Broadwell NUC Review (NUC5i3RYK): Performance and Comparison to Haswell

The number of differences between the previous generation Haswell NUC and the current generation Broadwell NUC is limited. Externally the two units look very much the same. The biggest difference is in the height. The Haswell model is 16 mm (5/8″) taller.

NUC5i3RYK and D34010WYK side-by-side

NUC5i3RYK and D34010WYK side-by-side

The connectivity is identical. Only difference is the USB fast charge port: the single USB 3.0 port marked with yellow on the front is the fast charge port.

Haswell and Broadwell NUC side-by-side, front

Haswell and Broadwell NUC side-by-side, front

The Broadwell NUC features the Intel Core i3-5010U CPU that comes with HD Graphics 5500 GPU. I installed Windows 7 and ran a couple of benchmarks on both the Broadwell and the Haswell i3 NUCs. I used the same memory (2x2GB DDR3L-1600 modules) and the same SSD drive in both units.

Benchmark results of the Core i3 NUCs

In 3DMark 2013 Cloud Gate test there is about 15-20% difference in score, but in the Sky Diver the difference is neglible. The Novabench result is about 10% better (568 instead of 511) on Broadwell.

HEVC Decoding

There’s one area where the differences between Haswell and Broadwell seem to grow rather big and that’s HEVC (also known as H.265) video decoding.

The results for Broadwell:

HEVC Decode Benchmark results, NUC5i3RYK

The results for Haswell:

HEVC Decode Benchmark results, D34010WYK

The Broadwell NUC seems to do approximately 25% better. Note that this is pure CPU-based decoding. Intel released in January a Windows graphics driver that adds hardware assisted decoding support for both Haswell and Broadwell. It will be interesting to see how this impacts the hardware requirements for decoding HEVC. Note that VP9 decoding and 10-bit HEVC decoding is only supported by Broadwell at this point (10-bit HEVC is very rare still, used mainly for some anime films).

Summary

The Broadwell NUC is powerful enough for any desktop use and even for light gaming. That is of course to be expected as the Core i3-5100U CPU can be found in several midrange laptops as well (such as Dell XPS 13).

The NUC5i3RYK is clearly an incremental improvement over the Haswell model. Performance is rather similar, but performance gains up to 25% might be seen in some applications. My personal opinion is that there is not enough improvement to be gained by changing an existing Haswell to the new Broadwell. Obviously readers who are looking for a new system are advised to go for the Broadwell model.

7 Responses

  1. newtsy says:

    Thanks for this review, I am looking at using a NUC for exactly this purpose, I was questioning broadwell deinterlacing capability and the iR receiver compatability, you’ve answered both my questions and then some. Great stuff!

  2. Neil says:

    Why didn’t you test the NUC’s with the latest firmware? I’m trying to decide between the old model for cheap, or the newer model. Really curious to see how the new drivers improve the i3-4010u nuc with 4400 graphics.

    • Olli says:

      Hi Neil! Can you open up your comment a bit? At the moment when I did write the article, I definitely had the latest firmware on the Broadwell NUC and most likely on the Haswell too, though I don’t recall that exactly. Anyway, there are not a lot of performance related changes in the release notes for the Haswell NUCs. I did install the latest Windows drivers from Intel’s download center before the test.

      My point of view is that the Broadwell does not offer too much over the Haswell models. Next generation (Skylake) looks again more interesting. Of course the price differences are not that big, but I’m definitely not upgrading my personal Haswell i3 NUC to Broadwell. I can wait and have a look what Skylake brings to the table…

      • David says:

        Hi Olli, perhaps he was referring to the updated Intel driver? There don’t seem to be any benchmarks out there (that I can find) for the i3 broadwell NUC with the updated driver. Still uncertain if it will manage 4K HEVC decoding well. Thanks

        • Olli says:

          The situation with HEVC is currently such that I would not invest in i3/i5 class hardware right now if HEVC video decoding is important for you. Skylake NUC is coming probably in December/January and that will do HEVC probably, unlike the Broadwell. If you need something now, get a NUC5CPYH/NUC5PPYH as a temporary solution (it does HEVC decoding in hardware) and sell it when the Skylake comes if you really need to upgrade at that point. 🙂 Most likely you can move the other components from Braswell NUC to Skylake NUC (I assume DDR3L is used still in Skylake NUCs).

          • David says:

            Do you know how much of a difference the hybrid GPU decoding makes with Broadwell and latest Intel drivers? Based on your benchmarks above purely based on the CPU decoding it managed 10 bit 4K HEVC 15Mbs at around 15fps, it would be great to know what difference offloading some of the work to the GPU makes, given pure GPU decoding makes a huge difference. It just surprises me that there seem to be NO benchmarks of this available.

          • Olli says:

            I’m sure the GPU-assisted decoding will help quite a bit. The only application I’ve used that supports HW decoding of HEVC is the MPC-HC. Of course I’ve tried that only on Braswell, not on Broadwell. Unfortunately I don’t have my review copy of the Broadwell NUC at hand anymore, so it’s hard to say how the results would look like. Though I have a Haswell i3 NUC that should do this hybrid decoding as well – maybe I can play around that some time.

            http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=215305

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