed on it than run perfectly well natively on the anemic HD2500 at 1920x1080.

          • Ninjitsu
          • 5 years ago

          Well, I had a 2007 MacBook that I tested with, it couldn’t decode fast enough, dropped frames, etc.

          Basically, I want to know whether a NUC is enough for
          1. Natively running games like Race the Sun, Mark of the Ninja, Gangbeast, etc.
          2. Being a target for games with much more complex graphics, at 1080p, given a Gigabit LAN network and a reliable host.

          Don’t even want an “objective” review; subjective impressions are fine. Was it smooth? Were frames dropped because of the NUC? Etc.

            • Deanjo
            • 5 years ago

            A 2007 Macbook (Core 2 Duo) didn’t have the h264 hardware decoding that the newer Macs have. My Mac Mini (Late 2012) and my MacBook Pro (Mid 2014) breeze through Steam streaming without a hiccup.

            (The best part about streaming is that your battery life also drastically improves and there really isn’t any additional heat generated to note of.)

            • derFunkenstein
            • 5 years ago

            Intel graphics have come a long, long way since then. I had one of those exact MacBooks for a while. GMA950, ran fine for everything but games in Snow Leopard, graphics performance tanked in Lion. By the time they were EOL they couldn’t even play Youtube videos at 480p without stuttering unless you rolled the OS back. No surprise it didn’t stream well. Running Windows probably wasn’t any better.

      • stdRaichu
      • 5 years ago

      ASRock have been doing that at the high end for a while now with the Vixion3D/X/blah series. Not quite as dinky as the NUCs but with the ability to run 3D stuff since most of them come with an MXM slot. I’ve got a first-gen [url=http://asrock.com/nettop/Intel/Vision%203D%20Series/index.us.asp<]Vision 3D[/url<], must be 5 years old now and it's still doing sterling duty as an HTPC. They share the same common problem as most of these things however - small market, proprietary format, low volume equals loadsa money.

    • excession
    • 5 years ago

    Yeah so the weird slowdowns are… weird. Hmm.

    I fancy one of these to go behind my telly… the Apple TV is pissing me right off at the moment.

    But if it’s going to be weird at certain tasks, that’d suck.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 5 years ago

    So on page1 you say that the wifi/bluetooth card is soldered in place so you can’t swap it, and then on page 2 you have it out of the chassis. Is it soldered or did you break your NUC?

    edit: or secret option C, of the two cards pictured, neither are the wifi/bluetooth card?

    edit2: Page3:

    [quote<]The new NUC is in the same ballpark as the old one, but it falls somewhat short. The performance difference is surprising, given that the SO-DIMMs in the [b<]Broadwell[/b<] system have tighter timings than those in the [b<]Broadwell[/b<] one.[/quote<]

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 5 years ago

      The cards outside of the chassis are M.2 SSDs. You can see the (tiny) Wi-Fi card inside the NUC, with the two antenna wires running to it.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        oh ok. I couldn’t tell if the wires were connected to anything or not. Makes sense. Thanks.

        • DancinJack
        • 5 years ago

        What he said ^

        [url<]https://techreport.com/r.x/intel-broadwell-nuc/guts-kit.jpg[/url<]

          • derFunkenstein
          • 5 years ago

          That’s actually the picture I was talking about. Couldn’t tell if the wires were connected, which is why I asked.

      • Cyril
      • 5 years ago

      Just fixed the paragraph on page 3, thanks.

      And yes, the Wi-Fi adapter is tiny and has wires coming out of it. 🙂

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